A Hoylake Celebration

A Hoylake Celebration
Royal Liverpool Golf Club 1869-2019
By Blyth Bell and Roger Greenway
Design by Chic Harper
The Royal Liverpool Golf Club, 2019
216 pages, 10.2-by-10.6
Cloth Edition is $60 plus shipping for GHS members
Leather Edition is $160 plus shipping to GHS members
Email: 150years@royal-liverpool-golf.com

Review by Jim Davis
If Scotland’s St Andrews is the sacred land of golf’s origins, we must surely place England’s Hoylake and the Royal Liverpool Golf Club as an undisputed monarch of the game’s rich history. From its beginning in 1869, the course and club have produced a seeming endless string of champions as well as memorable and historic matches – the first Amateur Championship (1885), the first international match (England v. Scotland 1902); the first international match between Great Britain and the U.S. (The Walker Cup, 1921). In fact, Hoylake set the tone and the rules for the status of amateur golf.

The golfers most closely associated with this English seaside links on the River Dee are a champions’ roster the envy of any club in the world – Harold Hilton, Jack Graham (the first amateur champion), John Ball, Bobby Jones, Arnaud Massy, Walter Hagen, Peter Thomson, Tiger Woods, and Rory McIlroy.

Bernard Darwin called the challenging links a “…breeder of mighty champions.” The great writer, acquainted with the course early in the 20th century, noted both its historic traditions and its value as a test of links golf where “…the golfing pilgrim is emphatically on classic ground.” He would write of Hoylake on many occasions, always with affection and awe.

The latest to write of Hoylake are Messieurs Blyth Bell and Roger Greenway, in a volume as distinctive as the course they celebrate. A Hoylake Celebration, Royal Liverpool Golf Club 1869-2019 is beautifully wrought, the club’s 150 years brought to life in a stunning production by noted designer Chic Harper, whose 12 golf titles include St Andrews in the Footsteps of Old Tom Morris (2015).

Bell and Greenway, both Royal Liverpool members, have organized the book into 19 chapters with new material that covers a broad swath of history from the club’s organizing and the first amateur championships, to its famous golfing members. Important early and later championships including Walker Cups, Opens, and women’s championships such as the Curtis Cup and the 2012 British Women’s Open are each given their due. 

The historic links have inspired generations of writers and artists, many of whose works are joyously shared in a feast-for-the-eye chapter containing works from famous painters and the words of golf’s greatest journalists.

The authors follow Hoylake’s architectural evolution from the first layout of George Morris and Robert Chambers Jr. to the 2000 revisions by Donald Steel and Martin Hawtree’s work in advance of the 2014 Open. Aerial photographs and drawings ensure the reader can easily follow the changes that 150 years brought to the course. 

Hoylake’s clubhouse and the heritage it preserves are presented through medals, trophies and their context in the club’s history. The club’s role as a community icon is shown in light of its  civic role and the value it brings to the Wirral Borough.

A Hoylake Celebration is a forward-looking work as well, examining the future of the historic club and course in the light of economic and environmental changes that may impact championships for years to come and the nature of the links itself.

The volume’s 200 pages enthrall the reader with Harper’s masterly design, the use of many and large images, historic and colorful. Bell and Greenway’s text is steady, never breathless, or worse, ponderous, as club histories can sometimes be. If the section on captains and secretaries proves of scant interest then the reader can move on to the bright essays from such Hoylake champions as Peter Thomson, Sir Michael Bonallack, and Rory McIlroy.

This is a book with energy and appeal, enlivened by a bold, fresh design with brilliant images and intelligent writing.

It is the perfect complement to a club that is itself replete with golf history.