Formby or West Lancs?

TROWLEY BOTTOM, England – It’s debatable whether the R&A has made the right decision on the choice of course for the match play stages of next week’s British Amateur Championship.

Formby and West Lancashire Golf Club play host to the qualifying rounds for next week’s British Amateur. Competitors will play a round on each with the top 64 and ties making it through to the match play stages.

The knock out rounds will take place at Formby, which might surprise many people. Although Formby is an excellent course, there will be a contingent of true links lovers who would prefer the match play rounds to be held over West Lancashire.

West Lancashire is arguably the most underrated course in the British Isles. It is certainly the least well known on the Southport string of great links, a run of courses that includes Royal Birkdale, Hillside, Southport & Ainsdale, Formby, Wallasey and Hesketh.

I didn’t realize how good West Lancashire was until I covered the 2004 Brabazon Trophy there. I couldn’t believe how good the layout was, especially the par-3s. The 184-yard, par-3 6th hole is one of the best one shot holes in British golf.

Unlike Formby, West Lancashire is pure links, so it’s perhaps strange that the R & A didn’t opt for the knockout stages to be held on that layout.

Formby is a mixture of links and parkland golf, albeit mainly links. Coastal erosion meant the loss of three holes in 1972. Three holes, 7,8 and 9, were built into mature pine trees so that golfers playing the layout for the first time receive something of a shock when they step onto the 7th tee. You go from trying to avoid heather off the fairway to trying to stay out of trees.

Formby has held the British Amateur twice before – 1967 and 1984 – while West Lancashire has never staged the game’s premier amateur tournament. On that basis alone I’d have opted for West Lancashire.

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