Moortown Golf Club, north of Leeds, was designed by the famous Yorkshireman, Dr Alister MacKenzie and is known around the world as the host of the 1929 Ryder Cup; the first to be played on British soil. However, if you ask me what I know it for? The bunkers!
Arriving at the clubhouse I felt the presence of the greats who played here and the prestige that comes with playing on this iconic course. It was at this point, I actually started to feel quite nervous.
Now I don’t claim to be anything special when it comes to golf, but I appreciate the sport and love to play at any opportunity. Accompanying me were a couple of colleagues, both of whom (won’t mind me saying) aren’t necessarily incredible either. We checked in at the pro shop and with a few minutes to spare, we went to hit a few balls on the range.
Warmed up, we made our way on to the first tee with a group of 12 members waiting behind us (no pressure!). I began to think about those 1929 Ryder Cup greats again; Henry Cotton, three-time Open champion, Walter Hagen, 11-time major winner and Gene Sarazen, one of five golfers to have won all four majors… and now me. After a couple of practice swings, we were off and I luckily avoided any embarrassment!
“Windy Ridge”, the par 5, hole 1 was covered in bunkers, and I did well to avoid them with my first two shots, all to be let down with my final approach shot. As soon as I was in, it was a struggle to get out. I hoped this wouldn’t be a theme for the day.
Moving on, I began to enjoy the course more and more and started to take in the pure beauty of the place. It’s fair to say, we all had first hole nerves but the continuously challenging course brought us together, as we mentored each other through every stroke. Despite the sand being heavily present throughout.
Hole 4, “The Spinney” is the first of the short holes set in a very picturesque part of the course and despite having a stroke index of 17, it got to us.
168 yards, we all missed the green.
After gaining our composure, we found the green, putted and moved on.
In 1989, and more recently in 2012, the course was altered, hole 6 being the first of the new introductions, which I must say, plays brilliantly. Many of the birch and rowan trees that once lined the fairway have gone, replaced by pesky bunkers and natural heath. Now different to the 6th once played in 1910 by one of Britain’s greats, James Braid, a pioneer of modern golf, the hole now represents the feel Mackenzie initially designed.
Moortown’s signature hole is known as “Gibraltar”. The par 3, 10th plays up a slight slope, 172 yards and if you don’t land your ball on the green, you’ll do well to avoid the run off bunkers. This is a hard hole to perfect and with a number of different pin positions, playing strategy varies daily. Lo and behold, my ball was apprehended by the army of bunkers surrounding the hole, we were playing well up to this point, but the unforgiving challenge of this course doesn’t wait for anybody.
As we made our way through the back 9, the elegance of the course continued to take our mind off the frustration the great game of golf can have on us. Playing in autumn, the varying colours from the 1st to the 18th were stunning and the 175 acres of dramatically contrasting woodland and moorland painted the perfect picture.
Typical of all great golf courses, there is a classic finish. The fairway bunkers guard the ideal position from the tee, requiring two exceptional shots to find the green, nestled under the clubhouse windows. Again, the nerves set in. Playing at Moortown is special, elite golfers have played here, and in Yorkshire it is renowned as one of the best. The round was great, difficult, but thoroughly enjoyable, however all three of us wanted to play well, out of respect to those greats who came before us.
We topped the day off with a visit to the tastefully maintained clubhouse and a pint at the MacKenzie Bar. With the walls adorned with golfing memorabilia, trophies and photographs it was the perfect place to retreat after our round and recount some of our best (and worst!) shots.
Moortown Golf Club is a most traditional club with high standards both on the course and in the clubhouse. The complete golf experience on offer here will appeal to golfers of all abilities.