Month: May 2022

Cavendish Golf Club, Buxton, Derbyshire

It is no surprise to most of you, I am a massive Alister MacKenzie fan, so when I was offered the opportunity to play another of his thought provoking designs, I jumped at the chance.

Buxton is a spa town in the High Peak borough of Derbyshire, England.  It is the highest market town on the edge of the Peak District National park.  Even the drive through beautiful Buxton got us excited as we started to climb up to the golf course.  Buxton is just 45 minutes from Manchester airport, and about 50 mins from Manchester or Sheffield centres making it accessible by car or plane for those wishing to explore this beautiful area.

In 1923 The Duke of Devonshire allocated some land and requested, the now legendary, Alister MacKenzie to design an 18 hole golf course.  Golf history in the making, the Cavendish course took the name of the Duke of Devonshire and still to this day the family retains  some links to the golf club.  Maybe better known in golf history is Cavendish being the inspiration for Augusta National, with amazing similarities.  Cavendish Golf Club was opened in 1925, some eight years before Augusta National.

A coolish start to what turned out to be a sunny day, we tee’d it up with Lady Captain, Rachel.  A relative newcomer to the sport, Rachel was as keen as mustard  and I was not without a little jealousy at her being able to take up such a great sport on such an iconic course in such a beautiful setting.  Although she did try to tell me it wasn’t always sunny there!

Hole one was the pathway to the course, the gradual leading you into the clutches of the MacKenzie lair.  It wasn’t until hole 2 with its tiered green that it curled its lip and bared the teeth as the course to conquer, or just enjoy, as we did.

Not overly long in length  (5721/5162 yards) and true to MacKenzie ethos, Cavendish is more about being able to play the course rather than the length of the ball one can hit – sure enough having a decent drive doesn’t hurt, especially if you can get yourself in to position A.  None more obvious than on hole 11.  Keeping the tee shot centre left is perfect to take on the ravine with the babbling brook beneath a drop off, and to give yourself a shot to the green.  Slightly shorter off the tee and you have the conundrum of deciding whether to lay up or go for the green across the drop off and water course.  A relatively short par 5 (403/366 yards), SI9 can lead to a birdie opportunity.  

I was looking forward to the MacKenzie greens with their, in places, excessive undulations. The 17th is a large green left to right but a tee shot short and a huge uphill awaits you.  Personally I like the excessive slopes on greens, it means I have to read them.  To me its like playing snooker.   When you’re looking to put the blue in the middle left pocket, what angle do I need to take and do I need to bounce off the side to do so… You might think a bit of a mathematical brain could be needed but I can assure you – that’s not me!!

One thing that struck me at Cavendish was the desire to return the course back to its original state.  MacKenzie is not known to put bunkers in places just to make the game too hard, his bunker positioning is carefully thought through with the regular club golfer in mind.  Cavendish have lost some of their bunkers over the years so I’m delighted to see they are gradually reinstating them.  Not only this but come the millennium year for the club in 2025, all the bunkers will have replacement sand.  Playing the course today, one can still enjoy the course, but it’d be great to play it when all the green have been done and back to the original design.

Snatches of Augusta’s iconic holes catch ones eye as you play the course.  The Scotch pines being prominent in making this comparison.  With just 4 full time greenskeepers and 2 part time ones, their passion is evident in the way they embrace the ethos of the course designer.  Bumping into a couple of them whilst playing was not only an opportunity for some good banter but also an opportunity to acknowledge the pride they took in their work.

Interestingly, the course doesn’t go out in nine and back in nine.  It seems the course layout has been changed either just before or just after it opened so all the hard hole were not all on the back nine.  This ‘new’ change is reverted back to the MacKenzie way for 4 days of the year when the course is taken back to its original design – just for fun.  I really love that idea and might just knock on the door of the Cavendish during that four day period.  That said, the ‘new’ layout does not detract from the beauty of the course and its surroundings, more I like to think that Mackenzie gave options.

Although parkland at first appearance and yes it is true there are plenty of trees in places (needed as there are no toilets on the course!), weirdly the open landscape of Cavendish Golf course site does lend itself to be played like a links in places- the chip and run shot is a good one to have in your bag – especially if the wind is blowing!  But make sure you bring more than that shot to the course otherwise the water courses and the odd tree might get the better of you! 

The white club house sits proud and offers a warm welcome on arrival and a comforting big hug if the course beats you up.   Not an overly large, ridiculous small or ostentatious building, just comfortably sat within its space commanding its position with pride- ready and waiting to greet you.

So, if you cant get to play Augusta, give Cavendish a go, I loved it and would definitely return.

Words and Images

Sarah Forrest

Golf Guru Group

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Manor House, Castle Combe, England

Staying at the 14th Century Manor House Hotel, Castle Combe near Bath last week and playing the Peter Alliss and Clive Clark designed course was a real treat.

The 5* Manor House hotel and restaurant experience was second to non.  Nestled in the award winning ‘Prettiest UK Village’ and being home to masterpiece greats such as Warhorse and Downton Abbey.  The Manor House hotel is a short drive to the golf course. The hotel is split into various accommodation offerings- I stayed in one of the mews cottages overlooking the front car park and gardens beyond.  An oldie woldie style of dark wood and plush furnishings and a huge bed oozed comfort which didn’t disappoint.

Dinner in the Castle Inn was a short walk from the accommodation with breakfast being served in the main hotel building itself – both meals were of both quality and quantity.

In contrast the clubhouse is relatively new, and as such has good break away rooms for golf groups or meetings.  The verandah overlooks the iconic 18th hole which has water in play to the right of its approach.

Hole one takes you over an old motte and bailey, although now the motte is only distinguishable but is in play for the first drive to a dog leg left.  The course shows its colours from hole 2 – an elevated par three of 118/151 yards, SI 13/17 the view is wonderful down to the green as a babbling brook dissects the short fairway and wraps itself around to the left of the green.

The 6th was slightly annoying from the forward tees, in so far as the back tees had a small pond to go over.  The forward tees were, in my opinion, harder than the back tees as the shot of choice was not straight onto the fairway but approached by an angle.  The the line of choice from the tee is to the right of the bumps and over the corner of another stretch of water. That said, being a par 5, there was scope to go off piste and still recover with it being a SI7/15.

Hole 8, par 4 is a big hitters dream at just 239/309 yards (SI13/17) from tiered elevated tee boxes.  OOB left and a few trees right, it didn’t give the appearance of being intimidating either and therefore was drivable for a birdie or easy par.  Looking back from the green to the tee made you realise how high the tee boxes are.

Hole 10 sets the scene for the undulating fairways of the back nine, a slight dog leg left through the humps to an approachable green just around the corner. 

When people talk about The Manor House – hole 12 or 17 are the holes they are most likely to discuss, why?  

Hole 12 – potentially controversial to golfers and golf course designers.  As one rounds the corner, the hole comes into sight and one can see why.

That said I love a challenge so was delighted to give the ball a good hit to the sloping right to left fairway as it runs down the hill – naturally club choice is key off the tee as too far and you’re either into the rubbish right or left or even into the ravine.   The dot to dot fairway climbs quite sharply after the ravine to the hugely elevated, bunker protected (right) fairly large green.  Add a not so insignificant tree to mess with the drive means accuracy is important rather than length on this hole.  This par 5 SI 2 12th (430/498 yards) continues to cause many discussions – personally I think its a great hole and feel it is quite reachable in regulation with carful course management.

Interesting, playable golf continued with shadow casting bumps and humps and the odd small pond to negotiate – then hole 17 came into play.  Now I will be honest here, its another one of my favourites.

As you leave the green from hole 16, unaware of what is ahead (spoiler alert) it hits you in the face as you gradually take a short ride downhill to the tee box.  The tee box is one long expanse right to left with the various tees positioned along its length.  Before deciding which club to take, wander along the tee box – camera in hand, and enjoy the view.  Not one but two greens to play for, one right, one left, you never know which green is in play on the day you’ll play.  Great for the green keepers who can switch them around as weather dictates.  Weather does come into play here as the tee boxes are quite elevated and again have that babbling brook meandering around the two greens, pretty as a picture.  The greens are not small target greens but too short, too long, too far left or right could lead to a no score on the card – and no one wants that!

Up hill afterwards to the closing hole – it is this hill that makes you grateful you hired a buggy!

A good par 4, SI10 finish (322/384 yards) with a favourable drive centre left to avoid the tree right enables a shot to the green to miss the water right and bunkers left.

In summary, an established course set within hill and valley and some lovely Cotswold countryside.  The practice green looks like it had been on steroids with massive elevation changes, but the actual greens were less sloping, with some subtle movement of the ball.  In the main they were in good condition.  Tee boxes were in good condition too, that is the forward and back tee boxes.  Fairways were cleverly thought through to enjoy the countryside yet hold your attention to the game in hand, in short, a great course to visit.  For the ultimate experience, try the stay and play option and immerse yourself into the true English countryside

Words and images from Sarah Forrest, LC Ambassador

Insta: @tlg.golfplus | Youtube: @travellingladygolfer | Twitter/Facebook: @golfgurugroup | LinkedIn: Sarah Forrest

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