Ramsdale – Something for everyone

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m a fair-weather golfer and I hate playing in the rain or cold. To me golf is a summer game to be played in the heat and in the sunshine! Just as it always seems to be on the TV.  However… having said all that, 90 degrees and not a cloud in the sky has its drawbacks too. But on this stunningly hot day when we visited Ramsdale, they have this rare eventuality (in this country anyway) well covered.

3 weeks into a heatwave and no rain forecast for another few weeks, has been a nightmare for golf courses around the counties. The sprinkler systems have been working overtime to try and feed the greens and tees, but sadly it’s not possible to water all the fairways on a course, so Ramsdale are in the same fight as everyone, a fight against yellow grass!

The front and back nine are like chalk and cheese. The opening holes are pretty flat and easy going, with a good score possible. The 1st and 2nd hole are both par 4s and only a little over 300 yards, so a good start is possible in theory. That is, if you’re able to avoid the very well placed bunkers.

The 1st is a dogleg left, with 2 bunkers on the corners that need a 190 yard carry to clear, or go safe with an iron and you’ll still be looking at a wedge in. Alternatively like me, you could go for an Iron and still land in a bunker!

Local knowledge goes a long way on the 5th hole. Reading the course planner only partially prepares you for the hole, 296 yards and a par 4 that has a virtual 90 degree right turn. Again, the bunkers are very well placed, too right, too left, too short and you’ll probably find one. Spence took an iron to the corner and placed it perfectly, but was quite annoyed that he hadn’t taken it on after seeing the hole from his new perspective. I took on the corner, but didn’t get enough height on it, and clipped the tree. This probably did me a favour as it took enough distance off it to avoid the bunkers! Two pars!

The 6th hole par 3 messes with your mind a little, at 117 yards it’s not the longest but with bunkers, lots of rough and water, it has it all.  It’s a “this should be easy” hole, hit the green first time and it is, miss it and you’ll struggle.

As you finish the relatively flat and meandering front 9 you’re greeted with the sooo welcome site of the halfway house hatch! As much as we were enjoying the course, the beating sun was taking its toll and we were beginning to flag.

Now I’ve seen Spence eagle a par 4 at Royal St George’s, but I’ve never seen as big a smile on his face as when he reappeared from the hatch with two cold lagers in his hand. It took all our effort not to down it in one and go straight back for another. But being ultimate professionals, we kept it to 1, which we took up the hill to the 10th tee to enjoy.

The back nine changes this course completely, you start up high and play along the top of a hill, which gives you some stunning views over Nottinghamshire and back over the front 9. It feels like a completely different course.

The 9th is so open and so inviting to smash as big a drive as possible. A sliced drive and 2 poor iron shots left me in a shockingly bad position and facing an 8 or 9 on my score card for the first time in ages. With a long putt back down the green I was able to rescue a 9. Thank goodness I hadn’t had the second pint! I’d probably have ended up well into double figures. Spence on the other hand played it like a pro, down the fairway, onto the green to putt, the first of 3 straight pars. My suggestion to him, “if you’re handicap is to come down, your beer consumption needs to go up!”

The dry weather has led to harder fairways and more roll on your drives, this is never more evident than on the 12th. A big straight drive down hill will roll and roll. Even a short driver will get 250-300 yards on this hole, and you’ll only need a short iron onto the green to finish.

The hard fairways were really rewarding good straight drives, but they can also create their own challenges. The 13th for example. With a decent drive you’re left with a sloping fairway left to right on to the green. It’s a par 5 so you have 2 efforts. I hit a good 3 wood with my second shot, pitching it to the left of the fairway. I caught it as well as any 3 wood I’ve ever hit. But as soon as it pitched, it bounced right… a lot! A soft fairway would have probably caught it and left me on the right of the fairway, but not today. It rolled and rolled and gathered speed right into the rough. Rescuing a 6 was a huge relief.

The poster hole of the course has to be the 15th, a high elevated tee looking down to a pristine fairway is as enjoyable drive as I’ve played this year. With just a small bunker catching anything short and right, it’s as safe a drive as you’ll find. Catch it just right and you’ll watch it sail high and up to the wide-open fairway.

Another beer, burger, chips and Denmark vs France on the TV was the perfect end to the round. Ramsdale is a great example of a modern golf course. It has a good 18 hole course, an additional 18 hole par 3 course, which is great for young ones, beginners or just those looking to sharpen up their short game. And, for a bit of fun, an 18 hole pirate themed adventure golf course. Add to that a great restaurant, bar and very well stocked golf shop, Ramsdale has all you’ll need for a golfer of any ability.

Erewash Valley – ‘a true members course in tip top condition’

You will find some butterflies but then again you’re more likely to find yourself on the 18th hole named after the original farm (Willow) that this course was built on-in 1905.

The extensive clubhouse incorporates the original Willow Brook Farm and as with many areas of British countryside, over the years was carved up to make way for transportation links with either canal, steam or soon to come – high speed train, road or motorway.  The latter was to befall Erewash Golf Course in 1965 with the construction of the M1 which deprived them of a good few acres. I looked on Google Earth and noticed  that if only the planners had followed the Roman “straight road” policy then the course would have been left untouched, and they would still have a Par 6 hole.  A sweeping curve must have been put in to avoid a house or a frog I presume! Whatever the reason the course still sits in 165 acres of well manicured parkland.

When I arrived the course was buzzing with two competitions. Club Professional Lee Sheldon set me up with cards, and off into the clubhouse I went for a coffee, where I bumped into 92 year old Syd Meehan the club’s oldest member, having his breakfast. He still plays a few holes himself  and has been a member for fifty two years.

Manager Malcolm Dinneen joined me and filled me in on the latest developments at Erewash Golf Club.  At this point my playing partner Brian arrived and joined our discussion along with Club Chairman Paul Thomas. Paul explained that  “work is now well underway to provide a new covered driving range”.  The earth movers could be seen in the distance making great progress, putting 17 acres of land  near to the clubhouse to good use and providing useful income for the club. Let’s be fair, to keep a course as well manicured as Erewash, money is required.  I would imagine that the members are delighted with this other ‘string to their bow’. Now members and visitors alike have the opportunity to get in plenty of practice before they play, or to spend a good few hours honing their skills.  “The range is expected to open in late summer 2019” Paul continued “and will enhance the already fantastic facilities for members and the surrounding community.  We will be running a variety of programmes for all ages and abilities to attract more people to the healthy and sociable sport of golf”.

Brian, my playing partner commented how easy the course was to find and that it looked in beautiful condition. I agreed wholeheartedly.  Before I get onto the golf I must say how huge the clubhouse is. Over the years it has been extended to provide one of the largest and most up to date facilities in the area which now caters for fine dining, parties of all kinds as well as corporate entertainment and business seminars.  These facilities are not just for members but available to the general public.  A visit to www.erewashvalley.co.uk will give you the whole story and packages available.

Malc explained that “the thing people remember most about the golf course is the quarry holes and the manicured condition of the course”. So what can I write about? Well this course has more to offer than that because once out there you come to appreciate how well laid out it is and, whilst not being the longest course around it has features that will test all standards of golfer.  The other fact to mention is that, on a selfish note,  this round of golf was the most successful I’ve had for the past five years. I was beginning to feel that, after a spate of illness and struggling to get my swing sorted, my good golfing days were over.  As usual my putting was good and, as I’d been concentrating on chipping, that came good too. So why didn’t I challenge the course record?  It’s a mystery to me! I’ll explain.

This was the hottest day of year so far and I was smothered in sun cream to make me slip round the course with ease.  No excuse there then. Malc suggested playing off the green tees followed up by ,“Please don’t use the whites there’ll be uproar”. Funnily enough I wasn’t even dreaming of playing off the whites so all blushes saved there!!

The first two holes are lovely, straight Par 5’s, Stroke index 2 and 16 respectively. I played better on the stroke index 2 for some reason, but we both double bogeyed them. Nerves I think! Two shots dropped each there as I veered off wildly to the right with my driver, but I was relieved to miss the water fountain on the 2nd.  I loved the ‘bit of old England’ furrows on the third hole and hit a reasonable tee shot but went under the trees.  There are a fair few trees on the course to catch you napping and on the first 12 holes I seemed to have to be rescuing myself out of them albeit successfully.

Arriving at the famous quarry holes 4 & 5 we parked our buggy up and just stood to admire the way this area of land, that provided plenty of stone for the Victorians to use, has been utilised to maximum degree. I hit a beauty off the tee and, with better accuracy would have birdied it, but I was happy to come away with a par. The same went for the 5th as I hit the immaculate bunker and played out to within three foot of the hole and got a par.  Very happy now.

We crossed the 15th fairway to  the elevated tee at the Par 5, 6th.  I was gratified to see my ball ping off a tree and out onto the fairway to land just in front of the bunker.  Four shots later and my par was secured. “How was Brian doing” I hear you ask? Brain is a steadier golfer than me and far better off the tee and fairway, but I generally edge it on the green, today I seemed to be getting fairway and chipping going well. On one hole the ball sat up so well I used a three iron off the fairway and creamed it. I was hopeful of beating him for the first time in years. Mind you we do enjoying playing for the company it brings as we have loads to talk about.  A par at the 6th and I was in dreamland.

Hole 7 and I came to earth with a bang and lost control of my driving. I’m still having problems with my driver and I will tell you now that  since I got home it’s in a corner and never coming out of the bag again. Here again I hit a tree, who put them there I wonder? Inaccuracy was costing me shots and there should have been birdies in at least two holes.

We arrived at the 8th and faced an uphill shot to the green and a bogey each. The well manicured greens were playing beautifully and this suited my game. We were moving along at a nice pace playing golf, taking pictures and writing  but a two ball was catching us up so we allowed them through.

On the 12th hole which doglegs to the right, Brian hit a lovely shot which landed nicely on the 11th tee! Here we got a chance to talk to the lads from Happy Shankers doing 72 holes in a day in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. One of the lads quipped to Brian  “If you don’t get the ball onto the 12th green from here it’ll cost you a tenner”, he didn’t I hasten to add.  If you wish to help the lads, each of whom have been affected by cancer, either the loss of a family member, or seeing close friends heartbroken by the disease, just go to justgiving.com and then Happy Shankers and donate to their great cause.

We didn’t hold them up long as they were on their third round but  I do regret not getting a better picture of them. (Sorry guys, but I hope the plug helps).

The 14th confused me as the undulations to the right kept catching my eye and the stripes of the mower caused me to line up wrong! Well that’s my excuse and I managed to put my ball on the path to the left of the green.  A simple chip on was needed, but totally out of context for my round up to now, I chipped into the bunker then onto the green and walked away with a 5. Useless.

Downhill through the trees at the dogleg left 15th, I must declare that I was tiring and hit a lazy shot that only got down to the trees on the right, but then I managed a good shot out and bogeyed this hole. The straight 16th again proved that using an iron instead of a big driver was making a better game of it and cutting down on wayward shots. I messed up on the 17th by going out of bounds, so Brian won that one! Playing over the water at the 18th I hit it a lot further than I thought and ended up over the small path with a chip back on for another bogey. Brian went swimming! My hole.

Shaking hands we both agreed,  ‘fantastic course, pristine condition, a true members course in tip top condition with hardly any rough but plenty of trees to catch you out.

Stopping for a beer,  lasagne and salad, we soaked up the atmosphere of a 113 year old club.  Yes I did go down to Willow farm, and I did see a butterfly on the fairway,  all I’m hoping now is that when I get home  “Supper’s Ready” !

My thanks to all at Erewash Valley Golf Club for a great welcome and a fantastic course to play golf on managed by Course Manager, Darren Edwards. I will remember it as the day my golf finally came together.

Radcliffe On Trent – The Rain Finally Stops

When the invite came from Karl Adams to play at Radcliffe on Trent Golf Club we quickly packed our bags. If, like us, you’ve been heartily sick of the rain then you can bet your life the golf clubs are too. They have had a tough time with closures for waterlogging but, on the upside, the sun has started to shine, albeit haphazardly, and summer is beckoning, (or so we thought).

Entering the Pro Sop we had a warm welcome from Claire who has been at the club for 15 years now. We were kitted out with scorecards, water and the customary chocolate bar to replenish lost energy.  The sky was looking ominously dark as we eagerly set off.

All three of us  got off well at the first  with high hopes of beating the Bulwell Forest  scores. As I didn’t play there I was on a winner, anything under 100 and the honours were mine.

Lefty took the Tiger line over the trees and declared that  “he had deliberately left it short of the ditch”. He’s full of rubbish like that.  I say that with confidence because he lost his ball on the next shot.  Then I looked for the camera to take a photograph and realized I’d left it on the floor outside the clubhouse, so off Lefty drove at speed to get it.

As there was a two ball waiting to tee off after us we did the gentlemanly thing and let them through. That lull should have allowed us time to take a breather and capitalize on our good drives.  I did get to walk over the bridge though and was happy to see my ball on the fairway.

My second shot was not long enough as I under clubbed leaving me short and having to decide which club to use to get onto the green. I needn’t have bothered because again I fell short.

I’ve realized, the more I think about the shot the worse I hit the ball. But I was pleased to come off with a 5. Newby went off to the left and into the trees and then had to get back to the green and came off with a six. Three perfectly achievable pars ruined. That’s golf for you.

The second hole affords a gently sloping downhill shot. We all felt that the bunkers were incredibly well placed to catch the mid handicapper. It’s a dog-leg right. Watch out for the right bunker as it’s a  beast to get out of. I thankfully landed my third shot short and managed to chip within three yards of the hole. I needed a miracle to avoid a 6 but I didn’t get one. Two putts and I came off with a six.  The greens were playing magnificently and  pretty quick. It’s a struggle to get used to them after a winter of soggy greens. Your game has to change.

On the Third, a dog-leg right, Lefty parred it. A great tee shot that was long and true just bisected the fairway giving  him a  super approach shot  to the green with a 9 iron, and two putts saw him dancing with joy. He should have birdied this one after such a good start.

The 4th. This is a long par 4 at 437 yards and Newby got the second of his three pars.  At stroke index 3 this is a tough hole and I scraped a five, which was hugely disappointing . I’d read up on the holes on the web site and it said this about this long par 4,  “Don’t go left, trees await” I should have listened!

The  5th hole. I really don’t want to write about this one. I’m sure it’s a good hole. Aren’t the trees nice at this time of year?

6th. Newby thought he had nailed it but the green narrowed alarmingly and his shot went slightly left which left him a nasty downhill chip from out of the rough. The chip didn’t go as planned and the ball refused to get up to the green in sufficient distance to get another par. Lefty went into the bunker. In fact I’m sure he was the only player to do so which is unusual because we all catch one normally.

By the 7th hole the rain had decided to get a bit heavier and to be honest it spoilt what was a most enjoyable round so far, but we have to bear with that in England, it makes the game even more difficult but hones your skills.

The greens slowed a little at this point but I found that my putting was getting better as I could punch them a little harder to get up close and even into the hole.

Before we played the 8th we were caught up by a couple of  friendly local lads (pictured) who were as wet as us.

The 8th is 192 yard par 3. The bunkers are not as near the green as you think. You need a good 170 yard carry just to get past the middle bunker. I landed a yard short leaving me to pitch onto the green. I scuffed it and ruined my chance of a wet birdie. Newby took a 5 iron and wellied it but only made the front of the green. Lefty went into the left bunker and said he did a 4.  We are convinced that his score converter is rigged similar to the euro against the pound and at the minute his currency is strong against the par.

The 9th. We were quite soaked by now and the shots were not impressive as I ended in the rough on the right and seemed to stay there for the next three shots feeling soaking wet. Just in the distance we could see the clubhouse and a pint of Speckled Hen was calling out to me, so we decided that we would follow the procession to the clubhouse and come back to fight the back nine another day.  The greens really held up well to say that the rain came down pretty heavy and the course was still good underfoot. A real treat to play.

While we were ordering drinks and perusing the menu Phil, complete in cooking gear,  said that the steak pies were good. To prove the point may I direct you to the picture of the magnificent steak pie, presented to us elegantly by Louise, which we devoured along with chips and peas. Our efforts were so appreciated by the members that one came across to congratulated us for finishing it. We were convinced it was a ‘pie for four’ but nevertheless  in true Desparate Dan style and not wanting to appear rude we ate it all.

Phil and Louise really looked after us well in the clubhouse and we appreciated the time they gave us even though they were obviously busy.  Our thanks to all at Radcliffe on Trent GC for a super day.  We intend to come back on a sunny summers day to play the back nine and have another super steak pie.

PS:  Just to clarify things, we were playing off yellows. In fact the yellows are only 174 yards shorter than the white. ‘We should play off whites”  I said, but no one listened. Not that I would play any better, but I like the elongated views of holes.