County Golfer has for the past couple of years been trying to review Matlock Golf Course, but kept getting told “No, we are not ready for you yet!” In the words of Christian, the Club Pro, “We are on a two year project to return the course back to having a moorland feel about it.”
They have done this by lowering the cut of the whole course from the rough to the greens, and encouraging the moorland heather and the gorse bushes to return. So when we got the call to say that they were ready for us and that the course is the best it’s been for years, the golf bags were in the boot quicker than the boss could say “is it not your day to cover the office?” Matlock Golf Course is positioned on the east side edge of the Peak District; high on the hills looking across the historical Derwent Valley with the Bentley Brook meandering through the course.
Newby and Stav were down to review the course but after Newby retired with his dodgy hips yours truly Lefty was parachuted in to take over. Newby had very kindly got a par for me on the 2nd par 3 before he retired, so it would only be fair if I carried on in the same vein. I got to warm up on the 3rd 479 yard par 5, I watched a couple of members tee off and both of them went up the right of the fairway, and I could see why as the fairway slopes right to left. If you don’t push it up the right far enough your ball will roll down into the rough, both Stav and I followed their lead. Now, if you are a big hitter you could go for the green in two, but as I’m not, I got myself within a wedge of the green which was the right option as I got a par. Well Newby did set the standard.
Standing on the 4th par 3,165yard, both Stav and I were having a right moan, because looking down to the green off the tee you could see that it sloped left to right giving no chance of the ball sticking on the green. “Why make a green like this we said?” Surely you have to give golfers a chance if they play a good shot and not make it so that if you hit the green your ball rolls off! Both Stav and I hit the green, and as you can guess, the balls both rolled off. I was having a right chunter on the way to the green, and then I realised the green is actually flat; it was an optical illusion caused by sloping hills making it look like the green sloped. So actually it was just my bad tee shot; no excuses!
It does take you about 3 holes to get your eye in and get used to the terrain. This is evident especially on the 5th. Christians own words are, “A tough hole that has been the ruin of many a promising score card.” What makes this hole a potential card wrecker is first, you must clear about 150 yards of rough that drops into a deep gully. Clearing this still leaves a long uphill approach. Reaching the green can very easily lead to the ‘3 putt walk of shame’ both Stav and I walked off with a 7! Don’t worry though, that’s only the stroke index 3! Hole 6 is the stroke index 1. You do find that on most of the holes you need a good tee shot to avoid the rough. So if you are starting out in this game, I would suggest you visit their new driving range before you hit the course. The 6th is a good example of what I’m talking about; only a good tee shot will do here. There is a lot of heavy rough off the front of the tee. Then you must navigate from an undulating fairway to a narrow elevated green. If you walk away with a bogey you have played it well.
Now you might at this point be thinking “blinking heck! This course sounds tough.” It’s not if you stay on the fairway; this is a thinkers course. Sometimes the driver is not the right option. This course makes you think hard about how you’re going to play each hole before you tee off. Stav and I had many an in depth conversation , standing on the tee discussing the best way to play and which club to use; it makes you focus on the golf. Don’t get me wrong, you do have some holes you should be parring. The14th is one of these. It’s a short par 4 only 255 yards; it’s a blind tee shot to the green but you can drive it. If you have never had an eagle before then this hole will give you your best chance.
Matlock makes good use of the hills. A good example of this is a cracking par 3, hole 10; you could say it’s their signature hole, certainly a strong contender. You stand on a high, elevated tee with a shot across a ravine of ferns, heather and gorse to a green that’s cut into the hillside with bunkers front right and side left. It’s a cracking hole and if played right will become one of your favourites. I must mention that Stav went off the back of the green but chipped in for a birdie; funnily enough it’s Stavs favourite hole on the course! The back 9 uses the hills well, giving you some cracking views off the tee, especially when the cloud came down leaving whisps of it in the valley.
Overall Matlock Golf Course is somewhere special. The work carried out has vastly improved the playing conditions and it is well on its way to becoming a moorland course that will have you using your full arsenal of clubs. If you have not played Matlcok GC before then I would advise you to get a four ball together, hire a buggy and enjoy this corner of Derbyshire. It will give your golf a fair challenge and leave you wanting to come back to see if you could better your score. Card Wrecker the 5th at 403yards (Sally Gunnell will not help you here). Signature hole 10th par 3 (clouds kissing the hill behind the green, elevated tee looking down on the green, picture perfect). Cracking driving hole 17th par 4 (it’s all down hill from this tee to the green).