Not many courses can boast 9 holes that are situated in the middle of a racecourse but that’s exactly what you get at Southwell GC.
Upon arrival, you will find a modern clubhouse that serves food all day and has a well stocked bar as well as a well stocked professional shop. Chris the club pro gave us a warm welcome and after a quick coffee and a bacon cob we made our way onto the course, which by the way is accessed by walking across the race track. You do have to take your time crossing because those horses can’t half run fast!!
When you get to the first you soon realise that the front 9 are going to be tight and you also soon notice that there are a lot of water hazards that cut across fairways, for example, on the 7th you will find yourself hitting over a large lake onto an almost island green.
The first is quite a nice simple opener to get you warmed up, no real hazards and a well struck iron will get you onto a rather generous green where there is a real chance of a birdie.
The second becomes more challenging as down the right is the race course which is all out of bounds. This marked a first for me, never before have I had to chip over a ‘Steeple Jump’ to get back onto the fairway, however I only had myself to blame as hitting the wide open fairway shouldn’t have been a problem. Lefty seemed to be enjoying himself and got a solid par, in fact he parred the last one as well – something was wrong!
The 4th marks the first par 5 on the course, at over 500 yards it takes some hitting. A pulled drive by both of us found us on a little hill which gave us a great vantage point of the green, however there was still over 200 yards to go and both of us laid up short with a relatively easy chance of a par or birdie.
The sixth hole even though 28 yards longer than the par 5 fifth, is a par 4 stroke index 1. This is an outstanding hole to play as the racetrack runs all the way down the right hand side of the fairway, behind which sits the grandstand.
The seventh is the course’s signature hole and this is first time the water really comes into play. A short 131 yd par 3 which gives no room for error. Water guards the front, left and back of the green making it Southwell’s version of the famous 17th at Sawgrass. The fact that the next tee is right next to the green means that you have an audience, and that adds to the pressure.
The ninth tee shot plays directly over the water again, however a 150 yard carry easily clears this hazard, so it shouldn’t be in play. After finishing the ninth you leave the racetrack part of the golf course. After dodging the horses you find your way onto the tenth, which again is a relatively short par 4 but only 309 yards long but, be aware that the river cuts straight through the fairway 200 yards in front of you, and because of modern day flood defences the banks are built up very high making a further hazard.
We watched the people teeing off before us, laying up short of the River Greet. As you know by now, this is not how we play golf. We imagine we are much better than we really are and decided to drive over the river. Lefty was up first and hit an absolute screamer just at the same time as Chris the pro walked past and he shouted ‘that’s over, you’re on the fairway’. Newby on the other hand drove his tee shot straight at a tree but got a member’s bounce and landed just short of the river. After crossing a beautiful new modern bridge that’s just been built, Lefty found himself needing just a chip onto the green which he duly did and sunk it for a birdie. This is definitely a risk or reward hole. If you get over the river it is definitely a birdie chance.
The course really opens up now – gone are the tight fairways of the front nine, now you feel that you can really let rip with your driver. The eleventh which is a par 4 391 yard hole has a slight dog leg to the left. For Lefty however, he had to be careful as all down the left side of the fairway is the river so a slice shot which is his usual way would find him in the drink. He was very aware of this so over compensated and managed to hit the straightest drive of the day into the trees on the right of the fairway instead.
I left him to find his ball and moved on and didn’t see him again until I stood on the 12th tee. I said ‘where have you been?’ his reply ‘don’t ask’ and judging by the twigs in his hair and the dejected look on his face, I knew that he didn’t find his ball and lost the battle with the trees.
Let’s move onto the 12th – a par 3 131 yards long. You need to try and find the top tier of this challenging par 3, anything short will leave you with an uphill putt. Anything long off the tee and you will find yourself in the neighbouring farmer’s field, who doesn’t take too kindly to you retrieving your ball, as Newby found out. It’s amazing how fast he can run when the farmer’s dog is chasing him.
Weave your way up the tree lined fairway and you’re on the sixteenth. The 4-ball in front of us tee’d off. Now as visitors to this course, we tend to watch the people in front and learn from them how the hole needs to be played, however in this instance we thought they’d miss hit it on to the wrong fairway as we watched them wander off onto what we thought was nothing but rough. How wrong we were? As fairways go this must be the most extreme example of a dog leg in the county! We both cut the corner as much as we dare but still found this to be nowhere near enough as the fairway feels like it’s coming back on itself. We would play this hole very differently next time we have the opportunity.
Card Recker Alert!! Hole seventeen. This is a relatively short par 4 at only 434 yards long – don’t be fooled! The fun awaits you at the raised green with the river Greet right at the back giving you no room for error. By a raised green I mean a 20 ft raised green so the question is ‘can you get your ball onto the green and stop it rolling into the river behind? Or do you lay up short and go for a tap on. Lefty used all his luck on this one. He attacked the green which he hit but the ball rolled and stopped just short of the river, the fun part for me was watching him stand precariously on the edge of the river bank trying to get his ball back to the green without falling into the river. Unfortunately, he didn’t fall into the river and managed his shot.
You finish with a gentle par 3. We did notice a new tee being built which will make this hole a bit more challenging as you’ll have to play over the river Greet, but for now, the tee is the other side of the river so after crossing the bridge, you play this simple par 3.
Overall the course is a great challenge for all level of golfers. The racecourse makes it a real unique experience. It’s refreshing to visit such a forward thinking club that have plans for the future of this great course. It is worth noting that if you’re a junior or a female golfer, Southwell offers some great introductory packages rather than just throwing you into a full 18 hole course. You are integrated gradually which is a great help and far less daunting for newcomers to the game. It’s well worth a word with Chris White, their pro about these options. They also have great raceday packages on offer – check their website for details.