Alan Hedley takes a trip to North Yorkshire and finds a course in great nick
Immaculate. That’s the word that springs to mind when you play Harrogate.
The oldest club in Harrogate – where European Tour player John Parry learned his golf – is a real beauty, a riot of colour with rhododendrons and azaleas, bluebells and cowslips as June gets into full swing and it’s well worth a visit.
A reasonably flat, tree-lined course of close to 6,250 yards off the back tees, Harrogate is a strategic test of golf with well-placed bunkers and copses plus a few streams and ditches to catch the unwary. Meanwhile the mature trees make the course more difficult than its length suggests. The course is the work of three classic course designers in Sandy Herd, Harry Colt and Alister MacKenzie and the club, wisely, has only sought to improve what they have with Jonathan Gaunt recommending some new tee complexes, green surrounds, water features and bunker renovation.
There has also been improvements made to the club’s magnificent practice facilities and significant woodland management to restore the native moorland characteristics.
That work is ongoing, but with the original Colt/MacKenzie mounding and bunkering well-preserved, the course is a real joy to play especially the five par threes, two of them stretching to more than 200 yards. There are also five par fours of more than 400 yards, three of them in the last four holes which makes for a strong finish. One of those par four tests comes as early as the second hole, which is effectively a double dog-leg with seven bunkers and three ditches, and at 429 yards it’s a crunching par four.
You will hope to have made birdie at the first with this one up second followed by a testing par three of around 170 yards with a green ringed by bunkers and water, and trees left. Big hitters can get it on the 274-yard par four fourth and maybe it’s only a long iron or rescue/hybrid for most but it is a real birdie chance.
The fifth, at 219 yards, is a belter of a par three and there are chances at the sixth if you hit the fairway and at the par five seventh which is a three-shotter for most with water in the way. The front nine ends with another long par three at 227 yards and by now you know Harrogate gives you chances to score but will punish you if you are careless.
There are also chances early in the back nine as the 10th is a short par four but beware of the out of bounds while the par five 11th is reachable in two and the short 12th is theoretically the easiest hole on the course at stroke 18. The signature hole, it is played from a raised tee to a tricky green (see factfile).
It is not easy from there on in with a long par four at 13, a 467 yard-hole with a blind tee shot and out of bounds down the right side.
That is followed by a tricky par three and then four tough finishing holes, three of them over 400 yards – the dog-leg 15th at 406 (plus water and out of bounds), the massive 16th at 455, the 17th at just under 400 and the tree-lined 18th (with out of bounds right) at 411. Good luck!
A very visitor-friendly club – the hospitality in the lovely clubhouse is second to none – Harrogate also has five-day and flexible memberships and the creation of a 18-hole short game course has helped to attract junior and beginner golfers.
GREEN FEES £30, £25 after 4pm
Electric trolley hire £7
TOTAL DISTANCE White tees – 6,241 yards
Yellow tees – 6,092 yards
Red tees – 5,711 yards
FEATURES 18 holes parkland/moorland golf
Clubhouse with lounge and balcony
Plenty of car parking
Professionals shop with PGA Professional tuition and indoor studio with GC2 launch monitor
Extensive practice ground/facilities
18-hole short course
CADDY’S TIP Find the fairways from the tee is essential. It may not always be a driver.
SIGNATURE HOLE The 12th. A lovely par three of 179 yards. The hole is framed by a bunker and trees with the tee shot played from a raised tee. There is out of bounds right and a clutch of bunkers and trees on the left as well. A cracking hole.