Why is Formby loved by so many and why should you play there rather than try to squeeze in Birkdale, RLSA and Hoylake into one trip?
Immediately, I can think of two reasons. (If you take the trouble of reading some of the many Formby reviews on this site, I am sure you find a few others...)
First, the variety of golf (and views) on offer during a round here is beyond what most top courses in the UK can offer. A links golf trip can become a bit same-same after a few days unless you mix it up, so Formby belongs on the schedule for that reason alone.
Second, the tranquility/seclusion on offer is of a rare quality, more often found on top heathland courses like Sunningdale and Swinley Forest. A round at Formby can probably convert most people to the links version of the game, so starting (or finishing) the trip at Formby is always a good plan, especially if you can book a stay at the Dormy House as well (have tried and failed twice, so still have that on my personal bucket list).
My recommendation is therefore to anchor any trip to the area around Formby, then add a more classical/austere links course like West Lancs and then take in one of the more "dunesy" courses (Birkdale, Hillside or S&A). An extra plus is that all of these courses can easily be reached by rail.
Would have hesitated between 5 and 6 balls before, so 5 1/2 feels right.
Date: June 14, 2019