When I think of Ashbourne and sport, the first thing I think of is Shrovetide Football, what a sport!! 2 teams consisting of hundreds of players fighting over a ball, running, kicking and many scrums. When someone scores a goal, they’re lifted high up on the shoulder of one of his team mates and carried around to applause! It’s generally chaos!

In complete contrast, up on the hill, high above the village sitting in tranquillity, is Ashbourne Golf Course, where it’s anything but chaos! A place where you’ll see no fighting, running, kicking or scrums, and only rarely will anyone be paraded around on someone’s shoulders (this is usually after a hole-in-one, or a particularly good committee meeting!)

For me, it’s the tranquillity that draws me to a round of golf. Just a couple of good friends, the open fairways and peace and quiet. Away from work, away from the troubles of life! And being a fair-weather player too, our trip to Ashbourne Golf Course on one of the best days of the year so far was something to truly look forward to!

The first thing you notice about the course is the location (Sounds obvious I know!). It sits high up above the village and looks out over some of the best views you’re ever going to see, stretching far out  into the Peak District. On a clear, sunny day it’s truly breath-taking!

The course eases you in gently with the first few holes being pretty flat, a big dogleg left on the first hole is a bit tough to judge if its your first time at Ashbourne. It’s a little bit of a “hit and hope” hole unless you’ve played before.

As you turn onto the 3rd hole the course begins to reveal its true colours. A long par 3, lined with trees and with a big right-to-left sloping fairway, that also falls away down to the smallish green. It’s a tough hole that easily has the potential to ruin your card before you’ve even got going. Sadly there really isn’t a safe way to play the hole, it’s green or bust from the tee!

This hole sets the tone, as you start playing your way up and down the fairways, each hole either rising or falling in front of you. Personally I’m a big fan of courses like this, I get a little bored if the course is flat. The extra challenge at Ashbourne of judging the length of your shot really adds to the challenge of playing there, whether an amateur or professional. Deciding whether a 100 yard shot is sand wedge or an 8 iron depending on if you’re facing the Eiger or the precipice! And this course has those sorts of shots in abundance (although without a buggy I might not be quite as enthusiastic!).

The 6th hole is a great example of this, a 152 yard par 3 steeply up hill, with the green sloping steeply towards you. There’s a big bank at the back of the green to catch anything too big like mine, but two putting from above the hole is a huge challenge. Landing below the hole is ideal, but incredibly tough to do.

The 10th hole may lead you to think “the front 9 were hilly, I’m glad its flattening out now”! Don’t be fooled, the 11th is right back in the vein of the first 9. The fairway slopes down and steeply to the right. Land on the hill on the right and you’re in trouble and go right and it’s out of bounds. The only option is to land on the fairway, but with that sloping strongly to the right, you’re not guaranteed to be safe either.

My favourite hole on the course has to be the 12th. A long iron downhill (no surprise there!) will leave you laying up before a large pond, you flirt with danger as you see how close you dare get. The closer you are the easier the next shot. Then you have another iron over the water, up the hill (again no surprise) onto the green. It’s not the hardest hole to play, but it’s a great challenge and a fantastic hole.

After playing your way through the hills, the last few holes are back on the flat as your work your way back to the club house, with a fantastic closing hole. A dogleg right from the tee leaves the decision as to how greedy you’re going to be. I suppose this depends on your card really, protect your score or go for the big finish. Your second is approaching the green with water and the club house to your left. So a good finish is a must especially on a sunny day when the members are outside enjoying the sun watching you return home.

Without the buggy I reckon I’d have felt as if I’d played in the Shrovetide match, but as it was we had a fantastic round. The green’s rolled beautifully, the fairways were all in fantastic condition. You may not be able to guarantee the weather, but this course will never let you down. On a clear, sunny day, it really is a fantastic place to play.  Newby

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