The Wallasey

Words by: Nathan Sampson
Photography by:Ollie Allison

It wasn’t some massive grand driveway with arched gates and gargoyles on the wall. I drove down the road and turned into a car park that could have been for anything. It was only when I entered the club house I knew I was in the right place for my first ever round of Links Golf.

I walked into the rich wooden common room of The Wallasey. The ceilings stretched high above me, as if every year the walls grew to accommodate the next row of captains' photographs. Over 150 frames walked me from 2024 back to 1891.

In pride of place hung an oil painting of a distinguished man I was sure I recognised.

“That's the only signed portrait of Bobby Jones in existence.” A voice came from behind me.

I turned, introduced myself to my host and paused so he might continue.

“He won The Open at Hoylake in 1930 and played The Wallasey for his qualifying rounds. A former captain, Sir Ernest Royden, commissioned this portrait and Bobby was so happy with it he signed it for us and had the artist make another. This, and the one that hangs in Augusta National, are the only two paintings Bobby ever sat for.”

I was about to play a proper Links Golf Course, that much had been confirmed.

Gareth went to grab me a scorecard and signed me in. As I waited, 3 or 4 groups came through the 18th, none held the green. They were either too cautious and short, or took it on the full and rolled off the back. A plan began to form in my mind when Gareth came back, shook my hand and sent me to the first.

The Course was deathly quiet. In this part of the world it doesn’t matter where you work, who you know or what your parents do. If the merseyside derby is on, you’re watching. Even the infamous links wind and weather had taken the day off. Blue skies as far as the eye could see.

I started well, hitting fairways and pitching my ball short to roll onto greens and make pars. In the absence of wind I began to feel confident. It wasn’t until the 4th hole when the Wallasey punished me for my complacency. With the ocean and beach to the left and the rolling dunes to the right I stepped up to the tee and drove my ball into a pot bunker; My first ever links bunker shot. How exciting. It was less exciting 10 seconds later when I took my second.

Of course it was then that the head greenkeeper rolled up with a massive dog riding shotgun in his buggie. He drove around with me explaining how the wind at The Wallasey made nonsense of the par system. On difficult days it was impossible to reach greens in regulation and bogeys would prompt average golfers to tear up their scorecard by the 5th hole. So in 1931 a Wallasey member by the name of Dr Frank Stableford came up with a new points system. That’s right, the Stableford System was invented right here.

Sometimes it can feel as though places with as much history as The Wallasey, come with a side serving of smug. No such thing here. It felt like many other golf experiences I’ve had, only with better fairways, superior prestige and outrageous beauty.

Of course I’ve heard stories about rolling dunes, but to see them first hand and lose yourself in their folds and turns is an experience in itself. Everywhere you want to hit the ball the course squeezes. In between that there is more room. The bunkers are placed beautifully. Everything is plotted and perfectly placed.

As I approached the 18th the plan I’d formulated earlier resurfaced. I drove a beauty down the middle but the job was far from over. Pitching the ball short left the long slanted green scooped up my ball. It was long but I was putting. I lagged it close in front of the club house leaving me an easy tap in for par.

This will not be my last links experience.