- +44 (0) 1704 872164
On A565, 7 miles N of Liverpool
Contact in advance
Willie Park, James Braid, Harry Colt, Hawtree and Taylor, Donald Steel
Visit Golfbreaks.com for a golf holiday at Formby
Formby Golf Club is the prettiest of the eight top-notch links courses located between the seaside town of St Annes and the city of Liverpool. It is bordered on three sides by pine trees, giving the links a decidedly softer, heathland feel than the others. Set in 470 acres on a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Formby Golf Club is one of the few places left in England where you might catch a glimpse of the native Red Squirrel.
Founded in 1884, originally as a nine-hole course designed by Willie Park, and it was extended to 18 holes by the turn of the century. James Braid and Harry Colt remodelled the layout in the 1920s and Hawtree and Taylor added their changes in the 1930s. More recently, Donald Steel lengthened the course and it now measures 7,028 yards from the tips.
Formby is a unique course as the holes are routed in a huge anti-clockwise circle around the Formby Ladies’ Club which sits slap bang in the middle of the men’s course. The first three holes follow the railway line, the 4th turns and heads out towards the Irish Sea and at the turn, we meander back home, zigzagging up and down along the way.
Play Formby when you have been sufficiently beaten up by the other windy links courses around Liverpool and Southport, but don’t be fooled into thinking that this course is easy. It certainly is not. Bunkering is strategic, the undulating fairways are very much links-like, the rough is strewn with heather and the pines provide an element of park-like protection from the wind. Formby will suit both links lovers and the player who prefers the softness of inland golf; both these camps will arrive contentedly at the 19th watering hole.
Formby has hosted a number of important amateur events over the years and played host to the 2004 Curtis Cup. After an exciting finish, the United States successfully retained the trophy, winning 10-8. The Amateur Championship was played here on three occasions; José Maria Olazabal emerged as the 1984 winner and the event returned in 2009 to coincide with the 125th anniversary of the club. A certain sixteen-year-old Italian, Matteo Manassero, won the 2009 Amateur Championship, becoming the youngest ever winner of the event.
In Bernard Darwin’s book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, he wrote: “The greens are beautifully green; they are likewise very true and keen enough, without ever being bare and hard. The lies, too, are excellent, and it is altogether one of those courses where the player’s fate is entirely in his own hands. If he plays well everything will conspire to help him on his way, but he has got to play really well – good, sterling, honest golf: there is no mistake about that at Formby.”
This is a relatively unknown course, primarily because many golfers head in droves towards the three big Royals in this area (Liverpool, Birkdale and Lytham St Annes). If you are planning a trip to the northwest and haven’t already played Formby, we thoroughly recommend that you do. You will get a warm welcome and a unique and exciting experience.
Playing at Formby was one of my earliest links golfing experiences and I will therefore always have fond memories of what is undoubtedly a hugely memorable and top quality golf course.
The course is a fair and fine test of golf and although it is set quite away from the sea, with heather and trees featuring on many holes, it’s clear that Formby plays every inch of the championships links that it is.
The routing is also unique in that the course plays mostly in an anti-clockwise direction, around the inner Formby Ladies course, and therefore, in a similar manner to Muirfield, the wind changes slightly on each subsequent hole, albeit you are not as exposed to the sea breeze as you are at other courses in the area.
Like virtually all links courses Formby plays at its strategic best when the course is firm and fast, when approaching greens from one side or another is strongly preferred. I have played Formby many times in these conditions and it can match all the other courses on England’s North-West coast, in terms of challenge, under these circumstances. It’s also certainly the most visually appealing of the many high-quality neighbours on this stretch of superb golfing coastline from Hoylake to Lytham.
My only slight niggle with Formby is that during the Autumnal and Winter months is that it plays much softer than I would prefer and is very much more akin to heathland golf.
Formby has a really nice beat to it and the course flows seamlessly, with perhaps the expception of holes 7 through to ten which do have a different feel and where the course dips into more wooded surrounds.
With three Open Championship courses in relatively close proximity Formby is often placed down the pecking order in terms of the various rankings and a visiting golfer’s itinerary but it can, and does, hold its own against all the big boys and is unquestionably one of England’s finest links.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Similar to Hillside in terms of mix of holes and landscape types with links like (mainly first few holes on the back 9), heathland and parkland holes (7, 8, 9, 10). Preferred Hillside but Formby is a very good golfing experience. I would have thought it must be on the cusp of Top 100 ! Standout holes for me were:- 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15 and 18.
Formby has always been biennially ranked within the GB&I Top 100 - lowest ranking #48 and highest #32.
Formby: This charming course was redesigned in 1980 and the routing changed, hence the player has two sorts of terrain- one open and truly links whilst the other part is in the pine forest. The opening five holes are wonderful with each fairway out in front of you inviting you onwards. After the fifth par 3 the player is taken on a journey through some dog-leg blind holes which are quite challenging including hole eight- a great par five index 1. On some holes you get a hint where to go while others leave you to do the guessing. The middle greens are now protected by staggered mounds rather than bunkers so running the ball in to the green is not an option. When you emerge from the pine trees the finishing stretch is very playable (par 3, 5 and 4) towards the fine club house which invites you home to the dormer rooms where we stayed whilst finishing our competition in the snooker room. Great designers left their marks including Park, Braid, Colt, Hawtree, and Steel although I would bury the hidden bunker short of the 6th green. Played it twice in October 2016 -rating 9 out of 10. Friendly and well worth the trip.
Having played Birkdale, RLSA and Hillside in the past few days I can confidently say that the conditioning at Formby was the best. The fairways and greens were in great touch. The course is a beauty and really does need to be played twice as the approaches to numerous green are a bit tricky and sometimes quite blind.
The fairways undulate very naturally, more so than neighbours Birkdale & Hillside and they are quite generous. On more than one occasion after pulling my tee shot I found the ball in behind a dune in either light rough or edge of fairway when I thought it would be hard to find. The rough is not as penal as neighbours as the majority of mishits should be found. Although after pushing my drive on the 8th I went looking for it and walked away with 7 balls in amongst the gorse. ( 3 Pro V1s if wondering).
The reviews below generally suggest that the opening holes and the closing holes are the blandest, probably true with the par 3 16th a weak hole. In between though there are some great links golf be played with the stretch from the 11th to 15th in 6 ball territory but overall a solid 5 putting it not that far behind Hillside and Birkdale. Warren from Australia.
The course enjoys an excellent routing and really feels like a heathland in the beginning with significant areas of heather present. Starting on the flatter section of the property the course gradually winds it’s way into some pretty wild and hilly dunes which give way to some dramatically routed holes which are brilliant. My favorite section of the course would be the stretches from 5 - 7 and 11-14. The Par 4’s 6 and 7 may have been my favorite holes. 6 with it’s green hidden in undulations and 7 which is a dogleg right par 4 with a tricky uphill approach to a sharply back to front tilted green.
I definitely enjoy the original Colt holes and would of liked to see the seaside holes that were lost some time ago. I’d highly recommend a visit to Formby and personally love to head back in the summer or fall when the course is in top shape.