Progress! Ahh, that’s a dirty word at some golf courses. I have heard that if you say this word at certain golf clubs you will be led out, tarred and feathered, and will spend your life forever an outcast where the only option is to take up Footgolf!
The thought of having their beloved tree cut down or favourite hole redesigned or green dug up and re-laid is just too much for some members. But let me tell you this, even your Royal St David, the Belfry, Gleneagles and the hallowed turf of St Andrews, dig up, remove, and reshape to keep the course enjoyable to play. Do you think their army of green keepers are there just to mow the fairway!
Fortunately in the Midlands we have golf clubs that are not afraid to progress ! One of these is Chilwell Manor Golf Club.
Over the past 30 years they have dug up all 18 of their greens, and over a period of five years re-laid and re-profiled them, they have also paid for substantial drainage work to make the course playable throughout the winter. But the most drastic change to happen in the past couple of years was that they have employed the services of Golf Course Surveyors who came and surveyed the course, and who’s job it was to assess it with impartial eyes and improve it, thus making it more enjoyable to play. This resulted in a hole by hole plan to remove trees and bushes that should not be on the course. But they have not stopped there, they employed a new head green keeper (Dan Wheatley) who also shared their vision.
So it was that we received a call from the club secretary to come and have a round of golf with him and see the changes for ourselves.
Now I promise you this, that Chilwell Manor Golf Club is one of the friendliest around. They have a nice modern club house with sky sports, good ale on the bar, and serve a good sturdy breakfast which I recommend you try, all at the same time.
The Pro shop is conveniently placed next to the first hole so if you find you’re down to range balls or balls with Kevin written on them, you can now stock up on your Pro V’s (put them on the business card).
The first hole is a good one to get you going, a relatively easy hole, a par 4 315 yards, basically a long drive aimed at the bunker in the centre of the fairway, leaving a short iron to the green. I did notice that on this hole, down the left of the fairway, the trees and bracken used to be quite dense, but now like me if your ball does roll in there, you can find it and hit out of it, you don’t want to be loosing your Pro V on the first hole!!
On the 3rd 413 yard par 4 you see more of the improvements . It’s a dog leg right and you need to be hitting a good drive here, hugging the left of the fairway or as close as you dare. This will give you sight of the green which has a large water hazard on the left, they have really cleaned up the area around the green so you have a better view of it. It’s a stoke index 1 so I was happy to get a par.
The next major change you will see is on the 5th 395 yard par 4 , this hole, dog-legs right across a dyke with the obvious obstacle, a tree in the centre of the gap. I exclaimed “they’ve missed a tree, where is my chainsaw”, but apparently they decided to leave this in for the fun element, to be fair I came nowhere near to hitting it, but it just leaves that bit of doubt in your mind. On the right of the hole the corner of the dog-leg used to have large dense trees, these have been pushed back giving you more sight of the corner, a vast improvement in my book.
The next few holes parallel each other and I noticed that the trees have been cut back to allow the air to flow between the fairways, this keeps them healthy and reduces damp and moss creeping into them. Newby and myself discussed how nice the definition between the rough and fairway was making the course look picture perfect.
The 8th 413 yard par 4 is a relatively straight hole, a big accurate drive is needed as it, like the other parallel fairways, is lined with trees, even if you get a good drive away you have a big second shot onto the green as a dyke cuts in front of it. In true Lefty style I managed to find all the obstacles on the hole, you know me, I love playing behind trees and out of water filled dykes! When I eventually got to the green, I could see it was raised and undulating, I quite enjoyed putting on it.
You now cross over a road to play the next 9, starting with a 156 yard par 3. This hole is my Nemesis, I have never hit the green, I’ve been short, to the left, to the right and even off the back and on the road which runs adjacent to it on the left! So this time I was determined. With a small crowd gathering as they came of the 17th, I teed off. It was sailing toward the flag, which by the way was placed right behind a bunker, it was the tiger line, going straight for the flag onto the top lip of the bunker and it embedded itself in the sand, a 5 followed. It defeated me once again!
Another noticeable change is on the 11th, 344 yard par 4 where there used to be some huge conifer trees on the right of the fairway that seemed to be taking over, well they have gone thank goodness, making this hole look so much better and also the green on the 15th that used to have these lurking at the back. I need to tell you that on the day it was either torrential downpour or 30 degrees sunshine and the waterproofs were on and off all day, then the rain decided to stick around at which point we had to take shelter it was so bad. We decided we would just sit it out and see if all that money spent on drainage had paid off, well I’m pleased to report that I didn’t need to put the wellies on, as soon as the rain had stopped there were no puddles to be seen anywhere even on the greens.
By the time we hit the 18th the sun was shining and the clubhouse was welcoming us home, I was walking with Steve Hoy (Hon House Secretary) and discussing the problems with golf today and what we thought could improve membership. We often get asked our opinion on the matter, the answer is this, make golf accessible to all and enjoyable, have a course that always improves, make it a joy to play, not so difficult that you feel that you would never play again. Offer a clubhouse that has sport on the TV, which serves food and good ale and lager, changing facilities that are new and up to date. The Members need to play their part by being welcoming and using it for their social events.
Chilwell Manor tick all these boxes, this is a club that’s not prepared to stand still, the investment they have made now will keep this club going for another 100 years and I for one can’t wait to come back and play it, I will only be 140 years old.