"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."
I played this historic links on July 12 on a breezy but sunny evening. I paid GBP 45.00 (half-price) using the online booking system on the website and the course more than justifies this price. Living relatively close by I had been keep to follow in the footsteps of Stableford for a while. On arrival a group of members were waiting on the 1st tee and cheerily beckoned me to tee off as I was playing hans solo. Without a warmup I managed to get a good drive away and tried my best to come up with a witty riposte as they joked that I better not slow them down! After stiffing my pitch I could relax on the 2nd tee and then ‘enjoy the walk’. Whilst being shorter than its Royal neighbor I found Wallasey trickier and ultimately more fun. The course reveals itself on the 4th tee and what a fantastic hole awaits matched by the 17th coming back in the opposite direction. The par 3s are fantastic with elevation changes and not overly long (apart from 16 which played into its teeth) and personally I prefer this. Holes 6,7,13 and 14 are in the flatter land away from the sea and whilst not as exciting as the others, I scored very well here being -2 for the four holes. The respite from elevation changes and mentally taxing shots was temporarily welcomed. However, every great course has a strong finish and 15-18 are just that. I saw a friendly fox on the 18th tee which improved what is an already fantastic view. The green overlooked by the old clubhouse and golfers supping on the patio makes for a fitting end to a fantastic golfing experience. The course was in good, not fantastic condition but playing here is all about the true links experience. My new favorite course in Cheshire.
As I play most of my rounds solo I am often let through. It immediately becomes a 17 hole course as I always stuff up as I rush through. I need some work on my witty ripostes though - I always act cheerful as I snap hook my drive or hit my 8 iron massively fat 45 metres- what was yours? And yes, it certainly "pays" to check out what's online as the green fees section often neglect to mention twilight rates etc.
I’d had Wallasey on my hit list for a long time so it was a real shame that the weather didn’t co-operate when I finally got round to playing here last week because it rained rather heavily during my round. Nevertheless, as my previous excursion to play on the Wirral at Royal Liverpool had been somewhat underwhelming, I’m glad to report my latest visit to the area was a far more satisfying, if slightly soggier, experience.
There’s a lot of good golf going on out there amongst the sand hills, particularly on the stronger back nine. I wasn’t overly impressed with holes 6&7 and the back-to-back par fives at 13&14, as they’re set in the flatter part of the property, but there appears to be work going on in that area to improve the visual aesthetics, with shaggy mounding and new gorse plantings framing the fairways. In time, the new vegetation will look easier on the eye, allowing the holes to blend into the landscape more easily.
The sequence from 10 to 12 is really quite exhilarating, as fairways fight the contours in amongst the dunes, and this exciting topography is revisited over three of the last four holes at 15, 16 and 18. The par four 11th is probably my favourite hole, though, where the drive plunges down off the tee, followed by an uphill approach to a raised green. I also like having the home green situated right in front of the clubhouse, where all home greens should be sited!
A brief word of thanks is owed to Manager John Mort, who gave me a good look around the magnificent old clubhouse, offering a proper explanation of the club’s Frank Stableford and Bobby Jones connections. Thanks also to Mike Adams in the pro shop, who glued my playing partner’s disintegrating golf shoe after nine holes, allowing said piece of footwear to be used for 54-holes of golf over the following two days!
Hats off to the staff at Wallasey and I know where I’ll be playing again if I find myself in this neck of the woods. Jim McCann
On the whole, I love playing Wallasey and I think there are many great holes, there are also a few weaker holes once you are out of the dunes, some of them have undergone some changes recently that I don’t necessarily think have 100% been successful, but often time makes a big different to links land. As for the question of whether it is better than Royal Liverpool, I think that is a question you have to answer for yourself, I suspect some people will prefer the greater use of dunes and the quirkier holes that come from naturally undulating terrain, however, I think it’s fair to say that Hoylake is in overall better condition and probably fairer, in that good shots are rewarded and bad shots penalised. Also I think the recent changes to Hoylake under the watchful eye of the R&A have been very well executed in a way that a club with the resources of Wallasey may not have been able to achieve. Pricewise, Wallasey is great value for money against any comparison. Overall the only answer is to organise a trip to the Wirral that allows time to play both courses and judge for yourself.