When news comes into the office that Horsley Lodge would like a course report, a fight for the right to play usually unfolds, why? Because it’s a great golfing experience from the club house (full English Breakfast) to the course.
Newby and myself won the fight (the usual putt off in the office) to go down and write the course report, we were met in the club house by Richard Salt, one ½ of the Salt team the other being his brother Malcolm.
Richard took us on a little tour of the hotel to show us the investment that has been made especially on the wedding side of things, which I must say is very impressive. With a large function room with its own bar and an outside atrium, they employed an interior designer so as you can imagine everything looks pleasing to the eye. I must admit I got a bit worried when Richard invited us into the ladies bathroom but this was to show us that no expense has been spared, it was fitted with gilded mirrors and a deep plush tartan carpet . It must have looked a bit strange when 3 blokes walked back out but fortunately for us no one saw us and no one knows!!
Horsley Lodge is a club that is constantly developing, the work that has been going on over the winter on the course, come summer, will push it forward again, for example a new pond and ladies tee have been constructed on the 6th which comes into play (but not according to Newby! More on that later). The soil that was dug out for the pond has been used to build new medal tees on the 2nd making it 25yrds longer. They have reshaped the 2nd green, levelled the 4, 7 and 13 tees, the 3rd green has been reshaped. One of the biggest changes you will see is on the 15th where the water is now diverted around the front of the green creating a island green with the trees at the back of the green being removed.
So now we know the changes, let’s get onto the course. The 1st is a par 5 459yrds long, a good drive will give you chance of a birdie if not a solid par, just make sure you aim at the church spire from the tee. My driving has managed to sort its self out over the winter, my slice had gone and I was diving long and straight but it’s amazing what 2 months of not picking up a club can do! This did however cause a bit of an upset as my ball thumped on the fairway just as one or two seniors had taken their second shot, but it did help move them along.
On the second, a par4 308 yards you can see the green in the distance below you again as it’s not the longest par 4, a good drive should get you within a 7 or 8 iron of the green where you can see the work they have put in over the winter with its new shape.
Finally the 3rd a par 3 147 uphill shot was the scene of my first par, for me it was a well struck 6 iron, this hole always plays further than you think and both Newby and myself hit the green. I should have birdie the hole but rattled the rim instead. Newby had a more difficult putt as the green is two tiered and he ended up on the top putting down to the hole and unfortunately for him ended up with a 4.
As you stand on the 4th you cannot help to be impressed, the hole on the day we played looked enticing as the sun was shining on the green and I was full of confidence as I stepped up to the tee and hit a beauty down the fairway, you know the kind of shot where you can stand and watch it as it sails majestically through the air! Well that’s what happened in my head, the reality is that it sailed majestically across the floor skipping up and down the fairway. Fortunately as the fairway slopes away from you it did go quite far, but it left me with a dilemma as there’s a dyke that cuts across the fairway that was now in play. As you know by now, I think I’m a better golfer than I am so I went for it, I got the distance right but just not in the direction of the green, a double bogey ensued.
Let’s move onto the 6th; this is the hole where they have introduced a large pond (fountain to follow later in the year) in front of the tee, I said to Newby “this looks a bit daunting” but he said “no, it’s not in play, you will go straight over that” As I teed off for the 3rd time I wanted to disagree with him.
Newby was playing good golf, his hit just landed another par on the 6th and he was letting me know how well he was playing! But the 7th a par 412 downhill hole was the scene of my comeback. My tee shot went straight and long but it was my second shot that I was more happy about, it was a blind shot to the green and I struck a solid 6 iron and watched as my ball disappeared off the brow of the fairway. As we approached the green we could see something white about 6 feet from the green, Newby was adamant that it was a goose feather shining in the sun, but he had to eat his words as it was my ball in fact, pitched about a foot from the hole. If only I could learn to put spin on the ball, never mind I’ll get Fame Tate to teach me for next time.
Newby was not impressed and wanted to seek revenge on the next hole the 8th a par 4 291yrds. Now you might think 291 yard par 4, easy! Well you’re wrong the tee has been move back as far as the course allows with a rather large brook running all the way down the left side of the fairways making the landing area very narrow. The green is cut back as close as possible to the water making the approach shot a hairy experience.
As usual after playing two great shots I went back to scuffing my tee shot, but it was in the direction of the fairway. Newby on the other hand hit the water twice almost followed by his driver. We both made a real pig’s ear of this hole, but it gave me an opportunity to see how well the banks are cut, in fact the condition of the complete course was excellent. What sets a great course apart from a good course is the detail ie. how well the paths are maintained, the tidiness of the bunkers, how well the grass is cut around the water hazards and the bridges that go over them, and I really cannot fault Horsley Lodge on this.
You follow this hole with a cracking par 3 shooting over a dyke toward the club house where on a sunny day you could have 30-40 people watching you tee off. I always thought this would make an excellent finishing hole. (hint, hint, nudge, nudge, Richard!)
You now cross the road to reach the 10th where it’s worth pointing out that they have a stone built half-way house selling coffee, sausage rolls etc. But one thing we did know was that you need something called money to buy these things, where did all that loose change go in my golf bag? Oh I remember ,“Gleneagles” sausage roll and coffee £13!!
You now sweep up to the furthest points of Horsley, the highlight being a great little par 313 yards where the front of the green is protected by water. I missed the green and water but a nice little chip shot rescued a par, this was followed by the 13th, a straight with an elevated tee and the option of going for the corner on this dog leg left or playing it safe and driving over a diagonal wall into the knuckle of the fairway. One thing we did notice on this hole was that a lot of trees have been removed making the hole better looking in my opinion . I hit my best drive of the day taking on the corner and getting over it, even Newby said “good drive”. We were by this point looking at each other and saying “this is why we play golf” we had picked the best day of the year so far and Horsley was complementing it.
The next hole to grab your attention is the par 3 165yrd long 16, a ‘front cover’ shot hole. If you could you would hit a few off the tee just because it’s such a pleasure to play. All this is soon hit out of you when you play probably one of the toughest par 4s in Derbyshire, at 417 yards long. To try and hit the green in two for us mere mortals could be suicide, most people would adopt a 3 stroke strategy, the green is almost an island with water protecting the front of the green. I would say this is their signature hole, whichever way you choose to play it you will enjoy it.
After you have been humbled by the 17th you find yourself up against a tough drive off the 18th tee where you have to negotiate trees and get over water. Even for the big hitters there are some bunkers to catch you out, if you manage to negotiate this off the tee you have a ridged fairway so you could end up with the ball below or above your feet. Looking at the green you think – hit it too hard and you’ll go over it and onto the road behind, but trust me you will not, the green is plenty big enough to go for and the club house in the back ground is a welcomed sight. With the sun on our backs we both agreed that Horsley Lodge has everything for the modern golfer, the course has been recently ranked No1 course to play on Golfshakes website and out of a survey among Midland golf professionals it currently ranks 3rd behind Cavendish and Kedleston as one of Derbyshire’s best courses. In my opinion though the way they keep improving they could soon climb higher.
We would like to thank the Salts and all at Horsley for making our visit a pleasant one Lefty