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!!