Moortown – The dilemma of the winter golfer

Where to play during the winter months and still get to play a decent course that does not have you putting your waders‭ ‬on to get a good round‭, ‬is always a problem‭?‬

Don’t worry‭, ‬here at County Golfer HQ we‭  ‬have gone before you to find three great courses that laugh in the face of rain and winter‭ ‬tees‭, ‬in fact we have sourced three courses that between them‭  ‬have hosted the Ryder Cup‭, ‬Curtis Cup‭, ‬R‭ ‬&‭ ‬A Open Qualifiers just to mention a few‭, ‬and have all been designed by the famous course designer‭ ‬‮ ‬Dr Alister MacKenzie‭.‬ Dear fellow golfer‭, ‬I introduce to you Moortown‭, ‬Alwoodley and Ganton‭.‬

Moortown has always held a richly deserved reputation as one of the country’s finest Championship Golf courses‭. ‬Originally designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie‭, ‬Moortown is set in 175‭ ‬acres of dramatically contrasting‭, ‬mainly level woodland and moorland‭.‬ From the opening par 5‭ ‬there are many fine holes to enjoy including the new 6th‭, ‬rated the most difficult‭, ‬and the famous Gibraltar par 3‭ ‬10th with its sloping plateau green‭, ‬the Club’s signature hole‭.‬

The day we chose to play was after 48‭ ‬hours of torrential rain with many golf clubs in the area closed‭, ‬but not Moortown‭, ‬they were not even playing off winter mats‭, ‬a testament to how well the course drains‭.‬ Before you start you must look around the club house as it is steeped in history‭. ‬Having been the club to host the first ever Ryder Cup on European Soil‭, ‬the memorabilia is fantastic and there are some great golf stories to be heard and seen‭, ‬such as the golfer Nigel Denham who was playing in the Brabazon Trophy competition‭. ‬Visit our Facebook page to see the story and see why he has a brass plaque on the floor of the Club House bar‭!‬‭ ‬The place oozes history and you know you are about to play somewhere special‭.

Let’s get on to the course‭, ‬which is‭  ‬6452‭ ‬yards off the yellow tees‭, ‬par 71‭, ‬and off the red tees it’s 5939‭ ‬yards par 75‭. ‬From this yardage you know your in for quite a test‭.‬ The first is a nice hole to get you warmed up‭, ‬a 488‭ ‬yard par 5‭. ‬You tee off from a nicely elevated tee looking down a sloping fairway‭. ‬The only problem here is‭, ‬for most golfers like myself‭, ‬there are several fairway bunkers sat just about where you would‭ ‬drive to‭. ‬I did as all good golfer do‭, ‬‘hit and hope’‭ ‬and managed to miss them all‭! ‬From this point the fairway narrows with a ditch either side to catch a wayward ball‭. ‬Negotiate through this successfully‭, ‬you will then have a shot at the green which is well protected by bunkers‭. ‬Somehow I managed to miss all the hazards on this hole and got a par‭. ‬This games is easy‭!!‬

Moving onto the second you get to see across most of the course‭. ‬It did remind me a lot of Sherwood Forest Golf Course in the way it looks‭, ‬with well placed trees and open spaces where the hummocks can grow‭, ‬and some gorse bushes dotted here and there‭. ‬I felt quite at home‭. ‬This hole‭, ‬a 440‭ ‬yard par 4‭, ‬needs a nice straight drive but not too far as a ditch lies diagonally across the fairway‭. ‬I laid up short of this but I still needed to hit the elevated green‭. ‬Coming up short I managed to skip the ball up to the hole for my third‭, ‬and in for another par‭! ‬I was on fire‭….,‬but would this run continue‭?‬ I was about to be humbled by the 4th‭  ‭ ‬a long par 4‭ ‬at 436‭ ‬yards‭. ‬They have cleverly put a cross bunker here which most of us will struggle to get over‭, ‬but because I‭ ‬think I’m a better golfer than I really am‭, ‬I tried to drive over it‭, ‬and failed‭. ‬If you managed to get over this you would still need a‭ ‬well hit wood to get any chance of a par‭, ‬as I struggled to get out of the bunker‭. ‬I was hit with my first 7‭ ‬of the day‭.‬

You find on a championship course that sometimes only a good‭, ‬well struck drive will do‭. ‬Hole 5‭ ‬is a good example of this as it’s a relatively short par 4‭ ‬at only 340‭ ‬yards‭, ‬but it’s a true dog leg left‭, ‬and from the tee there is a wilderness of gorse and heather bushes between you and the fairway‭. ‬Many a golf ball has been sacrificed to the golf gods here‭! ‬Avoiding this it’s a 5‭ ‬iron to the green‭, ‬fortunately we all managed to get away‭. ‬I rattled the hole for a birdie‭, ‬so it’s all about the drive‭.‬

Hole six is the‮ ‬first of the new holes introduced‮ ‬when changes to the course were made in 1989‭ ‬and more recently altered in 2012‭. ‬Once etched out of the woodland‭, ‬the hole has been modified to represent the heathland feel that MacKenzie initially designed‭.‬‭ ‬Many of the birch and rowan trees that once lined the fairway have been removed‭, ‬to be replaced by bunkers and areas where the‭ ‬natural heath will again return‭. ‬You can see that Moortown have repeated this around the course‭, ‬just like Sherwood did themselves some years back‭, ‬the result of this is that it keeps the shade off the greens and fairways‭, ‬stopping them getting boggy and attracting unwanted diseases that attack the greens‭.‬

One of my favourite holes has to be the 10th‭ ‬or‭ ‬‘Gibraltar’‭ ‬as it’s known to the locals‭. ‬A very picturesque hole to look at and play‭. ‬It’s 172‭ ‬yard Par 3‭ ‬teeing off up to an elevated green which sits on top of steep banks and nestles into a rocky slope at the back‭,‬‭ ‬hence the name‭ ‬‘Gibraltar’‭. ‬There are bunkers scooped into the side of the slopes‭, ‬so either you hit the green or you end up‭  ‬trying to chip out of a bunker with the green above your head‭. ‬Fortunately both Newby and myself hit the green‭, ‬but even putting here is a challenge as the‭ ‬green slopes back toward the tee‭. ‬Even with the rain the day before they were playing fast‭. ‬I managed a par but I can imagine that if the greenkeepers were in a bad mood they could really put the flag in some very challenging positions‭.‬

You now head out to the furthest point of the course where you will have to face some blind tee shots and clusters of fairway bunkers hidden from view‭. ‬The course here really opens up with the moorland coming through‭.‬

The course starts to tighten up as you approach the 15th‭.‬‭ . ‬I decided to play this hole with an iron‭, ‬which was the right choice especially with my sometimes wild slice‭. ‬Accuracy is needed here‭, ‬in fact both this hole and the 16th‭ ‬will punish a wayward drive with ditches and fairway bunkers and trees waiting to catch you out‭. ‬My advice is‭, ‬if like me you hit a wayward drive then stick to your ions‭.‬

The 18th‭ ‬is an excellent finishing hole‭, ‬you can just imagine what it was like back when the Ryder Cup was played here‭, ‬holding your nerve as crowds of people watched‭. ‬After Newby and myself got two nice tee shots away we could see the club house welcoming us home‭. ‬Visually it’s a nice approach shot to the green but now is not the time to duff your shot as you are being watched from the club house‭. ‬We both managed to miss the windows unlike Nigel Denham‭, (‬check our Facebook page for his story‭), ‬and sink our puts for a couple of‭ ‬pars‭.‬

Sitting in the club house surrounded by golfing history we both agreed that Moortown is a special place‭, ‬you feel at home here and we were in no rush to get away‭. ‬The course was in excellent condition‭. ‬I would say that this course is an honest course‭, ‬if you go in the rough you still have a chance of finding your ball and getting out‭. ‬The greens run so true they are a joy to put on‭, ‬and‭, ‬in true MacKenzie style‭, ‬the bunkers are well thought out and dare‭ ‬you to go for the risk to reap the reward‭.‬

‭ ‬We would like to thank all at Moortown for making us feel so welcome and I’m sure they will show the same hospitality to you when you visit and play their great course‭.‬

The Lindrick Ryder Cup Dream

Playing an ex Ryder course is always bound to bring a little extra excitement to a game of golf. Lindrick hosted the Ryder cup in 1957 and so became, if my maths are correct, one of only 18 clubs in Britain to host this prestigious event. If I’m wrong I can only be out by a club or two, which is similar to getting my distances right whilst on the course too!

From start to finish our experience at Lindrick deserves the highest merit. John the professional is probably the most personable pro that you could meet, welcoming and open in his style. And that ran through to Julian Maturi, Paula King (Secretary) and Steven Gee (Greens Chairman) and the bar staff. We couldn’t have wished for a better day out. But did our golf match up to that start? To get any ambiguity out of the way I will say no now! Make no mistake about it this is one tough and enjoyable course.

We had the opportunity to sit and relax before the game with Julian, and then after the game with Steve, each time with a beer in hand. That was probably my mistake as I’m sure it affected my game! When we last visited in 2011 we were ushered into a back room to have our drinks as the main clubhouse couldn’t be entered  by us lesser souls! Now with the changing of the tide in golf,  the clubhouse has been split in two and we could sit looking out at the ninth  green in total comfort on the new Chesterfield settees. We even strayed off the mat to buy drinks (an in-house joke there).

Julian and Steven both explained how much development is taking place, and that they are two years into a five year plan with award winning course architect Ken Moodie (Creative Golf Design).  Dropping out of the worlds top 100 golf courses is bound to hurt, but now is a very exciting time, as after thirty years of only a little investment here and there, large investment and development is taking place which can only make the members happy and bring to them a course that remains challenging and  picturesque, whilst it still retain it’s natural appeal. There aren’t many courses around that can boast “we don’t play off mats in winter, neither do we have temporary greens and, based mostly on limestone, it drains really well”.  Put all that together with gorse and wild flowers now popping through after developments have reawakened them, you can’t wish for more.

The rough is a bit of a devil though! Whilst most courses have decided to speed up the game by making the rough easy to play out of, thereby getting more people on the course (good or bad I’ll let you judge), Lindrick still has quite a large amount of rough much to Newbys annoyance but, as I pointed out, “If you stay on the fairway it isn’t a problem”.  Steve told us that as part of the current plan, this is being addressed over a period of time but in a sympathetic way which will still leave a very challenging course. It would be a shame to take away this element of the course in my view as I enjoyed waking amongst the flowers looking for our balls, due to the most wayward shots, as the excitement got to us when teeing off. Spence made one of his best tee shots at the 15th only to lose it in the ‘mine hole’ to the left. If he had only stayed straight it would just about reached the green. So a possible par was ruined.

Our round.

We were supplied with two baskets of balls, course planners, scorecards, buggy and complimentary ball markers before we set out, and so the driving range was our destination. It was here that I played some of my best golf shots, nice and straight with good distance. If only it had lasted for the next four hours. Driving off from the immaculate tee on the first, down onto a sculptured fairway needed extreme concentration as you are in view of everyone who pretends not to be watching( but they are). The same is true on the 18th as people sit drinking, trying to not show they are glancing sideways at you. We all do it and pretend we don’t care.

Anyway , my shot went right and into the rough thereby  losing my first ball. I’m sure that triggered the “ball reaper” into action, as we called him for the rest of the round. How come he finds them and we can’t is my question.

We had decided to play Stableford and it was neck and neck right up to the 13th, at which point Newby and Lefty edged ahead by a point, and then held onto it and extended their lead. If only Spence had gone straight on the 15th instead of into the ‘mine’! We did pull a point back on the 16th as I had my best drive, fairway, bunker shot, and two puts. That was the story of my round where I found out the work on the new bunkers was going really well. One member complained that he always went into the bunker on one hole (I can’t remember which). Basically it is the bunkers fault!

The bunkers are undergoing a makeover, being reshaped and made more visible from the tee.

I’ll tell you my favourite holes and explain why. The second is a great dogleg left. We were playing off yellows (cowards) so it was 347 yards. At stroke index 6 it was a test early on for us, so I got a 6. The course planner said to play your drive to favour the right, so I went straight. I love these golf reports that tell me that they did as requested, I’m sure they don’t’. I tried right, but went straight and that’s the truth.  My ball was in front of the bunker and a 5 iron saw me just right of the fairway, which left a tricky shot to the green which I didn’t make in one but saw a nice chip and two puts give me the deserved 6.  I think I peaked too soon here.

The greens were in superb condition and got a high accolade from Spence ,“The best I’ve played on this year and that includes Canton”. A real feather in Lindricks cap there and I couldn’t agree more.  They were quick, accurate  and beautifully manicured.


The 5th is a tough hole at 424 yards, and again I carded a 6 whilst the lads were busy doing 5’s and 4’s. The harder I tried the worse I got and followed up with three 7’s one of them on a stroke index 16 because of a lost ball. If I could blame the course I would, but I was careless off the tee and just lost confidence for a while. “I don’t think golfs my game” I said to Spence… “Have you only just realised?” He fired back.

A bit harsh there I thought but that’s golf. You have to take the honest criticism as well as the praise – if there is any!

The stroke index 1 13th is a belter of a hole. Get away well here and you’re onto a winner, if you manage to miss the bunkers nestled to the left, there is a great chance of a birdie. Lefty (who was starting to get things right with shot placement and picking up points), and Newby flew past the bunkers giving them an easy green shot whilst Spence, who was carrying me as well as his bag, went screaming off left somewhere only to lose his ball.

Four at the 18th (a Mackenzie inspired hole) was such a relief for me, Newby and Spence got Pars. It was a funny hole because Spence decided he would use his wood and landed on the bank at the back. We all missed the green completely and had to chip on from various angles. Finishing on a Par 3 is quite unusual but it’s not a hole to take for granted as club choice is vital. Spence, who is a single handicap player over-clubbed. I enjoyed that!

The club over the past few years has attracted younger members who are keen to see the course develop. We smiled when Julian told us that after ten years he was stillconsidered “new”. Steve’s been there 20 years (his dad was captain in the 60’s ), and Steve’s ‘New’ too. Golf’s a funny game. We all know our place and I know that Lindrick beat me hands down. Full marks to you.

Out thanks to John, Julian, Steven, Paula, the staff and The grim ‘sorry’ Ball reaper for a great day. If you haven’t played Lindrick in the past few years it’s a definite must for your calendar.

Ganton – History Tradition & Quality

Up-and-down the country there’s only really a handful of golf courses that you would honestly categorise at prestigious. St Andrews, Royal Birkdale, Royal St Georges to name a few. Ganton is certainly a course that can be discussed in the same breath as these. Ranked Number 9 in the U.K.’s top courses, and having held the Ryder Cup the Curtis Cup and the Walker cup, the club has some real pedigree.

First opened in 1891 as Scarborough Golf Club the course was soon put on the map by the great Harry Vardon, the then captain. The course continued to develop and change, with the likes of Harry Colt, Alister McKenzie, and Tom Simpson all making their mark on it. That was until the late 1930s, since the course has been left pretty much alone in its design. To get an idea of how highly regarded this club is, just check out the long list of competitions it has held over the years on their website. The standouts being the 1954 Ryder cup as well as the Curtis and Walker cups at the turn of the century.

When you arrive you instantly realise that you are in a world where golf is changing and rules are constantly being relaxed, Ganton have taken the approach of sticking to their traditions. Myself lefty and Spence found this out straight away. Spence particularly being clad head to toe in Adidas golf gear, he wasn’t allowed anywhere near the club house, instead he was banished to the patio. A long debate, about how long, long socks should be, ensued. Gantons policy of ‘tailored shorts may be worn but only with single colour knee length socks’ might catch a few out. This meant on a baking hot summers day Spence was forced to wear trousers. At least his weren’t made of thick wool like mine. Ball management was the order of the day, both on and off the fairways!

We did receive a very warm welcome at the club, both by the Secretary Richard Penley-Martin and the Caddiemaster Paul Harrison. Richard  sat with us as we enjoyed our coffee and explained the direction the club was going in. Keeping it as traditional as possible whilst also keeping the course in top condition. The main focus over the next few years being the completion of the renovation of the 100+ bunkers.


The Course itself has an inland links feel to it, fast, sandy and gently undulating fairways, weave around the gorse and heather. This is explained by the fact that thousands of years ago the area would actually have been a beach. One of the standout features of the course are the bunkers, put simply, you will end up in one. Placed perfectly around the course to catch anything slightly wayward, they are the main obstacle to try and avoid, and, when you first go in one, you’ll want to avoid them even more! The vast majority have been revamped recently and the sand is perfect to play out of. But the depth of them is just something else.

The sand base of the course means that there isn’t really a perfect window to play Ganton in, it’s as good both in the summer and the winter. So look out for their winter offers. It might not be the cheapest round you play, but pound to quality wise, I can’t think there’s anywhere better.

Our thanks to all at Ganton Golf Course for a great days golf.

The Brabazon @ The Belfry

Back in May 2014 yours truly Lefty, Newby and Spence were invited to the relaunch of The Belfry and when I say relaunch I mean 22 million pounds of investment to turn this once tired hotel and course back to the prestigious place it used to be, in fact the paint on the walls was still drying and the smell of fresh carpets filled the air.

Did this investment pay off? Have the businessmen returned to impress their clients? Have the golfers returned to once again do battle with the Brabazon? Well we decided it was time to return to see for ourselves, if these questions had been answered.

As you would expect from this huge investment the hotel interior looks stunning, in fact they have gone for a ‘Great Gatsby’ feel in the lobby; sweeping into the breakfast lounge, which was full of business people  on sofas with laptops on tables, creating a buzz in the air. The pro shop has also benefited from the investment. The changing rooms feel that you have arrived somewhere special. It beats the time we came here  7 years ago when myself, Newby and two putt Plant were literally the only 3 people staying in the 200 plus room hotel!

We though were here today for the golf.  The Belfry has three courses, the PGA, The Derby and the one we all want to play – The Brabazon. This too has benefited from the revamp, a course that was, back in 2010, looking tired and to be honest scruffy, has been brought back to its former glory befitting a course that held the Ryder Cup more than any other venue in the world.

The welcome we got on the first tee from the starter put us all at ease. The first is a relatively easy hole with an open fairway to forgive a wayward shot. Both Spence and I got away clean, Newby on the other hand decide he would take the pictures as he had pulled his back the night before at his Zumba class! The one thing you cannot stop thinking about is the golfing legends who have walked these fairways. You start to think about Seve’s drive onto the 10th green, Sam Torrance’s famous putt that won the 1985 Ryder cup match or Christy O’Connor Jnr with the most brilliant shot on the 18th hole using his trusty 2 iron.

This does heighten your playing experience, the course itself despite the very damp winter we have had, played well and the greens were playing true. I played steady golf on the first 5 holes and even got a couple of pars but then came the 6th and 7th – on these holes you will find the large expanse of water comes into play. Basically you are teeing over it. I must have lost 6 balls and  at one point I had taken a drop then managed to hit it straight back in the water only 3 feet away!

But my moment of glory followed shortly after these two holes, strangely enough on a stroke index 1.

The 8th is 409 yards par 4 with the water running down the left side of the fairway. What makes this hole tough is that the fairway is narrow and the front of the green is protected by a water filled ditch. I managed to avoid all of these hazards and got on the green for 3, but I was still 26 feet from the hole and NOW my moment had arrived as I sank the putt!! Where are all the cameras when you need them? It would have made great television.

One hole on the course that people love is the 10th as you can attack with your driver or lay up short for the shot over the water. Walking onto this green can send shivers down your spine, so take your time and enjoy it. Even though the course is primarily flat you really appreciate the different undulations you get on the greens. It was an enjoyable change not to do the 3 putt walk of shame! We must mention the par 3’s on the course. There are three of them,  one on the front nine the other two on the back. These are a real challenge and my favourite was the 12th.

The green keepers were working on the yellow and white tees so we had to play off the blues. Now we were playing Ryder Cup style which took the hole from a respectable 179 yards to a “which club do I use?” 226 yards. Just to make it extra hard the whole front of the green is protected by a large pond. I shouted over to the green staff “You really don’t like us do you” to which they replied “You will be fine, Seve always hit the green from there!” Thanks for that!

Newby risking his dodgy back went first with a wood, and came up short straight into the water, Spence did the same, I don’t have a wood in my bag so I opted for my driver which turned out to be the right choice as it sailed over the water and landed about 6 foot from the hole! A clap from the green staff, a bow from me, and some mumbled words from Spence and Newby which we can’t print here. I got a solid par.

Spence was still waiting for his ‘moment’. He waited, I would say, until one of the greatest finishing holes you can play – the 418 yard par 4 18th. ‘A daunting drive followed by a daunting approach,’ is how this hole has been described and I would agree with that. As you stand on the tee you are looking at a dogleg left over water. Once you have negotiated this you have another long shot over more water to an elevated green that slopes towards you. If you don’t get a tee shot with just the right amount of draw and distance, your second shot will have to be the shot of your life as you will still be miles away from the green with  the water coming very much in play. In fact you will have to re-enact  the brilliant shot from Christy O’Connor Jnr,  on the 18th hole.

Spence played this like a pro – a great tee shot with just the right amount of draw and a second that landed on the green, he missed the birdie but got a respectable par on this potential card wrecker. That hole really made his day. That’s the beauty of the Brabazon, when you sink a par or even a birdie you almost find yourself waving at an invisible crowd pretending that you are playing in the Ryder Cup. The investment that has been made to the hotel and course has brought back the glamour and prestige it once held.  The Belfry is  once again living up to its name and the expectation you would associate with a place that calls itself the ‘spiritual home of the Ryder Cup’.

County Golfer Award Winners

Reading through this years (2016) course reports in County Golfer I realised how much the team love playing golf and view golf as an enjoyable game to play with good friends.

Some may feel that their light-hearted, life as it really is, view is not quite up to ‘Masters’ standard of golf but then they don’t play as good as that either. Thinking along those lines I wondered how many in our two counties do play to that standard, and if they do why are they not in the Ryder Cup Team?  We must try harder to get to scratch. However, over the past year we have been invited to play and write about golf as a game played for enjoyment. The welcome and hospitality we have received has overwhelmed us. Our reports on some of the countries top 100 courses – St Andrews, Machrihanish, Royal St Georges, Saunton (East) has led to more invites for 2017. We have even played courses that don’t ask you to wear a tie! Some will let you buy a drink in the bar without wearing a trilby or smoking a pipe! Others let you walk on the grass with no levitation required. Some now allow ladies in the clubhouse! Where will it all end? Golf is such a rich set of tapestries. Rules are made, some are broken, rules are changed,  some we will never understand. I was once asked to move a yard to the right because I wasn’t allowed to buy a drink in the spot I was standing in, because that was for members only. The barman explained “It’s more than my jobs worth to serve you there” at which point we both moved a yard and he served me!  Oh boy. I feel clubs need rules otherwise it will result in mayhem. But there are less rules at St Andrews than there are at some of our counties courses. I’m glad to say that many clubs have relaxed a little whilst still retaining the dignity that playing golf deserves.

So with no inhibitions, consultations, phone in, email, facebook or public/private surveys, here is a completely biased view by the County Golfer team of Lefty, Newby, Fame, Yorkshire Terrier, Spence and Badger of the courses we have played in 2016. You may argue if you wish but these are our rules. If you disagree please explain why in full on the back of a postage stamp!

We’ve had a great years golf and our hearty thanks goes to all the clubs that have made our visits a real treat.

North Devon’s Best Courses

Saunton Golf Club

There are some cracking holes, some quite short that you can open the shoulders but some that you have to plot your way around to give you a good second shot into the green, all in all a great test for any golfer and definitely worth a visit when down in Devon.

This was a pleasant surprise for me not having played in Devon before, even though it was raining again and we had to dry off the days play in our rooms the night before, making it feel like I had been in a Turkish bath all night.No, it was the fact that I did not know that the course I was about to play would fall into my top 3 all-time favourites. There was no disappointments at all from walking into the very modern club house and well stocked Pro shop, to eyeing up the first tee shot on the 1st hole on the West Course, everything was as I hoped it would be from what Lefty had told me.


As I looked out over the raised tee on the first the view was unbelievable, the sand dunes in Devon that the East & West courses of Saunton Sands merge between are amazing.The first two holes are the best that I have played and that includes the Old Course at St Andrews, Allwoodley in Leeds and St Georges Hill. I won’t explain how my tee shot went, all I can say is, you must play with decent accuracy because if you are off the first cut of rough you need to reload. This didn’t put me off as the 2nd hole brought even more delight. In fact even though I had got some very soggy socks and my golf wasn’t up to much the first 9 holes, nothing could spoil the excitement of getting on to the next tee to see what this golf course could throw at us. I managed to pull my golf together for the second nine which is a good job as Lefty had held it together for us on the front 9 so there wasn’t much in it on the scores. Just one mention about the 9th hole, this was a 141 yard par 3 and was absolutely spectacular. The green was surrounded by bushes and there was water at the front of the green, I’ve never seen such a par 3 on a links course. I hit a wedge and went through the back due to the wind, which you don’t feel because of the shelter the bushes give you, so take care when playing this hole.


We followed the course layout between the sand dunes and was amazed how it opens up and then closes in on you, plus how deceptive the designers have been as everything seems very far away but actually you have to trust the yardage otherwise the hazards soon swallow you up and the bunkers are definitely hazards.

Another special mention about the 15th and 16th holes, the 15th was a short blind par 4 with again great use of the dunes, when you get around the corner you think it should have been a driver over the hill side as it is reachable for the bigger hitters but with plenty of risk. I think I may have been the only one to make a par here so it made the match very interesting. We then took a walk up another dune playing down to a very nice par 3 which again is unusual for a links course. This again is one of the reasons why I very much enjoyed this course. The final 2 holes are a good challenge; with a good drive needed and a second shot.


I cannot praise this course highly enough and I have heard people say that the East Course is the better of the two so I definitely need to take another trip to Devon to find out for myself.


After a 4am start, is there a better way to wake up than by being hit by a stiff Atlantic wind and driving rain!

The Royal North Devon Golf Club(or RND as it’s known) holds the title of England’s oldest golf club, dating back to 1864. It quite astonishingly still has a virtually unchanged layout, still playing as it would have been played 150 years ago in Victorian England.

Situated on the West Coast of Devon on common land, this links course runs in and out between the dunes along the coast which gives it, its natural, gentle undulations. In an area I’ve visited many times for holidays, it’s a course that has always intrigued me, having only seen the opening couple of holes from the road.


All UK links courses suffer the same problem, on a hot blue-skied summers day they are an absolute joy to play. Sadly the English weather doesn’t always deliver these conditions, and when the wind blows, and the rain drives down, a round on even the best course can become a battle. On our arrival we were sadly greeted with the latter!

After a 4am start and a 5 hour journey down though, it would have taken 3 feet of snow and lightening to stop us playing and enjoying our round. The history hits you as soon as you enter the club house where you get a feel for its rich history from the golf museum, honors boards and the clubs top competition trophies. Nowhere else can you see an honors board that starts at 1864 and runs through to today. It’s a Who’s Who of English Golf.

I’d considered bringing a wetsuit down with me on the off chance I could sneak in a quick surf whilst down there (Saunton/Croyd/Putsbrough all within 10 minutes drive!), I wouldn’t have been any dryer if I had worn it to be fair, as the rain really hit us hard at the start of the round. Quite incredibly though, even whilst the rain was coming down, the course played like it was bone dry, not a puddle, not a splash.

The first 2 holes are quite open and flat as you play your way out towards the coastline, but when you get to the 3rd the course suddenly seems to really wake up, as you start to play through the undulations. At this point you start to get the feel of a truly classic links course. Anything off line requires some serious recovery, but stick to the fairways and you get a great roll, adding yards to your drive even on a wet day.

The 7th hole is a real standout hole, the green isn’t visible even from the elevated tee, you play down avoiding well placed bunkers to the right, before playing a shot back up the hill onto the green. A quite brilliant hole to play, as are the following few holes as you walk in the footsteps of some of golfs greatest, John Henry Taylor, Harry Vardon, James Braid and JH Taylor to name just a few. All have played at RND.


After the 16th you come back out of the dunes, and the course opens up again as you play your way back towards the clubhouse, being careful not to hit any of the free roaming livestock on the way.

Myself and The Terrier had challenged Lefty and Spencer to Stableford four-balls for the two days. A little bit of competition always adds to the game, and ensures you keep your focus, despite the stunning views of North Devon’s coastlines around us. With never more than 2 points in it, the sledging hit new height (or lows as case maybe). But Lefty held his nerve and sank a 10ft putt on the 18th green, they claimed a 1point victory, and with that the banter began!

Since RND last held the Open Championships the game has changed so much, as have the courses they’re played on. Manicured perfection RND is not! But if you love golf you really need to visit RND, it’s where it all started in England, just to see the history and walk the fairways, is an incredible experience. It’s a truly historic place and a fantastic challenge as well.


We would like to thank Atlantic links for arranging the trip for us, Royal North Devon Golf Club for their hospitality the long range binoculars are well worth a look through in the club house. And Saunton Sands Golf Club for letting us play their excellent West Course, and a special thank you to the Royal and Fortescue Hotel in Barnstaple for putting us up for the night. This is the hotel to book for your stay for when you come down to play. If you want to book the same trip then go to where they will book your stress free golf trip on some of the best links courses in Devon and Cornwall.

Ile Aux Cerfs

Designed by the two-time masters champion Bernhard Langer, the golf club is accessible to players of all levels. The course covers the southern half of the Ile aux Cerfs island with the holes snaking up and down the length of the island, boasting natural undulations, volcanic rock outcrops, lakes and gullies, and a variety of tropical trees and plants.

All 18 holes of this island golf have views of the Indian Ocean. Expansive white sand bunkers and water set off the natural backdrop of trees and vegetation perfectly.


Water is an essential feature of the course. There are nine lakes in all, and three of the holes require tee shots across sea inlets to the fairways. The luscious turf is Salam Seashore Paspalum grass, which is resilient in the tropical climate and allows the highest standards of course conditioning.

In 2013, upgrading works were carried out on the front nine holes in order to offer a better golfing experience to golfers. Since then, feedbacks have been enthusiastic and positive. In June 2014, the back nine holes started to be reviewed and upgraded. These major changes will enable golfers to discover a more accessible golf course, regardless of the golfer’s level. The unique island golf course of Ile aux Cerfs will definitely be one of the most stupendous golf courses in the world, a “must play” as Colin Montgomerie puts it.

As I was staying in a hotel on the beautiful island of Mauritius it would be a crime not to play a golf course! So myself (Stav the Greek) and ‘Hodders’ asked the hotel reception to arrange a round of golf at the Ile aux Cerfs golf club. After a short phone call everything was arranged. Excited!


Pick up was early, 7am early. We both met up for breakfast and waited for the mini bus. After a short mini bus ride we arrived at a big entrance to the golf club. Beautifully neat grass and hedges surrounded the roadway and the golf course name ILE AUX CERFS, made you feel like you were going somewhere special. After a drive down a long driveway we were dropped off at the boat house. Not often do you have a boat house on a golf course! There we waited to be picked up by the speed boat, but as we waited we were reminded we were on a tropical island by the presence of a huge spider above our heads. Easily 3inchs long, we gave it a wide berth!

After a boat trip of around 10mins we arrived at the island, and greeted by a well mannered young man with a golf buggy to drive us to the club house. We were provided with a buggy with touch screen gps and a full set of Callaway golf clubs each. We were given 3 balls each. I had a feeling that might not be enough, ha!

Then after a brief spell on the driving range we made our way to the first tee, a par 4. The first thing you notice here is a water hazard right in front to reach the fairway, let’s just say we had a slow start to our game and move on from there.

Now the 2nd hole is interesting, down hill towards a beach. There is a path at the back of the green and we had to have a quick look before moving on to the 3rd hole. A stunning beach! Not a usual sight on a golf course in the midlands. Ha! A quick photo and we had to move on.


Every hole we played had a beautiful view or something of special interest, but a stand out hole for me was the 11th. It’s a par 5 dog leg to the right, and runs parallel with another beach. Myself and Hodders had great tee shots with a driver. Both straight and down the middle. I don’t have the longest drive but I ended up past the dog leg and just under the trees that separate the fairway and white sand beach. Any longer a drive and I would have been on the beach, I can think of worse places to be!

As you approach the green on the 11th and the 12th (par 4) you have views back to Mauritius and its mountains. With turquoise water and white sand to the left and lush green tropical plants to the right. It was difficult to play golf as we spent most of the time enjoying the views! This back 9 is when we had settled into our game and starting to be more consistent.

The final two holes were a great finish. The 17th had a huge mangrove area that needed a good tee shot to clear. Thankfully I was hitting straighter now and we both landed on the fairway. Phew! By this point I had lost a few balls to thick tropical undergrowth and we didn’t fancy looking for them, as you can imagine the wildlife that could be in there!

The 18th was the hardest index 1 and a bit confusing. It’s a long par 4 and after we both had a good tee shot we were now left with a choice of two greens! Both with flags and playable. One to the left with great views over the bay and back to Mauritius and the other up on the right behind the clubhouse. That green is the one we played. It was surrounded by a gully, volcanic rock and thick vegetation; challenge accepted. We both hit the green managing to clear the gully, and finished an amazing round with a par.

After returning our equipment and going back to the boat house ready to be picked up, we reflected on an experience that we might never have again. Obviously frustrated that we could have played better but totally satisfied that we could enjoy such a course. If you ever have the opportunity to play this course, I thoroughly recommend it. And maybe bring a change of clothes so you can enjoy the beach and a cocktail or two after your round!


Longcliffe Golf Club

Every time people asked me “where are you playing next and I say Longcliffe Golf Course” the reply was always the same “that’s a beautiful course, you’ll enjoy that”, so as you can expect I got quite excited about playing it.

Longcliffe is a well-established members course, what you would call a traditional golf club in the fullest sense. To get to Longcliffe is just a short journey south bound on the M1 to junction 23, it took no time at all to get there from Alfreton in Derbyshire, just about 25 min.

The Course itself is situated within Charnwood Forest in Loughborough it’s a par 72 6625 yards off the whites and 6455 off the yellows, and for the ladies it’s a par 71, 5461 yards. My playing partner for the day was Newby who agreed with me that Longcliffe have one of the most visually scenic 1st teeing areas and an almost ‘Augusta’ feel about it with rhododendron’s to the right of the teeing area, this twinned with the sunniest day of the year so far gave us the feel that we were about to play somewhere special.

The shorts were on and Newby was wearing shades to protect him from the suns ray bouncing off my legs as I stepped up to tee off, but no need for a driver as the first is a 164 yard par 3 up hill shot, now to my knowledge there are not many courses that start with a par 3 in our area so this was new to me. Will my 6 irons be as wayward as my driver usually is for the first shot of the day? No it was not, I struck it true and just a bit right of the green, a chip on and one put would see a par.

Just one problem with summer greens as most of you know, all winter we golfers have been squelching around, well I have every time I’ve played but now the greens have dried out and at Longcliffe they were like billiard tables, so after the 3 putt walk of shame what should have been a par turned into a 5!!Longcliffe-CR-2-Jun16

The general layout of the course winds its way up Charwood Forest Hill then loops back down to the clubhouse, I had been told before I played that the par 4s are not the longest. For example, the 6th is only 265 yards long but what you find is that most of them are dog legs right or left, also the tree placements have been well thought out making some of the fairways narrow so accuracy off the tee is vital. Unfortunately teeing off with my drive is not my strong point as every now and again I develop a wicked slice which on this course will punish you with a lost ball.

A good drive will get you a shot at the green but be careful as a ditch cuts across the fairway just before the green. Despite my wayward tee shot I managed a bogie, although what you do find about Longcliffe is that the hazards are fair, for example I had to play my second out of the rough which is long fine grass, allowing me to find my ball but still giving me a penalty for going into it. This was not like some courses I have played where your ball just trickles off the fairway into thick grass never to be seen again!

Newby and I were really enjoying ourselves; the layout of the course was throwing all sorts of challenges for us, and the condition of the course was the best I have played this year. Newby was having a great time playing very well; I was getting punished for my bad tee shots. Someone did tell me that on this course sometimes it’s better to tee off with an iron, I should have heeded this council, but you know me by now, I’m not one to give up so easily and I don’t listen to good counsel from other golfers.

Let me bring you to a little beauty of a hole the 5 a 135 yard par 3, it’s a medium par 3 with a tee shot to an elevated green guarded by bunkers at the front and a steep bank at the back. It was quite a joy to tee off, we both hit the green but were above the hole, which is not such a good position as it slopes away from you and on greens like these you only need a gentle tap. I again had to do the 3 putt walk of shame but at least it didn’t roll off back down the hill.

You now find you’re making your way up to the top of the hill and by the time you stand on the 8th you have a great tee shot back down with views over Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. It’s one of the holes you could tee off time and again just for the enjoyment of it. It’s the longest hole on the course at 559yards. Big hitters can reach the green in 2 but, and there is always a but, you have to navigate a green guarded by a magnificent oak tree, across ditch and mound to the left and right. We both hit big drives so the green was reachable. I don’t have a fairway wood in my bag and this is exactly what you need, so I hit a 3 iron as sweet as a nut but could not carry the ditch, Newby on the other hand does have a fairway wood and landed his ball on the green. Swine!!

You think that now you have got to the bottom of the hill you would wind your way back to the club house on the flat, not a chance, it’s time for the 9th stroke index 1 a 411 yard par 4 all up hill! Again a good drive is needed and you must get a good shot away for any chance of a par, even then you have a large mound across the fairway waiting to catch your second shot. Basically you need to pull out two of your best shots to even consider reaching the green, which by the way has two bunkers to the front so not even a’ bump and roll’ will do. I must admit this hole chewed me up and spat me out sending me away with a spanked bottom, well that’s how I felt after finally walking off the green with a 5…6…7 Ouch!Longcliffe-CR-3-Jun16

Lefty’s View:

I was told before I came to Longcliffe how much I would enjoy it, in fact most golfers I have talked to hold Longcliffe in high esteem, and I can see why, it’s a well established course that offers a fair challenge, it can be a real beast sometimes and punish you for a bad tee shot but on the other hand reward you when you play a good one. I must have gone through the entire arsenal in my bag.

This is a proper golf course that will keep you coming back for more, it’s a beautiful beast, a little slice of Augusta right on our doorstep.

Newby’s View:

Your first impressions is that it’s a long established well run golf club, from the Local Professional to the Secretary to The Green Staff, everyone is polite, professional and clearly knows what they’re doing.

Sometimes people ‘bigging’ up a course do it no favours. You arrive with high expectations and when it achieves them you go away just agreeing, if you were to arrive here with no expectation you’d definitely walk away very impressed.

It’s a proper members Midlands course, rolling hills, beautiful greenery with a hint of Augusta about it. For me the greens were as the best I’ve played on for years, fast enough to keep them interesting, but absolutely immaculate giving a beautiful roll. It’s not often you knock your first 2 10 foot putts on the practice green right in the middle of the cup.

The rough was perfect too, if you landed in it, it inhibited your swing and made you pay for your wayward shot, but you did find your ball (unless you missed by miles obviously). There’s nothing more annoying as an amateur, than playing a shot that’s only slightly off line and loosing your ball. The rough should make life tough, not impossible, and that’s exactly what this course does.

There’s not many courses that seem to tick all the boxes for a top course, but this one certainly does that. If you get chance, play it, you’ll love the challenge.Longcliffe-CR-4-Jun16


Manor Golf Club

Due to popular demand County Golfer Magazine has extended its coverage into East Stafford so what better way to kick things off than to play The Manor Golf Club in Kingstone, Uttoxeter, Staffordshire.

Yours truly, Lefty and Newby, were dispatched from the office to see what this popular golf course had to offer. First, though let me tell you a little of the clubs heritage.

In 1989, the Bathew family decided that they’d had enough of farming but in order to still get use out of the land, they decided to build a golf course. In 1991 the club was established as a business venture and the family approached Mr Ted Anderson, a local architect and family friend, and asked if he would design the layout of a 9 hole course on the 70 acres of land. This, along with the building of the clubhouse that would eventually overlook the whole course, was the best start the Manor could have. The 9 hole course proved to be great fun to play and as Ted’s first attempt at course design, a great base from which to expand to 18. Four years later some neighbouring land became available and it was decided that as membership was growing, then maybe this warranted a course extension.

In 1994 the club purchased another 33 acres of land and duly brought in a golf course constructor to change the existing 9 holes into an 18 hole golf course. This would involve a complete reshaping of the 9 hole layout, indeed, only the first and second remain from the original Ted Anderson design.

Today you will find a challenging 6,215 yard par 71-course set within a valley, which has some scenic tee shots and some hilly fairways.

You reach the clubhouse by driving through the farm and we laughed as the farm dog, which was lying in the middle of the drive enjoying a nap, was not too impressed when he had to move out of the way for us. The clubhouse itself has a spacious locker room and up the stairs you will find the dining room which is very relaxed and serves food all day, we would recommend having your breakfast here as the Full English looked a real winner.DSC_0863

The first hole, par 4,336 yards is what I call a good starting hole, an elevated tee looking down on a wide sweeping fairway, a good time to really open up. A few golfers had come to the balcony to watch us tee off, no pressure then! The last time I teed off with people watching was in a golf competition at the Nottinghamshire and I proceeded to hit my tee shot about 20 yards into a bush which made interesting viewing on the launch monitor later that day with a little red line going nowhere! This time thank goodness I hit a beauty which just left me a 6 iron onto the green, you do have to make sure you don’t over hit your second shot and go over the back of the green as there is a small ravine which would lead to a lost ball. I don’t think there’s anything worse than playing a great tee shot then completely messing up your second…oh wait a minute there is, a scuffed tee shot!

This is followed by a cracking par 3, only 153 yards long, but your shot is over the ravine to an elevated green with OOB down the left. For me it was a 6 iron that got me nicely onto the green, just a warning though on the greens, I think the Bathew family like to challenge us golfers, let me put it this way, you might get to the green but then you could still do an ‘Ernie Els’ – don’t mention Augusta!

The next hole is aptly called ‘Summit’. Off the whites it’s a monster par 5 at 628 yards long and it’s still a good distance off the yellows at 570 yards, a daunting hole but what I like about it is that you tee off literally on top of a summit as the fairway sweeps away from you below your feet. On this hole you have to produce a good tee shot otherwise forget it. Also, just to make it more challenging the green is two tiered, so no wonder the ‘summit’ is stroke index 1.

Ivor’s island was next up and this is a member’s hole because they know exactly how to play this properly. It’s a relatively short par 4, at 371yards this hole is all about club choice. If you do not hit a big drive you can’t reach the green in two. My drive was good but not long enough and I was in that horrible place where it would feel wrong to lay up to Ivor’s Island, so I decided to try and get over this large expanse of water but came well short, to carry over it you would need to execute a very good fairway wood shot. Sometimes you have to know your limits and play for a bogie instead of wrecking your card thinking you are Bubba Watson!

I must point out at this point that my playing partner Newby had got out of the wrong side of bed and was in a foul mood and even more so as he was having a bad day on the golf course and therefore moaning about everything. I on the other hand was quite enjoying myself on the course especially when I teed off on the 7th 409 yard par 4. What makes this hole scratch your head is that while standing on the tee you see a row of majestic trees about 80 feet high cutting across the fairway. Now you have two options, go over them or, aim to the left and play your next shot out off the rough. On this hole there is no room for a poor tee shot. I decided, “I’m not messing about, I’m going over the trees”. I hit the drive of my life with a bit of draw it was 270 yards plus, to be honest I don’t know what happened, if I could harness what I did differently on this hole rather than on the other 6, I would be a pro! Well maybe not, but I’d at least shave a few shots off my handicap.

Now if you ever wanted to show someone what a true dogleg on a golf course looks like then the 8th ticks the box, it has to be almost a 90-degree dogleg left. Here you have two choices, either go over the trees and take the corner on, or hit an iron into the knuckle. So for the purpose of journalism we decided one of us would take the corner on while the other played it safe. Since my confidence was high after the last hole I decided I would take on the corner, over the trees and over a stream behind them.DSC_0823

I hit another big tee shot over the trees but then lost sight of it, did it carry on over the stream as well? It did and left me with an 8 iron onto the green, but …and there is always ‘a but’! They had obviously thought about people trying this line and have left a great big oak tree which blocks the view to the green so I would have to get distance and height to hit the green, another difficult shot. I did however manage to do this and hit my shot over the tree and on to the green for a birdie chance, but landed a solid par. So taking on the corner will gain you the advantage but you need two good shots. Newby who took the iron option had a clean view of the green but still had a long way to go.

As we turned the corner on to the back 9 Newby’s demeanor improved, why this sudden change of attitude you might ask? Well I think it had something to do with the fact that from this point he parred the next 6 holes, and started to declare how much he loved this course! We are a fickle bunch us golfers. It amazes me how much our mood is affected by how we are playing.

I, like Newby, really enjoyed the back 9 where you will find most of the holes you will remember, and for me that’s the sign of a well-designed golf course. One of the holes though is a real killer; it’s the 15th 369 yard par 4 and it’s called ‘Saddle’. I don’t know why they named it ‘Saddle’ I think a more apt name for it would be ‘Sherpa Hill’ as it’s all uphill which then peaks onto a green which has steep banks protecting its front. It’s one of those holes, that when you put the flag back in the hole you feel like having your picture taken as though you’ve just climbed Everest! Having said that, we both parred it. It now becomes clear why they made you make the climb…the 16th!DSC_0840

This little beauty for us is their signature hole, it’s a cracking par 3, as you stand on the tee you look down onto a green below your feet, if you go to our Facebook page or our website you can see me and Newby tee off and see how we did.

The 18th is a tough finishing hole, it’s a dog leg right and all up hill to a green that slopes back the way you came, in fact while in the club house before we teed off we watched as a golfer ended above the hole, over hit his putt and watched it trickle off the green and back onto the fairway. I also ended above the hole but this knowledge helped me out, I tapped it in with a much more gentle touch, and that’s the point. This is a course you need to play twice, the first time should just be a practice round because you will play so much better the second time around.

This was backed up by what Jane said back in the clubhouse, their members especially the ladies, when they play in a competition at another course mostly win, why? Because this course makes you use every club in your golf bag, each hole throwing up a different challenge.

So how good a golfer do you think you are? Go and find out and measure yourself against the Manor Golf Course. Visitors are made very welcome at The Manor. They are renowned for being one of the most friendly  golf clubs.

Ps. The beef and gravy baguettes are to die for!!DSC_0882

St. Andrews – Old Course

As a golfer there is one course that must be played, a course where golf has been played for over 600 years, a place where golf was invented and refined to the game we all love and know today, a place where legends have one won and lost in spectacular style. This is a destination which golfers from around the world travel to like some sacred pilgrimage and yet this prestigious course is built on common land – a course for the people… The Old Course at St Andrews.

Back in 1123 King David 1st of Scotland granted the Links land to the people of St Andrews and, from that time to this the people of St Andrews have had the right to use the Links for Recreation, with Golf becoming their favoured pastime.

When golf as first played on the Links course is unknown although by 1457 it was well established leading the then King, James II to ban it as it was distracting his men from archery practice. After that both James III and James IV continued the ban until 1502 when James IV got the bug and asked his bow makers to make him a set of clubs and, since that day golf has always been played here. Following the long illustrious history it was now time for yours truly Lefty III, Newby II and John Spencer IV to play this hallowed turf. (King Twoputt was left behind to rule his subjects!).

St Andrews has a modern clubhouse that sits in the middle of the links courses. With comfortable changing rooms featuring a wind gauge display on the wall (a warning of things to come), the clubhouse has a fine restaurant with bar to top up your hip flask and, as you would expect, a store full of St Andrews merchandise.


We received a friendly welcome from the front desk clerk who checked us in and arranged for the stretched buggy to take us to the first Tee. At the starter hut where we received a cordial welcome, our cards and course planner. Realisation now hits you and you stand in awe on the first on the Old Course with the Royal and Ancient clubhouse behind you, where Old Tom Morris, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and Arnold Palmer have all stood, as well as royalty. Enough sentiment from me, let’s get onto the course which is going to be hard as most of you already know every nook and cranny of it from television coverage. The first (Burn) is a par 4,355yards it has one of the widest fairways I have seen but there is OOB left and right The line is a small gorse bush at the edge of the Swilcan Burn that winds its way across the fairway in front of the green.

You have a fair chance with your second shot of hitting the green considering it is 45yrds from front to back. You realise very quickly that with a selection of modern clubs in your bag you can hit further than our predecessors 400 years ago and that on the Old Course the game is not won on the fairway but on the greens. So, unless you are two feet from the hole you had better hope that your putting is up to scratch. I can give testament to this fact as I landed on the edge of the green and carded a 6!! I then had to take the 3 putt walk of shame to the next hole.

The 2nd is 395yrd par 4 where you have gorse bushes to the right of the tee. You are best staying left but you must be careful because about 246yrd up the fairway is the Cheape’s bunker. You don’t want to end up here because you would find yourself chipping back on the fairway the same way you came in, forward is not an option.

Avoiding this hazard will leave you a shot onto the green of about 150yrds. Take into account the pronounced diagonal ridge which forms the chief obstacle to the green. On the day we played the pin was on the top half of the ridge. We all managed to stay topside of the flag, but still I 3 putted, this time John had to join me on the walk of shame. The 3 (Cartgate) is 337 par 4, not the longest par 4 in the world but as I’ve said it’s when you get to the green that you need your ‘A’ game. You need to drive over 180 yards otherwise you’re in the wilds I’m afraid. If you tend to scuff your drives you will be punished, the line is over the ‘Principal’s Nose’ not up it. The major hazard on this hole is the Cartgate bunker which eats into the left of the green. The further left the drive the more it comes into play on the approach, avoid this at all cost it’s a real monster of a bunker if you are unfortunate and end up in it. I can only advise that you watch the youtube video posted by European Ryder Cup Captain, Paul McGinley on how to get out of the “formidable Cartgate Bunker”.

The green on the 3rd is massive, at one point it’s 50yrd from front to back. It’s a double green being shared with the 12th on the way back in. This time I got closer to the flag and managed to two putt. Now I was starting to get a feel for the greens. Hole 4 (Ginger Beer) should be called ‘over bunkers’. This par 4, 411yards is all about placement and a bit of luck. The fairway is scattered with pot bunkers, some you can see and others are sneakily hiding from you. I found the best solution was to hit a straight drive and hope for the best, I’m not sure that’s the advice you would receive from one of the Caddies but it worked for me. It’s a risky shot just going straight as the fairway narrows to a valley, but it does give you the safest approach shot to the green. If you go the other way to the left, yes there is more fairway to aim at but it leaves you a pig of an approach shot over a large mound covered with gorse bushes dotted with pot bunkers.


I came short of the green but managed to rescue a bogie. John and Newby got solid pars in fact I’m sure Newby would like me to tell you that he was only one over par at this point and that he birdied the 1st . Now I have written that he’s given me my ‘Old Course Sporran’ back. We hit the first par 5 on the course (Hole O’ Cross) it’s 514yrds long. Aim just left of the far-off bunkers (The Spectacles). I think it’s called this because you will need a pair to see them. Beyond is a deep swale before the green, but be aware of the approach as the distance can vary as the green is 100yrds deep!! I landed on the green about 30ft away from the flag for 4, this had ‘Card wrecker’ written all over it, but much to my surprise John, Newby and me got it in two, A bogie, I will take that any day on this hole.

Let’s move onto the 7th High (out) most of you will know this hole because of the famous ‘Shell’ which proudly protects the front of the green. Over the years it has wrecked many cards and dashed the dreams of professional golfers from all around the world –not to mention yours truly Lefty. What makes this difficult is that it cuts into the green which is narrow at this point so you have to get up and down quickly. You are greeted by the face of the bunker which towers in front of you like the great wall of China. How did I do? Well let’s put it this way, I was in the bunker for one and got it in the hole for 6!!

You may have noticed by now that the holes are not the longest in the world, so why do Tiger Woods, Rory and Co struggle when they play in the Open? You soon find out why when you stand on the 8th as now you are hitting into the wind. John who plays off 6 played this par3, 154yrds with a 5 wood and still came short. It’s the same with the 9th a short par 4 at only 289yrds, but my word, when the wind blows it might as well be 50000yrds. You do get a little reprise from the wind on the 10th and 11th as you play with the wind behind you. The 10th is named after the Open Champion of 1927 and Amateur Champion of 1930, Bobby Jones whose relationship with St Andrews has passed into folklore. So, in honour of the great golfer we decided to par it, well John did, Newby and I honoured him with bogies then a wee dram on the green.

11th hole High (In) is a par 3, 164 yards. With the wind behind me I seized my chance to get a par and made it. Just be careful as the green slopes from back to front with Hill and Strath archetypal greenside bunkers waiting for you. The course planner gives a warning if the wind is against you; it says “this demanding par three has been described as the shortest par five in golf in any kind of wind it’s a challenge to find the green”. Just a tip, when you’re on the green take a look around you and take in the view. Moving on to the 13th (Hole O’Cross) par 4, 388yrds we now found ourselves again playing into the wind. According to the locals we were playing in a ‘gentle breeze’ which brings an altogether different hazard. Your drive should avoid the rather ominously named Coffins, a group of bunkers 200 yards from the tee, ‘avoid these at all cost’ as they are called Coffins for a reason. Go in them and you might just keel over and lie down. Fortunately we all missed the ‘Coffins’ which then left a great approach shot onto an immense green. You might hit your second shot and think “I’ve gone short” Or “I’ve over hit it” you have not, trust me your second shot will be on whether you think it is or not!

At this point the clouds has cleared and we had beautiful blue skies overhead, with the low winter sun casting shadows across the course we truly could appreciate the contours of the land, with its bumps and lumps, dips and mounds – and that’s just the greens! Now it’s time to face the 14th (Long) par 5, 523yrds, stroke index 1. It is probably the second most famous bunker on the Old Course ‘ Hell’ it is aptly named and one of the largest on the links. In 1995, Jack Nicklaus landed in it, and it took him three swings to get out. Most people will lay up before the bunker, but I’m not most people so I went for it and, you will be pleased to hear, that I missed ‘Hell’ but ended up in the Kitchen. No, not the one where you put the kettle on for a brew, the lesser known bunker just before ‘hell’. I think it’s called ‘kitchen’ because I threw everything at it including the kitchen sink and still could not get out.

The 15th (Cartgate) is 391 yard par 4. You need to be hitting over 200 yards to reach the fairway so again like most of the holes, no Sally gunnels. The line off the tee is straight at Miss Grainger’s Bosoms, if she is not there then aim at the church steeple…wayhay!! But seriously the line is at Miss Grainger’s Bosoms. This hole has a deceptively deep green and we found it one of the trickiest on the course. I thought I had finished making the 3 putt walk of shame but I had to do it again.

Now I bring you to probably the most iconic holes in the world the 16th, 17th, 18th playing back into the town of St Andrews. The 16th (Corner of the Dyke) par 4, 345yrd is a treacherous tee shot with OOB to the right and the ‘Principal’s nose’ cluster of bunkers protecting the left of the fairway. Hit a straight drive of about 250 yrds and this will take out the cluster and leave you a good approach shot to the green. John rattled the hole for a birdie and Newby and I got our pars, so my advice is let rip on the drive. Walking onto the17th (Road) standing on the tee I realised that I already knew this hole and how to play it as I’ve watched it played that many times while watching the Open waiting to see if anyone would hit the St Andrews hotel spa building that juts out leaving you a blind tee shot over the building and onto the fairway. Which one of us would hit the building? You can go on County Golfers Facebook page to find out. Get over the building and you will get a shot at the green. Caution must be used here as: 1. you have the most famous bunker on the course ‘Road Bunker’ and 2. The green is very narrow with a road behind it that is in play. Just a note about the ‘Road bunker’ or as it’s also known “the Sands of Nakajima,” after Japanese golfer Tommy Nakajima. Nakajima was in contention at the 1978 British Open until he hit into the Road bunker and needed four swings to get out of it, ouch! That’s got to hurt.

I hit a sweet 7 iron onto the green , John was further down than me and shouted “great shot lefty you’re on the green“. With joy and glee in my heart I approached the green only to find John and Newby laughing.“ Where is my ball I asked?” “You need a stop sign” they sniggered. I walked across the green and saw my ball proudly sitting in the middle of the road, which by the way is still in play. There is only one thing you can do in this situation, reach for the hip flask, after a good swig on that I got out my seven Iron and tapped it onto the green and sunk it for a par, Ha!!

The 18th (Tom Morris) a par 4, 361 yards, this hole is iconic. Before you even play this you have seen pictures in the club house of legends of the game shaking hands on the green. It does send a little tickle down your spine, not only that, you get to walk over the Swilcan Bridge, everyone who crosses it stops to have his or her photo taken, even the pros. Who can forget the emotional picture of Jack Nicklaus saying farewell to the crowds while standing on the Swilcan, and Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer to mention a few. After crossing this you get to aim at the famous 18th green, protected by ‘the valley of sin’ where pictures of Ballesteros filled my head. We could argue that the single most memorable moment of his career was his joyous reaction after holing a birdie putt on the 18th green to win the 1984 Open Championship – an image that was to become emblematic of his company. These images keep going through your head until you find yourself on the green. I will warn you that on a sunny day there can be up to 100 people stood watching you sink your putt so make sure you do this hole justice and par or even better birdie it. To sum up, film stars, sport celebrities presidents and prime ministers, people from all walks of life come to play St Andrews Old Course. Playing the Old Course is a privilege, but not just for a select few but open to all lovers of golf. The Old Course remains public land, thus giving all of us a chance to follow in the footsteps of our golfing heroes.

A special thank you to all at St Andrews for letting us play, and a big thank you has to go to Laurie for arranging the trip and for treating me to a pint of heather beer brewed especially for St Andrews Links, “what is it Laurie, Ale or Larger? I still cannot decide!!”


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