There are times in life when you get quite nice surprises. Golf at Bulwell Forest Golf Club was one of those times.
Surprise 1: There are hills in Nottingham!
Surprise 2: I played my best golf for two years.
Surprise 3: Bulwell Forest is a cracking course.
Let me explain the three surprises in detail.
1: Nottinghamshire is not the hilliest county but chugging my way up an incline at Bulwell Forest came as a shock. I suppose in theory it’s not hilly but has inclines.
2: Listening to Rod Savidge, the club Secretary describing the course as ‘tight’, I thought “it’s not the place for a driver I’ll use irons” and that proved true.
3: The course is in fantastic condition, Newby said “the best I’ve played on this year”.
I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting to play this day as Fame was down to be part of Ladies Day but sadly she was nursing 10 stitches in her gum after a tooth extraction (not nice). So one player down and Newby and I were drafted in. Newby then picked up a (slight – aaaaah) football injury the night before, but I was up for this game.
On arriving we were greeted by Andy in the Pro shop, he was standing in for Pro Andrew Willey who was away on the day. Secretary Rod, who is moving on in the golfing industry shortly, bought us a coffee and sat and chatted filling us in on the recent developments, a new professional and Greenkeeper, since our last visit two or three years ago. As with any other industry things change gradually but at Bulwell the change isn’t in the form of course design, it is in improving course quality. Sitting in a tight area of land, adjoining the main road, there isn’t much room for change, but then why change when change isn’t needed. This is one well thought out course, utilising the area well. I suppose the only criticism, if you’re being extremely picky, is the 8th which shares a fairway with the 9th. This should improve though with a bit of tree trimming which was in the process of being organised which may make you adjust your tee shot to get a better approach to the 8th hole.
The course was nice and busy and we slotted in behind a 3 ball. Having a practice on the putting area before tee off I was ready for some good competition between Newby and me.
I’ve always said that it is important to get a good score on the first hole, it sets you up for the rest of the round. At 368 yards off yellows and stroke index 6 it should get the round off to a good start – so I took 9 shots! I was gutted. At my level getting those shots back is almost an impossibility. I really want to get my handicap down from 26. If I can be one over on every hole with the odd doubly bogey I could crack it and that’s what I did on the next 8 holes with a par thrown in on the 7th which pulled a shot back.
As I said at the outset I played really well but my scorecard didn’t reflect it. I now have a favourite club for teeing off with, a 3 iron. I absolutely love this club as not only is it giving me greater accuracy over my wayward driver, it is also giving me nice distance. I was playing golf on the fairways which I know you are supposed to do but then we are not professionals are we, a point which was emphasised as we went round the course and saw people dashing in and out of the gorse bushes (with the odd OUCH thrown in)!
The second is a nice straight 269 yard par 4 and we both made great approaches and carded bogeys. After two holes we were starting to appreciate the quality of the greens, they’re straight and true. Just pick your line and the ball does exactly what you ask. I got a bit too confident at one stage and put the ball past a bit too far. A couple of twenty footers went straight into the hole, one of them from off the green, such was the accuracy of the greens. The 5th I read badly and my ball slid alarmingly off to the left
Hole 3 needs a very careful shot onto the green, go too far and it will bite you in the bum as your ball scuttles off the back into treacherous rough, something which will get you on the short par 3 7th. We were enjoying a gloriously hot June day and water was required constantly.
I was hitting straight and true now, the three iron off the tee and 4 and 5 iron off the fairways was proving a success. I was enjoying my best golf for two years. Pars were hard to come by though and 5’s were too often appearing on the scorecard even though I was really playing well. It’s always that wasted shot that gets me.
As we hit the 9th Newby was fighting the previous nights football injury but I was really up for a big finish until the 9th bit me. I was straight at it and expected to get to the green but scuffed my second making it a difficult approach between the two nastily placed bunkers. I missed those but over-hit my shot sending it off the back of the green. A very poor chip left me with 5 shots already played, a big putt was needed and the true greens made it easy as I sunk a belter.
Looking up the 10th fairway I repeated “miss the trees on the left, miss the trees on the left” and put my ball straight into them! Brilliant. Where my ball was positioned Newby said, “you could play out safely but then again just hit and hope it goes through.” That’s easy to say! Tiger would have spent 5 minutes weighing up the pro’s and con’s. I took thirty seconds and did a ‘hit and hope’ shot which missed every tree and landed on the fairway beautifully giving me a great approach to the green. I didn’t hit it well and ended with a 6.
On the 11th I lost my only ball of the day, quite an achievement for my first time round this tight course. My ball went screaming left off the tee into the rough and was never seen again. Catching up on this hole was impossible and I carded an 8. Then followed a rich vein of Pars even on the 14th with a great tee shot leaving me to chip to within 20 inches of the hole. The 365 yard Par 4 15th was a piece of cake(!). Two straight long irons, a chip and a putt and a Par. This game’s easy! At this point Newby, who could hardly walk, had stopped playing golf and took on the photographers role, so we headed for the clubhouse. I’m sure I could have got more Pars, but then you never know.
As we came off the course Peter Hindle the Vice Captain came and chatted to us. He was very enthusiastic about the changes and development at Bulwell Forest. From being Council owned 12 years ago the course has taken massive leaps forward.
Once in the clubhouse Debbie took our food and drink order and we sat musing over the days golf and had some friendly banter with the members. The food served here is brilliant. Hot beef cob and real chips with gravy all for £3.95 who can complain? It’s a pity that nowadays clubhouses aren’t supported more than they are. People seem to play golf and go home. Get in the clubhouse, enjoy the camaraderie and great food . It makes the day complete.
The members here have got it made all ways up with the progressive mindset of the pro and Greenkeeper.
I admit to judging Bulwell Forest Golf Club before I played it purely on driving past and thinking of it as a small course by the main road. How wrong could I have been. The best thing is there’s room for more members and the price is very attractive. Societies and parties are welcome. We would recommend you try it.
Our thanks to all for making us most welcome. We had a great day.
Garry and Newby (Alistair).