Golf in Leeds – A Brief History and Some of the Best Courses to Visit
23rd April 2021
Ryan from Howley Hall Golf Club tells us what ‘putts’ Leeds golf on the map…
Those of you that have grown up playing your golf in Leeds will be more than familiar with the rich heritage it possesses. Since moving to the area, I have been fortunate enough to play the majority of its courses and learned of the history associated with them.
(Temple Newsam Golf – Leeds City Council)
My first experience of golf in Leeds was as a caddy for my dad. He was playing in The Leeds Cup at Oulton Hall which is the oldest trophy in professional golf. The Leeds Cup has been held at a number of clubs within the area, including: Leeds Golf Club, Bradford Golf Club, Harrogate, Roundhay, Ilkley, Alwoodley, Ganton, Moor Allerton, Pannal, Temple Newsam, Sand Moor, Oakdale and Keighley. I have played in the event numerous times and always look forward to competing in it due to its history and the famous names that have claimed the title including Harry Vardon, six-time Open Champion, U.S Open Champion and part of golfs great triumvirate, two-time major champion Ted Ray who won it five times as well as being Great Britain’s first ever Ryder Cup Captain in 1927.
It is with the Ryder Cup that Leeds further raised its profile as a golfing destination by holding the first contest on this side of the Atlantic after the inaugural event in Worcester, Massachusetts two years earlier. Moortown Golf Club was the venue and the matches took place on 26th and 27th April 1929 with around 15,000 spectators in attendance to see home favourites such as Percy Alliss, father to the late great voice of golf Peter Alliss, and Henry Cotton who went on to win the Open Championship three times. The All-Star US team was captained by golf legend Walter Hagan who amassed 11 major championships, is third on the all-time list and whose achievements in the game have only been surpassed by Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Gene Sarazen was also part of the US Team and had his own impressive haul of seven major titles, including the career grand slam which he completed in 1935 by winning The Masters; he is one of only five players in history to achieve this. The match itself was fiercely contested with the hail and snow playing their part but the grit and determination of the British team managed to edge out the Americans 7-5 over the two days.
The European Tour would later hold the Car Care Plan International in Leeds for 5 years from 1982-86 with the first one being held at Moor Allerton followed by Sand Moor in 1983 and Moortown 1984-86. The top players of the era descended on Leeds again with Nick Faldo winning on two occasions. Other notable names in the event were Seve Ballasteros, Sandy Lyle, Greg Norman and Ian Woosnam.
Modern day golf in Leeds sees 28 clubs affiliated to the Leeds and District Union as well as many other nine hole courses, driving ranges and indoor facilities available for anyone who wants to take up the game. You may be surprised how close you are to a golf facility as Leeds is brimming with venues to learn and play the game.
Junior development sessions run at most of the golf clubs and driving ranges within the area with the aim of encouraging as many young people as possible to take up golf, often visiting local schools providing coaching sessions too. One of the best examples of this is the Golf Academy at Oulton Hall.
Inclusive golf is also a massive focus for all coaching academies and the team at Cookridge Hall run some fantastic sessions for all ages and abilities.
(Moortown Golf Club – James Drake Photography)
TOP 10 COURSES IN LEEDS (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER)
1 – Alwoodley Golf Club. The venue for many elite amateur and professional tournaments over the years as well as a regular Open qualifying venue. The Alister Mackenzie designed layout is a stern test of a players overall game.
2 – Moortown Golf Club. Best known as the venue for the 1929 Ryder Cup and regarded as one of the country’s finest inland courses.
3 – Sand Moor Golf Club. Located very close to Moortown and Alwoodley this fantastic course dates back to 1926 and boasts stunning views of the Eccup reservoir.
4 – Howley Hall Golf Club. Founded in 1900 and home of the Yorkshire Open Championship and considered one of the finest championship courses in Yorkshire
5 – Moor Allerton Golf Club. The 27 Hole venue offers great views of the countryside as well as a great test for golfers of all abilities with many changes in elevation as you plot your way around the course.
6 – Headingley Golf Club. One of the oldest clubs in Leeds founded in 1892. A really good test for golfers of all abilities.
7 – Cookridge Hall Golf Club. Fantastic course with great views across the Yorkshire Dales. The venue also has great catering and clubhouse facilities as well as a gym and leisure complex.
8 – Scarcroft Golf Club. A very friendly club and one that is often described as a hidden gem. This really fun parkland layout offers some risk reward holes and always presents a tough test.
9 – Garforth Golf Club. Opened in 1913 this friendly club has a great atmosphere both on and off the course. The challenging course is backed up by great catering and bar facilities.
10 – Horsforth Golf Club. This classic parkland course opened in 1906 and is located very close to Leeds Bradford airport.
(Moor Allerton Golf Club – credit Andy Hiseman)
BEST DRIVING RANGES
For those of you that may want to practice and play in a less formal environment, take a look at some of these fantastic venues:
Leeds Golf Centre. Located in Wike, North Leeds. This venue offers fantastic clubhouse facilities and David Leadbetter coaching academy as well as 18 hole championship course, 12 hole par 3 course and Footgolf. The driving range is equip with the latest top tracer technology and is amazing fun for beginners and seasoned players alike.
Oulton Hall. Located in the South Leeds village of Rothwell, Oulton Hall has a 27 hole golf course, hotel and spa. The driving range has a number of heated bays as well as lessons available with their team of experienced professionals who all use industry leading TrackMan technology
Cookridge Hall. Open to the public 7 days a week, our purpose built floodlit driving range boasts 22 individual bays. Hitting out over views of the Yorkshire Dales the range offers an abundance of targets, a modest short game area for chipping and bunker play and a huge putting green. Hot sandwiches and drinks are available inside the range’s sports bar where stylish leather sofas and television will make your visit all the more comfortable.
GOLF COACHING IN LEEDS
Whether you want to improve your game or start from scratch, there are some fantastic venues to visit in the city.
Oulton Hall Golf Academy – The coaches at Oulton Hall are experts at nurturing golfers of all skill levels and have an amazing junior coaching programme. Visit oultonhallgolfacademy.com to find out more.
Howley Hall Golf Club – The fantastic practice facilities and indoor performance centre really elevate Howley Hall as one of the premier venues in the area. Award winning PGA head professional Ryan Rastall is an expert in custom fitting and has a wealth of experience with players of all abilities. Visit ryanrastallgolf.co.uk for more info.
Garforth Golf Club – The Golf Room at Garforth Golf club is extremely popular for both coaching and custom fitting. The team of professionals led by Gareth Johnson and Lee Morrisroe have a fantastic indoor teaching facility and great golf shop. Visit thegolfroomgarforth.co.uk
Cookridge Hall – The coaching team at Cookridge Hall are extremely experienced and create a warm, friendly environment for golfers to improve.