Formby Ladies Golf Club is set amidst the pine trees and sand dunes that characterise this part of the Lancashire landscape, the course lies in the heart of the Formby Golf Club – and yes, men are welcome to play here.
Formby Golf Club was founded in 1884 and provided golf for both men and women. With membership flourishing in 1896 the men at Formby Golf Club decided that lady members should have their own 9-hole golf course which was established later the same year.
Unfortunately Formby Golf Club had a fire in 1899 and no record remains of the architect of the original 9-hole Ladies course. However, it’s thought William McEwan, who was the professional until his death in 1930, may have designed the course. He had been in Formby since 1895 following in the footsteps of his father Peter.
The Ladies course was carved from the dunes and situated inside the men’s links. As a result of the foresight of Formby Golf Club, the foundation of an independent ladies’ golf course was allowed to evolve. In 1907, after much discussion between the two clubs, Formby Ladies extended their course – making it an 18-hole links which was laid out by Douglas McEwan. We understand Peter McEwan and Douglas are related, but unfortunately we do not know the nature of their relationship – if you know please contact us.
Very little has changed on the Ladies course to this day. From the red markers the course measures 5,356 yards, with a par and standard scratch score of 71 for women and a cruel SSS 66 for men, although we suspect few men will play in club competitions.
Fast fairways and small greens demand skill and precision from all golfers. Heather protects much of the rough and the one-shot holes are among some of the most prettiest and trickiest you could wish to play, while elevated tees on several holes provide magnificent views over the course and towards the Irish Sea.
At first glance this is a short golf course. However, after a few handshake holes it plays at pretty much full length, especially in the Formby breeze. I had pictured this as the ideal place for a half set and an evening drink, but you will likely use every club in the bag.
The 4th is where the challenge really begins, looking like a scaled down version of a tree-lined heathland hole in Surrey. If you miss the small green, you are probably not getting up and down. The scenic, short 5th to a plateau green will also reject anything mediocre. Unfortunately it was raining too much for me to get my camera out.
So this is a cheaper option to the big courses in the area, but it is not a short, fun and easier choice like a Kilspindie or Gullane 3. Holes 8 to 13 feel more links than heath, with some greens atop and between dunes. The final few holes then play up and down the same flat heathland, like a smaller Walton Heath.
Overall this a very good, unique course that is worth a try but maybe not an extra hotel night, especially when compared with its neighbours.
Played in late October 2020, condition of the course was good considering all the rain the area has had over the previous few weeks. The par 3 5th & 12th are short but very good holes, other notable holes are 4, 5 13 & 15. I thought the 'par 5's' were very average. At 5300 yds you would expect to rip it apart but the narrow fairways and small greens make for challenging round, course management is the order of the day. The location is stunning with the sand dunes, pines & heather but the course is let down by too many average hole. Would I play again? Yes, but with winter green fee of £44 (midweek) i'd rather pay a few £'s more and go play somewhere else in the area.
Formby Ladies is a uniquely special golf course where the 18 holes flow seamlessly over a varied landscape spawning an enjoyable and memorable experience.
Although not a pure links course it has many playing characteristics of true linksland resulting in a wonderful array of shots required.
The layout shares the same property as the much-acclaimed Formby Golf Club which encircles the ladies course. And whilst often cast in the shadow of its big brother the location proves hugely beneficial because the course is played through similar sand dunes and towering pine trees that make the championship venue famous. Formby Ladies also boasts that beautifully firm and tight turf that is often only found at the very top seaside courses.
In fact the course has several similarities to many other leading golf clubs on this stretch of wonderful golfing land close to the West Coast of England. It's no surprise that it has hosted many prestigious competitions at County, National and International level including the British Girls' Home Internationals, the British Men’s Seniors and the British Women’s Seniors.
The independent Ladies Club has a vibrant membership of female golfers. One that is also growing thanks largely to a series of 'taster sessions' organised by the club. However, and thankfully for male golfers, it also warmly welcomes both genders to visit their alluring golf course and recently refurbished clubhouse. Indeed a few hours in the 'Monkey House', enjoying homemade food and beverages whilst overlooking both links, can disappear as quickly as a wayward drive into the heathery rough that borders many of the narrow fairways.
The opening and closing holes have a fantastic heathland feel to them whilst during the middle part of your round you will play through rolling sandhills, enchanting woodland and enjoy vistas from the 10th and 13th tees that cannot be matched or bettered from the men's course.
If you are to score well at Formby Ladies you must think clearly. Each hole poses a different question and the first answer that comes to mind is not always the correct one. Those who plan, plot and think their way around the course will prosper.
Keeping the ball in play is paramount to scoring well, however, simply finding the fairway is not always sufficient because many times you must also be on the correct side of the fairway in order to get close to the hole. The opener is a prime example of this with two bunkers hampering an approach from the left-hand side. This is a theme that is prevalent throughout the round.
There's no getting away from the fact that compared to most courses (from the normal men's tees) Formby Ladies is on the short side. It has seven par fours fewer than 325 yards but it can still show some muscle at times. The sixth is the longest two-shotter on the course at 412 yards and the 13th and 15th are no pushovers either, especially into a head wind. Factor in a SSS of 67 for men and you really need to be picking strokes up at all three of the par fives too.
As a test of golf Formby Ladies certainly delivers. You may be left scratching your head as to why you didn't score better and that is testament to the consistent quality of the course.
A comment I hear often from people who've only played Formby Golf Club, and therefore just seen a glimpse of the neighbouring ladies course, is along the lines of, "Well, it certainly looks impressive." I can confirm that it is.
If this is a part of the country you reside in, or intend to visit, you should make sure that Formby Ladies is close to the top of your list of courses to play.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
This is a great review of an unheralded course. Perhaps the rating is a bit too low and I think the ladies course is more links than not. I've played Formby Ladies a couple of times and it's great fun despite its shortness.