Feature Review Wallasey Golf Club
Lancashire is a county that's inundated with a disproportionate number of championship quality golf courses, with Liverpool and its catchment area home to a generous selection of revered links tracks. Some 15 minutes from the city centre lies Wallasey Golf Club - a historically significant course that's earned a reputation as one of the finest in the region.
Wallasey has staged a selection of prestigious amateur events, along with Open Championship qualifying, but it's most famous for being the home of Stableford. In 1932, Dr Frank Stableford devised a new scoring system on the second hole. On the 16th May, 1932, Wallasey hosted the world's first Stableford competition - the first step towards widespread implementation of a method that has revolutionised club and amateur golf. A signed painting of Bobby Jones also hangs proudly on the wall, and so it should; that picture is reportedly the only one of its kind in the world. Rumours abound that Augusta National has offered a large sum of money to bring the painting to America.
Wallasey is a traditional and historic club, but it's also supplemented by a superb links golf course. Not dissimilar to Troon, it's characterised by narrow fairways that wind over and around towering dunes. Many of the holes funnel through these natural features to create a secluded yet striking golf course, but some - most notably around the turn - possess more of a parkland feel. There is great variation at Wallasey, and whilst a few of the holes don't linger in the memory for too long, the majority are worthy of high praise - a statement that can also be applied to course conditioning and the standard of the greens.
Many links courses start with a relatively nondescript opening hole, and Wallasey is no exception, but the course really comes into its own early on the front nine. Holes three, four and five present an excellent stretch, and typify all that is good about the golf course.
The par-4 third provides one of the more daunting drives on the course. The landing area from the tee seems impossibly small, and is sandwiched between two striking dunes that create a funnel up towards the green. The fairway zigzags past trees and areas of penal rough, but opens up some 100 yards short of the putting surface as the hole moves considerably uphill. If you find the fairway, an approach - often into the prevailing wind - remains to a two-tiered green with a steep run-off area to the right.
The following hole, the first par 5 on the course, is arguably the best hole at Wallasey - a combination of hole design and the wondrous views of sea, spits and distant headlands on offer from the tee. The fourth runs parallel to the sea, with out of bounds running all down the right side. The fairway - shared with the 17th - is enormous, though, and you'll have to decide whether to play left or right of a grassy ridge running through the middle of the short grass. The hole gets narrower and turns uphill towards the green, which is protected both left and right by pot bunkers and thick rough. It's a classic links hole and indisputably one of the best par 5s in the region.
The first par 3 on the course comes at the fifth - a hole that can vary enormously depending on wind direction. It can be anything from an eight iron to a three wood, but any shots must carry at least 150 yards to avoid one of the densest areas of shrubby grassland on the course. The hole dips after a final ridge towards a relatively flat green, and you can only see the top half of the pin when it’s on the left side of the green.
The back nine starts with two very different par 4s. The 10th – whose green used to belong to the par-3 9th – is a short dogleg right, with approaches played to a green that sits a good 50 yards above the level of the fairway. Gary Wolstenholme once putted off the front of the green during an R&A Championship and found himself facing a 100-yard fourth shot back up the hill!
The 11th is a great driving hole running parallel to the sea, a good precursor to the 12th – a brilliantly designed short hole and my favourite par 3 on the course. It’s only a short iron from the tee and it plays significantly downhill, but the green in extremely thin and surrounded on all sides by perilous pot bunkers. I’ve always been an advocate of short holes with character over long, nondescript par 3s, and the 12th at Wallasey shows why I’ve formulated such a view.
The stretch of holes from 13-16 plays slightly away from the coast, but the links feel returns in full force as you walk up a dune from the 16th green to the 17th tee – one of the best views on any golf course I’ve played. The hole runs parallel but in the opposite direction to the par-5 4th, and drives are hit back towards the coastline. As per the 4th, there is plenty of room on the left of the fairway, and you can really open your shoulders and watch your ball suspend in the air before it drops 100 yards down to the fairway. From the left centre, approaches are hit between two dunes, but stray right and you’ll be facing an almost impossible up and down from a heavy lie on the side of a sandbank. A fantastic hole.
The 18th tee is another great vantage point, and blind approaches on this par 4 are played directly towards the striking Wallasey Church, which sits on across the road from the clubhouse. After golf, everyone should take time to enjoy a drink on the tranquil, sun-drenched patio that overlooks the 18th green.
Wallasey is a charming golf course with a great history and a diverse selection of enchanting holes. It’s a wonderfully convivial club with welcoming members and rich heritage, which only serves to add to the all-round experience. Overall, I’d give Wallasey a rating of 7.5/10.
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