The Beatles have a secret home golf course (and I played it)
At the intersection of Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane, there is a golf course.
A terrible one.
Allerton Manor golf course may one day be a destination for golf in the English port city of Liverpool, but today it is not. The grass is brown. The fairways are flat. The greens are often submerged in water. Not even the regulars can escape Allerton’s striking underwhelmingness.
“My favorite part about playing here?” one golfer said, deadpan, on the day I visited. “Probably when it’s over.”
And yet Allerton Manor is here, same as always, a mix of earth tones and pale green in a quiet suburb of a small city. An afternoon round might cross paths with a few dozen golfers … and just as many Allerton residents out for a stroll. Golf is a public good here in England, and not only for those playing it, which is perhaps why this golf course is unlikely ever to go anywhere. Allerton Manor, like Liverpool around it, remains enchanted with its traditions.
The walking path to the left of the front nine will do little to disabuse you of that notion. This tiny stretch of stone and dirt connects one side of Allerton to the other, slicing through the golf course and providing the ideal shortcut for those in the know. In the summer months, vines form a canopy over the pathway, casting long shadows in the sun and providing brief glimpses into the golf landscape surrounding it.
Once upon a time, a pair of childhood musicians used this shortcut often to travel between each other’s homes. On nights in which their playing ran late, they would sneak over the fence, hoping to avoid the attention of the course’s night guard. From underneath the vines, the boys would peer out onto the golf course, which directly intersected their two homes.
Little did they realize at the time, but those would become the most famous footsteps ever to grace Allerton Manor Golf Course. Like everything else in Liverpool, this course has become known for those two boys, and for the magic that flowed like a riverbed between them, intersecting somewhere along the fifth fairway.
Their names were John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and Allerton Manor is their home.
THERE IS A BUZZ beneath the ground in Liverpool — a kind of preternatural energy that pulses in the streets. This is the vigor belonging to the Beatles, the patron saints of Liverpool.
Just about everything the Fab Four touched in town has been preserved exactly as it once was. A steady drumbeat of monuments and plaques flows through the Cavern Quarter — home of the Beatles’ first live performances — and out to Allerton, where Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields still exist just as they did in the 60s.
Indeed, Allerton Manor Golf Course is not the exact same as it was in the mid-20th century — the nine-holer has now become a 27-hole facility complete with a clubhouse and restaurant — but the bones remain much the same as they did many years ago. Many of the holes on the main course’s front nine sit just feet away from Lennon’s childhood house, which is a pitching wedge from a tee box.
And yet, it seems neither John nor Paul ever caught the golf bug, but not for a lack of trying.
“I’d also been there a few times to try and caddie but there were always 10 kids ahead of me and by the time it came to my turn, the work had gone,” McCartney said in an interview years ago. “You used to get 10 shillings for caddying, which was a princely sum. John lived just the other side of the golf course, literally and metaphorically. People don’t realize how middle-class he was. It’s a very fancy neighborhood.”
It was this proximity to Beatles lore that led the band to visit Allerton Park, as it was called then, for a cover shoot for the single “Twist and Shout.” Long before the Beatles’ days, the two singers would even tee it up at Allerton, though those efforts did not produce many memorable moments.
“We’d go round for a laugh. We weren’t very good, but we’d do it,” McCartney said. “It was there, like Mount Everest, so you do it.”
Today, John and Paul’s golf feats aren’t spotlighted at Allerton Manor like they are in the rest of the city. To the untrained eye, the golf course is no different from any other local track. A small pro shop is dotted with gear and served by a friendly attendant. Peeling signs and scorecards bear no mention of music history. A mostly empty parking lot welcomes only a few walkers, free of leering (and noisy) crowds from the nearby “Magical Mystery Bus” tour company. The gravitational pull of Beatles magic has been reduced to a din.
Work is underway on a golf course renovation project that promises to alter Allerton Manor again, modernizing the course’s more worn features in the hopes of creating a truly striking routing. The hope for these changes is to turn the course into a must-see tourist destination of a different kind: appealing to diehard golf visitors to the area. (Royal Liverpool, host of this year’s Open Championship, is one of a half-dozen beauties within 20 minutes by car.) One look at the putting surfaces portends a renovation is necessary before those goals will be achieved.
But for those who know where to look, Allerton’s charm is in its drudgery. On a normal, boring day, the course represents a glimpse into the rarest of all Beatles landmarks: authentic, untouched, and still very real. There are no photogenic sculptures or heavily scrawled cement walls here, nor are there tourists of any variety. Only a forgettable golf course plugged directly into the center of music history.
No, Allerton isn’t pretty, and it may not be special, but on a summer afternoon, there isn’t another walk in the golf world like it. Ask Sir Paul, and he’ll tell you: there’s something beautiful about the mundane.
“When the sun is shining as it is today, I’m in love,” McCartney said years ago.
In Liverpool, I think I know the feeling.