It takes something pretty special to stand out in a Leeds golf scene that encompasses over 20 great courses, but Alwoodley in the north of the city is considered one of Britain's finest inland courses. This natural heathland course was the first project for the great Dr Alister MacKenzie - a world-famous golf course architect who has designed courses over four continents. Golf Monthly magazine describes MacKenzie's original creation in Alwoodley as "an excellent test of golf and a true heathland challenge".
This was our first visit to the course and we were blown away by the standard of clubhouse, complete with a new bar area. A trip to the completely refurbished toilets and shower area was nothing short of luxurious. We also enjoyed an excellent bacon sandwich and pot of tea on the newly extended terrace before heading out to the first tee.
I had spoken to a few friends about the course. Still all beginners, I thought that we could all do with as many tips as possible. They had told me that the course was just as beautiful as Moortown but more difficult. Great, I thought. I'd struggled enough at MacKenzie's other masterpiece. "The fairways are quite narrow. Hit it straight and you'll be fine" they said. On top of that I'd heard that the course has been lengthened. Should be fine then.
Everything was fine. Hole One and we all got away relatively safely onto the generous fairway. Little did we know that the fairways were cut through challenging areas of heather and shrubs. I hate heather. I lose balls in heather. Heather is not my friend. With that thought in the back of my mind, we negotiated the first few holes rather well. The real challenge started at the 5th. An increasing amount of bunkers meant more raking for some of us but the shot count stayed surprisingly consistent and everyone was happy. A couple of us even chipped in from distance. Get. In. The. Hole.
Everyone improved with the more holes we played. We met some members who kindly lent us a guide to the course. We diligently raked more sand and lost a few more balls in the heather. Despite some freak shots (topping a ball so hard it disappeared into Alwoodley forever), we were enjoying every minute on this beautiful course.
Our favourite holes were the 9th and 10th. Not just because we'd warmed up by then but also because they were great fun to play and they were visually impressive. Looking at the 9th hole from the tee is lovely. It's a long Par 3 so you can have a real go at the green. Framed by lush trees with a green highlighted with bunkers it's both delightful and daunting. The 10th, inspiration for Augusta’s 13th hole, felt totally natural and free flowing. A couple of us drove well and shot near the green in two. The shape of the hole curving around a bank of trees was idyllic. Controlling the putts proved to be much more of a challenge on a green full of danger.
I always struggle to see the pin but some holes at Alwoodley literally play blind and the natural terrain means most of the holes are difficult to negotiate. It's often a struggle to get a real idea of the hazards ahead. The exception to this is the final hole. Our 4-ball was decided by then so everyone could relax and enjoy the elevated tee and the incredible views back to the clubhouse.
After safety negotiating the 18th, we had a well-deserved drink and reflected on the experience. We all concluded that it didn't feel like we'd played 18 holes. It seems the variety of holes and challenging nature of the course along with the stunning surroundings kept minds interested and bodies occupied throughout the round.
Highlight: 300 yard drive on the 17th.
Lowlight: Raking the sand.
Alwoodley Golf Club is based in North Leeds and is open 7 days a week. For more information about the club or to book a round head to their website or call them on +44 (0)113 268 1680