Hotlist – 5 English Gems

To celebrate the birth of my Hotlist – a directory of English Clubs exhibiting the very best of course architecture and quirky Englishness – this blog will detail the latest entries on the list.

Minehead & West Somerset Golf Club (Somerset)

Minehead is a 1960’s style seaside town on the Somerset coast dominated by a giant Butlins resort.

To reach the Golf Club you have to drive right along the coastline and promenade, and just before the land runs out to the sea is where the course lays.

It is indeed apt to describe the course as otherworldly given the lunar like landscape that unfolds out in front of you from the 1st tee.

In places a true bleak links, in other places with hints of damper parkland, this is the nearest that most golfers will get to playing on the moon.

The 1st hole sets the tone well, a drive-able Par 4 with plenty of width and options from the tee, but enough hazards and tricky angles if you stray offline.

There are a number of good holes around the turn, where the spit of land hosting the course narrows, and the beach comes into play as a hazard. The best hole, however, is left until last with the epic long Par 3 18th played from an elevated tee in the dunes to a narrow green bordered tightly by the clubhouse. A suitably intimidating finish.

The final note regarding Minehead must be the prevailing conditions. The location of the course attracts strong winds and storms – suitably apt for the bleak landscape.

Feltwell (Norfolk)

There are not many Golf Clubs in England with armed guards at the end of the driveway, but their presence at Feltwell tips a hat to the military background of the course.

Originally designed and created by the RAF, the course is now owned by the members and open to the public, though it is flanked on one side by the still active military base (hence the armed guards), now housing US military personnel and huge ‘early warning’ radars.

Truth be told, pulling into the car-park and viewing the open Fen landscape for the first time, hopes are not overly high for a great golf course. Luckily it is a quirky architectural treat.

Before the land was used for golf, the RAF fired Thor Missiles from the site. Although most of the concrete bases for these launches are now removed, some evidence still remains to create truly unique hazards.

Windswept and wide, the 9-Hole course offers plenty of space with well designed green complexes that become very tricky to hold from the incorrect angles. Multiple tee options add variety for each nine and the well placed hazards make the golfer consider their options carefully.

Perhaps the best hole is the 3rd/12th – a left-to-right brute of a dog-leg that gives the golfer tantalising options to cut the angles. There is little respite at the end of the monster, with a heavily bunkered and sloping putting surface.

Seaford Head (Sussex)

I stumbled across this undulating gem whilst holidaying on the South Coast a few years back.

It contains some of the most fabulous views you will find on any course in England.

Some of the best holes come early on – with a heath-land stretch along the opening holes that offer plenty of options from the tee including taking on some thrilling Driver options to create birdie chances.

The views offer panoramas along the coast in both directions, but from either end of the course. The 18th tee shot (pictured) genuinely induced vertigo in me as I tentatively launched my weight through to my front foot as I swung through the Drive. Great fun!

This is a challenging piece of land from which to craft a course, and it is true that you will have an advantage if you have one leg shorter than the other – some hole designs suffer as a result. But the sheer fun factor justifies its place on the list.

Weston-Super-Mare Golf Club (Somerset)

At one end of the seedy Victorian seaside resort you will find a true links challenge.

 

Designed by Dr. Alistair Mackenzie in 1892, it offers subtle links golf and architectural delight across a pretty flat piece of land.

The Par 3 3rd hole is a little beauty, with tee and green located hard to the dunes on the right, with tough pitch shots the result of bailing out to the left of the green. The location of the tee offers a quirk of nature – throw some grass up to test the wind from ground level and it will often go towards the sea. Get your ball above the dune line, however, and the wind will be hard off the sea – the wind looping over the dune to offer confusion to the visitor.

The best hole on the course is the long Par 4 15th – a hole Mackenzie modelled on the Road Hole at St Andrews. The Hotel is replaced by a large grass mound and the green and bunkers replicate the original with remarkable accuracy.

consistently excellent conditioning and particularly slippery and true greens form an integral part of the attraction and challenge at Weston. Like Minehead, it is not the most lauded links course in the country, but well worth your time and green fee.

Chulmleigh Golf Club (Devon)

Unique for now on the Hotlist, Chulmleigh Golf Club is a Par 3 course.

There is a drastic lack of interesting, well designed short courses available in the golfing market and Chulmleigh stands apart from its competition.

With tiny, well-conditioned greens, a total lack of rough but enough hazards to keep you interested, this track appeals to experienced golfers as much as its core market of beginners and families.

Whilst acknowledging that the business model around these facilities remains a challenge – they struggle to charge high enough fees to maintain investment in conditioning – this area of the market needs to raise its standards if we are to ‘grow the game’.

Uniquely playing as an 18-Hole in the summer and a 9 (with longer holes) in the winter, the owners and staff are doing a great job.

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