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Wallasey Golf Club: Links Legacy

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Wallasey Golf Club, located in Wirral, Cheshire, England, just outside of Liverpool, is a historic course that has made significant contributions to the game of golf. Despite being overshadowed by its more famous neighbor, Royal Liverpool (Hoylake), Wallasey’s rich history and challenging layout have made it a favorite among golfers for over a century.

Founded in 1891 by members from Hoylake, it is one of the oldest golf clubs in England and has been consistently ranked among the top 100 courses in the country. Old Tom Morris, a four-time Open Champion, initially laid out Wallasey, and the course has undergone several modifications at the hands of notables such as Alex “Sandy” Herd, Harold Hilton, J.H. Taylor, James Braid, and Donald Steel. Together, they amassed a remarkable seventeen Open titles.

In this post, we’ll visit Wallasey Golf Club and discover its origins, history, and contributions to the game. In addition to the beauty and challenge of these vintage seaside links, we’ll learn about the invention of the Stableford scoring system and the legends that have graced its fairways. We’ll close with further reading suggestions and videos that will bring the course to life.

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Origins and History

Old Tom Morris designed the course, which takes full advantage of the natural terrain, featuring undulating fairways, spectacular sand dunes, well-placed bunkers, and fast, true greens, which the course is still known for. Wallasey was enhanced in 1901 by Alex ‘Sandy’ Herd (1902 Open Champion) and again in 1913 by Harold Hilton (four-time Amateur Champion and twice Open Champion). In 1929, James Braid was consulted on alterations, which led to Wallasey being selected as a qualifying course for the 1930 Open and a visit by Bobby Jones. Two years later, the first Stableford competition was played at Wallasey.

In 1936, Wallasey again served as an Open qualifying course, but a new lease reduced the acreage, requiring a new layout. Fred Hawtree, J .H. Taylor, and James Braid were responsible for the design, but the full 18 was not completed until 1952 due to WWII.

In 1956, Open qualifying returned to Wallasey when the Open returned to Hoylake. In addition to eventual winner Peter Thompson, the competitors included Henry Cotton, Gene Sarazen, Peter Alliss, and the 20-year-old Gary Player. The club has also played host to the British and English Amateur Championships. In 2006, Donald Steel was called to remodel three holes for Open qualifying.

Throughout its history, Wallasey Golf Club has been a trailblazer in the sport. In addition to its role in creating the Stableford scoring system, the club was among the first in England to admit women as full members. This progressive attitude has helped to make Wallasey a welcoming and inclusive club, with staff and membership known for their friendliness and hospitality.

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Did You Know?

In 1930, the legendary Bobby Jones played Wallasey Golf Club while qualifying for the Open, which was held at the nearby Royal Liverpool Golf Club (Hoylake). The 1930 season would prove historic, as Jones embarked on his quest to achieve the Grand Slam, which consisted of winning all four major championships in a single year: the Open Championship, the U.S. Open, the British Amateur, and the U.S. Amateur.

To commemorate Jones’ visit and subsequent triumph, ex-captain of Wallasey Sir Ernest Royden commissioned a portrait from Wallasey member, artist John Berrie. The finished portrait was presented to the club and is still displayed in the main lounge. Jones was so delighted with the work that he signed the portrait, which was the only occasion he did this. He then commissioned Berrie to paint a replica that now hangs at Augusta National.

Today, Bobby Jones’ signed portrait remains one of the club’s most treasured possessions. In 1931, Bobby Jones was elected an honorary life member of Wallasey for his enormous contribution to golf. He maintained contact with the club throughout the remainder of his life.

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Stableford Scoring

One of Wallasey Golf Club’s most notable contributions to the game is its role in creating the Stableford scoring system. Club member Dr. Frank Stableford devised the points-based scoring system as an alternative to the traditional stroke play format of measuring against bogey or par. The strong winds at Wallasey were causing frustration among the members when players could not reach the long par-4s in regulation. The Stableford system, which awards points for each hole based on the number of strokes relative to par, has become popular for amateur and professional competitions worldwide, with the Barracuda Championship on the PGA Tour continuing to use the “modified” Stableford format.

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Stableford was an accomplished player who won the club championship at Royal Porthcawl in 1907. He joined Wallasey in 1914, leaving for a stint in WWI, returning in 1918. He had previously experimented with his own points-based scoring system to identify a “winner” by taking the scores from a normal bogey competition. This system proved flawed, but several years later, while practicing on the 2nd fairway at Wallasey in the latter part of 1931, he came up with the idea for the Stableford scoring system.

Wallasey held the first Stableford competition in May of 1932, and it was an instant success. As a tribute to Dr. Stableford, Wallasey introduced “The Frank Stableford Open Amateur Memorial Trophy” in 1969. Stableford’s portrait, also by John Berrie, hangs in the clubhouse, along with a letter he wrote describing how the system was devised while practicing at Wallasey. Of Stableford, Henry Longhurst said, “I doubt whether any single man did more to increase the pleasure of the humble club golfer.”

The Course

Wallasey measures 6,607 yards from the back tees and plays to a par of 72. It is said that there are no bad holes at Wallasey, and despite its relatively short length by modern standards, it presents a stern test. The outward nine runs counterclockwise around the site’s perimeter and features several short but tricky par-4s that demand precision. The inward half is routed inside, longer but more open. Several holes play along the coastline with breathtaking views of the Irish Sea.

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The clubhouse dates back to the early 20th century and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside adjacent to the first tee. The round begins with a 361-yard par-4 that eases you into the round before a tough stretch that plays into the wind.

The 2nd has a plaque honoring Stableford on the hole where he devised his scoring system. It’s a long par-4 that plays tough when the wind is up. A short par-4, “Valley,” plays to a narrow fairway with contours that funnel balls back into play but cause awkward lies for the approach.

The 4th, the first of the par-5s, “Seaway,” plays along the water and offers a great view of Liverpool Bay down to North Wales. It’s a true three-shot hole, even on a calm day. The first short hole is the 5th, where the wind dictates the club selection. At 173 yards from an elevated tee, it could require any club in the bag, and too much club is punished.

“Hummocks,” the 392-yard 8th is framed by out-of-bounds and a well-bunkered dogleg, “Mound,” the tricky, short par-4 10th, used to play as a one-shot hole, now requiring a tee shot over the dunes to a plateau green defended only by its contours. At 13, the final par-5 is also the toughest on the course, played into the prevailing wind and reachable in two by only the longest hitters.

The course is also known for its demanding finishing stretch, particularly the 16th, a long, tough par-3 played into the wind. The home hole is a 407-yard par-4 that plays back toward the clubhouse to a narrow fairway with two options off the tee. The semi-blind approach is to a large green adjacent to the clubhouse.

Visit Wallasey online at https://www.wallaseygolfclub.com/

PuttView Golf Books

PuttView Books are detailed yardage and green maps designed to help golfers save strokes, especially under tournament conditions. They offer precise visual representations of courses, including topographic slope percentages, fairway arrows for slopes over 4%, and a dual view of greens accurate to the millimeter. The books are printed on high-quality waterproof paper, sized to fit traditional yardage book covers, and are USGA legal. 

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Further Reading

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Classic Golf Links
by Donald Steel

Summary: Classic Golf Links of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland by Donald Steele is a guidebook featuring 75 spectacular links golf courses in the British Isles, covering their history, design, and challenges. The book includes scorecards, hole maps, photos, and playing tips for each course, providing key information for golf travelers while celebrating these revered seaside tests.  With writing by Donald Steel and photos by Brian Morgan, Classic Golf Links is considered an essential reference for experiencing the best of links golf.

This book is a must for anyone with an affinity for links golf. I bought this book years ago and still return to it often. The pictures are amazing and they alone will make you fall in love with these courses.

royal west Norfolk

Golf Courses of the British Isles
by Bernard Darwin

Summary: “Golf Courses of the British Isles” by Bernard Darwin is a classic text that explores and celebrates the unique beauty and challenges of golf courses throughout the British Isles. Darwin, a revered golf writer and grandson of Charles Darwin, provides insightful commentary on the architecture, history, and character of iconic courses, blending personal anecdotes with expert analysis. His vivid descriptions transport readers to the very greens and fairways of famous venues, highlighting their natural beauty and the intricacies of their design. The book, illustrated with evocative drawings by Harry Rountree, remains a timeless tribute to the game of golf and is considered a must-read for enthusiasts of the sport and its storied landscapes.

grand slam jones by mark frost

The Grand Slam: Bobby Jones, America,
and the Story of Golf

by Mark Frost

Summary: “The Grand Slam: Bobby Jones, America, and the Story of Golf” is a biography that tells the story of Bobby Jones and his incredible achievement of winning all four major tournaments in the same year, 1930. The book delves into Jones’ background, his introduction to golf at East Lake Country Club in Atlanta, and his progress as a junior golfer. It also explores the challenges he faced in adapting his playing style and refining his attitude toward the game to win against the best players of his time consistently. The book provides insights into Jones’ personal life, relationships with fellow golfers, and impact on the sport. Frost’s storytelling captures the excitement of Jones’ historic accomplishment and his lasting legacy in golf.

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Sand and Golf
by George Waters

Summary: “Sand and Golf” explores how sandy terrain uniquely suits golf, studying similarities and differences between courses worldwide with sandy features. It examines all aspects of the relationship between sand and golf, from the sport’s origins in Scottish coastal dunes to its global spread onto sandy sites. Written by golf architect George Waters with a preface by renowned designer Tom Doak, it details through examples and illustrations why firm, rugged, windy sandy terrain makes creative shot-making integral to the game. The book appeals to knowledgeable golfers interested in course design and architecture, analyzing the art and science behind why golf belongs on sand.

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True Links
by  Malcolm Campbell & George Peper

Summary: True Links by Malcolm Campbell and George Peper profiles over 240 of the world’s top links golf courses across the British Isles and beyond, examining their history, design features, and status as an authentic “true links.” Organized geographically, the book offers photos, maps, scorecards and playing tips for renowned seaside tests like Royal County Down, Ballybunion, Cabot Links, Barnbougle Dunes and others that meet the authors’ criteria.  For links golf aficionados, True Links serves as an illustrated guidebook for experiencing the unique joys and challenges of the game’s most revered coastal courses.

Videos

Wallasey Golf Club
Wallasey Flyover
Wallasey Clubhouse Tour

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