"Wallasey," wrote Bernard Darwin in The Golf Courses of the British Isles, "is another course of mighty hills: indeed I do not think I have ever seen a course on which the contour of the hills and valleys was so infinitely picturesque." It's certainly true today, Wallasey still has its fair share of dramatic dunes, but they are fewer than in Darwin's day, owing to coastal erosion.
Wallasey Golf Club is situated on the cusp of the Wirral Peninsula with views across the River Mersey. It's here, on the Wirral, that we start (or end) our journey after playing a host of classic links courses along England's magical northwest coastline - St Annes Old Links, Royal Lytham & St Annes, Fairhaven, Royal Birkdale, Hillside, Southport & Ainsdale, Formby, West Lancs, and then Royal Liverpool, which is also on the Wirral Peninsula.
Old Tom Morris originally designed the course in 1891, but Wallasey was put on the map by one of its members, Dr Frank Stableford. Irked by his rising handicap, he developed the Stableford scoring system following a discussion with Duncan Taylor whilst walking down the 2nd fairway. In 1932, a competition at Wallasey took place utilising his new-fangled scoring system - the rest is simply a blob in history!
The opening five holes are engaging and immense fun, with several raised plateau greens and elevated tees. Long, straight driving is key to scoring well, because Wallasey is a lengthy challenge, measuring more than 6,500 yards from the back tees. On the surface, 6,500 yards doesn't seem long, but factor in the wind, and this will test the very best.
Wallasey hosted Open Championship Qualifying when the Open returned to Royal Liverpool in 2006, although nobody was able to repeat Bobby Jones's amazing feat. In 1930, Jones came through Open Championship qualifying at Wallasey and went on to win the Open at Hoylake. It was a good year for Bobby Jones. In 1930, he won the British and US Open Championships, the British and US Amateur Championships. After that, he retired. Who can blame him?
"It is quite likely that we have played very far from well," wrote Darwin, "since this country of mountains and deep dells is always difficult for the stranger, and our host has probably ways and means of reaching the green that we are apt to regard as ways of darkness, but we have found the golf infinitely pleasant and exhilarating."
Having played Lytham the day before and watched the usual youtube videos on Wallasey I was really looking forward to my round there. We were execeptoinally lucky with the weather again and although the wind was blustering, there was beautiful sunshine, the type of winter sun that as it goes down at the end of the day it lights up the short cut fairways with an orange glow, simply stunning. I have to say I absolutely loved Wallasey, the moment you hit the ridge of the 4th and the sea comes into view that for me is real links golf. Sadly Wallasey is going through some fairly major course restructuring which meant they have changed the usual order of some of the holes and replaced others which was quiet confusing despite several very nice locals pointing us in the general correct location when we looked lost. Despite this for me it didn't spoil the round, if anything I can't wait to come back when they have finished the work to see if it can get any better.
Having helped in the administration of the recent England Golf English Women’s Strokeplay here at the birthplace of “stableford” I simply had to come back and play what looked to be a fantastic layout. I was not disappointed.
Along with a colleague, we were matched up with two American’s from California – one an overseas member and the other a budding young professional who was in the country to play in a few Challenge Tour / Europro events. This gave us a great insight to the course – some local knowledge and the inspiring viewpoint of someone who hits the ball further than I can only dream of!
Blessed with good weather for late September and only a zephyr of a breeze, we were warmly greeted by the professional team before stepping onto the course. We were not to be let down and from the very first hole, where you do not want to go right, we had a great time. Whilst some of the holes are fairly flat in comparison to the rest of the course (7th and 8th) they are no less interesting than the rest of the course which rolls through mountainous dunes. These holes are extremely well defined by the topography of the land and having the knowledge of a “local” to guide us round certainly helped as the signage is not always obvious.
The condition of the course was spectacular with tees, fairways and greens in great condition. Bunkering was well placed and certainly gobbled up any misplaced drives or approaches. Thankfully, the rough was kind given the time of year and I would certainly not like to visit it too often during June and July when I expect it would be at it fiercest.
With huge changes in elevation, several of the greens were well above the levels of the fairways – the 3rd and 11th being great examples and shots to these greens demanded your full attention.
I’d heard the Club had recently completed a “modernisation” of routing people around the course and I have to say that the pathways to and from the tees were excellent and subtle management of the walkways by the greenkeeper ensured they remained in this condition. The shaping of the fairways and management of the greens and surrounds were testament to the hard work put in by the greens team.
Greens were a pleasure to putt on and you needed a keen eye to read the subtle borrows.
Outstanding holes for me were the 4th and then the run for home from the 16th. The 4th is a par 5 from an elevated tee with two fairways to hit (it runs alongside the 17th) and OOB to the right. The 16th – a par 3 that is all carry to the green and gives you a great sense of satisfaction if you hit it, the 17th, a strong par 4 with a green that is well hidden unless you are in A1 position on the fairway (long and left) and the 18th which invites a drive to a narrow fairway before a second shot to a large picturesque undulating green in front of the clubhouse.
Whilst the practice facilities are limited, we really enjoyed our visit and would certainly look forward to playing here again and although the club is quite traditional, they extend a very warm welcome to everyone.
Wallasey is unlike any other course along the North-West links coast. Despite being only a short distance from Hoylake just a few miles across the other side of the Wirral peninsula, the two courses couldn’t be more different. Whilst Royal Liverpool is subtle, gently contoured and exposed, Wallasey is bold and dramatic with large dunes and lots of land movement. The golf holes at Wallasey are a real mix of all sorts of bits and pieces, starting amongst some rippling land and rising dunes before climbing to the stunning elevated platform of the 4th tee shot and then across some flat land at the back of the property. This all means that it’s difficult to characterise Wallasey in a single description.
The vision that strikes you as you arrive for a round at Wallasey is the dramatic view looking back at the 18th, but more on that shortly.
The opening holes are very good, interwoven between dunes they provide a fine start, and whilst the club are battling with the high water table in front of the 1st green, this is nothing that can’t be overcome. Otherwise, the opening five holes provide exciting topography with amazing views out to the Irish Sea. Before playing Wallasey, I’d probably seen more selfies from the 4th tee than any other images of the course combined, but it is a beautiful spot and it’s understandable that it’s the one place on the course above any others that has people reaching for their cameras. And whilst the sea to the right of the 4th tee might tempt us to guard against the right-sided miss, the sneaky snake mounding that divides the 4th and 17th fairways on the left will be sure to provide a nasty lie and enough punishment for those who choose that route as their bail out.
It’s not quite all sunshine and roses at Wallasey though, the flat ground at 6 and 7 and then later on the back nine at 13 and 14 are a little lifeless, made particularly stark by the dramatic nature of the rest of the course. But at least the holes across this flatter ground aren’t all played in sequence. This is one of the really clever design elements of the course routing that I liked. The more modest section of the property is only short-lived meaning you get the chance to dip your toe in and out of the best part of the property on various occasions throughout the round.
Touching upon the best holes, it would be remiss of me to not mention 11 which is the kind of hole I might expect if I was playing golf in County Kerry or Donegal. This hole sits within the most elevated stretch of duneland where the fairway dips at midpoint before you scramble your way back up to the wonderfully located and tilted green that sits proud above the rest of the hole where a shallow dune frames one side of the putting surface. The green on the following par three 12th, whilst located on the flatter land, is brought to life by some wonderful bunkering, but the closing stretch from 15 to 18 at Wallasey is really the part of the course to savour and provides a supreme test of your nerve. 16 is maybe the most penal of these holes; a par three of 200-yards in length isn’t in itself unusual, but the green-site that’s wedged against a dune to the right and exacerbated by a devilish run-off to the left has likely put many an excellent round of golf to the sword.
But it’s the 18th hole that caused me the biggest thrill and amongst the finest finishers in England since we produced Gary Lineker. In some ways out of character with much of the course since it plays over more turbulent ground, it was as if the hole was air-lifted out of Prestwick, and the backdrop of the charming clubhouse and St Nicholas’ church tower provides a wonderful end to proceedings.
A visit to Wallasey should be far more than just a pilgrimage to the home of stableford, but also a chance to visit a genuinely excellent course, and one worthy of fighting for a place amongst England’s top 50. I’ll be intrigued to revisit to see how the course has developed once all of the course improvements are complete. If the architects currently employed by the club can breathe more interest to those flatter holes furthest away from the sea, we might well see Wallasey starting to punch above its weight.
I can’t think of too many sports that affords an amateur the opportunity to walk the same paths as the greats of the game and those that have changed the sport forever. Most football fans will never play at Wembley, Boxing fans won’t fight at Madison Square Garden, but in this great game of ours, we can tee it up at St Andrew’s, we can play at Ryder Cup venues and we can “attempt” the same shots on the same holes as Tiger Woods.
At Wallasey Golf Club, they have their own piece of history and one so great it changed the game of golf forever. This is a venue where on the 2nd fairway Dr Frank Stableford invented the scoring system that is played the world over. It is a unique part of golfing history and one the club is rightly proud of.
But it’s not only the history that Wallasey has to be proud of, for in the North East tip of The Wirral lies a beautiful, varied and fun rolling Links course. Designed by Old Tom Morris, Wallasey offers everything you could want in a golf course. Raised plateau greens, sunken approach shots, narrow fairways played through huge sand dunes, holes that dog leg left and right, raised tee shots with sea views, it really is a course that has everything.
We were lucky to catch the course on a still summers day and although the course seemed scoreable, you needed to avoid the thick rough. The key attribute to scoring well here is your approach game especially with the raised plateau greens. Miss the green and the runoff areas make it extremely difficult to get up and down for par.
There are so many good holes here. The elevated drive on the 4th, with views of the sea, the short par 4 dog leg 10th which must give players nightmares with their approach shots if wind is into face. Anything short into this steep uphill green and the ball will nestle right back at your feet. The 3rd that offers the narrowest fairway on the course and then a cracking approach onto the first plateau green of the round. The 17th with its sweeping dogleg right fairway into a dune guarded green complex and the 18th is a beautiful finishing hole with a raised tee box offering views of the clubhouse and a downhill approach into the gallery from the patio. But the best hole for me was the 11th and a hole that has to be included in a conversation of great English links holes. The drive needs to find a narrow, well-guarded, semi blind fairway with a stunning uphill approach shot into a plateaued two-tier green.
Wallasey keeps your attention from start to finish and although doesn’t garner the same attention of it’s near neighbours, should not be missed when visiting the North West
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"It's paradise out there," remarked one golfer to us just after completing his round at the home of Stableford. He wasn't wrong. We were delighted we had not overlooked Wallasey in favour of its more famous Merseyside neighbours. This is dazzling links golf has harsh rough, deep bunkers but the opportunity to score well if you keep on the course and can get the better of greens with swirls which can bemuse even the most honed putter.
During the early holes, contending with a fierce sea breeze made it a hard test but even when it dropped and the conditions became more benign, accuracy was no less important. Many of the greens are on top of steep slopes which mean even slightly misplaced approaches will be punished. The best feature of Wallasey is that it is at one with nature. There are four tame foxes on the course and they even seem to pose for photos. Rabbits, squirrels, all manner of birdlife were also spotted during our round. My business partner and I were with clients in Lancashire in the morning - we were mighty pleased we stopped off at Wallasey in the afternoon. It's a shame we didn't experience the historic clubhouse because of the COVID crisis restrictions but the knockdown county card rate of £50 was as good value as we could possibly have imagined. Oh, and I even managed two points on the second - the hole which inspired Dr Stableford to come up with his scoring system.
First off the course had unfortunately just come out of the January and February of 2020 and therefore had received a lot of rain. This unfortunately led to hitting off matts and a number of tees being closed and therefore obviously impacted on the experience.
That being said on arrival at the course the people in the pro shop recognised this and provided us with a discount and the members we met along the way were really friendly.
The course itself is a mixture. It starts okay and then 3 through 5 are lovely holes on 4 you see a hole coming back the other way which is 17 and it is a cracker. 6 through 9 are nothing special, 10 is quirky and I cannot fairly comment on 11 as the tee was closed and we had to go forward 180 yards to start the hole (it was the same on 6 a par 4 that ended up being just a 5 iron into the green from the tee). 12 is a great little par 3 bunkers everywhere and then 13 through 15 didn’t really stick in the mind.
What Wallasey does have is 3 great finishing holes. 16 is a long par 3 with trouble everywhere, 17 has a fantastic tee shot and 18 is a great finishing hole if you don’t make the top of the ridge as I didn’t, walk up pick the point on the roof of the club house to aim at and just go for it.
I would love to go back and play in the summer in good conditions as I am sure I would mark the course a half point more. However, while there are some really lovely holes there are too many weak holes to get Wallasey right up there.
My favourite course round these parts. Far better and more interesting than Hoylake in my opinion. Some fabulous holes in the mountainous dunes and in which the wind can destroy you. Favourite view up 18th as sun sets across all undulations.
We walked into the pro shop to hear a 5 handicapper say to the Pro that he shot a brilliant round and couldn't play any better. The Pro behind the counter asked what he shot gross and the player replied "16 over". I knew then that we were in for a tough round.
I would say we played the Wallasey in a 4-5 club wind and to this day is probably the windiest round of golf I've ever played. It was such a shame because I absolutely loved the course. The first tee had a 90 degree wind from left to right. I struck a perfect drive straight and a bit left and ended up 40 yards right of the fairway. There was a lot of incredulous chuckling over what we had to look forward to.
The course is absolutely brilliant and has so much variation. There are doglegs, really thin fairways, expansive fairways, stunning coastline views, hugely elevated tees, blind shots, sloping greens and is also in excellent condition. There are so many standout holes it is difficult to list them. The tee box on the 4th is something special though and makes the heart flutter.
Add in some amazing dunescape and you have superb course. I would love to come back and play the Wallasey again and hope that the wind was not quite as strong.
Played Wallasey in the Pairs Open on a fine July morning and I have to say that I was blown away by it. How on earth this course isn’t rated better is beyond me. I would go so far as to say that this is a better course than Royal Liverpool. This sentiment was echoed by several people I have subsequently talked to about Wallasey. The course is not a long one but the variety of holes, the routing and the shaping of the course is simply magnificent. The course was in great nick and the greens ran very true but weren’t lightning fast which they could have been. I would go back in a heartbeat. Top marks from me.
One of the features at Wallasey is playing your second shot at many of the par fours to raised greens, and it is a couple of these that provide the best holes. The third, aptly named 'Valley', is an excellent hole where first you must thread your drive between a corridor of large sand dunes before rising up to the green high above. Prior to that the first eases you into the round with a tee-shot that restricts you from hitting driver and has a green slightly hidden away whilst the second is the longest par four on the course sweeping to the right but with a couple of well-placed bunkers preventing you taking the shortest route.
One of the best views on the course is that from the fourth tee which sits atop of the highest dune on the links. As you make your way from the third green it suddenly appears before you, a magnificent sight with the sea and beach on the right and an arching fairway well below - similar to that from the fifth tee at Silloth on Solway but perhaps more picturesque.
The 11th is the best hole on the course, and wouldn't look out of place at any of the Open Championship venues, with a similar drive to the third then an elevated approach to a two-tiered green encompassed by trouble on all sides. You also play to greens high above at the 10th and 15th. The second shot into the 10th - a short but severe dog-leg hole - can be a terrifying shot, especially if played into the wind, as anything short could come back 60 yards down the fairway towards you. Meanwhile, the 17th is a long par four played into an enclosed green that may not be visible unless you are on the centre or left of the fairway.
Once on the 18th tee everything becomes a little bit clearer about the architecture of this hole. The landing area is actually fairly generous before it filters into the slither of fairway you see from the behind the green. You are benefitted by having a beautiful church tower in the background as your ideal line from the tee. The green is slightly angled and set in a shallow bowl in front of the clubhouse.
Wallasey is one of my favourite courses. It's not big and bold like a Royal Birkdale or Saunton (East) but is more intimate and picturesque. It's not an overly long course either but despite all the undulations it's a fair one and you usually get what you deserve.
It is such a fun golf course to play with an endless variety of shots required to hit into the greens, especially the ones set high in the dunes.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.