GSGB Meetings and Course details 2021

May 12th and 13th  Littlestone / Cooden Beach

Play one of Kent's best links courses before visiting Cooden Beach in East Sussex.
Littlestone Website

Founded in 1888, Littlestone Golf Club is a remote classic links course, located on the fringe of the Romney Marshes, with the English Channel as the backdrop. 

The British Ladies’ Open was held at Littlestone six years after the course opened, which was originally designed by Laidlaw Purves, tweaked by James Braid at the turn of the 20th century and revised in the 1920s by Alister MacKenzie. 
Frank Pennink made some bunker modifications after the Second World War and Donald Steel and Peter Alliss advised on some minor changes in 2000. 

Littlestone is a hidden gem that plays across fairly flat links land, although it does have its own range of sand dunes. New Romney is one of the driest places in the British Isles; consequently, you will rarely need your waterproofs. The dry flat ground makes for some interesting tight lies but rarely will you be faced with awkward stances. 

The greens are true and fast making it difficult to hold the ball. There are no tricks here at Littlestone, everything is clearly in view from the tees (including a significant number of bunkers). You will need to be on top of your game to keep your score together especially if the wind blows and the last three holes are amongst the toughest around. 

The course possesses numerous good golf holes and Bernard Darwin painted a particularly colourful picture of the 11th in his book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles: “At the eleventh, there is one of those uncomfortable tee-shots, which are so excellent. There is a canal, a nasty insidious serpentine beast of a canal, which winds its way along the left-hand side of the course, and it is our duty, in order to gain distance, to hug it as close as we dare; yet if we show ourselves the least bit too affectionate towards it, this ungrateful canal will assuredly engulf our ball to our utter destruction.” 

Littlestone is a delightfully good golf course that always features in any English Top 100 list.

Cooden Beach Website

This clever Herbert Fowler design opened for play in 1912 and remains to this day a thoroughly engaging yet challenging test to all categories of player.

While the course measures a good 6,504 yards at its furthest, it offers a more sedate 6,185 yards from the yellow tee boxes, with five par three holes and a matching five par fives. Nine holes exceed 400 yards and present a different challenge from whichever tee you chose to play from. 

It provides an easy walking round of golf with gentle undulations and springy turf making play fun for all ages. The climb up the 9th hole takes you to the highest point of the course where you can take in the stunning views of the sea and the surrounding countryside.

Natural drainage is provided by internal and external dykes that border many of the holes but these also act as a magnet to errant shots that flirt with the changing coastal breezes which remain the true hazard. It is their unpredictability that makes it a different course every time it is played.

Following much careful and sensitive alteration, the Clubhouse now offers completely modernised changing and showering facilities for both men and ladies, a choice of two lounges where refreshments are available throughout the day, as well as a sumptuous Dining Room on the first floor affording a stunning panoramic view of the course across to distant Beachy Head.  

June 21st and 22nd  Yelverton / St Mellion (Nicklaus)

A first visit to the beautiful moorland of Yelverton and a return to the immaculate parkland of St Mellion, ranked 70th in England by

Yelverton Website 
Yelverton is a delightful moorland course, designed by Herbert Fowler, who used the old mine workings as natural hazards to challenge golfers of all standards. It has outstanding views across Dartmoor and over Cornwall and is a very natural course, with Dartmoor ponies and cattle sharing the fairways.
“Yelverton is one of the finest courses in the West of England,” wrote Peter Alliss in The Good Golf Guide, a 1986 book in which the former Ryder Cup player and veteran commentator chronicled the 200 best courses in the British Isles. “This is heathland golf of a high standard over a course similar to Walton Heath but without trees and some 600 feet above sea level. Situated on the edge of Dartmoor, the members would give you an argument if you claimed more beautiful views were to be found anywhere else." Draped across the southern slopes of Dartmoor, there are panoramic views of seven Dartmoor Tors from the sublime fairways. 

The course starts with a challenging long par three, which is set on the western side of the Plymouth to Tavistock main road and adjacent to the club’s impressive practice ground. A tough par four follows at the 2nd where a ravine has to be carried from the tee and then hillocks and bunkers must be negotiated en route to a narrow entrance in front of the green. An easier run of holes follows before the going gets much tougher at the long, uphill par four 7th where a large gathering bunker on the left waits to catch a drive left and gorse threatens on the right.

The par five 8th is the longest hole on the card where you’ll encounter the Devonport Leat which was constructed in the 18th century to channel drinking water from Dartmoor to Plymouth. Golfers cross the disused Plymouth and Dartmoor Tramway to get to the 9th tee. “You now encounter a piece of history,” wrote Alliss, “Drake’s leat. Sir Francis lived at nearby Buckland Monachorum and one of his public-spirited actions was to build a watercourse to supply Plymouth. Today it comes into play at several holes, particularly the 9th, a short four of 284 yards, where it discourages attempts to drive the green. 

On the 10th, a long par four of 416 yards, you could find it with either the first or second shots.” 
From the 14th tee we are faced with an unusually narrow drive where a draw is favoured whilst at the 16th, possibly the best hole on the property, we are asked to fade our drive before facing a wonderful approach to a slightly depressed green.
Tin mining has created dramatic features where collapsed tunnels have created some remarkable hazards which are frequently encountered. The ravines, gorse bushes, bracken and a bomb crater are all very real hazards indeed but perhaps the most daunting hazard silently waits to catch short approach shots to the home green. A bunker lurks at the bottom of this deep and foreboding ravine which must be avoided or your card may disintegrate at the final hurdle.

St Mellion Website

The Nicklaus Signature Golf Course opened for play in 1988 and is amongst the finest golf courses in South West England and certainly one of the most famous. The course was also the first European course personally designed by Jack Nicklaus.
The course opened to rave reviews with Nicklaus himself being quoted " I knew it was going to be good but not this good". It was certainly good enough to host the B & H International Open for six years from 1990 until 1995 with Olazabal, Langer and Ballesteros amongst the winners.
Located in the Tamar Valley, on what was once rolling farmland, the course has 18 outstanding holes and measures just over 6,200 yards so even for the higher handicapper or shorter hitter is a pleasure to play.
Generally, the American-style course is in manicured to perfection with plenty of definition between the sculptured fairways and the first/second cuts of rough; similarly with the greens and fringes. Elevated tees provide a good view of the task in hand and you will need to keep the ball in play as there are plenty of bunkers and lots of water.
There is no doubt that this is a great golf course and bears the hallmark of a designer who pays attention to detail. Many of the greens are multitiered and the hazards are strategically placed, making for intimidating tee 

Nicklaus even created his own version of Amen Corner with the 10th, 11th & 12th holes a real highlight. The 11th hole is an exacting par three measuring 203 yards; from a high elevation, the tee shot must carry across a river that wends its way across the front and down the left hand side of the green. No prizes for being short here. Our favourite hole is the par five 12th, a beautiful hole that runs through a tree line valley. A stream meanders all the way along the right and then cuts back in front of the green before continuing on its way. 

The lower handicap golfer will enjoy this exciting course enormously, but if you are having an off day, you will succumb to the beast of St Mellion. The hotel which overlooks the tricky approach over water to the 18th green is the perfect place to spend some time exploring Cornwall. As well as offering 36 holes of golf it provides many superb facilities and excellent food.

July 20th and 21st  Carden Park (The AGM Meeting) Website

Two beautiful golf courses on our return to the heart of Cheshire. 
Winner of England’s Best Golf Hotel at the World Golf Awards.

The Nicklaus Course

The Golden Bear team of Jack and his son Steve worked their magic on Carden Park’s Nicklaus course and it opened for play in July 1998. It was quickly recognized by a leading golf magazine as one of the ten best new courses to have opened since 1996. 

The historic 17th century Carden Park estate occupies some 750 acres of prime Cheshire countryside and has become a golfing Mecca in the northwest of England; it’s worth a detour on the way to the links wonderland between Liverpool and Blackpool. 

So, what is it really like? Well, it's a tough golf course but then it would be, wouldn’t it, if Nicklaus had a hand in it, it was bound to be challenging. The park-like ground is not always conducive to all-weather golf, but the drainage has been installed well. 

The conditioning of the course is generally good and the holes are typically Nicklaus-like, pleasurable but eminently fair, everything is laid out clearly in front of you. 

There are two double fairways, there’s plenty of water and many strategically placed bunkers. Additionally, as is normal on Nicklaus courses, there are plenty of teeing areas, five in total. Consequently, it makes the course playable for golfers of all standards. Measuring a chunky 7,045 yards from the black tees to a leisurely 5,211 yards from the reds. 

In essence, the Nicklaus course at Carden Park is fun and it holds your interest very well. It isn’t the most inspiring piece of parkland in the world, but Nicklaus has made full use of the land that was readily available. Despite being in its relative infancy, the Nicklaus course at Carden Park has already played host to the PGA Seniors Tour on two occasions.

The Cheshire Course

The Cheshire course arguably has the most dramatic holes of any at Carden Park and offers many challenges along the way with natural hazards to test your golfing skills.

Situated at the back of the estate, the golf course has beautiful views across to the Welsh hills and beyond. The bunkers have been designed to flow with the natural contours of the landscape and you will need to be swinging well to keep out of them all!

If you have a competitive streak we recommend you take the longest drive from the 9th hole and nearest the pin at the 15th hole, a stunning downhill shot with a wooded backdrop.
This is the start of the famous finish on the Cheshire course. 

The 16th is a demanding uphill dogleg hole which also just happens to be narrow and treelined and the 17th is one of the best and most picturesque par 3's in the whole of the county.

The 18th tee is set upon a cliff overlooking the estate and offers wonderful views of the 
excellent clubhouse in the distance

Many golfers actually prefer the Alan Higgins-designed Cheshire course to the more famous Nicklaus layout as it offers greater variety as well as being much prettier than its more high profile sibling.

The hotel is excellent throughout and the brand new Spa which opened back in January 2020 will only enhance the experience, for lady golfers in particular

August 26th and 27th  Alwoodley / Fulford

We return to two of England's finest inland courses. 

Alwoodley  Website

The Alwoodley Golf Club is the cream of a cluster of excellent courses stretching across the moors just north of Leeds and currently sits at #41 in the GB&I rankings. In many ways, it is reminiscent of the world-class heathland at Woodhall Spa’s Hotchkin course which is very high praise indeed. "This the home course of Dr. MacKenzie ought to be good and, personally, I put it very high among inland courses," wrote Bernard Darwin in his book The Golf Courses of Great Britain.
Founded in 1907, MacKenzie joined forces with the already renowned architect, Harry Colt, to fashion Alwoodley and this was his first dabble with golf course design. Clearly inspired, he went on to become a full time golf course architect and later went on to design the great Augusta National, home of the Masters. 

The course is a combination of heathland and moorland with rippling fairways and fine, crisp, springy turf. There is plenty of heather and gorse, which provides glorious seasonal colour and it will usually punish the wayward shot. Essentially an out and back course, the front nine is generally regarded as the easier of the two nines (the only two par fives are on the outward nine). The back nine invariably plays into the prevailing winds coming off the Yorkshire Moors.

Alwoodley possesses some strong and supremely challenging holes. The 3rd is a very subtle straight par five measuring 510 yards and it used to appear open and devoid of definition. However, in recent years the club has implemented a policy of restoration and improvement of all the bunkers on the course.
This has changed the playing characteristics of some holes, including the 3rd. The once lonesome bunker on the lefthand side of the fairway, some 200 yards from the tee, has been joined by a further left-side bunker, 240 yards out, which complements the original one. A new bunker 30 yards short and right of the green narrows the approach, demanding a very accurate shot to the right-to-left sloping green.

The short 9th and 11th are two exquisite par threes and between them, the doglegging 10th requires an accurate downhill approach shot to a wonderful green complex fronted by a troublesome ditch. The 17th is one of our favourite driving holes if you can avoid the out-of-bounds on the left. It’s a 434-yard par four where a reasonable tee shot will leave a blind approach to a hidden green nestling some 30 feet below. The raised tee on the tough 18th offers a fine view of the unique chateau-style clubhouse.

Alwoodley has played host to many important amateur events over the years and it regularly tests the pros when the course is used as a Regional Qualifier for the Open. 

Fulford Website 

Fulford Golf Club is located just one mile from the centre of the historic city of York. It's a high-class heathland/parkland course which was home to the Benson and Hedges International Open during the 1970s and 1980s. This televised tournament immediately made Fulford a household name and gave it nationwide recognition as one of the country's best inland courses. 

The club was founded in 1906 but it moved to its current site in 1935 after James Braid identified the land a few years earlier. Major Charles MacKenzie, the brother of the legendary Alister MacKenzie of Augusta National fame, designed the course on predominantly sandy ground. A major bunker renovation, recently completed by top golf course architects Mackenzie & Ebert has made the course even better.

The course lies on flat land, the early holes being of a fast-running parkland nature as it heads away from the clubhouse towards the  A64 that dissects the course into two distinct parts. Cross the road and you enter a more wooded setting with a touch of heathland about it before re-crossing the road and playing the final five holes parallel to the opening stretch. After a very solid start, which includes the excellent par-three third, the eight holes across the bridge showcase the best of Fulford. There are three superb par fives amongst this stretch of holes, that change direction often, as well as a number of excellent par fours (the tough 13th is undoubtedly the most noteworthy) and a fine one-shotter at the tenth.

Being in play from the tee is of paramount importance, however, your task is not an easy one because there are several very well placed bunkers at various lengths from the tee. Many of the holes are also lined by trees and/or gorse making the course play even narrower. 
There is one particular tree at Fulford that will remain a monument to Bernhard Langer for as long as it lives. In the 1981 B&H International, Langer hit his approach shot to the 17th into the branches of a large ash tree. Amazingly, the ball remained lodged. Rather than taking a penalty drop, Langer decided to shin up the tree and play the shot from where it lay. From a precarious and unusual stance, Langer chipped out and to everyone's astonishment, the ball landed on the green. A plaque on the same tree now commemorates Langer's remarkable feat. 

Measuring 6,779 yards from the back tees, Fulford is a serious test for the handicap golfer, but the course is too short for today's long hitting professionals. Just ask Ian Woosnam. "Woosie" posted the All-Comers' course record in 1985 with an amazing 62. It is most unlikely that we'll have the chance to score 62, but we'll certainly enjoy Fulford. It's a fine golf course in a beautiful part of the country and, thanks to Langer, it will always be remembered.

September 16th and 17th  Blackwell / Edgbaston

We return to two of the finest courses in the Midlands. 

Blackwell Website

Six times an Open Championship Regional Qualifying course, Blackwell Golf Club is the quintessential English gem and has a proud history dating back to 1893. The club’s original 9-hole course occupied part of Viscount Windsor’s Hewell Grange estate, a couple of miles south of where today’s 18-hole layout is located. In 1923, Herbert Fowler and Tom Simpson were hired to set out the club’s new course within a compact 102-acre tract of land just outside the village of Blackwell. 

Today, the course extends to a moderate 6,260 yards, playing to a par of 70, with three par fives on the card, the 490-yard 4th which has a green that’s heavily protected by deep bunkers to the front, the 486-yard 8th, doglegging downhill to the left and the 512-yard 12th featuring a very long narrow bunker that runs along the right side of the fairway – we suspect this is a modern hazard that’s been added to deal with a drainage problem or a similar conditioning issue. 

It’s known for a fact that Bobby Jones played the course immediately after he won the Open at Hoylake in 1930. What’s not so certain is the story that he allegedly based the design of the famous 12th hole at Augusta National on the 181-yard 13th at Blackwell. Now that might just be taking the realms of speculation a bit too far but, if it’s true, then it’s some accolade for a heavily-bunkered little beauty in Worcestershire. 

Tom Doak made a point of playing Blackwell in 2016 and commented as follows in his Christmas 2017 Confidential Guide update: “My late friend Woody Millen, a member at Piping Rock and Palmetto, was also an overseas member of Blackwell, which I’d never heard of. He always played it off as being more about the club than the golf course, but I knew him well enough to know the golf must be pretty good, too. The course is tightly packed into a small parcel between suburban Birmingham and open farmland – it’s a par 70 and the longest of the three par-fives is 512 yards. As a consequence, they’ve planted a few too many trees to try and keep up the level of difficulty, as if the difficult set of short holes were not up to the task. The camaraderie of the club is no doubt enhanced by having the 10th tee and 18th green play up to within a few feet of the clubhouse, and the 1st tee right up against the building, so that all your friends are out to watch you finish [and possibly gamble on your approach to the last].” 

Always to be found well placed in the English Top 100 rankings, the club has recently developed a 10-year masterplan to restore Simpson’s original design strategies with the help of Frank Pont’s Infinite Variety Golf Design firm. Much of the bunker renovation work has already been carried out which has significantly improved a course that was already very good indeed

Edgbaston Website

Edgbaston sits on a rolling, albeit compact, parcel of parkland just one mile from the centre of Birmingham. Established in 1896 Edgbaston had a couple of different homes before the current layout was designed by the legendary H.S. Colt in 1936. The quality of his green settings are clear to see during the round and this makes a round here one of the best in the West Midlands. 

The course, a par 69, measures  just over 6,100 yards and includes an ornamental lake as well as mature and extensive woodland with small greens that have just the correct amount of borrow to make the holes strategic and challenging but still extremely playable. You’re unlikely to lose many balls at Edgbaston and whilst there are lots of trees on this established property there is still a certain roominess to it despite the small acreage. The set of four short holes, three of which come early between the third and seventh, are all very impressive with deceptive targets, excellent bunkering and taxing greens. The fifth is a favourite with an egg-timer shaped green much wider than it is deep with a good amount of slope. The downhill seventh is also a gem with the Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower acting as a unique backdrop. 

Classic Colt design can be found at many holes but the green complexes around the grand clubhouse – Edgbaston Hall - are the most ingenious. The brilliantly located ninth has a ridge angled across it, the 15th is cunningly located at the top of a steep incline but the putting surface itself is slightly gathering whilst the adjacent 18th – after an awkward drive - is played more down the shoot and features a significant slope from right-to-left. 

The driveable par-four 11th may go under the radar of most visiting golfers but is protected perfectly with a tiny green, traps either side and steep fall-aways at the front. Indeed many of the greens, especially at the shorter
and medium-length two-shotters, feature sharp run-offs and pleasingly most of these are cut to apron length to heighten the degree of accuracy required and increase the punishment for those just slightly wayward. 

There are many enjoyable par fours on the course and a handful require solid hitting. The second, sixth, eighth and 10th will all likely require a mid-to-long iron at least to reach in two but these holes are not the strength of Edgbaston, despite being very good. In my opinion, the holes where you are approaching with a shorter club is where the most fun and best golf is to be had. Meanwhile, the lone par-five arrives at the penultimate hole and is less than 500-yards but also has an excellent green complex to assist in defending its par.
Length may not be a major requirement to score well here but careful course management, accurate play and a deft touch with the putter will be rewarded in spades. Edgbaston has undergone an extensive bunker renovation programme by renowned course architects Mackenzie & Ebert in recent years which has elevated the course's standing considerably in the world of golf course architecture.

The course comments above are taken with permission from the website and the individual club websites. 

All photos are either owned by GSGB or supplied by the relevant golf clubs and are shown with their permission.

Brian Ward