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  • Neil White


Being just a pen-pusher, I cast an envious eye at those who have the creativity and dexterity to make stuff.

Thus, I was rather excited that Mrs W and I were guests of a Formby Golf Club artisan – expecting a bearded Bohemian who might produce a sculpture or painting of us putting on the 18th.

I jest, of course. Formby’s artisans are made up of members who do much-needed jobs which help its smooth running. They have their own small clubhouse, competitions and playing slots on one of England’s finest courses.

Mrs W and I were lucky enough to be invited to play with one of this happy band and, as he often caddies for visitors, he was able to give us a deep insight into the links.

Curiously, for me, Formby seemed to have echoes of tracks across the Pennines at Alwoodley and Moortown as well as its near neighbours at Birkdale and Hillside.

The resulting melting pot conjures a wonderful combination of the visually spectacular and quirky. Its bunkers are all unforgiving and our host advised that sensible players should take their medicine and go out sidewards.

Inevitably, I had greater ambition when I found myself in a greenside trap early in the round, failed to extricate my ball and, from then on, heeded the sage’s wise words.

Formby demands strategy and there are rewards for plotting a route between its imposing pines and grassed dunes, gorse bushes, heather and tangly rough.

Those who attempt to blast their way to success may come badly unstuck.

I found that Formby’s holes often appear intimidating from the tee but, because its greens are more receptive than many top 100 courses, I was able to score surprisingly well thanks to decent approaches and putting.

The first sets the tone – imposing pines down the right, bunkers lurking on the fairway and plenty of rough to the left.

The opening holes are a gentle introduction before the adrenaline really kicks in on the sixth – an exhilarating dogleg par-four which demands a decent carry over rough before the big decision of whether to take on the grassed dune which protects the green.

Thrills continue on the tree-lined seventh which drops to a slither of fairway before turning upwards to a green, hidden behind a grassy mound.

I was very chuffed with a five and gobsmacked when our compadre sank a birdie putt.

Amazingly, these crackers were overshadowed by the eighth which I fear may result in sleepless nights.

This is a long par-five out towards the sea and demands a pinpoint tee-shot over heather and gorse with trees awaiting those who overhit.

There is then a dipping fairway which rises to a plateaued green behind a grassy dune.

I thought I had played my approach with precision until I discovered my ball had slipped down the steep slope. I putted up towards the hole only to watch it sail past the flag and down into the rough. The subsequent return chip ended up exactly where my ball had been two shots earlier.

Thankfully, I kept my head after my travails and the gorgeous bending ninth yielded a pleasing result.

Accuracy continues to be essential on the back nine with the 11th demanding a threaded tee shot over rough terrain and skirting bunkers before another partially concealed green.

The run-in is dramatic, beginning as early as the dogleg 14th with bushes awaiting those who are too ambitious off the raised tee.

The 15th is one of my favourites with more emphasis on accurate and long drives before the assault on a green with a very narrow entrance between dunes.

Putting surfaces are top-notch at Formby and, despite undulations, the pace was consistent throughout.

The condition of the fairways and bunkers is also of extremely high quality.

I found sand traps on the 17th and 18th but still scored because I felt confident to attack the target after I had chipped the ball out.

The 18th is a superb home hole with trees down the right partially obscuring multi-millionaires' row and the clubhouse intriguingly to the right of the flag rather than behind it.

My playing partner told how it often comes into play with either kind ricochets onto the fairway or bad ones out of bounds.

The only surprise to me at Formby was that only three of the women’s tees were more than a couple of yards in front of the men’s. On several occasions, they simply didn’t have the power to carry the rough.

I know there is the much-admired Formby Ladies’ course as part of the 36-hole set-up but I thought it was a shame they couldn’t enjoy the higher-rated track as much as they might have done.

But that is a quibble in an otherwise excellent day. Over our burger and a pint in the impressive clubhouse, I mused over being an artisan’s mate.

But all I can do is try to paint pictures with words. I hope they do Formby Golf Club justice.

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