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  • Neil White


"Well, they say life’s a beach…”

That bit of good old-fashioned northern humour accompanied yet another full-bloodied shot of mine which appeared to be on target only to be snaffled by a bunker.

Fairhaven might be gentler than its Lancashire near-neighbour Royal Lytham and St Anne’s but its sand is damned difficult to avoid.

We had been warned – the starter for our mixed open had predicted that recent lack of rainfall meant the course was dry and bounces could be unpredictable.

His prophecy took precisely one shot to be borne out when he and my playing partners murmured their approval over my opening tee shot only to see it wander into a trap from which I was unable to extricate myself.

Fortunately, my bunker play improved thereafter - just as well considering how many I found myself in.

Fairhaven is a challenger for the friendliest club of my travels so far. Everyone had a smile - from the team handling our registration to the staff in the clubhouse, folk in the pro’s shop and the jovial starter.

The recently refurbished clubhouse is also worthy of mention – its traditional façade fronting one of the most modern interiors I have seen. The toilets are worth a visit even if you don’t need to go.

In all honesty, the course doesn’t quite match the stellar facilities (Fairhaven also has an impressive practice area).

Sure, it is well manicured with tight fairways and the greens are very true but I have to admit that I found the holes a little samey – many are flat, straight and tight – and there is a lack of a wow-factor picture hole.

Some might put an argument for the 9th – a par-four which meanders through bunkers and hillocks with trees to the left. With the clubhouse in the background, this is pretty and tricky.

The second nine appealed to me more – beginning with the par-three tenth which is tight but a very generous stroke index six.

The dogleg 11th bucks the trend of straight holes and demands strategic placement from the tee to avoid out-of-bounds on the right.

The final three holes will stick in memory the longest.

The 16th is a very long par-four which most will play as a five – narrow with bunkers lying in wait to gather opening shots and trees lining the fairway, seeding further doubt.

The green of the par-three 17th is surrounded by traps but I can testify that even if they are avoided, success is not guaranteed because of a slick putting surface which slopes back to front.

The hares (or were they rabbits?) were on the move on the 18th, a fine finishing hole with two bunkers on either side to capture errant (or, in my case, good) drives.

Meanwhile, the target is guarded by more sand, bushes and out-of-bounds with the clubhouse behind.

Fairhaven was an interesting venue for a mixed open with the seven par-fives for women.

This and the fact that stroke indexes are very different meant the competition allowed all players the chance of significant contribution rather than being dominated by long-driving men.

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