Chilwell Manor Golf Club

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.


Bulwell Forest

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).


Rufford Park

On the hottest day of the year for nine years Diana Norvock, a Fame Golf Academy member and I headed off to play Rufford Park Golf Course which first opened 21 years ago. Di only started playing golf eight months ago when she signed up for the ladies beginners group coaching sessions at Beauchief Golf Course.

Upon arrival we were kindly greeted by the professionals, James Thompson and John Vaughan who swiftly pointed us in the direction of the driving range, giving us a card for the ball machine. Needless to say we both couldn’t even manage to hit the 40 balls we had each dispensed from the machine as we were literally sweltering in the bays. I can’t believe that I took a cardigan with me in case it got a bit chilly!! The driving range was very nice and only a short walk away from the clubhouse. We loaded up with water and lucozade from the well stocked fridge in the professionals shop and made our way to the first tee resembling a pair of pack horses. We were already thinking that carrying our bags was a bad idea, however it could have been worse….we could have been at home doing housework!

The 1st hole is a 337 yard par 4 off the red tees, with a very inviting tee shot.  There was a copse of trees on the left hand side but other than that, it was a nice open fairway. I decided to take the tiger line over the left hand corner of tress and my ball was never seen again.  Di on the other hand went for the sensible option and was straight down the middle of the fairway. From there, we moved onto the 2nd, 447 yard par 5.  At this point we had an audience which comprised of two gentlemen in a buggy that were following us round so the pressure was on.  We both hit nice drives and were then faced with a few well placed fairway bunkers that we had to negotiate.  Di once again mapped her way nicely down the fairway whereas I went for the green in two and ended up in the left green side bunker.  Short siding myself at this early stage was not a good idea.


The 3rd hole offered another inviting tee shot and was a very pleasant hole to settle the nerves. By the 7th hole we were really starting to get a feel for the course and how to play it. This hole is a lovely 115 yard par 3 where you hit up to an elevated green.  Di finished short on the steep embankment, which is not recommended and I slightly over shot the green. Moving onto the 9th hole, which is SI 1 and 349 yards from the ladies tee. It looked relatively straight forward although it was the tightest hole that we had experienced so far with trees down the right hand side of the fairway.  After Di had found the trees off the tee and then made a great recovery I hit my best drive of the day coming up just short of the green.  Typical of my game, I always seem to do better on the harder holes.  That being said, I did have to negotiate a tricky pitch to a front pin placement on the elevated green.  By this time we were both ready for water, lucozade refills and a toilet stop which was perfect timing as the ninth hole brings you back to the perfectly located clubhouse behind the ninth green.

When we approached the 10th tee we were greeted by the two gentlemen that we encountered on the second tee.  After our pit stop they had slipped in front of us.  They were very gracious and asked us to continue in front of them, however, the well placed bench on the tee was a welcome break for our legs and a timely opportunity to rehydrate and contemplate our drives. The 10th hole is very picturesque with a pond down the right hand side of the fairway.  If you go to the County Golfer Facebook page you will see my drive off the tee which I was very pleased with.  I got a 4 and Di got a 5.

On the short par 4, 11th hole (268 yards) Di found herself in the left green side bunker for 3 and made a superb up and down for a 5.  By this point we were both feeling a little peckish, so thank you Simon Norvock for the flapjacks, they were delicious!

The 13th hole is the second and last of the par 5’s on the course and in comparison to the previous holes, it was a bit of a monster.  I hit driver, 3 wood and still had a short pitch into the green.  However, there is no trouble at all from the tee so with a lovely wide open fairway, which is somewhat comforting, you can really open your shoulders. The par 3 15th was one of Di’s favourite holes. It was playing slightly downwind with a central pin placement. Missing the green pin high to the right hand side, Di made a fantastic up and down for par. My ball had just rolled through to green but I was pleased with my up and down. The 17th hole is the signature hole on the golf course, a par 3 at 137 yards. You stand on a very elevated tee box looking to a beautiful green which is surrounded by water to the front and right hand side.  Before Di had teed off she expressed how she wanted to hit her ball into the water to see and hear the sound of the ball “splash” as she had never experienced this before…..I wish I could say the same!!!! While Di did what she intended to do, I hit a 9 iron onto the middle of the green and had two putts for par. The 18th provided a lovely way to finish, with only a short walk back to the welcoming clubhouse.

In summary, Rufford Park is a lovely course which was in very good condition, providing great views of Rufford Lakes and Abbey.  The staff were very warm and welcoming and the members  extremely friendly. Off the red tees it is a course which would suit ladies of any ability, even beginners. With the wide fairways and enough hazards, it provides a fair test of golf for any standard of player. It kept Di and I engaged and we had great fun.

Well done to Di for completing her first 18 holes, the first of many and a big thank you to Tony Gath and Mike Sears (the two buggy gentlemen) for the shandies after our round. It was lovely to meet you both. And in case anyone is wondering…..I didn’t need my cardigan!!