You’ll notice something about all promotional images of golf courses, they all contain three key elements; 1. A beautiful green golf course, 2. A bright blue sky, 3. Blazing sunshine. There’s a reason for that, and it’s because golf is a game to be played in the sunshine. Yes I’m aware golf originates from Scotland, a country which has its fair share of overcast days and rain, but as a golfer I can tell you that golf in the sunshine is 100 times better than in the pouring rain.
One week on from our journey down to Kent where, after being battered by the rain and wind, and at one point having to leave the golf course due to hail stones, it was with a huge smile on my face that I set out to play Sherwood Forest Golf Course. One of the reasons I’m smiling is because I played Sherwood a few years ago and remembered what a fantastic challenge it was, and the beautiful condition it was in. Secondly, it was the blue sky and blazing sunshine, definitely the best day of the year so far.
I’d sent my understudy Lefty off to play at Trent Lock Golf course (cheeky beggar! Lefty) so my playing partner was Nathan, a friend who I’ve played with a couple of times before and who plays off the same handicap as me, so we were looking forward to the challenge. With a beautiful day, an outstanding course and a great challenge ahead, we set out to play this very well respected golf course.
On reaching the course we met Stuart Betteridge in the pro shop, who was in the middle of taking lessons at their Performance Centre. Opened in April last year they have the very latest Foresight Sports GC 2 simulator, which the club use to teach and for hi specification club fittings, a rather impressive set up to say the least.
You may recall that last year a mini tornado had hit the course and taken down a number of trees damaging many more. What we didn’t appreciate was quite how many trees it had affected, a reserved estimate puts this figure at over 2,200 trees! What was the impact on the course? We were intrigued to see. They had long term plans to take the trees out, which was suddenly accelerated due to the incident.
They are also now working on plans to install a driving range to add to their practice range. It’s certainly a exciting time for members as the club seems to be driving forward all areas of its facilities. Already one of the outstanding courses in the area, they certainly aren’t resting on their laurels.
Standing on the first tee you instantly get sight of what the course is all about. The 1st fairway rises majestically in front of you, but over to the right you can also see the 3rdand 4th tee, the 5th teeing apron and the 18th fairway and green. A glorious spectacle on a glorious spring day.
We had deliberately waited until after 11 o’clock to tee off, the overnight rain meant that a few of the holes were playing on temporary greens. No one likes a temporary green, but it’s these decisions, carefully made by green keepers that keep courses like these at the high standard we have come to expect. And we wanted to play this course at its very best.
The first is a steady par 4, 315 yards uphill with a fairly forgiving fairway, bunkers 250 yards up the fairway pose a hazard for a big hitter, but for the mid to high handicap it’s a rather safe forgiving hole. That is of course, if you’re playing the time of year we were. The heather has been cut right back, so missing the fairway you’ve a tricky second shot, but we found with an average lye, you could still hit a decent 6 iron back down the fairway. A luxury that I’m sure won’t be available if you play in the middle of summer when the heather is in full bloom. Your ball is going to take some finding let alone hitting! In fact for a mid to high handicap player this could add numerous shots to your round. Accuracy off the tee becomes more and more important as the heather grows.
When the heather is in full bloom though, the course looks absolutely stunning; it’s a sight to behold! After not playing through the winter most people would expect to have forgotten some of their technique, not me, I had clearly forgotten all my bad habits, which was a massive surprise and bonus! I hit the ground running with a par on the first, despite just missing the fairway from the tee.
The 3rd is an outstanding hole, a blind tee shot over the brow with bunkers that at 230 yards catch anything that’s big. Myself and Nathan split the way, I went left just missing the bunker, leaving myself a tricky shot in, however this soft and beautiful green meant you could really attack the pin with your approach, 2 pars in the opening 3 holes, a better than expected start! Nathan however was matching me shot for shot. A tight game was definitely on the cards.
The 5th is the first par 5, a rising fairway in front of you and measuring 500yards it yells out to be hit. But beware, the clubhouse behind you will no doubt be full of onlookers, get it wrong and you can virtually hear the sniggers behind you. With carefully placed bunkers at 260 yards from the tee and 90 yards from the green, it’s not without its dangers, but again with forgiving rough you can still give it a good hit without the worry of an unplayable next shot.
The 8th is another par 5, this time with the added challenge of needing a big carry over the heather to reach the fairway, it’s not that you can’t carry it, but it plays on your mind like playing over water. Once over that hurdle, your approach needs to be well placed as again very well placed bunkers guard the green. The 14th is my favorite hole on the course, a 410yard par 4 with a dogleg left. There’s a large bunker on the inside of the corner, the aim is to go over if you hit big (very big!) or miss just to the right if not. Or, like me, you could just be plain lucky and skirt the left side of the bunker and finish with a nicely laid up 2nd shot. A decent 3 or 5 wood is still needed to carry the final bunker into the green.
As the course dried out over the first 5 holes it gradually became quicker, but they were so true and consistent that putting became a joy. In the summer I could see them being as quick as anything around.
We won’t discuss the 17th, all I can remember is that it was good bunker practice for me! Clearly an area I need to work on. I’ll also not mention Nathan bottling his final putt on the 18th that would have drawn the game !! A draw would have been a fairer result as the scores had see-sawed the whole round, but who was I to pass up a claim for victory, Nathan will get many victories of his own over the summer.
Sherwood started the day as one of my favorite courses, and only managed to cement its place there. Every aspect is right from the top draw, from the course to the pro shop to the chips after! Bring on the summer and bring on the heather!!