Formby - Lancashire - England

Formby 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. 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.

Formby Golf Club was founded in 1884, originally with a nine-hole course in play for the members. In 1912, Willie Park Junior established the original 18-hole layout and it was altered by James Braid in 1922 and Harry Colt in 1933. More recently, in the 1980s, Donald Steel revised the course due to coastal erosion and extended its yardage. Today's layout now measures more than 7,000 yards from the tips.

Mackenzie & Ebert commenced a 6-year development plan for the course at the start of 2020, with modifications intended to add to the playing aesthetics with a little re-shaping and the installation of some new bunkers and new tees. Changes include widening and re-bunkering the 1st fairway, realigning the 6th fairway to make it more of a dogleg, lengthening and reshaping the 8th, and creating some dune slacks around the 16th.

Formby is a unique course as the holes are routed in a huge anti-clockwise circle around the Formby Ladies Golf 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.

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Reviews for Formby

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Description: Formby 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. Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Reviews: 52
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Warren

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.

July 08, 2016
8 / 10
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David Davis
Recently I had the pleasure of playing here for the first time with a group of friends. It was part of an extended trip including a significant number of great links courses. Formby was certainly one of the standout surprises on the trip. We played in mid March and I’d say that’s a little early for Formby to really shine and while the course was in decent shape it was a little rough still from winter. Of course this is to be expected. Formby Golf Course - Photo by reviewer

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.
July 13, 2015
6 / 10
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Jon Hall
The staff at Formby allow our group to play after we had been let down by Hillside. I can't thank them enough. The course was fantastic, with only one average hole and the some absolute stunners. I would say that the course should rate higher than 18 in England. Better than Nottingham by a mileThank you to all at Formby for an awesome day on an awesome golf course.
October 19, 2014
10 / 10
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Paul Howard
From the moment I turned into Golf Lane and then into the car park I felt I was surrounded by golfing heaven. I guess the greatest compliment I can pay to Formby Golf Club is that once I got home I went and purchased some pine trees and heather from my local garden centre. You see, I want to be surrounded by memories of Formby whenever I'm in my garden. If you haven't played Formby and you love golf then your life will never be complete.....
September 10, 2013
10 / 10
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Fergal O'Leary
For those with a keen eye, Formby presents all the challenges in front of the golfer and doesn’t try to fool you. A sea of bunkers is visible from the tee boxes, but as with most great courses, when you stand on the green and look back, all of the aforementioned hazards are hidden by the terrain. There are no blind shots, but the landscape offers plenty of bumpy fairways and raised greens. I found it most interesting that the course has hundreds of trees, but none of them come into play. They merely isolate each hole as you move away from the clubhouse and offer a gentle backdrop to numerous approach shots. It could be busy at Formby and you’d never know it. Click the link to read Fergal’s full report on Formby Golf Club.
July 24, 2013
8 / 10
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CJY Lawrence
September 24, 2013
Played it in July 2013 and it would be hard to pick faults other than to say I prefer my links golf nearer to the sea without the trees that seem to be everywhere: St Andrews, Turnberry, Carnoustie, Royal Dornoch, Dunbar, North Berwick - those to me are the real deal but Formby is a great track nevertheless and a very pleasant place to be that's for sure and the staff, pro-shop, clubhouse etc were first class. CJY Lawrence
John
October 24, 2014
Couldn't agree more, but, no blind shots? I think you will find the second shot to the green on the 6th is totally blind. You cannot see the green.
shigakogen
A fabulous course. I had the assistant pro as a caddy and he did a fantastic job. The condition was great and some of the holes are fantastic. A friendly clubhouse and I am just jealous that I am not a member.
November 12, 2012
10 / 10
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jeff robinson
I enjoyed a memorable birthday treat at Formby on 23rd August 2012. Arriving at the clubhouse at 9am we were greeted by the lovely Julie who looked after us extremely well right through from booking to playing on the day. The club has an attractive old world colonial style and it was with great expectation that we looked out on the well manicured course. The weather was kind to us with little wind or rain and we were welcomed by the amenable starter at 09.46 and advised that our round might take around four and a half hours. We were behind four Swiss golfers with local caddies doing a tour of North West golfing gems and indeed the round did take this long though that was not a problem as it allowed us to drink in the relaxing surrounds.We played off the yellow tees and at 6,500 yards with a par and SSS of 72 the course was a good challenge though a pleasure to play. It is links style but with only one blind approach shot and fairways that are not too rolling it provided a fairer links challenge than more unusual layouts. In places the fairways are lined by tall pine trees that give a very elegant feel. The greens were very true hence I managed to sink several 20 foot putts and the rough was as expected pretty challenging so I left this mainly to my playing partner! Though not cheap to play at £95 (per round OR per day) the club and surrounds have a lovely feel – don’t miss a quick gander at the houses by the 17th tee! We made it good value for money by playing both morning and afternoon rounds and enjoying some excellent bar food at lunchtime - do try the triple decker sandwich!All the staff were extremely friendly and helpful including the catering manager who has lined up a good wine list (try the Franken Pinot Noir!) and who very kindly gave us a quick tour of the premises. With a 9 handicap I was really pleased to come back in par on the back nine. We finished our 36th hole at 19.45 noticing John Parrot strolling past. We discovered that John is one of Formby’s members and an excellent golfer who plays in the club’s snooker team so beware the local competition! All in all a very pleasurable experience and one to be recommended to others wishing to play the top quality courses of North West England. I look forward to returning again in the future. Jeff Robinson.
August 25, 2012
8 / 10
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Vorndron
Played here on Sunday 1st April for the 4th year running and I enjoy formby more each time. Yes the weather was superb and the course looked sublime in the Spring sunshine. The course starts fairly easily with holes 1 to 4 pretty straight forward but when you reach the 5th tee it gets tough. Usually into the wind the par 3 5th is really tricky with the green up on a hill with trouble either side. The 6th, again into the wind to a hidden green requires 2 really well hit shots. The 7th, probably the hardest tee shot on the course and the hardest green on the course. The 8th should be a good birdie opportunity but there is trouble if you dont get a good tee shot away, and the green has 2 tiers to it. The 9th is a really strong par 4. I could go on but go to formby and play it for yourself you won't be disappointed.
April 01, 2012
8 / 10
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Max Monroe
Solid golf course what needs to be said. Many good holes, a few excellent holes and a couple bland holes but the one advantage this course has over many other highly rated courses is its great terrain. You have to hit all the shots to get around here in a good number.
July 23, 2011
8 / 10
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Roboliozo
Played for the first time earlier this week. Enjoyed the course. Difficult scoring a course this time of year but the club is charging full rate £75 so I am going to score it on that basis. A little disappointed still to be playing off most of the winter tees which have been battered all winter so are now not great, but more frustrating to be off such a forward course. All the winter furniture of ropes directing traffic etc were still out and the whole course seemed to be still in winter mode. Greens had also just been top dressed. Quite sure I could return in June and score the course 6/6 as it is a superb layout and setting.
April 13, 2011
6 / 10
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