Alan Hedley is put to the test on a magnificent course in Yorkshire
Pannal is one of very few golf courses in Yorkshire to have hosted Open Championship Regional Qualifying and it’s easy to see why. This is a beautiful heathland and woodland course which proves you don’t need to have a 7,000-yard plus layout to provide a serious golfing test. At 6,614 yards, it might be considered short by some given the massive hitting standards of today, but there is no question Pannal can still test the best.
It’s also famous for its views of Almscliffe Crag to the west, the Vale of York to the east and from the signature 17th hole to the north across a green valley to the impressive Crimple Viaduct and the spa town of Harrogate.
There’s no easy start. The first is a formidable tree-lined 438-yard par four which demands accuracy from the tee and to avoid the three bunkers lying in wait at the green. A testing right to left dog-leg par four of more than 400 yards follows with out of bounds left of the green followed by a terrific par three of around 150 yards with a green guarded by four bunkers and a severe slope. If your score is around par after that start, you’re doing very well because there is the hint of a birdie chance at the dog-leg par five fourth and big hitters will be looking to make it in two, but there’s gorse beyond the trees right and two bunkers on the approach plus a deep greenside bunker and swale on the right of the green.
A sweeping 400-yard dog-leg with a sloping fairway with trees and deep rough left and more trees and gorse right follows with a green cut into the side of the hill and protected by three bunkers. The sixth is another sweeping dog-leg with a blind tee shot and a hog’s back fairway with heather, trees and gorse – a real cracker and the second shot is just as intimidating with the green guarded by a large bunker right, a small quarry left and out of bounds to the rear. No wonder it’s stroke one on the card.
There’s a chance to get something back at the next three holes, all tree-lined, but all shortish par fours of under 400 yards. A lovely little par three starts the back nine and it’s a good chance to pick up another shot, but it is played through a funnel of trees to a small, well-protected green. Big hitters will fancy their chances again at the double dog-leg par five 11th, but there is out of bounds down the left and bunkers down the right. There’s also bunkers on the left and right of the two-tier classic Mackenzie-style green. A long par four of 450 yards plus follows and trees are everywhere plus it’s a small green protected by two bunkers, no wonder it’s stroke two, but a shortish par five of 488 yards follows and while it’s uphill – which makes it play longer than the yardage suggests and trees line the hole on both sides from tee to green – it’s an opportunity for a birdie.
As is the 360-yard 14th as long as you stay out of the trees while the small green is well protected by three bunkers and a steep run off. Sample the view here. The 15th might be a long par three, but it’s played slightly downhill and has a generous green. Avoid the three greenside bunkers and you have another birdie chance. You may need it as 16, although a shortish par five, is played uphill with a semi-blind tee shot and it gets very tight at around 270 yards.
Two bunkers guard the entrance to the green which is long, narrow and slopes from back to front. The 17th is the signature hole at Pannal (see fact file) and it is part of a great finish with the 18th played from an elevated tee with views of the clubhouse and Crimple Valley. It plays a little shorter than its 355 yards, but stay away from Drury Spring and the trees and thick rough beyond. There is more room left than you think but too far left and out of bounds awaits. Get it right and the second shot is played to a generous green, protected by two greenside bunkers.
The Pannal Golf Club
Follifoot Road, Pannal, Harrogate
North Yorkshire, England, HG3 1ES
Tel 01423 872 628
Pro shop: 01423 872 620
Weekday £60, £70 a day (June-October)
Weekends and Bank Holidays £75
Thursday and Sunday afternoon fourball £100 (limited times available)
Visitor packages available
White tees – 6,614 yards
Yellow tees – 6,406 yards
Red tees – 5,839 yards
18 holes tree-lined heathland course
Excellent clubhouse with bar, TV room (Sky TV) and restaurant plus lounge and Centenary Terrace overlooking the course
Changing rooms with showers and towels
Plenty of car parking
Well-stocked professionals shop with PGA Professional tuition including golf studio with the latest technology, custom fit, equipment,trolley and buggy hire
Extensive practice ground (hire range balls)
Par three short course
Accuracy off the tee with the tree-lined fairways, gorse and heather is essential, as is a good putting stroke, so get practising
The par three 17th and not merely for the finest views on the course. The approach on this 190-yard hole is well-guarded and the long, narrow, left to right sloping green is cunningly cut into the side of a hill. Going left or right is not an option! The views across the valley towards Crimple Viaduct and Harrogate are quite stunning