"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."
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.