Back in 1911 Renishaw Hall owner Sir George Sitwell decided that he would create a golf course on his estate. His plan; 9 holes played within the parkland of the hall, and 9 holes running alongside the River Roth. The 16th century hostelry would be converted into a clubhouse and later extended with the addition of a new wing. Wind the clocks forward to today and the well-established course and beautifully characteristic clubhouse have really come into their own and stand out as one of the areas classic courses. The member’s certainly have a lot to thank Sir Richard Sitwell for.
It’s not always been easy sailing for the club though, in recent years they’ve had a lot to contend with. In fact the last time County Golfer visited the club it was starting to recover from a major flood, that had left the whole of the back 9 under water. Now though, fully recovered, myself and Lefty would be playing Renishaw at its best and with the sun shining on us, we set out on the perilous navigation across the A6135 (you have to be quick and have nerves of steel!) with Spence in tow, to see what Renishaw had to offer.
The old cliché of a game of two halves is never more relevant than here, the front 9 is hilly and tight, a driver requires real accuracy (not my current strength), especially this time of year too. As with most courses in the autumn, if you land in the trees there’s a blanket of leaves on the ground waiting to conceal your ball. Irons were definitely the order of the day, for the opening 9 at least.
The opening hole has been used for the front cover of the clubs officially brochure, and it is easy to see why. It feels as though it’s the only golf hole for miles around, with mature trees to either side and below the elevated tee. “I could drive this” was my initial thought, but club secretary Andy Smith convinced me otherwise, “yes it’s drivable, if you’re very accurate with your drive, if you miss the fairway though you are in trouble”, simply put, he was right. An iron down the fairway and a simple chip onto the green for a par/birdie builds your confidence nicely.
Being a fair weather golfer; when the sky is a brilliant deep blue, I’m down to a t-shirt and playing a course as mature and beautiful as Renishaw, then I’m in my element. The gold autumnal trees only add to the picturesque nature of the course. I love to see big mature trees on the golf course, though I’d rather it be from a reasonable distance, close up is not so good, which is where I kept finding myself. The greens staff have done a fantastic job of maintaining the course, so when you’re off line it makes your life tough, but not impossible. A yard off the fairway and you’ll be fine, then if you are under a tree you can still find your ball with ease, and it will still be playable. No one likes missing the fairway by two yards and never seeing their ball again, it takes the fun out of the game for anyone that’s not playing scratch. It’s a fine balance that’s needed and I think Renishaw have hit it perfectly, it’s an example of how rough should be.
The 9th hole is the course’s signature hole, and it’s a sight to behold, as with the majority of the front my driver stayed firmly in my bag, even though it was a straight 304 yard up hill par 4. You just can’t afford to be left or right, or even short for that matter. Left and you’ll vanish into infinity with a 0% chance of finding your ball. Right is a little better, it’s a big wooded area that’s virtually unplayable. The only thing to do is to land on the right hand side of a narrow fairway that slopes to the left. Now I’m fully aware that my description of this hole makes it sound like torture to play, but it’s really not. It’s an absolute cracker, you just have to wind down the power and hit 2 accurate iron shots. It’s a beautiful challenge! (Unless you get it wrong of course, in which case it might be a nightmare!).
One final comment on the back 9, there is a vicious rumour that there are no bunkers on the front 9, this is not correct! Spence will vouch for the fact that there are at least 3, and that’s how many he ended up in!
The back 9 couldn’t be any different if it tried, the front 9 is open and has 6 par 4s and 3 par 3s, where as the back 9 is open and has 4 par 5s. This makes it a good all round test of your game.
For me one of the outstanding features of the course are the greens, they are immaculate, smooth, true and fast, the sort of conditions that you’d expect to find on tour courses. They’re an absolute pleasure to putt on, and with very little variation between each green, once you’ve tuned in to them, you can really putt with confidence.
Once back in the 16th century clubhouse, reflecting on our round, we we’re caught up in the banter of the members that had just finished playing a fiddle. The camaraderie and the atmosphere amongst the members really goes to show why they have such a strong membership.
All in all, it’s a great all round course, great challenge of golf, great clubhouse and great members. Give it a visit; you’ll be glad you did.