Ganton Golf Club – Glorious Ganton

Ganton Golf Club, Ganton, Nr Scarborough, Yorkshire, YO12 4PA
Blue tees 7,055 yards, par 70
White tees 6,778 yards, par 71
Yellow tees 6,456 yards, par 71
Red tees 6,063 yards, par 76
- Clubhouse filled with fascinating history
-Pro shop offering tuition, and club and trolley hire
-Grass tee range, short game area, vast putting green
-Dormy house offering stay and play packages

Dean Bailey plays one of the world’s greatest courses

Describing the importance of Ganton Golf Club to the game, not just in the north of England but Great Britain & Ireland, in a few pages is impossible. Its history alone could fill a book; while its landscape – from the cathedral-like gorse to the expanses of exposed sandy terrain – could fill another. Its design meanwhile – from the green complexes to the mix of bunkers with their unique splashes of white provided by seashells, and the putting surfaces honed for more than a century – would delight any player for an entire golfing career, not least a single round.The great history of the club is told throughout its clubhouse – most prominently the Ryder Cup, with the famous golden trophy greeting you as you arrive. The great Ben Hogan captained the US team here in 1949 and brought with him five players who had won, or would go on to win, majors – including seven-time major winner Sam Snead. Great Britain & Ireland meanwhile featured three major champions of their own. GB&I would win Friday’s foursomes 3-1, but succumb to the star power of the Americans in Saturday’s singles, ultimately losing the match 7-5. 

Championships and matches continue to be hosted by Ganton – from Walker and Curtis cups to British Amateur championships, with the three men’s amateurs here won by Whitley Bay’s Gordon Clark, Peter McEvoy, and Gary Wolstenholme. A regular R&A venue, in 2023 the club hosted the Boys’ and Girls’ Amateur championships in partnership with Fulford.

The club’s great history is also linked with Harry Vardon, who won his first Open Championship in 1896 shortly after becoming club professional. He would win two more Opens and the US Open while at Ganton, and was succeeded in the role by fellow Open and US Open winner Ted Ray.

While its history is remarkable, the golf course at Ganton is undoubtedly the reason for its continued success – which includes being ranked 25th in the GB&I list. Laid out on land reclaimed centuries ago from the North Sea, its profile is comprised almost completely of sand. This helps course manager Simon Olver and his team deliver fast and firm conditions, while also allowing for areas of the subsurface to be exposed to create spectacular landscapes of grass and sand which are more typical of the coastline some 10 miles east.

Laid out by Tom Chisholm and defined by the later work of Dr Alister MacKenzie and Harry Colt, today the course can be stretched to 7,055 yards for tournaments, though the 6,778-yard white tee layout is a little more welcoming.

The 370-yard first is a soft opener, with a group of four short bunkers to the right of a generous landing area. The second bunker on the left and a tall gorse bush right are the primary obstacles when the fairways are running fast. A long green is flanked by a pair of bunkers, including one which is around 6ft deep on the right side and will catch out those who fail to account for the firmness of the approach and three-tiered green.

The second is a far tougher prospect. The first of the 400-yard-plus par fours, your tee shot should favour the left side, while the green – which slopes front-to-back – lies at the end of a fairway flanked by unnervingly tall gorse. A cross bunker to the right and two front greenside bunkers narrow the entrance and ensure par is a great score here.

A short respite, the 334-yard third can be birdied when played correctly. Lay up to the right of the long fairway bunker on the left – and short of another long trap to the right – and a short-iron is all that’s left to a long green which is pinched in its middle by two more traps. A ridge running from back-left to front-right creates the major shape in this green.

The downhill left-to-right sloping fairway at the fourth can catch players out while helping shorten the hole. The first bunker on the right is there to decisive players rather than challenge them, while the elevated green, beyond a valley in the fairway, is surrounded by tightly mown turf and numerous slopes which can be tricky to navigate.

Pins located on the right side of the green at the 170-yard fifth hole can be tough to access, particularly into the wind as a trio of bunkers – including a vast first one – guard the right side. Water long-left can come into play too, with the slopes collecting balls towards one of the few water features on the course.

At 448 yards, the par four sixth is a brute. Strewn with sand, the line here is the monstrous centre-line bunker, which at over 300 yards from the tee, is out of reach for most. Meanwhile, a deep trap left is the primary defence against most players. The approach to the green is incredibly narrow, with bunkers on both sides, though a generous green welcomes those who can navigate a path through the humps, hollows and sand.

Another 400 yarder follows, and the left side is best from the tee to avoid most of the bunkers. A formidable trap blocks the path to a wide, shallow green which is highest on its right side and features a trio of bunkers, including a nightmare-inducing cavern on the right. While well-guarded by sand and undulations, pins on the left side can be accessed by using the central slope.

Designed to punish the overly bold, the ideal landing area at the uphill, 392-yard eighth hole is generous – though a deep bunker waits to catch those who go too far left. A small green lies beyond two long front bunkers.

A short par five, the ninth is just 503 yards and those who find the left-to-right sloping fairway may be able to take aim at the green in two. However, the risk is high with a pair of cross bunkers, including another impressively deep one left, blocking off a ground approach. The green is just a few paces wide at its entrance, with slopes gathering balls into the left trap while another waits quietly on the right side.

Positioned beyond the area of exposed sand which you first glimpse while playing the eighth, the 169-yard par three 10th is a devilishly tricky par three. The left-to-right sloping green is almost completely surrounded by bunkers and the putting surface – which generally slopes towards its centre due to the bunkers – offers little relief from the challenge of this short hole. There are eight steps down into the left bunker – should you wish to put your ball in there.

The 11th is a tough driving hole with a landing area divided by a steep slope marked by a pair of bunkers. A second steep slope, this time marked by a vast bunker along with three smaller ones, is set 75 yards from a welcoming green with subtle sloping flourishes throughout it, and two bunkers. Stay clear of the right trap, it is particularly deep.

The shorter par four 12th turns to the right with trees guarding the inside of the corner. A simple, uphill approach to a long green, which dips in its centre, follows.

Left is best from the tee at the par five 13th. From here, numerous bunkers and gorse bushes line the approach to the green and a straight shot is much preferred to a long one here. A long, wide green awaits those who avoid the many pitfalls en-route.

A driveable par four on paper, disaster waits around every turn on the 282-yard 14th. Chief among these is a cavernous bunker 45 yards short of the green, while two more lie to the right side with gorse lurking beyond them. Lay up into the steeply sloped catchment area below the bunkers and an accurate pitch will lead to a good birdie opportunity.

A 460-yard par four, which can be stretched to almost 500 yards for tournaments, the 15th is well protected by its long fairway bunkers. A small landing area to the right of the first trap gives the preferred angle into the green – which counts a hollow short, a ridge running between the front bunkers, and a small plateau in the back right corner among its highlights.

The closing stretch is simply spectacular. A tall deception bunker blocks sight of a very generous landing area for the tee shot at the 447-yard 16th. The green is one of the trickiest to read here, with few obvious slopes on your initial reading. 

One of the toughest par threes in the country, the 232-yard 17th is a stern test. The catchment area below the green is very generous, while the slope up to the main plateau of the putting surface is definitely not. Two deep bunkers on the front corners of the green come into play regularly, while the others wait to catch errant shots. Three is a superb score here.

The view from the steps behind the 18th tee, taking in the exposed sand and natural landscape with the clubhouse in the distance, is sensational. The tree-lined fairway of the dogleg-left final hole is out of view from the tee box, but is surprisingly generous. Finding the short grass leaves a short- or mid-iron approach over the road to an epic, 45-yard-long green set in front of the clubhouse.



We could fill a whole magazine with history, and analysis of the design and architectural merits of Ganton, and would still not do it justice. You must visit at least once in your golfing career.