The Moorland course at Breadsall Priory was designed by architect Donald Steele back in 1991 and is viewed by many as the Priory’s little brother course. However, to the members this has always been the course of choice.
Why so? Well, there’s no doubt that visually the Priory is an outstanding golf course and a photographers dream, with its big green rolling fairways, huge undulations, beautiful water features and mature trees, it really does look spectacular. However, in the words of the Moorland creator, Donald Steele;
“Making courses impossible is easy. Spectacular holes undoubtedly lift any course but enjoyment is the watchword and golfers find little enjoyment in losing balls attempting long carries over water or in knee high rough. Too much modern architecture is the slave to colour, irrigation, power and the lob wedge” In short then, how spectacular a golf course looks comes second to how it actually plays. And that is where the Moorland course wins with its members.
We had chosen the best day of the year so far, blazing sunshine and blue skies met us on our arrival. As this was our first round of the year, we were keen to see if we had lost any of our sharpness from the previous year.
Test number one; we arrived at 10:30 and our tee time was 10:50, could we squeeze in a bacon cob, a Starbucks coffee, get our golf clubs together, our shoes on and be on the tee in time for our tee slot? Absolutely! Last year we had virtually turned this into an art form, so it was nice to know that we hadn’t lost any of our sharpness.
Test number two; actually playing golf!
As I mentioned, we had chosen the most beautifully sunny day, it was perfect for golf. We’d had quite a bit of rain in the previous few days, but as the Moorland course is based on sandstone, the drainage is excellent and keeps it from getting boggy. This is one of the reasons this course gets played a lot more than the Priory, especially during the winter months. With this in mind, I was expecting the course to look a little bit tired and well played. But this simply wasn’t the case. The course looked fresh and well manicured throughout, with the greens in especially good condition.
You start with a short par-3 which in fairness was not all that inspiring, however, when you cross the road to the second hole the course really opens up in front of you and you start to see why it’s held in such high esteem. After a dodgy start by myself and Lefty on the first, the ground staff did us a real favour. As they’re currently finishing work on the second tee, this hole had been shortened to about 300 yards. A great opportunity for some pars and a birdie, but at its full 452 yards, it’s a real challenge so early on in the round.
Onto the third fairway; firstly it drops away in front of you, then rises up over a brow, then drops away again, and then rises back up to the green! This makes it look great, however, none of it should really come into play. A good drive on a dry day will leave you on the fringe of the green. I landed just a couple of yards short and the Badger landed just to the right. A simple chip onto the two tiered green should leave you with a steady par.
The 4th tee gives you a great view across this city of Derby. As we stood in our short sleeve shirts and shorts looking at the city we took a minute to appreciate that there are far worse places we could have been on a Monday morning. Maybe this is how all Mondays should start! Myself and the Badger were pretty much trading blows for the first nine holes going out in 6 and 7 over respectively. The wide dry fairways really lending themselves to good drives, it’s amazing the extra carry you get on a dry well cut fairway, and the difference it makes to your approach shot.
The sixth hole is a beautiful little par 3, at just 118 yards it’s only a wedge, but with bunkers either side and rough behind you have to be accurate. The tall trees wrap around the green and frame it beautifully. 3 shots on to the green, three pars, golf can be such a simple game sometimes! One of the big changes we noticed since our last visit was the reduction of the rough, if you miss the fairway you will still find your ball, but your next shot will be a challenge. Again this goes back to the philosophy of Donald Steele, golf is all about enjoyment, not about loosing 10 balls a round. This course punishes you for a slightly wayward drive, but it doesn’t completely destroy you. It’s a great balance .
The back nine follow the flowing, lightly undulating nature of the first nine. It’s a very open course, which means you can see many of the holes from the elevated tees, and on a busy day many golfers too. But lines of trees, bushes and stonewalls keep you on your toes. Venture too far off the fairway and you will be struggling to get to the green with a chance of a respectable score.
The Moorland course isn’t the greatest challenge of golf, it’s nowhere near as challenging as the Priory, but it’s incredibly enjoyable to play, it’s in great condition, you will most likely (but you can’t hold me to this!) make one of your better scores here. I don’t know about you, but I play golf as a hobby, to help me relax, to enjoy myself, and you can’t help but enjoy yourself on the Moorland. In the end I shot my best score for a long time but it wasn’t quite enough to beat the Badger, who beat me by just the single shot….but it was a great tussle throughout. And as for Lefty…… well let’s just say he took some great photos!