Some of our most precious golfing treasures are fading away with every passing tide and storm. This special NCG investigation looks at how coastal erosion is changing the links landscape

Golf courses and coastal erosion: Formby

There’s inevitability about the creeping coast at Formby – the club have been through this before.

New holes at 7, 8 and 9, along with a new 10th tee, were designed by Donald Steel in the late 70s as the club couldn’t combat the attack on the shoreline from the River Mersey.

“It was a very good job the club looked that far ahead at the time because the old 9th green is now about 25 yards on the beach,” says club secretary and manager Stuart Leech.

Now two of those remodelled holes, members’ favourites, are themselves under assault from shrinking sands.

Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council reckons the coastline could be at the back of the 10th blue tee by 2085, and so the club are already planning.

As part of a masterplan of improvements to the current layout, Formby asked Martin Ebert, the renowned Open architect, to design new 9th and 10th holes.

coastal erosion

To ensure play isn’t disrupted by wind blown sand, as what’s left of the dunes get ever closer, a 150 metre safe range means that revised layout would need to be in play by 2040.

“The line that we gave to Martin has basically meant that the 9th and 10th holes would potentially have to be changed.

“Thankfully, with erosion rates, we don’t have to do a great deal with those for the next 25 years. The changes that Martin is proposing are things we can construct without affecting play.

“We can do most of the work before we even look to open the holes and still keep playing the existing layout. In around 20 to 25 years’ time we will be starting construction on those.

“That future proofs us until 2100. If we didn’t think about it, and left it to one side for somebody else to pick up in the future, we would be being incredibly irresponsible.”

The new 9th would be a strong par 4 that doglegs right and looks out over the Irish Sea, while the proposed 10th, with a tee set on dunes to the left of the current 9th green, would remain as a par 3 and require a carry over a low dune valley.

“It certainly won’t diminish the current layout in any way, shape, or form,” says Leech. “If anything, people may even turn around and say it’s better.

“Change is inevitable and it has to happen. We would like to think of this as a progressive change that, if we do it well, will enhance everything we’ve got rather than something that is forced upon us.”

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