Golf in Gods’ own county - Yorkshire’s got the lot
Amidst its wealth of competing attractions Leeds makes little fuss of its counties golfing credentials. The city is surrounded by a wealth of high quality courses. The high, well-drained uplands of the moors and dales that sit to the north of Yorkshire’s most dynamic city offer a perfect landscape for golf. Within a half hour’s drive of the city centre there is an abundance of courses to suit every golfing taste.
From the grandiose challenge posed by former Ryder Cup venue Moortown, to more modest little gems such as Ilkley Moor’s Ben Rhydding club - quietly recognised one of the most beautiful nine-hole courses England - Leeds offers itself as the perfect location for golfers who like to savour variety as well as quality in their golf. And further afield, north and south, Yorkshire has plenty more to offer.
Moortown Golf Club
Moortown staged the 1929 Ryder Cup (GB & I won 7-5) and is universally recognised as the area’s pre-eminent golfing challenge. Set in the rolling, fast draining moorland to the north of the city Moortown is regularly used as an Open qualifier as well as the venue for countless other prestigious events. Sir Nick Faldo, Bernard Gallagher, and former R and A Captain Sir Michael Bonallack all have their names on the club’s honours boards.
Measuring an imposing 6,980 yards off its championship tees Moortown takes few prisoners. Anyone who returns a par score on the Alistair Mackenzie-designed course at Moortown will be able to feel justly proud of themselves. Moortown is majestic, but it is not for the faint hearted.
Alwoodley Golf Club
Almost next door to Moortown, and benefitting from the same rolling landscape, Alwoodley is hardly second rate. In fact, it is regularly cited as being one of the top 100 courses in the country, whilst a thriving membership ensures the course is maintained in pristine condition. A proud boast is that Alwoodley was Alistair Mackenzie’s first design, although it has been lengthened to a demanding 6,900 yards since its unveiling in 1907. Alwoodley represents a perfect balance between deliciously springy fairways and the heathland hazards of, heather, gorse and whin bushes.
Moor Allerton Golf Club
Yet another of the spray of fine old courses to the North of the city, Moor Allerton boasts 27 holes that make the utmost of the area’s undulating topography. Not as hilly as the Dales (to the north) but a marked contrast to the flatter ground to the south, whichever configuration of holes you play, Moor Allerton is an energetic challenge. Peter Alliss, who was head professional here in the early 70s, described Moor Allerton as ‘a golfing experience larger than life’; it’s not a bad description.
Sandmoor Golf Club
Easily overlooked, surrounded as it is by more illustrious neighbours, Sandmoor deserves attention in its own right. Perhaps slightly less undulating that those already mentioned, the courses challenge is imposed by a series of tree-lined fairways that make ‘taking your medicine’ entirely obligatory. Having also benefitted from Alistair Mackenzie’s design input Sandmoor has been steadily developing since it first opened as a six hole course in 1926. It is to the credit of those who followed that it is impossible to tell which those original six holes were.
Ilkley Golf Club
Perhaps testing our half hour journey time, Ilkley is worth the extra few minutes’ drive. Set alongside the winding River Wharfe and overlooked by the famous Hills of the Dales, the notably flat course is exquisitely laid out and manicured. Hookers and pullers beware; the river is continually in play throughout its opening nine. Mark James and Colin Montgomerie are amongst those to have called Ilkely ‘home’ over the years and that pedigree is reflected in a club and course that offer a luxurious as well as a cannily testing introduction to the Dales.
Ben Rhydding: Hidden treasure
Amidst the big name, big ticket courses that fringe the city there are also smaller, more discrete clubs that boast their own peculiar charm. A firm favourite with tourists since the Victorian era is the nine hole, up and down challenge provided by the Ben Rhydding club. Designed as an extension to a long-gone spa hotel, the course lies in the lee of the famous Cow and Calf rocks. The iconic emblem of Ilkley Moor dominates the course’s western horizon. Although not long at 4,623 yards the course makes up in elevation what it lacks in length. Some majestic views and all the old-time charm of an honesty box for visitors mean that Ben Rhydding is well worth fitting in to a busy itinerary.
Ganton Golf Club
Further afield, Yorkshire’s golfing greats and hidden gems are by no means limited to the Leeds periphery. In North Yorkshire, the sumptuous inland links course at Ganton Golf Club, eleven miles inland from Scarborough, is one of England’s very finest. Enjoying geology and topography that was once coastal, Ganton’s sandy sub-soil delivers the sort of bounce and run that anyone familiar with seaside links will recognise. Marked by innumerable deep and occasionally extensive bunkers, as wella s glass-fast greens Ganton has remained a stern test of golf since its inception in 1891. Its pedigree is signalled by its choice as the venue for the 1949 Ryder Cup (USA won 7&5). The course is rightly lauded as one of the world’s 80 best courses.
Sandburn Hall Golf
Following the sad demise of the Flaxby project near Harrogate Sandburn Hall near York stands out as the finest modern course in the county. Opened as recently as 2004, Sandburn Hall has been designed without compromise. A rolling 6,700 yard, par 72 layout makes the most of the Vale of York’s ideal golfing conditions, whilst the all-round facilities point to the intent to make Sandburn Hall a notable spot on the golfing map. Teaching and practice facilities including a covered driving range are complemented by holiday lodges, a restaurant that is regularly used as a wedding venue, and a full-time conference facility. Sandburn Hall looks set to mature into one of Yorkshire’s must-see, must-play locations.
Lindrick Golf Club
Some would say we have saved the best till last. The third of Yorkshire’s Ryder Cup courses is Lindrick near Sheffield, venue for the famous tournament in 1957 (GB & I won 71/2 - 41/2). At 6,000 yards Lindrick is too short for serious professional competition these days, but for mere mortals it still represents a test as well as a treat. Allistair Macknzie described it as the best inland course in Britain and a rival to any seaside links. He notably rated it above Gleneagles, Sunningdale and Ganton amongst others.
One for the road…. Temple Newsam: The one that got away
Temple Newsam is a stately home on Leeds’ southern edge. Amidst its huge rolling grounds two grand 18 hole courses are laid out. Both the Lady Dorothy and Lord Irwin courses are maintained by the local authority, and although the condition of the courses bear testimony to that fact, Temple Newsam’s courses make this list on the basis of what they might have been.
For anyone looking to golf on a budget Temple Newsam will not disappoint. Had it enjoyed a more generous administration in days gone by the club could have been a wonderful facility. Both courses are long, rangy and undulating. Mature trees, gorse bushes, and abundant rough demand accuracy at all times. With more love and attention over the years ‘Tempy’ could have been extraordinary. Today, sadly, it needs a sympathetic eye to appreciate what might have been.
Author bio: Corrie works at Glencor Golf Holidays. Glencor Golf Holidays are a golf holiday tour operator based in York, with over twenty years’ experience of planning and organising golfing breaks both in Yorkshire, the rest of the UK and abroad!