Stunning Skipton

Alan Hedley takes on a course in the Yorkshire Dales partly shaped by the man who created Augusta.

There are some truly captivating courses in the Yorkshire Dales and Skipton falls neatly into that category.

In the heart of the Dales on the edge of Skipton town, the views of Sharphaw, Crookrise and Embsay Crag are superb.

Eller Beck provides a beautiful backdrop as it meanders through the back nine, three of which constitute the club’s very own Amen Corner, with the signature hole 16th the jewel in the crown.

Skipton 14thIn its early days, Augusta National course designer Alister McKenzie was brought in to shape the course and some of his greens, with his trademark two tiers, still survive.

It’s a tribute to the club that it has maintained an excellent 18-hole interim layout while work on a flood defence scheme has been ongoing and there are exciting plans to improve the course.

The interim layout hasn’t affected the playability of Skipton – it’s never been closed this winter – and that’s not lost on visitors and members, who have remained loyal.

In return, the membership fee has been frozen for three years and brings with it free golf exchanges at five partner clubs and free public liability insurance. There is also a discount for new members in their first year as well as new flexible membership categories.

Skipton also prides itself on its junior golf programme and was one of three finalists and the northern region winner of the English Golf Union’s Club of the Year.

At just under 6,000 yards currently, the course is not long by modern standards, but every hole is different and it is most certainly an enjoyable test.

Skipton 12th fairwayYou won’t get bored here – that’s a promise – either with the quality of each hole or the view.

Unusually, the course starts with a par three, which is a test in itself early in the round, while the tree-lined par five second with out of bounds is no pushover and the third is an excellent 400 yards-plus par four well worth it’s stroke index one rating.

Three dog-leg par fours follow – none of them easy although the fourth is a good birdie chance while five and six are less so – the latter being a particularly severe left to righter with trees on the corner, and it measures more than 420 yards.

The seventh is a drivable par four, the tree-lined eighth is not, but both are reasonable birdie chances while a par at long par four ninth, which has out of bounds on the right, is a real result.

Skipton ClubhouseThe back nine starts with a tricky tree-lined par four and the 11th, at just over 100 yards, is all about accuracy and feel while the 12th is also a par three but at around 220 yards is a very different proposition.

As you approach Skipton’s own Amen Corner, the 13th is another 400-yarder and par or better will set you up for the three holes which can make or break your card.

The 14th and 15th aren’t long par fours but there are plenty of trees either side and the beck is ever present – they aren’t stroke index four and two for nothing, and they’re followed by the signature hole 16th.

The 16th is a cracking par three of nearly 200 yards. Played from an elevated tee, it requires a carry over the beck which runs down the left and in front of the green. There’s also plenty of trees to worry about. It is a superb hole and part of the club’s own Amen Corner

Three terrific holes which can wreck your card but negotiate them without too much damage and the finish of solid par fours at 17 and at the 18th offers the chance of a comeback to put you in good spirits for the 19th, which has spectacular views of the Dales, and where you will be given a very warm welcome.

The modern clubhouse boasts a smart lounge, bar and restaurant and is popular with members and visitors alike, no surprise given the first-class catering and service provided by a new team and there is also disabled access with priority car parking.

A really fine test of golf in lovely surroundings and a joy to play