Tag: traveling lady golfer

Hallamshire Golf Club, Sheffield

An incredibly understated and uninviting piece about golf in the local Sheffield Star reads:

“Hallamshire Golf Club is nestled between the Peak District and the City, on Redmires Road.  The club is home to one of the best and most challenging courses in the North of England”

Well thats true, but …

Recent winner of the US Open, 2022, Matt Fitzpatrick is a member here, not only that but other greats such as Alison Nicholas, the winner of the US Women’s Open 1997 and Solheim Cup Captain in 2009 and 2011, lesser known Mary Everard, (recently deceased), was a four time player in the Curtis Cup- all have links to the Hallamshire – in short this course produces winners, quality winners at that.

It is true, Sheffield isn’t known as a tourist trap, its deep rooted industrial heritage in steel surpassed only by the friendly (and sometimes not so friendly) rivalry of the two home grown football teams; the Owls and the Blades. The natural friendliness of Yorkshire people and their, usually deserved, status of ‘no flies on us’ approach puts this city on the map for many reasons – but golf isn’t one of them.

Fitzpatrick admits that his home course is very similar to Brookline, Massachusetts where two historic wins US Open as an Amateur in 2013 and the more recent one of the US Open Champion 2022 puts him as only the second person (behind Jack Nicklaus) to win both these titles at the same course.  Matt says of his home course; the Hallamshire is shorter (than Brookline) but the greens can be tour standard and are the best around.

The pro shop, albeit welcoming, is just like any other, the clubhouse doesn’t scream at you despite its commanding elevated position overlooking the course. Truth is, unless you knew it was there, you could easily drive past the club.   But what it lacks in showy appearance it more than makes up for as a challenging, well designed course for all.

A fairly intimidating first hole appears narrower than it actually is off the tee, but the clubhouse popping up into full view once you’ve driven the ball is enough to put anyone off – especially if you’ve hit a poor drive.  Add the OOB on the right and the in your face wind, you’d be happy to survive hole one with a decent score and scurry onto the second tee as you become engulfed in the course.

The 4th, par 4 SI7/1 (460/378 yards) is quite a straight hole called Bilberry Dimpling.  The name bought back fond memories of me sitting atop the Moors picking bilberries for Mum to make jam.  Whilst hole 4 didn’t bring back those comfort memories of home cooking, it is a fairly open yet lovely hole.  From the 4th, over the 8th, you can see the aptly named Snake Pass as it winds its way along the hillside carrying people to endless opportunities in their little square boxes on wheels.

Redesigned in the1930’s by Harry Colt, Hallamshire golf course embraces the natural terrain of hillocks, sways, heather, gorse and of course bilberries. Add the odd bunker – whose level of consistency with their sand and depth of sand was as good as any top course I’ve played, and you’re on to something special.

The 6th intrigued me with its far reaching views of Hallam Gorse Moor with its WWI training camp.  Even to this day overhead images show the outline of the trenches dug – weird to think that another great golf course designer, Alister MacKenzie was instrumental in the design of the trenches during WWI!   Hidden behind the trees on this par 3 193/127 yard (SI15/17) hole you can just about see Rivelin Dams.  

The (member) legendary 9th, with it’s hard to stop the ball on the green challenges any such notions of making a birdie on this par 3!  Such is he slope of this green that any downhill putt is met with trepidation. This is not a hole you’d give a gimme in a match!

As the back nine is 220/360 yards longer than the front, bagging a decent front nine score could help you with your overall score.

The 10th is a par 5 from the front, par 4 from the back tees.  It is literally laid out in front of you.  A slightly elevated tee off area before it drops down to a water course crossing the fairway.  The green is cleverly positioned to be slightly off centre with a bunker left.  A brave shot over or work you way around into the mouth of the green. Its name  Perfection is one you’d strive to live up to on this hole.

The course continues to work its way around the natural landscape throwing in many challenges, especially for those who haven’t played it before!  Large sways of gorse are in play as they hug the ravines transcending downwards or pop up in places you’d rather they didn’t.  

Hole 15 is called Long.  This par 5 is a test for those who may no hit so far or have left their ‘A game’ in the car park.  Measuring 584/506 SI10/4 this is one hole which you could be punished or rewarded on.

Slightly different in outlook and design is the 17th, a par three over a shallow gorse ravine to a slightly elevated green.  The imposing rock face sits immediately to the right of the hole and green.  A clean hit is required to make it over the gorse and over the multiple bunkers protecting this 134/123 yard par 3.

A sloping fairway right to left closing hole par 5 487/452 yard SI 14/5 is one where you could walk away with pride or hang your head in shame as the clubhouse and any patio loungers overlook the final green.

In summary; the Hallamshire greens were superb, the bunkers were consistent and the fairways offered so many different thought provoking opportunities – from all the tees.  It is a must play for any golfer.  Enjoy the hospitality which is sure to be extended to any visitor.

Sarah Forrest

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Navigating Northern Ireland

One of the worlds golfing mecca’s with big named golf course to play but what else can you do?

Sarah Forrest gives an account of her first experience of Northern Ireland recently.

A quick and easy flight to Belfast airport makes Northern Ireland a real option for a golf or family holiday.

Having a private tour by black cab around Belfast regaling tales, possible tall tales! of the city opens you’re eyes to what you can do whilst there.  Culminating in lunch at the Drawing Room where the Titanic and many more were designed.  With as much attention to detail to the food was most likely given to the ships designs, the meal was a nice break in our sightseeing day.  Across the road is the imposing purpose built Titanic Belfast museum.  Insights into the lives of the dock workers to the first class passenger experience was exciting and well delivered in an easy to understand, and importantly, not boring way!

Drawing Room Restaurant, Titanic Hotel Belfast

A whistle stop tour and one night in Belfast we stayed at the Ten Square Hotel.  A nice comfortable 4* hotel in the thick of things and well located for our evening meal at Deanes Meat Locker.  The Meat Locker is part of a trio of restaurants in a row, each serviced by their own chef, offering grill, seafood and modern European food options.

The next day, I was playing in the Pro-Am for the ISPS Handa World Invitational at Galgorm Castle. The first tournament of its kind in the Northern Hemisphere being hosted by Modest!  An early tee-time meant no breakfast being available at Ten Square.  What a treat to play with Cheyenne Knight of the USA, a great golfer with an understanding of the Great British humour.  

Galgorm is about 40 mins outside Belfast and no stranger to big events with the Northern Ireland Open and the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. The golf course is a pretty, established parkland course, with water and trees in play, large receptive greens and a fair number of dog legs.  The greens were some of the best I’ve played this year. Forward tee stats 5559 yards, par 72.  Back tee stats 7105 yards par 70.

With more golf on offer our next stop was Castlerock Golf Club playing the Mussenden links course.  I do love my links golf and Castlerock didn’t disappoint either with its luna landscape appeal.  The River Bann waterway dissects the course at strategic intervals.  Keeping the ball in play was essential whilst most of the rough was OK, in places it was hard to find the ball in the long sweeping grass.  I really liked the way the fairways shaped around the natural terrain leading you forward and eager to move onto the next hole.  Castlerock didn’t confuse you by showing you all of its tricks in one glance, more of a gradual ‘lull you in’.  The par 3’s were of particular interest, all different and not all the highest stroke indexes ether!  Couple the waterways with the luna links style play in inevitable changing weather makes Castlerock a great choice for a tough game, which, if you do master,  will reward you accordingly.   Forward tee stats 5879 yards, par75.  Back tee stats 6780 yards Par73

Staying at the 5* Blackrock B&B in Port Stewart for a few nights meant we could try more than the usual fry-up for breakfast – and what a great selection there was.  Nicola, the owner, was attentive from start to finish she even helped us with evening meal bookings and places to visit, she really did go over and above the norm to make us feel welcome.  Blackrock has ocean views with further views towards Portrush beach and golf course.  Instead of trying to sell every room as a bedroom and squeeze more guests in, Nicola has made the decision to give the guests a spacious relaxing experience with two sitting rooms and a balcony area to enjoy.  One sitting room has an honesty box for drinks and an enviable whiskey (plus) selection for all to be enjoyed in comfort, in or out of your room.

Next stop, Port Stewart Golf Club where we played the Strand course.  More of a commercial set up but with the same friendly Irish welcome.  There are three golf courses at Port Stewart, with The Strand being the home of the 2017 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.  As you drive into the carpark, you’ll notice the road continues to a huge beach off to your right. A drive on beach was clearly popular with locals and visitors alike.  The first tee box is elevated and takes in that vista view across the Atlantic Ocean before your eyes are drawn down the fairway.  The sand dunes are in play, go over if you’re brave, but I speak with knowledge, you cant go through!   The fairways neatly sit amongst the high dunes scoping out the way ahead.  Be prepared to climb hill and dale, but don’t forget to enjoy the views when you’re up high.  Whilst the course took on more of a manicured look, it certainly wasn’t forgiving if slightly off target.  We played in a 2 club wind that day.  With upturned saucer greens which let the ball trickle back to your feet for the less committed golfer.  A beautiful undulating golf course where you seem to be in a world of your own until you’re suddenly walking up 16 towards the club house.  It did occur to me that maybe 17 and 18 had been simply added on or slotted in to make up the 18, but the par 4/5 17th and par 4 18th were no less challenging.  I felt that the front nine was different to back nine with the back nine being more open space. Forward tee stats 5867 yards, par 73.  Back tee stats 7094 yards Par72

Two links, both different, and one parkland course made this a special golf trip in itself, but that’s not all..

Where to eat?

Staying in Port Stewart we had dinner at Tides Restaurant, a short walk from Blackrock B&B. A family restaurant in a cafe style with views across the ocean. Eighteen Ninety Four restaurant in contrast was located upstairs at Port Stewart golf club.  With out being silly prices the food was as good as fine dining.  Our final choice was a bit of a random one, but a great alternative; Ocho, a Spanish tapas restaurant which was really tasty food served with atmosphere, despite being in a temporary location.

What to do when your not playing golf in Northern Ireland?

With such natural beauty all along the Antrim coast it was difficult to get it all in.  A bucket list UNESCO site is the Giant’s Causeway, the short walk from the new visitor centre opened up gradually over three bays.  Each bay exuding natural beauty, with the rock formations taking on the famous hexagonal shapes leading to Giants Causeway.   Then you get to the final bay and its there, spread out in front of you like a dogs tongue lapping at the water.  A brisk walk back up the other side of the bays left us feeling exhilarated as we looked down upon the patchwork quilt of this natural phenomenon.

Driving along the coastal route, you can’t help but notice a huge imposing building.  Naturally curiosity got the better of us, so we stopped at Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne just near Castlerock.  Perched atop a 120ft cliff top, you can image the  framed views from the large expanse of windows.  Now in a derelict state, it does get the juices going as to what it’d be like to have lived in such a place.

We did a fair amount of spec sightseeing, but our final booked activity was from Ballintoy Harbour.  Ballintoy is the cutest harbour you can image.  It reminded me very much of the small harbours around Cornwall which I loved exploring as a kid.  Ballintoy carries recent history as the scene from Game of Thrones.  Maybe I should be ashamed of this, but I’ve never seen Game of Thrones!

But I have been, seen and experienced Ballintoy in the best way possible – by Ocean Kayak.  Great fun as we set off and out of the cutest harbour in history into the open water with the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge as our destination.  Easy paddling, wind and current with us, it didn’t take too long until we reached the rope bridge suspended between two huge rock faces.  Currently closed due to covid, we were at peace as we gently kayaked into the small beach underneath.   Ambling across the narrow beach, Kayak in tow, we set off to return to Ballintoy.

That’s when the fun started – the nice wind, gentle current and easy paddling going over was reversed, the wind had got up, there was even spots of rain – and it was tough – I mean really tough for someone used to wielding a golf club at best and tapping on a key board at worst!  Grit and determination set in, and with bitesize strategic landmarks to conquer, we made it back safely.  Blisters on both thumbs and a huge smile told the story.  However, watching me ungainly disembark from that Kayak was a sight to behold, my legs had gone wobbly and I flopped out like the proverbial beached whale!

A loaded hot chocolate and a quick dash back to Belfast airport to catch the plane home finished off our trip to Northern Ireland.  What a place! 

Loads of memories, tick lists achieved and more to show you on youtube.

More inspiration needed?

Check out www.ireland.com/golf

Sarah Forrest is a 12 handicap golfer who is a member at Cleeve Hill GC.  

Sarah is the Travelling Lady Golfer

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E – Enniscrone

GB&I Golf Course Review – Z to A

I am showcasing one golf club a day across GB & I over 26 days – in reverse alphabetical order.  Full write up and more images can be found on http://golfgurugroup.blogspot.com. 

Enniscrone Golf Club

Enniscrone, Co. Sligo, Ireland

Enniscrone also spelt Inniscrone, officially named Inishcrone is in County Sligo on the North West Coast of Ireland.  Forming part of the Wild Atlantic Way, this small tourist town is a big attraction for golfers too.

Starting from humble beginnings.  

1918 marked the beginning

Of Enniscrone Golf Club.  In 1922 medal competitions were held over three Enniscrone locations; Barta, Kilcullens Field and Scurmore Hotel varying from 9 to 4 to 6 holes respectively.  In 1930 a nine hole layout was established on flat land at Barta and the course opened to membership for a fee of £1.  Forty eight members joined when it opened on St Patricks Day 1931.

In 1933 a greenskeeper was employed with his horse drawn fairway mower.  In 1947 a new clubhouse was built at a cost of £400.  Due to war, emigration and economic depression Ireland experienced a down turn and by 1959 there were only 14 club members.  In the sixties with the building of Bellacorick power station and the Moy drainage scheme bought in much needed new blood.  By 1969 membership had built back up to over one hundred.

Livestock roamed the course

And the members wandering eyes were turning towards the dunes with dreams of an 18 hole links course.  In 1970 Eddie Hackett was drafted in to design the course.  Working alongside the committee, holes were designed with the dunes to blend into the natural terrain.   In 1972 12 miles of fencing was purchased to keep the animals at bay.  The first ball was driven by Eddie Hackett in August 1974.  Gaining such accolades as “an undiscovered gem of a links.”   By 1999 Enniscrone was ready for the next chapter in its evolution.  Donald Steel was commissioned to reroute the course directly into the Dunes. He added 6 more holes and turned some of the original layout over to the new nine hole course, Scurmore.  The clubhouse had an extension and the new course was re-opened in 2001.

The 18 hole course is called the Dunes measuring 5723 to 7029 yards.  Labelled as a dune land course, its look is more akin to the moons surface.  With huge dips and hollows being dominated and overshadowed by the dunes, some of the highest in Western Europe.

When you’re sat in the clubhouse

And it is blowing a hooley out there, you might be forgiven for thinking, maybe tomorrow.  But there was no tomorrow for me, it was that day or no day, and I was not going to miss out on playing Enniscrone!

It took a few holes to get into the swing of things, literally!  Dog legs, elevated greens and those dunes surrounding a punch bowl green – and that was only on the first hole.

The whole course

Was in such amazing condition.  Tee boxes were like islands of vibrant green amidst the long swaying grass.   A dot to dot of tee boxes heading in the direction of the fairway and putting surface in the distance. 

Whilst the dunes have been noted as some of the highest, the dips added to the drama and depth of the dunes too.  Most likely remnants of the ice age, those swells must have been deep icy ponds before receding to create the natural crators of today.

Stunning views over Killala Bay, the Moy Estuary and Bartragh Island one way.  In stark contrast are the wild and rugged Nephin and Ox Mountain ranges.  There is always something to look at when playing Enniscrone.

Hole number 12

Is the hole that always sticks in my mind.  I was starting to get used to the near perfect fairways, the short cut greens where the ball may, or may not, stay up. But nothing prepared me for the 12th.  I recall standing there thinking blimey, if I miss that I’m into a whole lot of trouble!  

Called Cnoc na gCorp translated means the Hill of Hunger or Hill of Bodies.  I was determined not to be a casualty of this beautiful hole.  Despite it luring me into its green, carved out of the side of a sand dune!  A par 4 of 262/347 yards SI 16/3.  The exit off the tee was much more thought provoking from the back tees than the forward ones.

But the shot to the green was the same challenge.  A huge swell in front of the green before your eyes are drawn up to the green.  Seamlessly moving from a fairway, to the apron to the green was a trick of the eye as you weighed up your approach shot.  It has to be said, I’m not one to over think things, so I just hit it to the green after a less than perfect drive.  To my shock it ended up on the dance floor.

Other holes had almost split level fairways, pot hole bunkers and the inevitable lunar links feel.  The bunkers, were often quite deep and occasionally in multiples of 2 or 3 across the fairway at an angle offering little respite with any wayward shots.  They often complimented the other side of the fairway which might challenge you with a deep swell or high dune.

Playing Enniscrone was a delight, and yes I did enjoy the  Irish hospitality  at the 19th too!

F for Flamborough Head

F – Flamborough Head

GB&I Golf Course Review – Z to A

I am showcasing one golf club a day across GB & I over 26 days – in reverse alphabetical order.  Full write up and more images can be found on http://golfgurugroup.blogspot.com. 

Flamborough Head

Lighthouse Road, Flamborough, Bridlington, East Riding of Yorkshire, YO15 1AR

When you drive up to Flamborough Head Golf Club, the first thing that strikes you is the Tower.  Situated to the right of the clubhouse as you look towards the North Sea.  This Old Beacon was built in 1674 and in actually located on the golf course itself.  It is the oldest surviving lighthouse in England.  

Flamborough Head is arguably an unusual choice for the Alphabet golf series, but its isn’t always about the best golf courses; the named golf courses.  To me it is about the whole package.  Here you are always certain of a warm and friendly welcome in good old no nonsense Yorkshire fashion.  In fact, one of its slogans is ‘the friendliest club on the coast’

Pitched atop a cliff

This 18 hole links course brings in some challenges of its own.  As well as some beautiful views across the North Sea.  Overlooking the site of the Battle of Flamborough Head fought on 23rd September 1779.  Hole number 13 carries the name of American John Paul Jones.  Jone’s ship, the Bonhomme Richard defeated the British man-of-war Serapis.  The course occupies, in part, a former farmhouse where he is reputed to have stayed.

The golf course was founded in 1931.  With its tricky location and steep drop off cliffs, I am informed that this part of the coast doesn’t suffer too much from erosion. Which is great, as it would be a shame to lose it to the sea. it is fair to say there are a couple of up and down holes.  In the main, I don’t believe this detracts from the overall experience of playing such a location.  The weather does play a big part in the game, as the wind can whip around and off the North Sea.

The beacon

Is located after you have played hole 4, a par 4 measuring 417/439 yards, SI3.  Two good accurate shots are required before encountering the split level green.  After putting out, take a short walk behind the green and circumnavigate the tower, just for fun.  Can you imagine having to light a fire that high up to give boats the warning of Flamborough Head jutting out into the sea?  East Riding Council wanted to open it up as a museum, but for now that idea is on hold.  Friends of the Chalk Tower are behind this scheme and are keen to see it succeed.  

Hole 6, whilst a relatively easily achievable shot, is fraught with danger if slightly off kilter.  A pond, a bunker and the deep rough make this SI 16 par 3 hole of only 136/141 yards a decent challenge, especially when the wind is in play!

The Signal Hole

Hole 10 is a risk and reward shot, again a par 3.  From an elevated tee this 146/148 yard hole is covered front and side with bunkers.  Be brave or go home on this pretty hole.  Once on the green it really depends on where the flag is, as this is as this is a two tier green.

Another hole of note is hole number 11.  My notes say lovely hole, the stats say differently!  Its is a long par 5 of 505/552 yards.  A blind shot over the marker post, for your drive needs to be straight.  Subsequent shots are also not easy as you’re shooting towards the North Sea again.  Too short and the ball gets caught on the slope and comes trickling back to you.  Too long and its rubbish on the right and at the back – oh and then of course you have the cliffs behind and to the right also.

With elevated tees, ditches running around the course and tiered greens you’re not in for an easy ride playing here.  For a relatively flat course, whose overhead view does nothing to show the game needed to score well, I think it is worthy of a place in this series.

And one of the best bits about playing Flamborough Head.  Fish and Chips – so typically British, so typically Yorkshire, and so tasty it is worth the trip.

G for Galway Bay

G – Galway Bay

GB&I Golf Course Review – Z to A

I am showcasing one golf club a day across GB & I over 26 days – in reverse alphabetical order.  Full write up and more images can be found on http://golfgurugroup.blogspot.com.

Photo Credit Kevin Markham

Galway Bay

Renville, Oranmore, County Galway, Ireland.

There is something quite familiar about Galway Bay, and until recently I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.  Then it came to me!  Every year we sing about Galway Bay along with the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl in the classic Fairytale of New York!

Photo Credit Kevin Markham

Arriving at Galway Bay

I genuinely had no idea what I might expect, I don’t always like to research where I’m going so it doesn’t cloud my personal judgement or generate any preconceptions.  So I didn’t know if this course was a links, parkland or heathland. 

I was playing some of the courses along the Wild Atlantic Way with a few other journalists when we stopped at Galway Bay.  A warm welcome was upon us in no time in a bustling modern clubhouse having a quick warm up before playing.  When I say warm up, I mean drink in huge coffee cups, not on the driving range!

Photo Credit Kevin Markham

Ready to play

We set off up hole one and back down hole two, before moving away again from the clubhouse.  This time in the direction of the Atlantic Ocean.  Whilst being so close to the Ocean, it isn’t a links course.  It is a good strong parkland course laid out to enjoy the sea views as well as the sea breeze.

Former Ryder Cup player and Snr British Open winner, Christy O’Connor, Jnr is the golf course designer.  His plan was to create a course in tune with nature, whilst accommodating golfers of all abilities.  A man with a plan, he drew from his vast experience as golfer.  With the rugged Galway Bay as the backdrop, trees bunkering and water hazards were finely tuned to give us the golf course of today.  

Photo Credit Kevin Markham

I recall the putting surfaces to be consistently good. 

That in itself can’t be an easy task bearing in mind its location and the ever changing wind direction.  Playing the eleventh hole a par 4 333/423 yards, SI 2/3 was good fun with its drive over water to a dog leg left.  Bunkers aplenty and the clubhouse in sight.  

But turn back away again to take on the 12th, a great hole playing quite differently from the forward and back tees.  384/469 yards SI 14/1 and a par 5 forward, par 4 back tees.  It is a hole to bat cleverly and play for position.  A dog leg right as it drops down the hill to the green with the Atlantic in front of you as you take on the water to the green.  This hole is often featured amongst the top 18 holes in Irish golf.  With views to the Burren, Co Clare; one of six nations parks in Ireland, the Aran Islands, Connemara and Galway City.

There were a few holes

Where the back and forward distances differences were quite large, with the par threes, being a little more even for distance on the front nine.  With water featuring over 10 of the 18 holes, maybe that’s one of the reasons?

My game that day was a bit up and down, a few blobs then pars, with the back nine giving me some points back after a very lack lustre front nine!  But I loved the feel of this club, playing a great parkland golf course with its natural beauty was a bonus after the welcome received in the clubhouse.

Nine miles away is Galway, City of the Tribes and the Cultural Heart of Ireland.  And the heart of a good night out too!

H for Hankley Common

H – Hankley Common

GB&I Golf Course Review – Z to A

I am showcasing one golf club a day across GB & I over 26 days – in reverse alphabetical order.  Full write up and more images can be found on http://golfgurugroup.blogspot.com

Hankley Common

The Clubhouse, Tilford Rd, Farnham

It has to be said the time I played Hankley Common it was absolutely tipping it down.  Known for being one of the best courses in that area that can stand that level of water, it was a bit of a non-brainer that we play Hankley Common on such a wet weekend.  To this day, I am sure the pro was completely bemused at our request to play.  Non of the members were daft enough to venture out that day!

The wonderful free draining turf on this pretty heathland course was a god send that day.  We were, despite the wet stuff from the sky, able to continue play without too many hinderances.

The original nine holes

Date back to 1897.  In 1922 James Braid added a further nine holes, encompassing the layout and natural beauty of the terrain.  10 years later Harry Colt was bought in to add length.

Bobby Locke described this heathland course as a ‘closest resemblance to playing a links’ with other such accolades as ‘one of the best inland layouts in Britain’

Playing Hankey Common

Was not always an open expanse experience, in so far as the fairways are often tree lined.  The greens were a decent size and nicely and receptive too.  The fairways seem to sway their way around the course, like chiffon in the wind, only broken up by the bunkering and heather.  Some of the bunkers were of such a depth that required thinking about!  The odd large establish tree came into play as the course criss crossed around the common with ease.  To be honest everything a good golf course can offer is here at Hankley Common.  But the rough of heather and pretty much everything else was incredibly punishing!

Whilst playing Hankley Common I didn’t feel as though I was in a mass expanse of nothingness at any time.  It was very neat and tidy as one navigated around he course with ease.  Dog legs and the colour contrasts were just beautiful to feast your eyes upon.  And just as you think you’re on the home ward stretch, hole 18 throws up a tough finish.  With its dip in front of the green- maybe it was because I was soaked by then, I just remember looking at the clubhouse thinking – Lumumba!

Hankley Common

Is owned by the Ministry of Defence. Set in 1400 acres, the surrounding area is designated as an area of special scientific interest.  The common has been the site for some classic films such as James Bond’s, the World is Not Enough and Die Another Day.  Michael Fassbender starred in Macbeth here and Michael Vaughan’s The Kings Man was another to be filmed here.  In fact many a movie star has trodden the soil of Hankley Common over the years.  Wildlife, flora and fauna are common place here with the Golf Club adopting the common fox as their logo.  The golf course occupies the West side of this Surrey heathland location.

I for Isle of Purbeck

I – Isle of Purbeck

GB&I Golf Course Review – Z to A

I am showcasing one golf club a day across GB & I over 26 days – in reverse alphabetical order.  Full write up and more images can be found on http://golfgurugroup.blogspot.com. For more innovative, fun unique golf content, please subscribe to my social media channels 

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Isle of Purbeck

Corfe Rd, Studland, Swanage, BH19 3AB

When you’ve got a great course and some interesting history, you know you’re onto a winner for a good day out.

Founded in 1892

And originally opening as a nine hole course on Dene Hill in 1893 with 40 members, whose membership was just a guinea.  In todays money that is one pound and five pence, pre decimalisation it was 21 shillings (a shilling being 5p).

Fast forward to relative recent history and its new owners being Mr and Mrs Darrell-Waters.  Mrs Darrell-Waters, better known as Enid Blyton, the prolific children’s novelist maybe better known for characters such as Noddy and Big Ears.  Taking inspiration from local characters ‘PC Plod’ was based on a cheerful, well known local policeman in the 1950’s.

Enid Blyton

was good golfer and was elected Lady Captain in 1951.  During the Darrell-Waters ownership the course was extended to the 18 holes.  Enid Blyton’s putter is still at the club awaiting its new display cabinet.

Next in line of ownership was another punchy name, Mr H B Randolph a recent retiree from his ownership of the Wilkinson Sword Company.  A keen hobby golfer himself, he seized the opportunity to create an impressive clubhouse and bought out the land lease plus additional land.  The 27 holes of today and the elevated clubhouse overlooking Poole Harbour are testimony to his desire to showcase the spectacular views.  Uniquely the building material of the clubhouse is Purbeck Stone inset with giant fossils.

The Sword Bar

Was created in memory of his first wife.  Randolph gave many swords away. There is a replica of the Golf Flaming Sword as presented to His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie, the “Lion of Judah’, Emperor of Ethiopia.  In another room is the Sword of Stalingrad, the original being presented to the people of Stalingrad during WWII.  Many more swords decorate the clubhouse.

But what of the course itself?

I played 18 holes.  Hole number 1 and 2 go away and back to the clubhouse.  Crossing back in front of the club house is when the fun really starts.  From hole 3 you are walking away with the club behind you.  This heathland course is pretty in its own right, but once you get to the fifth, those views over towards Poole gives the game away as to what a special place you are in.

Holes 5 and 6 are the furthest away from the clubhouse on the front nine.  I remember them being so peaceful.  I was playing towards the end of the day, by myself just carrying my bag and enjoying the peace and quiet.  It suddenly struck me that I was completely alone, just listening to the world go by as I hit my golf ball towards the dip to the 5th green.

As you play around the course

You cross around the back of the club house after hole 7.  The golf course plays a little like a links course, but is probably best described as heathland, with a links feel.  The course splays out returning to wrap its arms loving around the clubhouse and embrace the vista view once more for the post round drinks. 

Maximising the space, the holes play in different directions, thereby offering a complete challenge in golf.

The late Peter Allis said

“I’ve always felt the Club is certainly one of the most spectacular in the whole of the UK and the general ambience of the Club and course is absolutely delightful.”

I guess he was in good company with his thoughts as the late King Edward also declared the view from the fifth tee as one of the finest in British golf.

Purbeck is a peninsular of land bordered by water on three sides.  The English Channel  are to the South and East.  The Dorset Coast, the Jurassic Coast with its high imposing cliff tops adds drama to this wonderful location.

J for John O’Gaunt

J – John O’Gaunt

GB&I Golf Course Review – Z to A

I am showcasing one golf club a day across GB & I over 26 days – in reverse alphabetical order.  Full write up and more images can be found on http://golfgurugroup.blogspot.com. 

Look out for the daily influx of unique, quirky, amazing golf courses in this series, and please do comment, like or share if you want to start planing ahead. For more innovative, fun unique golf content, please subscribe to my social media channels 

Instagram @sarah_thetravellingladygolfer

Twitter and Facebook @golfgurugroup

John O’Gaunt Golf Club

Sutton Park, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG19 2LY

The imposing Mansion House enjoys panoramic views as it presides over the golf courses and grounds of the John O’Gaunt Golf Club.

Dating back to 1859, rebuilt after a fire in 1825, the mansion house is the clubhouse serving the two 18 hole golf courses and practice facilities. 

Originally the golf course was a 9 hole in a different location.  The War Office took over the nine hole, ploughing up 3 of the holes for crops.  The remaining six had ditches dug into them to hinder aircraft from landing.

In 1948 a new location was sought for the then known Mid Bedfordshire Golf Club.  The 300 acre Sutton Park was found to be the perfect location with its picturesque countryside views and established lime trees, some still standing to this day.

The front nine

Of the John O’Gaunt course were designed by W G Groves, a scratch golfer, with the back nine being designed by Fred Hawtree.  Hawtree went on to design the second course, Carthagena, but our focus for today is the main course, John O’Gaunt.

With the purchase of Sutton Park came the somewhat dilapidated mansion house and established gardens designed by one of Capability Browns contemporaries, Humphry Repton.

As I haven’t played John O’Gaunt, my guest writer for letter J is Phil Millington:

As I arrived at the club

Ready to represent my club in a Seniors Scratch Team match, I was greeted by the clubhouse which has the air of an old country hall, with its grounds now converted into two golf courses, the John O’Gaunt main course and the Carthagena course. As you walk in you get the impression of history at this club.

My match was played on the John O’Gaunt course and it was the first and only time I’ve played at the club; in Mar 2020 (before Covid truly arrived on the scene). The course itself is a gently undulating mature parkland layout with many tall old imposing trees lining the fairways. Positioning of your shots in the right part of the fairway is key to producing a good score on many of the holes, otherwise your course management skills will be tested for sure. For the time of year the course was in really good condition and well presented, with the greens being suitably paced and true. 

To sum it up for me

Almost a year further on, I find I can clearly remember all but maybe one or two holes; dog legs both ways, raised greens, some holes slightly uphill, some downhill. The John O’Gaunt course is recognised as the No.1 course in Bedfordshire and for me the fact I remember the course so well is truly the sign of an interesting course. One that I look forward to playing again in the future.

K for Kington

K – Kington

GB&I Golf Course Review – Z to A

I am showcasing one golf club a day across GB & I over 26 days – in reverse alphabetical order.  Full write up and more images can be found on http://golfgurugroup.blogspot.com

Look out for the daily influx of unique, quirky, amazing golf courses in this series, and please do comment, like or share if you want to start planing ahead.For more innovative, fun unique golf content, please subscribe to my social media channels 

Instagram @sarah_thetravellingladygolfer Twitter and Facebook @golfgurugroup

Kington Golf Club

Bradnor Hill, Kington, Herefordshire, HR5 3RE

Another great golf course which sits on the English Welsh borders.  Kington is the highest 18 hole golf course in England at 1284 feet above sea level, at its highest point.  The beauty of Kington is most of the climbing is done by car as you snake your way up the the clubhouse in the sky.

That said as you stand on the first tee with its gradual uphill laid out in front of you, you might not think so.  Especially when you see the green clinging onto the side of a hill to the left.  But once you’re up there, there isn’t much more climbing to do.   The wind can come into play.  My playing partner was playing a driver on a par 3 to turn around and play the next hole, a par 4, with a rescue with it almost landing on the green says it all I think.  But on one of those beautiful sunny days its the best place to see over towards the Brecon Beacons, The Black Mountains, The Malvern Hills and the Shropshire and Clee Hills.

Construction started in 1925

Under the watchful eye of golf course designer Major Cecil Hutchinson.  Building a reputation in his own right after working with Braid at Gleneagles and Carnoustie.  He later went on to work with Stafford Vere Hotchkin to redesign Woodhall Spa.  At Kington he had the choice of two locations and opted for Bradnor Hill to work within its natural beauty and terrain.  There have been very few changes to the original design, testimony to the strength of its original design.

There are some holes when you look at them and think, I should do OK here.  Hole number five is that one for me.  It is a par 3 only 126/150 yards with a menacing looking wall on the right and a lone tree in the distance to the right of the green.  It is a relatively small green which is easily missed if too long and probably more forgiving if too short. It isn’t unusual to see the sheep, who wander around the course, taking shelter behind the wall.  Watching with curious interest as they cheerfully much on the lush grass. 

It has to be said, it is stunning at the top.

The golf course is a haven of manicured pasture with far reaching views, sometimes above the clouds, and I’ve heard sometimes above the military planes which train in the valley below.  The heathland course has all the elements for fantastic play, all the hazards one might expect of its location, plus some.  Yet despite it being so high, there is space all around. The fairways are often wide enough and the greens large enough for a good game.  That doesn’t mean a good score though!!  If a good score isn’t forthcoming take solace in the vista views of seven counties across England and Wales being Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Breconshire, Radnorshire, Shropshire, Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire.

It isn’t unusual

To see humps dotted around, some protect the greens as per the 12th.  They not only add to the dramatic landscape but are in play too.  There are no bunkers or water hazards at Kington, it doesn’t need them. The fairways are great to play from.  Slightly spongy but not too much give that you end up popping the ball in the sky! I am always amazed by the condition of the greens, despite the wildlife and the relatively harsh climate, they remain great.

The elevation changes, the dramatic grass bunkers and the rough are enough to keep you on your toes on this course.

The closing hole has the clubhouse in sight.  With an almost impossible looking green, a slither of short cut grass next to the clubhouse from an elevated tee.  I guess it is achievable for a big hitter at 238/279 yards (SI18), to be on in one.  But it is fraught with danger if you’re slightly off kilter.  Go right and you’re down the hill, maybe even out of play.  Go too long and you’re pretty much in the clubhouse.  That green looks remarkably small and narrow front to back!  And of course you have the spectators in the clubhouse watching your every move! 

L for Llanymynech

L – Llanymynech

GB&I Golf Course Reviews – Z to A

I am going to showcase one golf club a day in GB & I over 26 days – in reverse alphabetical order.  It is my ode to some great and in some cases, unknown golf.  Full write up’s can be found on golfgurugroup blogspot. 

Look out for the daily influx of unique, quirky, amazing golf courses across the GB & I.

For more innovative and fun golf, please subscribe to my social media channels @sarah_thetravellingladygolfer on Instagram @golfgurugroup on Twitter and Facebook for innovative and fun golf media and marketing.

LLanymynech Golf Club

High Cottage, Pant, Oswestry, SY10 8LB

Wales or England?

One of the quirky things about Llanymynech is one doesn’t really know where it is!  So much so that hole number four, a dog leg left par four of only 323/340 yards is where you tee off in Wales and putt out in England.  An elevated tee box encourages the brave to go over the trees in a straight line to the green.  Or take on the acute corner and get on it two.  Either way this SI9 hole is quite playable.

Llanymynech is actually in Wales

However as the only way to get there by car is through England, it carries an English postcode.

LLanymynech almost plays a cluster of holes at a time differently.  Arguably giving you more variety in just 18 holes.

Some holes are parkland, whereas others play more like heathland, especially as you climb to the top of the hill and enjoy the views below.  I loved the fairways.  Each time I have been they played really well.  The par 3 third is a pretty hole with lots of shrubbery and small sculptured bushes laid out in front of you.  If you miss the 134/153 yard green short, you could be in trouble!  

Then you get the 18th

Again with an elevated tee with a mound right in the way as you take your drive.  In reality that mound shouldn’t be in play, but you know, sometimes, it just is!  In stark contrast the 9th is a relatively open hole but is the hardest hole on the course being a par 5 at 419/546 yards, SI 1.

I was playing Llanymynech during a society day a few years back and won the longest drive on the 13th hole.  I do recall the rest of the players, mainly male, being a bit fed up. I did agree with them as the distance between the two tees was a bit too much at over 60 yards!  Mind you, I did prefer the back tee box position being high, whereas the forward tees were on a lower level.

Another unique feature about Llanymynech

Is when you’re at the top of the hill you can see up to as many as five counties.  These counties are Powys, Dyfed, Clwyd, Shropshire and Staffordshire.  There is a map at the top so you can identify which landmarks you are seeing as you brave the highest part of the course.  Naturally, it is absolutely beautiful on a warm summers day and absolutely miserably on a cold wet one! 

As any good golf course will agree

Ongoing maintenance is essential.  Being forward thinking, instead of using the sods of tuff to create vetted bunkers, LLanymynech are using EcoBunkers.  A synthetic bunker system with a longer life.  When I go back, it is my mission to take a close look at these new bunkers!

Offa’s Dyke is a site of Special Scientific interest, roughly running the boundary between England and Wales.   King Offa was the Anglo Saxon King of Mercia from AD 757.   As Llanymynech also borders these two countries, it is no surprise that Offa’s Dyke also makes an appearance around the golf course.  Again adding to its interest in topography and its heritage.

M for Mount Juliet

M – Mount Juliet

GB&I Golf Course Review – Z to A

I am going to showcase one golf club a day in GB & I over 26 days – in reverse alphabet order.  It is my ode to some great and in some cases, unknown golf.  Full write up’s can be found on golfgurugroup blogspot or on golfgurugroup website under the Travelling Lady Golfer tab. 

Look out for the daily influx of unique, quirky, amazing golf courses across the GB & I.

Subscribe to my social media channels @sarah_thetravellingladygolfer on Instagram @golfgurugroup on Twitter and Facebook for innovative and fun golf media and marketing.

Photo credit Kevin Markham

Mount Juliet

Mount Juliet Estate, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland

Wahoo another great parkland course, who’s relative newness doesn’t detract from it being a fantastic play and location just an hour and half from Dublin.

This beautiful Irish country Estate extends to approx 500 acres with the River Nore shaping its very existence as it dissects the 180 acre golf course. 

Completed just 30 years ago

In 1991 Jack Nicklaus was called in to give it his signature treatment.  This basically means he got involved and visited the sight personally before coming up with this little gem of a course.  It has to be said, at first glance, I would not have said it was a Golden Bear design. I can usually tell if a course is one of his, but this one was tricky for me to pin point its designer. 

Photo credit Kevin Markham

Mount Juliet is fun to play, it’s takes in the established estate and works with the mass of water to bring that in play too.  Hole 4, par 4 292/404 yards is a tight driving hole which seemed to narrow in the middle before opening up to the shot to the green.  Or so you think, in fact the entrance to the green is also narrow.  Water sits to the right of the green too, making it on in 2 is quite a challenge!

It was one of my first experiences of a Nicklaus course, and I recall at the time being impressed by the splodge bunkers, I now know are a trait of his.  Typically in play for the drive, the bunkers became less attractive as the round went on!

Photo credit Kevin Markham

Water and bunkers

Do play a big part of the design of Mount Juliet.  There are around 80 bunkers.  Five lakes were also constructed to come into play over 6 holes but this does enhance Mount Juliet’s natural and unique beauty.  It is little  wonder it was voted best Parkland Golf Course in 2008 and 2010 and more recently the same from Golfers Guide to Ireland.

The 16th, a par 4 335/452 yards is a strange one.  A slight dog leg from the back tees but playing straight from the forward tees. Out of bounds on the left. The inevitable bunkering more likely to catch the back tee players.  Then this little splodge bunker in front of the green.  Nothing weird about that, right?  Behind the green is where you feel as though you’ve playing a desert course. A very large expanse of sand which almost envelopes the green itself.  In fact if that desert bunker wasn’t there, with it being out of bounds behind it, I guess it does save the golfer a little?

Photo credit Kevin Markham

Measure 7,000 yards

It has been built to stage championship golf.  The Irish Open was meant to me played here last year but wasn’t due to Covid.  With many a top golfers already given the opportunity to play Mount Juliet, I’m sure it won’t be long until it hosts another punchy event soon.

It is a number of years since I played Mount Juliet.  I often wonder about changes that might have happen to improve the course and whether those changes actually have improved it.  It seemed pretty special to me when I played there!

Photo credit Kevin Markham

But what of its name?

Several changes in name for the estate have included Waltons Grove and Kendals Grove, depending on who owed the Estate at that time.  But as we all enjoy a good love story, it was the Earl of Carrick who named it Mount Juliet after his wife, Lady Julianna Butler, aka Juliet.  

Hotel accommodation is also available on site.

N for Newport

N – Newport

GB&I golf Course Reviews – Z to A

I am going to showcase one golf club a day in GB & I for the whole of the alphabet.  It is my ode to some great golf.  Full write up’s can be found on golfgurugroup blogspot or on golfgurugroup website under the Travelling Lady Golfer tab. 

Look out for the daily influx of unique, quirky, amazing golf courses across the GB & I and subscribe to my social media channels @sarah_thetravellingladygolfer on Instagram @golfgurugroup on Twitter and Facebook. 

Newport Golf Club


Newport Golf Club stands 300 feet above sea level with a yardage from 5814 to 6500. Located in Llwyni Wood the golf holes circumnavigate the woodland. In the middle of the course whilst capitalising on the beautiful established trees and gently undulating terrain.

Founded in 1903 Newport Golf club started life, like so many, as a nine hole course situated at Ladyhill Farm.  Interestingly, the ladies section was also founded that same year.  A couple of years later the course was extended to 18 holes.  But that wasn’t the end to the clubs evolution with a relocation to its current site in 1912. 

Mature oak trees

Are the first thing you notice as you start to play Newport GC, it is no coincidence that the club logo is an Oak tree!  Certainly this mature parkland course is one that screams history, with one pondering, if only the trees could talk.

Regarded as one of the finest parkland courses in South Wales the current site of the golf course has grown and matured nurturing this natural look. It also far reaching views across the landscape and over towards the Bristol Channel.

Parkland courses

Are often overlooked when visiting the UK in favour of links golf, but playing such a grown up course has its own considerations.  The greens are not level y any stretch of the imagination, the course, whilst doest take on massive elevations. Does add interest with its gentle topography and then there’s the mature statement trees!

The first time I played Newport was in an Open and I was blown away by the golf course.  Naturally I had to return again to see if it was a one off experience.  I’m pleased to say, it wasn’t.  Each time I’ve been back to Newport, it seems to get better.  Driving off the first tee with the club house on your left really sets you up for the rest of the game.  A good indication of what was to come was laid out for all to see right in front of you in unashamed openness.

It is true there are no major hills, no major doglegs but don’t be fooled.  Some of the holes are long and require good placement from the tee and subsequent shots into the green.  Playing with males, I noticed there were a lot of narrow exits off the tees from the back, which didn’t come into play so much from the forward tees.  However, on occasions neatly trimmed hedges did come into play for the tee shot.  Often the landing zone for the tee shot was reasonably wide, but as holes snaked around, placement was key.  Whilst the greens were quite large, front to back, some had thought provoking slopes on them to catch even the best of putters!

Hole number 14

A relatively easy par 3 of 126/164 yards caused lots of hilarity if you weren’t straight onto the green with your tee shot.  A pearl necklace of bunkers protecting  the green from the front and both sides.  The established trees ever present.  The trees were not always thick forest lining the fairways, instead leaving gaps to enjoy those views and give you some reprieve for any wayward shots!

Whilst the mighty oak does dominate many a hole, the woodland is diverse and includes birch and beech too.  Bearing in mind its maturity, the golf club also has a natural history group who monitor and report the flora and fauna of the golf course, working in harmony with the green keepers.  It is a shapely course, with woodland, sloping greens and the odd ditch or hump across the fairway.  There were also some very long holes which could suit the big hitters.

O for The Oxfordshire

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