When you see the greenkeeper in late November discreetly cutting grass some 25 yards in front of the green, your worst fears are realised - winter is here.
You might even have noticed it for a few months now. Not only have you caught the ‘greenie’ red handed, but you also might have noticed that the pro shop is literally filled with new winter woollies, from chunky mitts to woolly hats, everything the British winter golfer requires.
Indeed, for some, it’s the end of the golfing season as we know it.
But not for every golfer, or every golf course.
Indeed, it doesn’t always have to be that way just because Jack Frost has decided to come to town. On the contrary, instead of putting the clubs away for hibernation, as so many of us admit to doing, take some time out and think about your next move. There is a huge number of golf courses in the country that are perfect for winter golf, citing good ground conditions, excellent greens, fairways and tees, and an overall value that just cannot be ignored.
Do you really want to sit indoors and let your game go to waste just because it’s a bit chilly outside? Do you think every golf course in the country has to follow your own club’s lead and roll out the winter greens and synthetic tee mats just to cope? And do you think you’re the only golfer suffering from the winter blues? Of course you’re not and we’ll show you why.
Naturally, some clubs have no alternative but to succumb to the harsh winter weather but, in these days of advanced technology, they are few and far between. Drainage systems are now so advanced that, barring a monsoon, playing golf 365 days a year is very much a possibility.
You’d be surprised at just how many ‘mat free’ golf courses are filled with golfers in the winter months in England and Wales. This issue, we’ve highlighted the courses which we think you should play in your winter woollies. There’s a good mix of old, new, famous and not so famous. All in all, it’s the perfect mix to keep you busy until sunnier times.
Conwy is one of the leading courses in North Wales and could be the best place to start for your winter adventure. Since its inception in 1890 - it is one of Wales’ oldest clubs - it has hosted various professional and amateur events, including the Home Internationals. The course, situated between the Conwy Estuary and the surrounding mountains, is very much links in its terrain and it is a little flat in places, with subtle undulations providing great character.
Another Welsh cracker is Prestatyn, a championship course that benefits from its mild climate and seaside terrain, meaning you can play throughout the year on superb turf. Aside from being one of the most striking in northern Wales, it is also one of the longest, stretching to nearly 7,000 yards from the tips.
Further up the coast, you’ll find The West Lancashire Golf Club, home to a peach of a course in an area that’s rich for golf. West Lancs is a thoroughbred of English golf and one of the best courses in the country thanks to its stunning location and superb challenge.
Towards London, most keen golfers head to Temple, a stunning Willie Park Jnr design that sits in serene surroundings just off junction four of the M40. The course is built on what
the club calls ‘chalk downland’ and so is free draining and ‘less affected by adverse weather conditions than
many others’. If that’s not a good selling point for a winter round, we don’t know what it.
The excellent course at Leicestershire Golf Club, meanwhile, is another that has a smile on its face during winter. It has been tweaked by two of the most famous names in course design. James Braid extended the course in 1899, before Major Charles MacKenzie, brother of the legendary Alistair MacKenzie of Augusta National fame, made some further alterations. It is an excellent test of golf, with many fairways and greens projected by tall trees, making for an enjoyable round in beautiful surroundings.
Handsworth Golf Club sits in the pristine Sandwell Valley, which is so quiet you’ll be amazed you’re only three miles from Birmingham City Centre. This is classic ‘hidden gem’ country and, uniquely, many believe the opening hole is the signature hole. All in all, it’s a fine start to a fine course.
Bradford Golf Club has one of the top courses in Yorkshire, just ten miles from Leeds. Known for its classic heathland style, Bradford celebrated 125 years this year, paying particular homage to the designer Herbert Fowler of Walton Heath fame, who created this masterpiece back in 1923. It is an absolute ‘must play’.
For a traditional seaside links which is kept to the highest of standards year-round, book yourself a trip to Seascale. Considered one of the top courses in the country, it fully deserves your attention and respect this winter.