For anyone who has played Formby Ladies it is obvious the course wasn't thrown together...somebody with design acumen layed out a well thought out course. So far as I can tell that original someone is a Mr Douglas McEwan of club making fame. Although, it seems likely there are other persons of interest involved in the tale of Formby Ladies, but who knows where or when (Colt?). What we do know is the original 9 holes were built in 1896 and a further nine added in 1908. The Ladies club is independent of the main club and all decision-making remains in the hands of the ladies.
Set in the middle of the well known main course at Formby, the Ladies Course is fairly compact, featuring less than generous fairways and diminutive greens. With only one set of tees (my heart sings
), the total package is a tad shy of 5400 yards. Much like the main course, the terrain covers flat and dunesy/crumpled ground. I suppose with the lovely springy turf and heather abound one is apt to label the Ladies a heathland course, but for the technically minded this does raise the question of what the main course is; links or heathland?
Many golfers will notice the shortcomings in terms of very short par 5s, several par 4s hovering around the 300 yard mark and the lack of yardage spread in the par 3s. However, just as is the case with championship courses, one must look at the course in terms of who it is designed for....and in this case it is ladies. If male golfers can keep this one over-riding principle in mind, enjoyment of the Ladies is easier to come by. This will likely mean some men must scale down their game to suit the course. If they choose not to it may make for a long day in the heather and rough which will take its toll.
Short and tempting, the first can be a dangerous hole. There is precious little space to bang a driver up near the green of this 261 yarder.The hole turns left enough to create doubt as to how much heather should be taken on.
One of three very short par 5s, yet the second is no push-over because of astutely placed bunkers.
The short 3rd doesn't look like it is up to much, but the green runs away from play. In some ways this is ideal design as all is not what it seems.
The 4th is quite short at 287 yards, but the centre line bunker and raised green do give pause. Although, I have to wonder as to why there are bunkers short right.
Sometimes cited as the best hole on the course, the 5th.
The course opens up a bit onto flatter land for the 6th, the only par 4 over 400 yards. The curve of the dogleg is severe, to the point where these bunkers can't be seen from the tee.
The green is quite interesting with its rolls.
The drivable 7th turns back and like the first, offers the temptation of a green light. More very well placed bunkers will encourage some golfers to take on the treacherous left side of the fairway.
The 8th, a 428 yard par 5 with a tricky approach and another miniscule green.
On 9 we dramatically re-enter the dunes. The drive is interesting because one gets the impression that if he can drive the upper fairway anything might happen...including reaching the green. I usually don't like obvious cuts in dunes, but the temptation of seeing the flag for a short 4 is an excellent ruse.
Behind the green.
The back nine commences with the final par 5 of the day, a sweeping legger left. Perhaps the best hole on the course, the 11th swings right and uphill to a plateau green. On holes like this it is very tempting to suggest that a large bunker should cover the crook of the turn...but this is a ladies course and for member play such a bunker would be extraneous.
Another lovely hole awaits in 12. Play is from a perched tee to a two-tier dell green.
That feeling of this is all too good to be true is finally justified by the final third of the course. The holes aren't poor, but that high level of joy to be alive of the opening twelve holes isn't nearly as prevalent for the final six. Although, on an individual basis 15-17 are worthy holes. #15 asks the golfer to take on fairway bunkers and OOB down the right for the best line of approach to a raised green.
With a mere zephyr of wind about the short 16th can play very tricky.
A variation on the opening hole, the 17th requires some thinking as to how far one can cheat to the right.
The home hole isn't particularly inspiring even if the view to the main clubhouse is.
The Ladies house can just be seen left of the proshop. The difference in the houses neatly sums up the difference between the main course and the Ladies; Lilliputian VS grandiose, yet both serve their purpose well at Formby. It should be no surprise I was very impressed with the Ladies. The course was in good nick given the torrential rain. Greens flooded and quickly drained when we continued the round. I was particularly impressed with the balance of hole movement in terms of doglegs and straight holes; it is just about perfect in not favouring any particular ball shape. The bunkering is often inspired, although perhaps some could be given a higher visual profile to heighten anxiety levels. While I wouldn't suggest the course change its name, the Ladies monicker likely holds back some men from having a go. This would be a mistake. If the spirit of the design is taken as intended, there is no reason why any golfer shouldn't have a grand time playing the Ladies. 2016
Previous Tour Stops on the 2014-15 Winter Tour:http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,60660.0.html
Stinchcombe Hill http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,32228.0.html
Walton Heath New http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,59831.0.html
Cumberwell Park Orange http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,30926.0.html
Future Scheduled Stops: Little Aston & Sandwich