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Philip Spogard

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Re: FORMBY Retread: 2009/10 Winter Tour of England & Wales
« Reply #25 on: March 08, 2010, 02:48:43 AM »
I played Formby a couple of years ago - and though it may be fairly well known - it is a real (hidden) gem to many.

It is very different from the other courses in the area and especially the front nine offers some really unique holes.

I doubt anyone would be disappointed spending a day here if you get near this part of the world.

Sean_A

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Re: FORMBY Retread: Is This The Best Links Of Northern England?
« Reply #26 on: June 22, 2011, 02:59:00 PM »
Sometimes a course seems to hit the spot and despite its shortcomings, nothing else will do at that moment.  I went up to Cumbria expecting to be wowed, but instead was bowled over playing Formby on the way home.  The course was in the best nick of any I have seen in a good few years now.  The rough was about as good as it gets; whispy and undesirable yet fairly easy to locate a ball in.  The fairways and greens were in perfect harmony with some roll, but not uncontrollable.  The two games were a pleasant reminder of what links is meant to be like.  If you have a chance, go see the course now - it will not likely be in better shape anytime soon.  See the updated tour and feast!

Ciao

 
« Last Edit: June 23, 2011, 06:49:00 AM by Sean Arble »
New plays planned for 2023: Cardigan, St David's City, Clyne, Panmure, Kinghorn, Harrogate & Ladybank

Peter Pallotta

Re: FORMBY Retread: Is This The Best Links Of Northern England?
« Reply #27 on: June 22, 2011, 03:06:33 PM »
The best bunkers in all of golf!!!  (In my humble opinion of course).

Sean - thanks. I'm happy for you.

Peter

Brent Hutto

Re: FORMBY Retread: Is This The Best Links Of Northern England?
« Reply #28 on: June 22, 2011, 03:15:57 PM »
Sean,

And for what it's worth, it was very much as you've described it in mid-September, 2007 when myself, Craig Disher and Mike Whitaker played there.

Very little trouble finding you ball in the rough except the odd low-lying thicker patch, maybe a 50/50 chance of being able to play whatever shot you like once you find it but almost certainly the rough had to be taken into account. Fairway lies maybe a bit less "linksy" than absolute perfection due to their atypical use of nutrients (for a links) but admirably firm, tight and well-drained just the same. Greens perhaps not as absolutely perfect as at Royal Birkdale down the road during the same week but at most a half-notch behind.

And the routing is a little like Golspie in having several distinct "segments" with a subtly different feel. Not to Golspie's extreme and I find Formby overall a far superior course (meaning that to complement Formby, not denigrate Golspie) but the variety was welcome as I played Formby four times in less than a week's time.

And staying in their clubhouse Dormy rooms while playing there was quite a treat. I'd say of the extended stays I've had at a few courses in the UK, the rounds at Formby were second only to Deal in enjoyment for me. And though I'll catch hell for saying it, more fun than the stay in Dornoch. Probably because I was there midweek, off-season and typically had the course to myself (solo or with one playing companion). I just adore having the run of a fast-playing, easy-walking, reasonably-challenging course of that caliber without the feeling that I'm sharing it with a hundred other players at the same time. Very special.

P.S. I have a souvenir pine cone (tiny little thing) from one of the "Formby Pines" sitting on my dresser at home. I see it every morning when I'm dressing and recall playing there fondly. As odd as it may sound, I do not have souvenirs from any other courses so prominently displayed. Kind of strange now that I think about it. It's not the best course I've ever played or even the very most fun I've ever had playing. But there's that pine cone, four years on...
« Last Edit: June 22, 2011, 03:18:47 PM by Brent Hutto »

Sean_A

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Re: FORMBY Retread: Is This The Best Links Of Northern England?
« Reply #29 on: June 23, 2011, 06:53:37 AM »
Brent

Formby has made leaps and bounds in eliminating much of the lush rough I first spotted a few years back.  This is an incredible transformation of a links.  Perhaps hosting the Amateur (last year?) spurred the club to get its act together.  In any case, if Silloth was meant to be the outlier course in the north (I already decided that Formby is the best of its immediate neighbours) then Formby is indeed the best links in northern England.  I like Silloth a ton, but it falls considerably short of Formby in terms of offering a championship test and being member friendly. 

Ciao   
New plays planned for 2023: Cardigan, St David's City, Clyne, Panmure, Kinghorn, Harrogate & Ladybank

Brent Hutto

Re: FORMBY Retread: Is This The Best Links Of Northern England?
« Reply #30 on: June 23, 2011, 07:24:50 AM »
When we were there in 2007 there was a visiting consultant of some kind (agronomist?) digging up soil and turf samples, mostly from the rough it seemed to me. I was told it had something to do with weaning the grass away from the high (by links standards) nutrient input regimen it had been on for a number of years and returning it to a more desirable mix of links grasses. Or something like that. Definitely the club's greenskeeper following the guy around while they pull up grass and compared roots and so forth.

One of the members we encountered in the locker room said that the Formby Women's course, contained inside the loop of the Formby course, had the advantage (to some perspectives) of having been maintained on a more traditional links regimen while sharing the same ground. Such a ready comparison was no doubt helpful in recalibrating the Formby course's approach, or so I would think.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2011, 07:27:20 AM by Brent Hutto »

Jeff_Lewis

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Re: FORMBY Retread: Is This The Best Links Of Northern England?
« Reply #31 on: June 23, 2011, 11:44:19 AM »
Really a fabulous place. Great to see it discussed.  I would love to see photos of the holes by the sea that were lost.

Dan Grossman

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Re: FORMBY Retread: Is This The Best Links Of Northern England?
« Reply #32 on: June 23, 2011, 11:59:28 AM »
Brent

Formby has made leaps and bounds in eliminating much of the lush rough I first spotted a few years back.  This is an incredible transformation of a links.  Perhaps hosting the Amateur (last year?) spurred the club to get its act together.  In any case, if Silloth was meant to be the outlier course in the north (I already decided that Formby is the best of its immediate neighbours) then Formby is indeed the best links in northern England.  I like Silloth a ton, but it falls considerably short of Formby in terms of offering a championship test and being member friendly. 

Ciao   

Sean - thanks for the updated photos, it was great to see the course again.  Do you like Formby better than Lytham?  Having made one trip to Lancashire, I would rank Formby second, with Lytham ahead of it by a bit of a margin.  Just curious to get your thoughts...



Eric Strulowitz

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Re: FORMBY Retread: Is This The Best Links Of Northern England?
« Reply #33 on: June 23, 2011, 06:15:18 PM »
What a beautiful stunning course.  Amazing variety and topography.  Seems the kind of place you could play over and over, and never get bored.

Really enjoyed the pictures.  Thanks so much!

Eric Strulowitz

Sean_A

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Re: FORMBY Retread: Is This The Best Links Of Northern England?
« Reply #34 on: June 24, 2011, 03:56:08 AM »
Brent

Formby has made leaps and bounds in eliminating much of the lush rough I first spotted a few years back.  This is an incredible transformation of a links.  Perhaps hosting the Amateur (last year?) spurred the club to get its act together.  In any case, if Silloth was meant to be the outlier course in the north (I already decided that Formby is the best of its immediate neighbours) then Formby is indeed the best links in northern England.  I like Silloth a ton, but it falls considerably short of Formby in terms of offering a championship test and being member friendly. 

Ciao   

Dan

Maybe you should ask Spangles - tee hee.  Formby pushes my limits for bunkers and indeed slips into madness here and there.  Lytham is totally out of control and a course I don't care for in the least.  Plus, I like the flow at Formby better.  The terrain changes at seemingly just the right times.

Ciao

Sean - thanks for the updated photos, it was great to see the course again.  Do you like Formby better than Lytham?  Having made one trip to Lancashire, I would rank Formby second, with Lytham ahead of it by a bit of a margin.  Just curious to get your thoughts...



New plays planned for 2023: Cardigan, St David's City, Clyne, Panmure, Kinghorn, Harrogate & Ladybank

Michael Whitaker

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Re:FORMBY - All 18
« Reply #35 on: June 24, 2011, 07:42:19 AM »
I don't have a lot of time for a club that wants to charge me £150 in the winter when there is a great course just down the road charging £40.  

How quickly things change... Formby is now charging £110 for a visitor fee!!!

Birkdale is now £175!!!!!

This is getting completely out of control.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2011, 07:59:54 AM by Michael Whitaker »
"Solving the paradox of proportionality is the heart of golf architecture."  - Tom Doak (11/20/05)

Brent Hutto

Re: FORMBY Retread: Is This The Best Links Of Northern England?
« Reply #36 on: June 24, 2011, 07:52:18 AM »
Wow, I would't have classed it as a "bargain" when we were there four years ago but I played three days at Formby, took a side trip to Birkdale and stayed those nights in the Dormy accomodation. The whole four-day deal was 400-odd pounds. Prices of the same four days are rapidly appraoching twice that amount now. Some economic downturn, eh?

Dan Grossman

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Re: FORMBY Retread: Is This The Best Links Of Northern England?
« Reply #37 on: June 24, 2011, 11:32:16 AM »
Sean -

Thanks for the response.  I'm not sure we're ever going to see eye to eye on that perspective regarding Lytham, but that's the beauty of these types of things.  For me, I thought there was wonderful elevation changes at Lytham, especially towards the east end of the property.  Despite an "out and back" piece of property, the routing actually changed directions a number of times to ensure that it didn't get too monotonous.  I thought the bunkers, while numerous, added quite a bit to the round as it always forced you to think about where you wanted to hit the next shot.

I liked Formby, I just didn't think it was quite at the same level as Lytham.  I also felt that the holes nearer the clubhouse were a bit of a letdown.  To each his own, thanks for the update.


Tony_Muldoon

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Re: FORMBY Retread: Is This The Best Links Of Northern England?
« Reply #38 on: June 25, 2011, 03:51:14 PM »
Iíd seen this thread before and had down as a notable place to visit.  However I was not prepared for the coup de foudre.

Pictures have their place but anyone who has seen e.g. the 9th at RCD knows that no image can get ALLTHAT down on 2D.   Thereís nothing that stunning at Formby but what the images donít adequately portray, includes

-   Iíve never seen a course that so beautifully has ...in landscape gardening itsí know as ĎSecret roomsí...  You see this sometimes on Heathlands courses where the vista over a few holes is open enough to create something more than the sum of the parts...  You get that a lot at Formby.  With the tress down the right of the opening holes it feels like a links course hidden form the rest of the world.  You play some flattish holes, turn back on yourself and then suddenly head out in to some marvellous broken land. You walk round the corner and suddenly youíre high up and playing out to the sea.  Itís an enchanted journey whoís revelations still thrilled second time around. And yes itís a links, a very beautiful one.
-   What Iím trying to describe about the course is what makes Formby Unique.  I mean other links courses have trees and heather and views of the sea, but none pull them all together in quite the way that this one does.
-   Iíve played a few Links holes where the fairway is Ďfracturedí, at just the point of a very good drive the well hit ball will run down to a lower fairway, thatís going in the same direction but on a parallel track.=.  Thereís one at The European Club and one at Waterville, but if thereís a template then surely this is it (or was Waterville first?). Pictures again canít do it justice but for me itís the pick of a fine bunch of holes in the middle.
-   Aim at the bunker, itís on the lower level, thereís a narrow gap to find but looking back you see the reward.
-   
-   
-   
-   
-   
-   It is a great golf course and to answer the Question in the thread title, Yes Iíd place it above Lytham, Birkdale, Hoylake, Wallasey and yes Siloth (havenít read that thread yet).
-   I donít normally get too hung up on Club Houses but the Dormy here is the best Iíve experienced.   ON the night Rory made his breakthrough our group of 8 had the full and sole use of the clubhouse.  Bedrooms top floor, Snooker room (2 full size tables), flat screen TV.  Earlier the barman said tell me what you think you might want to drink and Iíll leave it out for you. ďIN the morning if itís opened you pay for it OKĒ.  Wonderful.  I'd be happy to organise a GCA get together here, one year when the Ryder Cup is being played in the US.  Golf during the day TV at night. If I was considering organising a tour with mates from the US, this feature alone would put Formby high on the list of suitable destinations. List.
-   Again Iím less conditioning conscious than many on here and it was a great surprise to read the comment from a few years ago, but I found the set up near perfect (the exception is a 2Ē spot front  right of the 3rd green Sean knows where).  We had a couple of guys who sprayed it and if you have to spend time looking for other peopleís balls then it doesnít get better than this.
-   



I canít wait to return.

Let's make GCA grate again!

Sean_A

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Re: FORMBY Retread: Is This The Best Links Of Northern England?
« Reply #39 on: June 25, 2011, 06:45:34 PM »
Spangles

I am glad you enjoyed Formby.  Its one of those championship courses which gets the balance of challenge and playability spot on - seemingly very difficult to achieve.  I can recall being taken with it my first go round as something a bit different.  Like you, I don't usually get hung up on conditioning, but to play a course in such perfect condition is so rare that when I do experience it the entire day is made so much better. 

Ciao
New plays planned for 2023: Cardigan, St David's City, Clyne, Panmure, Kinghorn, Harrogate & Ladybank

Sean_A

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Re: FORMBY: Is This The Best Links Of Northern England?
« Reply #40 on: September 10, 2012, 05:27:06 AM »
It was good to get a group of Pests at Formby this weekend.  Scoring wasn't great despite the benign conditions, but I spose that is part and parcel of championship golf courses.  We had the additional treat of a few air shows which featured WWII planes and a few early jets.  Maybe the most impressive sight was a low flying Lancaster which set off a few car alarms.

See updated photos.

Ciao
« Last Edit: February 11, 2015, 06:23:39 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2023: Cardigan, St David's City, Clyne, Panmure, Kinghorn, Harrogate & Ladybank

Tony_Muldoon

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Re:FORMBY - All 18
« Reply #41 on: September 10, 2012, 03:25:22 PM »
I like Birkdale a load as well, but I don't think its that much better than Formby to justify the huge difference in green fee.

Sean - I, too, am a big fan of Formby. The 36 holes that Brent and I played there were as much fun as I have had in ages exploring a course unknown to me; and, I would love to visit again... especially for a £40 golf & lunch deal!!! But for you to say that Birkdale is not at least 3 times a better course than Formby is amazing to me (based on price). Birkdale is a masterpiece (note the "art" reference) that I would play in a five or six to one ratio with Formby... all things being equal. But, everything isn't equal, is it? So my thrifty pocketbook would force a reverse of ratio in Formby's favor. But, that aside, IMHO Birkdale is 10 times the course that Formby offers. As I have said in other posts, it might be the best course I have ever played... it's definitely one of my top five. Formby is the kind of course one could enjoyably play every day, not unlike Alwoodley. But, as we southerners say, "It ain't no Birkdale!"



Mike I know you had an incredible time at Birkdale but after a return visit to Formby have your views altered at all?
Let's make GCA grate again!

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: FORMBY: Is This The Best Links Of Northern England?
« Reply #42 on: September 10, 2012, 04:41:29 PM »
I've never played Formby but it always appears to me from photos to be an almost perfect mix... In fact I've probably built up too high expectations of the place... It's very high on my want to see list...

Lynn_Shackelford

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Re: FORMBY: Is This The Best Links Of Northern England?
« Reply #43 on: September 11, 2012, 03:53:15 PM »
Whitaker will no doubt have a higher opinion of Formby after carding a net 38 Stableford.

Sean, shame on you for not playing the Ladies course.  One of golf's treats.

It must be kept in mind that the elusive charm of the game suffers as soon as any successful method of standardization is allowed to creep in.  A golf course should never pretend to be, nor is intended to be, an infallible tribunal.
               Tom Simpson

Důnal ” Ceallaigh

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Re: FORMBY: Is This The Best Links In Northern England?
« Reply #44 on: September 12, 2012, 06:32:25 AM »
I played Birkdale the day after Formby, and while I haven't fully made up my mind on both courses, I don't think Birkdale (£180 on a Monday) is worth 3x or 4x the Formby green fee.

I really liked Formby and Birkdale, but the totally flat fairways on the latter were a big disappointment to me. There were some features at Formby that I also didn't like, such as the series of 3 bunkers on the RHS of both the 2nd and 11th. It just seemed like overkill.

I still need to think a little about both courses, but what last week's golfing trip has shown me, is that the difference in quality between a Top 10 and a Top 20 course is very little indeed.

Sean_A

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Re: FORMBY: Is This The Best Links In Northern England?
« Reply #45 on: September 12, 2012, 06:56:28 AM »
Brian is right.  Formby's green fee is quite high, not in the clouds like Birkdale's, but dear enough.  The kicker is that Formby offers excellent summer dormy house packages which essentially gives two weekend games and b&b for the same price as Birkdale's weekday green fee.  While still not cheap, I think Formby's package represents excellent value for what I think is a course in the same league (with few exceptions) as England's best.

Ciao 
New plays planned for 2023: Cardigan, St David's City, Clyne, Panmure, Kinghorn, Harrogate & Ladybank

Důnal ” Ceallaigh

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Re: FORMBY: Is This The Best Links In Northern England?
« Reply #46 on: September 12, 2012, 07:42:08 AM »
Thanks for pointing that out Brian. I had seen figures of £45 being thrown around earlier in the thread and didn't break down what I paid as we went for the Dormy House deal. I'd go with Formby's Dormy deal over a round at Birkdale. Formby's £115 also stacks up well against Birkdale's £180 fee.

I just hope that the club don't get unlucky some time and host a bunch of hooligans that thrash the place. It's a unique facility and the club ought to be commended for having such a trusting attitude towards guests.

Brent Hutto

Re: FORMBY: Is This The Best Links In Northern England?
« Reply #47 on: September 12, 2012, 10:35:44 AM »
For my money, a single round at Formby for 115 quid does not stack up particularly well against a single round at Birkdale for 180. I think the relative quality of courses (and their turf) represents a much greater ratio than the 3:2 ratio of green fees. Given the way diminishing returns set in at the upper end of the golf course spectrum a round at Birkdale is a better "value for money" (or should I say a less poor "value for money") than a round at Formby because Birkdale is an immaculately maintained course of awesome quality.

That said, two rounds at Formby and a night in the Dormy (or better yet three or four rounds and two nights in the Dormy) is just off the charts in the value-for-money dimension. I really love playing a course multiple times during one visit and I really love staying on the property. Plus the "property" in question offers really comfortable accomodation in its own right. So no way that Birkdale can be considered a destination in the same sense as Formby.

Now one or the other of these courses may not be the type of course that a given player enjoys. Yes most fairways lies at Birkdale are quite level compared to Formby or any number of other links courses. It often creates a matter of either hitting or coming very close to hitting a fairway (and being rewarding with a near perfect stance and lie) or missing the fairway badly and being sidehill in thick rough on a dune. Formby on the other hand offers more randomness and more opportunities to play a slightly tricky shot after a "perfect" drive. Both are valid paradigms for a golf course IMO. Birkdale has been tweaked and regularized to a greater extent than most links courses and from the outset it was routed between rather than across the dunes. But it has awesomely ball-attracting bunkers, it has plenty of subtle contours, a few holes offer interesting angle-distance choices off the tee and it is suitable punishing for hitting the ball wildly offline. Sort of the opposite of The Old Course in that sense, the rewards and punishment tend more toward the full stroke than the subtle and the bunkers seem more likely to collect a ball in the first place but then tend to be quite simply to play out of.

I think Formby is more fun over multiple rounds but I think Birkdale is a much better sorted course in all details and forms a more coherent design aesthetic. Think of the difference in a formal English garden with topiary versus a splendid piece of wilderness, both of them can be nice places to spend an afternoon but the experience they offer is quite different.

Sean_A

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Re: FORMBY: Is This The Best Links In Northern England?
« Reply #48 on: September 12, 2012, 11:28:53 AM »
The big problem I find with Birkdale is that many fairways either turn at angles across wind or run between dunes with cross wind.  From this perspective the design is lacking in variety and I don't see much else to redeem the course in terms of a $300 green fee.  But to be fair, I can only think of one $300+ course I have played that I would be happy to return on full freight.  On the other hand, Formby is fantastically varied, something I value very much in design.  

Ciao
« Last Edit: February 11, 2015, 06:21:59 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2023: Cardigan, St David's City, Clyne, Panmure, Kinghorn, Harrogate & Ladybank

Ivan Morris

Re: FORMBY: Is This The Best Links In Northern England?
« Reply #49 on: September 12, 2012, 04:56:07 PM »
I have fond memories of Formby! Would love to go back someday. I tried (unsuccessfully) to qualify for the 1976 Open Championship there but was 'done-in' and terrorized by the lightening speed of greens that I had never encountered before. I scored 78 twice but in each round took more putts on the greens than shots played to reach the greens. I believe (but I can't be sure) the great, future GURU, Pete Cowan tried to help by giving me a FOC putting lesson in between rounds. What I did not appreciate at the time was that that particular event would create world headlines because of the antics of a certain Maurice Flitcroft (R.I.P) who was also a competitor. I did outscore him! WHen I heard of Flitcroft's passing I was moved to pen the following. 
Last May, when I read the headline, ďOpen Hacker Flitcroft Dies,Ē it was enough to send me hurtling down a tunnel of nostalgia. How could I forget the former crane driver from Frilford Heath who conned his way into the qualifying rounds of the 106th Open Championship at Formby in 1976? 
As an amateur competitor I had to go through the most stringent of qualification criteria but the scrutiny of professional entries was so lax that anybody could have entered as a pro, as Flitcroft had done. The result was a lot of red faced, red rossetted, R&A Officials scrambling around the dunes of Formby in a heatwave with steam rising from their binoculars. 
I was quietly practicing my putting, trying to keep my frayed nerves at bay when a Marty Feldman lookalike from the movie, The Last Remake of Beau Geste suddenly appeared. Professional golfers donít like to be disturbed while at their Ďwork.í Though a lowly amateur, Iím no different. With the help of an impromptu lesson from Pete Cowan, later to become one of Britainís top golf coaches, I was attempting to come to grips with the quickest putting surfaces I had ever encountered when Flitcroft began scuttling balls in all directions, causing widespead mayhem and much disgruntlement. Before a major row erupted, he was called to the 1st tee where he produced a rickety pull cart and a set of weapons that had clearly seen better days from behind a privat hedge. The perplexed R&A Starter knew instantly that something was badly awry. He made a half-hearted effort to prevent Flitcroft from teeing off but the die was cast. 46-years old Maurice Flitcroft was about to enter the annals of Open Championship history. 121 strokes and five and a half hours later, as he left Formbyís 18th green, Flitcroft was besieged by a bevy of eager golf reporters and was being treated like a celebrity.
ďI wasnít really ready for this championship. I felt under the pressure of the big event. To be quite frank, I was a bit erratic but I did manage to pull it together towards the end of the round.Ē He told the gob-smacked press corps. Pulling it together must have been a reference to the only par on his card at the 14th. After a wild hook, he had hacked back onto the fairway before skulling a mid-iron that clattered into the flagstick and stopped dead in its scorching tracks within three feet of the hole.
ďIíve always been inspired by watching golf on the telly. I bought some secondhand clubs and started to practice in the field behind my Mumís house. I am completely self-taught, you know, Iíve always been a bit of an athlete. I thought it would be nice to play in The Open with Jack Nicklaus and all that lot; it would give me some encouragement. After all, I havenít reached my peak yet. Some of those top stars have been at it for years. Iím going to improve and be back next year, watch out! And if I manage to win, Iíll retire and take up painting. Iím quite an artist as well!Ē Flitcroft told the agape members of the media.
Nor was that the end of Mr. Flitcroft, he tried to tee it up again the following day but he was hastily escorted off the premises by several R&A officials. Believe it or not seven years later, when he said: ĎHis golf had improved immeasurably and he was quite confident of breaking 100.í Flincroft had his entry under the assumed name of Gerald Hoppy from Switzerland accepted again. He successfully teed off at Pleasington, making it as far as the ninth hole in 63 strokes, before a posse of R&A officials caught up with him. His final, parting shot to the press was: ďEverything was going well and according to plan until I five-putted the 2nd.Ē
Back at Formby, after one of the most excruitiatingly slow rounds I have ever played, in which I managed to 3-putt an unprecendented seven times for an otherwise ĎunFlitcroft-likeĒ 78, I arrived at the Recorderís Tent half-an-hour after Flitcroft had departed, suffering from shock. I have to admit that golfers are a self-centered bunch. The cause of my discomfort was more due to my horror putting and being terror-stricken to see my Australian playing companion, Ron Wood, smash both his putter and driver into smithereens in quick succession before hurling them deep into the forest than the slowness of play.

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