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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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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Vorndron
Excellent all round golf experience. Holes 2 to 12 are exceptional, with outstanding holes being 7&8 which are two of the most impressive holes I’ve ever played. Played all the west Lancashire coast courses with the exception of Royal Birkdale, and Formby is right up there. Hillside probably has the edge on the back nine but Formby certainly has the edge on the front 9. Excellent clubhouse and staff. Definitely a must play again.
March 05, 2009
10 / 10
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Ronan O'Driscoll
A wonderful course - a classic links. You know the sea is somewhere close, yet it can't be seen. There are lots of trees and heather to add to the toughness of this gem. My abiding memory, however, is the friendliness of the staff. We had four local caddies who entertained us completely. You simply must play Formby, as a matter of urgency. Life is too short to delay!
October 05, 2008
10 / 10
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Phil Bonsall
Together with Hillside, I preferred both these courses to Royal Birkdale.Much fairer and in magnificent condition.WOuld love to play them both again.
September 25, 2008
8 / 10
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John Patterson
Our small society enjoyed a great day's golf at Formby last Sunday. I'd echo all the positive comments already here. The course oozes class and it has a really good variety of holes, so you are kept thinking all the time. We were lucky with the weather in early March with the wind from the north east. Some of the yellow tees had been moved forward quite a long way, so these two facts together helped some of us to post a decent score. It would certainly pose a more difficult challenge off the back tees in a stiff south-westerly. The welcome we received from staff and members was friendly and I'm certain we will be back next winter to take advantage of their winter offer.
March 20, 2008
8 / 10
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Max Monroe
Excellent place to play and well worth every pound. Everyone at the club was welcoming. Good golfing atmosphere, the course speaks for itself, a bit heathland and bit links, some really good holes here. Highly recommended!
February 10, 2008
8 / 10
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Richard Smith
Another of the great courses in the Southport area. Formby is an attractive course, but the holes are championship quality through and through. The par 4 7th presents one of the tightest drives imaginable, and there are a number of holes winding through a pine forest. However, I think that the strength of the course are the open holes on the back nine which are pure links heaven.This is a wonderful venue and not to be missed if you are in the Southport area.Richard Smith, Knoxville Tennessee
December 13, 2007
10 / 10
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Graham Saunt
Formby was a Superb course that we played in early November and what a deal. £140 for a 4 ball tee time was excellent value - the included sandwiches were pretty good too. The course itself was in good condition with the greens,even for November being fairly true and quick. The strength of Formby for me was the layout and that every hole was different.Whilst not massively long was a great challenge with bunkers placed in challenging places. I would like to hear of any other similar vallue for money courses to be played through the winter months.
November 10, 2006
8 / 10
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Cédric
Fantastic course and you wouldn't expect to find trees on that stretch of the coast. Much of an heathland feel to it. The best greens we played on too. A real beast from the back tees...Only disapppointment was the lack of organisation in the proshop and clubhouse with staff not as friendly as in other top venues in the area.
June 21, 2006
8 / 10
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Jim McCann

The fir tree emblem on ball markers, hole flags and such like tells you all you need to know about Formby – it is dominated by trees of the pine variety which are used to good effect throughout the course, whether it be to screen fairways from the railway line at the opening three holes or to flank the fairways at holes 7 to 9 (which were constructed in the 1970’s due to coastal erosion claiming holes elsewhere).

The course has been used for many top amateur competitions and it is easy to see why, with marvellous conditioning and a heavenly hole routing in an anti clockwise circle around Formby Ladies golf course. I thought the aforementioned stretch of holes from 7 to 9 were particularly strong ,with hole 7 the pick of the trio – shades of Boat of Garten here too, I thought. As our three ball found at all local venues played during a long weekend stay in the area, the greens were such that your putting improved because their quality and pace demanded full concentration.

Maybe we caught the couple of staff we dealt with in the clubhouse on a bad day but we did not receive the same friendly service we had been accustomed to at neighbouring courses which was something of a disappointment. That apart, Formby was a very fine place to play and a double bill of golf here and at Hillside would be a great day out.

Jim McCann

June 20, 2006
9 / 10
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Billy
No sea views to drink here at Formby, but the pines make up for it. It's also a tough monster - you really need to be on your game. It's a must play course if in the area.
August 21, 2004
8 / 10
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