England's inland courses.
There are many hundreds of inland courses in England. Generally speaking you don't want to play the downland tracks on heavy soil - it is the ones with a heathland feel that I find the most attractive. In 2011 I played 30 of the best of these courses, starting in Leeds and ending in the London/Surrey area.
The Lake District is one of the most beautiful parts of Britain. Hidden away here is the delightful, and very scenic, Windermere Golf Club. It is rarely very crowded and every verdant hole is postcard material. Not surprisingly, it is often called the 'miniature Gleneagles.' The tee at the short par 3, 8th looks right across the adjacent valleys as does the tee at the 11th which you can consider as either a long par 3 or a very short par 4. You are bound to enjoy this little course - just hope for a sunny day for your photos.
(photo Windermere's winding 17th)
From Leeds to London.
Why Leeds you may ask? Side by side you can play the two courses that were Alister Mackenzie's first involvement in design. We used Leeds as our base for about one week preferring to travel up to an hour for golf rather than relocate every night. I don't often recommend larger hotels but you could well consider the Weetwood Hotel near part of the Leeds University campus. How nice on your 'day off' to be able to walk 100 yards from the hotel and watch the Yorkshire Cricket Academy team taking on the opposition.
Moortown is a partly wooded and part heathland course where in recent years they have been working towards opening up the course and restoring bunkers from the original Mackenzie design. There are some challenging holes here and one of the best is Mackenzie's par 3, 10th. I am pleased to say that some years ago an arranged meeting with a former Captain led me to help organize reciprocity between Moortown and Commonwealth, my home club in Melbourne.
(photo par 3, 10th Moortown -photo courtesy Bob Seaton, Moortown Golf Club)
Alwoodley has more of a genuine heathland feel. All the par 3's and 4's are excellent. The greens can be a little on the slow side but perhaps that is just as well given some of the severe slopes. One of the best views on the course is from just short of the 17th green looking back down the 1st and 18th fairways to the unusual styled clubhouse. In true Mackenzie spirit, some of the bunkers were hard to see in the rough or heather.
(photo Alwoodley - looking across the 16th and 4th greens)
Somebody had suggested we play Pannal even though it is not a pure heathland layout. You will locate Pannal on the A658, about a 45 minute drive from Leeds, near the town of Harrogate. Although it is semi parkland, they are presently removing some of the gorse and then restoring the heather. This is a very enjoyable course but it is a little hilly. Greens are very good and views are especially interesting around the middle of the back nine. The drive from the 18th is quite spectacular. Bobby Locke played here regularly when he was stationed nearby in the RAF. Right from the Secretary, Neil Douglas, they are friendly here. An outdoor meal near the putting green is a great setting on a sunny day.
(photo Pannal -view from the 17th green to the 6th green)
Some of my Royal Melbourne friends recommended I play the rustic Mackenzie designed Cavendish. It was not included on the original itinerary as, for some reason, they appear not to have received my emails. Our fine host at Alwoodley was Nick Leefe, the immediate past Captain of the Alister Mackenzie Society. We had kept a day spare and so to our delight Nick was able to organize golf at Cavendish with Richard Atherton -Captain of the British Golf Collectors Society. It was a long drive of about two and a half hours south of Leeds near the town of Buxton on the A6 so plan your golf here for the days after you have based in Leeds.
I enjoyed the course but it was a bit hilly. Having said that, Richard is about ten years older than me and I had trouble matching his pace of play. Good greens with some tricky slopes and some interesting par 3's of which I felt the 17th was the best. Be prepared to see your tee shot at the short 15th hit the green and then roll 20 yards back down the fairway. Tom Doak is a admirer of the par 4, 10th . The clubhouse complimented the rural environment. Definitely worth a game but don't expect Augusta.
(photo Cavendish - the attractive short par 4, 7th hole)
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