Formby Golf Club 13th September 2017
A completely different course. Played around Formby Ladies, often over heather and in amongst the pine trees. There are a number of purely links holes but a lot of it is heathland. The opening holes are not dissimilar to The Berkshire. And the recent Hawtree additions are very clever holes which are great fun to play. The greens are set amidst sand hills and dunes but a lot of the fairways are on richer soil. Add in the protection offered by the pines and it has a very different feel. The sea is visible on a couple of tees around the turn and you get a refreshing blast from the Irish Sea to give a more authentic links feel.
For me the fifth is the first hole that really stands out, playing as we did into a breeze that was on the rigid side of stiff it required a three wood, and I can imagine that on occasion it demands a firmly struck driver. Six gives you plenty to think about before worrying about how you can attack the split level green. Seven is a great driving hole, which normally means that you have hit a pearler down the right line, on this occasion it was my playing partner who did it and followed it with a great par. The eight was my 'great driving hole' locating the fairway, then the neck at the bottom of the green and a testing chip into the 30 mph zephyr that roars through the gap behind the green.
From the ninth the sea is visible and the wildness of these links holes comes through. And a tricky downwind par 3 to follow as some respite. The next two are further from the sea but the tight necked greens have the DNA of links golf even if the quality of the fairways and the pines give a different impression.
On the ensuing holes the layout runs amidst dunesy banks which I found too fecund to find my ball and too green to really be defined as links. And too fecund difficult to improve my card. The last three have everything; a trickily greened par 3, a par 5 that gives you more than a chance and a grandstand par 4 to finish.
In summary I suppose that you could argue that it is too rich and manicured to be a genuine links course but the placement of the greens, the contours and the grasses surrounding them are links. You could argue that it is the best of both worlds. But I don't remember playing a classic bump and run shot. It was more American send it in high darts, or 'pin the tail on the donkey' in my case. I shall leave it behind in my quest for the perfect links experience but enjoy the memory of a charming golf course. For the record 5 over my handicap