The Ladies Club
In a first for us at World’s Best, we play at Formby Ladies Golf Club, which has its own course within the same grounds as Formby Golf Club, near Liverpool, England. The courses run side by side and while Formby GC is a strong traditional championship course, the Ladies’ course, while no less challenging, is just a bit shorter.
The layout is 5356 yards of pure pleasure with a great dollop of fun thrown in. Drivable par 4’s, short but tricky par 3’s and three par 5’s, that are par 5’s on the scorecard, but are all under 440 yards. It’s a par 71 for Ladies but a 68 for Gents.
Formby Ladies Golf Club was formed on New Year’s Day in 1896, initially as a nine-hole course but became a fully-fledged 18 holes just 12 years later, in 1908. Even though it’s relatively short, the Ladies’ course has held many major competitions including the British Girls’ Home Internationals and both the British Men’s and British Women’s Senior Championships. It also co-hosted the Staysure PGA Seniors Championship in 2021 and 2022 alongside Formby Golf Club.
How do you protect a course that’s under 5400 yards? You make the fairways tight and have heather on both sides of the fairways. Those measures alongside strategically placed bunkers and small sloping greens mean that you need to be at the top of your game to score well. Now, when you play a course that’s short, you have two choices on how to approach your round. You can either hit the driver as far as you can and leave some very short second shots or you can play it strategically. The problem with hitting the driver is that the bunkering, heather and bushes around this course will cause you problems unless you are very accurate with your tee shots. That’s not our forte so strategy it is then!
The opening hole is only 266 yards. Two bunkers guard the front of the small green. A long iron or hybrid from the tee leaves a short pitch and your first opportunity for birdie.
The 2nd hole
The 2nd is one of the longer holes at 413 yards. You need to find the narrow fairway to have a chance of reaching the green with your second shot. If you hit it in the heather, unless you get a good lie, it’s a chip out onto the fairway and try and make your par from there. The 3rd is the first of the short holes and is only 129 yards. You don’t see much of the green from the tee so you need to trust the yardage. if you avoid the four bunkers around the green, you should get an easy par.
The 4th hole
The 4th is one of those risk and reward holes. At 286 yards, the tee shot suits a fade if you are going for the green however the bunkers and trees await if you over cut your tee shot. Again, a hybrid or long iron off the tee down the middle leaves a short uphill pitch to a sloping green with a chance of a birdie and an easy par.
The beautiful 5th hole
The 5th is one of the best short holes anywhere. It’s 122 yards and plays slightly uphill. You simply have to hit the small sloping green to make par. The 6th is a 405-yard hole and the first one we hit the driver at. It has a relatively wide fairway and a decent drive leaving us a 7 iron to the green and a straightforward par 4.
The short 7th hole
The 7th hole is only 251 yards and a great birdie opportunity. The route to the green is down the left. We hit 3 wood just left of the bunker on the line of the pin and two-putted for birdie. Hit it further right and the bunkers await. The 8th is the longest hole on the course at 433 yards. A decent drive leaves a medium to long iron into a green protected by two bunkers right and short and two bunkers on the left greenside. A strong hole and a tricky par 4 for the Gents and a tough par 5 for the Ladies.
The 9th hole
The 9th is an awkward hole. The fairway runs out around 220 yards so you need to lay up short of the mounds and the rough. This will leave a second shot of under 100 yards to a green you can’t see. It’s worth walking up to the top of the mounds to see where the pin is on this large green.
The back nine begins with the tough 10th hole. From the tee, the 422-yard hole moves right to left. With bunkers, heather and rough on the right and reeds and rough on the left, you must find the fairway. The small green is protected by bunkers left and right.
The tricky 11th hole
The 11th is a short par 4 of 307 yards. Finding the fairway is tricky as the hole doglegs to the right and is only 20 yards wide beyond the corner. Missing the fairway is penal due to the rough on either side which has nettles and bramble stems to snag your clubhead. The green sits above you and has plenty of slope making putts difficult.
The par 3 12th
The 12th is another lovely par 3. At 157 yards, there is no bailout. The rough goes most of the way to the green and only stops when it reaches the bunkers short of the green. The green sits in a bowl so if you hit the green, you won’t be too far away and it’s a great chance of a birdie. The 13th is a difficult par 4. It gently moves right to left and has trees and bushes on the right and marshland and reeds to the left. There is also a bunker to negotiate on the left side which makes the fairway landing area narrower.
More Birdie Chances
Holes 14 and 15 are short par 4’s which offer great birdie chances from the fairway. You shouldn’t hit the driver on either as bunkers protect both fairways. Play these holes strategically for the best chance of making three.
The 16th hole
The last par 3 is the 16th. It’s only 128 yards and the green is protected by a single bunker. The green is wide but not particularly deep and has runoff areas at the front and both sides. The 17th is another birdie opportunity if you fade the ball. We don’t hit the ball that far but we got very close to the green which is 322 yards away due to the firm fairway and our stock fade.
The 18th hole
The last hole is straight back towards the Clubhouses and pro shop. It’s 348 yards with a row of bunkers across the fairway and heather right and left. Play up short of the bunkers and you will have a wedge into the green. It’s a great chance of a finishing birdie.
The course at Formby Ladies Golf Club is great fun to play if you carry the ball over two hundred yards. For the Ladies who are members and play here regularly, I am sure there are days when great fun is not the correct description. However, they must be proud to play on such a challenging and historic links that tests your game every time you tee it up.
For us, it was great fun and will test your accuracy off the tee, judging the bounce and run of your tee shots, your wedge game and putting. We only hit the driver 4 times around this links, and it should only have been 3… We had as many birdies as we had bogies and only lost one ball in the heather. It was also the first course we played in 2022 where we got round in under 3 hours, that in itself is reason enough to book a round here.
A Challenge to You
The northwest area around Liverpool is blessed with many wonderful links golf courses and we would certainly include Formby Ladies Golf Club as one of those. It is a different challenge where strategy and accuracy will reap the greatest rewards and that folks is probably a lesson in itself.
We are all guilty of trying to hit the ball as far as we can, find it and hit it again. Maybe next time you take on a links challenge, you should try the accuracy and finesse tactic, we think you will enjoy that experience more and also score better.
Let us know if that works out for you!!
Our thanks go to the Formby Ladies Secretary Manager, Anne Bromley and Course Manager Rob Sandilands for arranging our visit and to the Head Professional Andrew Witherup for his welcome and course advice.
At a Glance:
- Located 40 minutes north of Liverpool city centre
- Short but testing 18-hole links
- Small welcoming clubhouse
- Shared practice facilities with Formby Golf Club
- Well-stocked pro shop
Next time, World’s Best Golf Destinations visits Prestwick St. Nicholas Golf Club on Ayrshire’s Golf Coast.