Yorkshire is England’s largest county and a former industrial powerhouse.
The county produced wool, steel, coal and textiles and with the mills and mines came wealthy men and golf courses for them to play on.
Here’s our guide to a golf break in “God’s own county.”
- Harrogate – home of Betty’s tea shop and plenty of proper tees
- Ganton Golf Club: bunkers you can get lost in
- Hit long or falter at Rudding Park
- See Yorkshire’s industrial footprint at Pannal
- Langer’s famous tree-shot at Fulford
- Pannal and Ilkley – short but sweet
The affluent spa-town of Harrogate is a perfect base for any Yorkshire golf break.
More bothered about tee-times than tea and scones from Harrogate’s world famous Betty’s Tea-shop? then a good choice is to stay at Rudding Park Hotel and Golf Club.
This grade one listed Country house from the Regency period is set in 300-acres of parkland with an 18-hole Championship golf course, just two-miles from the town centre.
Looking down into the Vale of York and within sight of York Minster on a clear day, Rudding Park enjoys a spectacular location.
An intimate 50-bedroom hotel, Rudding Park is less than 30-minutes drive from Leeds and York city centres, Leeds Bradford International airport and the M1, M62 and A1 motorways.
It’s location makes it a strong central point from which to explore the best golf courses in this vast county.
What better way to prepare for golf than with a hearty meal and early to bed.
Ruddy good burger in the Clocktower
The Clocktower cheeseburger, made with Monterey Jack cheese and real chunky chips was a mouth watering choice at Rudding Park’s Clocktower Restaurant and Bar.
Built on the site of the old coaching yard and stables, this double AA-Rosette restaurant has a colourful modern ambience and makes excellent use of local produce.
A night’s sleep in this hotel’s Superior suite is difficult to beat.
The beds are large and the duvets feather soft.
Ganton: deep deep bunkers and savage rough
One Yorkshire course with an impecabble pedigree is Ganton golf club, near the seaside town of Scarborough.
Ganton is able to boast of having held the Ryder, Walker and Curtis Cups, most recently the Walker Cup in 2003.
Gary Player has said that Ganton is the only inland course worthy of holding the Open Championship.
“The only inland course worthy of holding the Open Championship,” Mr. Gary Player
Whether that ever transpires, this fast-running heathland course is known for its deep bunkers, savage rough, whin and gorse bushes and has an excellent international reputation that it rightly deserves.
From Harrogate, Ganton is reached via the A59 York road followed by the A64 coastal route.
A round here can be a peaceful stroll on an open plain, unless you find the gorse that peppers nearly every hole, and the course sets a premium for accuracy not length.
The turf is crisp and sandy and Ganton’s grasses are bents and fescue, like those found on links.
A crisp strike is most needed at the par-four 4th – a classic Harry Colt design- that incorporates a second shot across a gaping valley to an elevated green.
Tight tee-shots are the norm, but Ganton’s hallmarks are the extremely penal bunkers.
At the 14th hole, the favourite of former Walker Cup captain Peter McEvoy, you can attempt to drive the green 282-yards away, but must first fly a fearsome array of cross bunkers that will rattle your nerves.
Fulford’s famous tree-shot
Travelling back to York from Ganton on the A64, it’s difficult to miss Fulford, in fact you’re about to drive right through the middle of it.
The course, in the southern outskirts of the cathedral city of York, is dissected by a bypass road, which separates the first five holes from the remainder of the course.
Fulford registered on the golfing map as the venue for the Benson and Hedges International Open from 1971 until 1989.
It was immortalized in golfing folklore in 1981 when Bernhard Langer’s ball stuck up a tree at the par-four 17th.
The German climbed into the branches and remarkably chipped back onto the green.
The first five holes are played into the prevailing wind and pleasantly mix long par-fours with medium length short holes, before crossing the bypass and entering the tighter tree-lined section.
The course really begins at the 9th where the layout turns to heathland and fairways tighten dramatically.
The 9th is a terrific par-five at 486-yards, and can be a birdie chance if you can fire the drive over a blanket of heather to a tight landing strip.
The stretch of holes that ensues is really quite special and best among them is the 473-yard 13th.
There is out-of-bounds to your left and barely anything to hit at, yet, bunkers placed 100-yards from the green provide tremendous definition to the long slim green and almost certainly trouble the shorter hitter who will struggle to reach in two.
Fulford has a lot to recommend it.
So good the staff never leave
The greens were the best of any course on this golfing trip and the greenkeeper Mark Mennell has looked after the course for 30-years, marginally beating out the steward who has racked up 26-years faithful service.
After another night of restful slumber at Rudding Park, the Yorkshire breakfast at the Clocktower will prepare you for a round at nearby Pannal Golf Club.
In scenic countryside to the South of Harrogate, Pannal is an example of a classically designed golf course whose challenge is somewhat defused by the advances in modern driver and ball technology.
Built in 1906, this 6602-yard course is beautiful and in great nick, yet its four par-fives all measure less than 500-yards and are reachable by Grandma, if she’s got the new Ping G20 driver.
It’s still a joy to play, and holes like “Viaduct,” the par-four sixth – where you tee up in a chute and hit over a blanket of gorse at a marker post – will test your game, but its best holes are its shortest.
The par-three third, 10th and 17th are worth the entrance fee, as they say in football.
Yorkshire’s industrial footprints
With views west to the Almscliffe Crag in Wharfedale and north to Crimple Valley and the viaduct – a physical footprint of Yorkshire’s industrial past that inspired a famous Turner painting — you’ll feel completely at peace while playing
With Pannal on the doorstep and a Championship calibre course at Rudding Park, it makes sense to play them both on the same day.
Golf at Rudding Park – modern and forward looking
Martin Hawtree’s Par-72 course at Rudding is mature, well-kept and challenging for all but the very best golfers.
A lot of investment and thought has gone into giving the course visual definition, which is difficult with any relatively new layout.
The fairways are too generous for my liking and you can open your shoulders with driver at most holes.
Unlike at Pannal, the par-fives here are mostly out of reach, courtesy of some clever design.
The 533-yard sixth is aptly called “Decisions,” because a stream crosses the fairway at 250-yards from the tee and snakes forward the further right you go.
At “Bechers Brook,” the 525-yard ninth,Hawtree has barricaded his fairway with a wall and hedging.
Obstacles aside, the highlight of the round is “Rhododendron Glade,” the 14th, a short-hole of real signature status that is flush with colourful plants.
If Rudding Park represents the changing face of modern golf clubs, you can easily slip back to golf’s traditional past at Ilkley Golf Club.
Here you probably have to wait for someone to die before you can become a member, and then only by invitation.
Despite this, the club loves visitors and everyone should play here at least once.
Ilkley Golf Club: old haunt of two European Ryder Cup captains
The boyhood track of Colin Montgomerie and a regular practice haunt of former Ryder Cup Captain and staunch Yorkshireman Mark James, Ilkley is set on the banks of the River Wharfe.
It isn’t easy to find, but when you do you’ll want to stay.
The first seven holes run alongside the river with the par-three second and third holes cut on “Hawksworth Island,” joined by bridges to the mainland.
The course is in superb condition and short by modern standards but remains a stiff test due to its tree-lined fairways.
Ilkley is a course where you got a lot of practice at the “chip out sideways.”
The course record is 64 against a par of 69 which shows it’s not easy to score here.
Like Pannal, the holes that linger longest in your memory are its short par-threes, and none more than the picturesque 15th.
It’s only an eight or nine-iron shot, but the slender target seems to contract every time you eye it up.
A wicked slope to the right and pot-bunkers on the left, make finding the green a true test of distance judgement and correct trajectory.
The Ilkley steward is quite a character and serves homemade “Growlers,” pork pies with strong chutney.
Wash it down with a pint of smooth and you’re an honorary Yorkshireman for an hour.
What better way to complete your tour of Yorkshire’s finest courses than to close with another of its Ryder Cup venues.
Moortown, just five-miles from Leeds city centre is an excellent day out and an unrelentingly difficult golf course.
You will quickly notice that the club continues to trade on having held Sam Ryder’s transatlantic tussle in 1929, but why not, the commemorative visor looks good in red or blue.
Accuracy and length off the tee are required if you’re to score well here.
Dr Alistair MacKenzie was the patron and architect who helped turn a boggy Black Moor into a classic moorland layout starting in 1908.
The present day course blends crisp turf with immaculate greens, gorse, heather and thick woodland and is crowned by a stern finishing hole.
At 433-yards, the 18th is a snaking left to right dogleg which winds back to the green nestled beneath the clubhouse window.
One Nigel Denham, playing in the English Strokeplay championship missed the green with his approach and rattled into the clubhouse, from where a window was opened and he was allowed to chip back to the green.
Sadly, the grand old building is now out-of-bounds.
WHERE TO PLAY
Ganton Golf Club
Fulford Golf Club
Pannal Golf Club
Rudding Park Golf Club
Ilkley Golf Club
Moortown Golf Club
WHERE TO STAY
Rudding Park Hotel and Golf
Rudding Park, Follifoot, Harrogate, Yorkshire
Marriott Hollins Hall
Modern hotel with 18-hole golf course that has hosted PGA Europro Tour events.
Check out the beautiful architecture and cobbled streets of York.
The city is known for its Roman, Viking and Medieval heritage and has a wealth of attractions from York Minster to the Jorvik Viking Centre.
After a hard round, pop in to Betty’s Tea Rooms for a warm Fat Rascal; a scone packed with vine fruit and topped with almonds and cherries. Branches in York, Harrogate and Ilkley.
See the largest abbey ruins in England at World Heritage Site Fountain Abbey, set in 800 acres of beautiful Yorkshire countryside
British weather is unpredictable and can vary in Summer from warm to wet and mild.
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