Formby Golf course, like nearby Royal Lytham & St Annes, is an exceptional links course that is not directly on the sea. However, in Formby’s case the course was purposely rerouted more inland in the 1970s due to coastal erosion. Formby is also characterized by more conifer trees, that were deliberately planted starting in 1887, than most linksland designs.
The Club was formed in 1884, but it was the genius of Willie Park that gave the members an early championship layout in 1912. His original design was enhanced in 1922 by James Braid and again in 1933 by Harry Colt. The course saw further remodels and rerouting by Donald Steel due to coastal erosion prevention in the 1970s and damage repair from coastal erosion in the 1980s. Throughout the years, Formby has been at the pinnacle of English golf and provided a stout test in a variety of prestigious championships.
In 1984, their centenary year, one of the most memorable finals of The Amateur Championship took place at Formby, when a young Jose Maria Olazabal defeated an equally young Colin Montgomerie for the championship.
Fellow golfers throughout the world can thank Formby Golf Club members for inventing the 19th hole. According to legend, there was a loose floorboard in the original clubhouse, that sadly burned down in 1899, beneath the floor was a bottle of whisky with a note saying, “a moderate go – 3 pence.”
Long before Rolex put clocks on golf clubhouses and hotels, Formby’s new circa 1901 clubhouse was adorned by a distinctive signature timepiece donated by a prominent member who was also the Chairman of the White Star Line – of Titanic fame.
But perhaps the most infamous of all historic treasured artifacts in the clubhouse is the “Formby Hippo.” As it sounds, the Formby Hippo is an actual hippo head trophy, donated by the widow of one of the original trustees upon his passing. During WWII when the Club was doing its patriotic duty, several navy men, having seemingly found the loose floorboard and the bottle beneath, decided it would be a good idea to take the beloved Hippo on an adventure to the Battle of Narvic, in Norway. Slightly worse for wear having lost a tooth in battle, the Hippo was safely returned to Formby – where it has a place of honor and is celebrated in the annual “Hippo Competition.”
Formby is a true golf town on England’s Golf Coast with three 18-hole courses. Formby Ladies is a separate independent club that also welcomes visitors. Its course is a must-play and a delightful challenge as an addition to any England golf tour.
As Greg Norman commented, “What a beautiful course, it clearly shows that courses do not need to be 7,000 yards to be formidable.” The other course is located at Formby Hall Golf Resort & Spa, a perfect location to tuck into to enjoy all the great golf on the Lancashire coast.