Ganton - Yorkshire - England

Ganton Golf Club,
Ganton,
North Yorkshire,
YO12 4PA,
England


  • +44 (0) 1944 710329

  • Richard Penley-Martin

  • Tom Chisholm, James Braid, Ted Ray, J.H. Taylor, Alister MacKenzie, Tom Simpson and C.K. Cotton

  • Gary Brown

Ganton Golf Club played host to the 1949 Ryder Cup matches between the USA and Great Britain. Team Captains were Ben Hogan (US) and Charles Whitcombe (GB). The U.S. Non-playing Captain Ben Hogan raised a concern about the grooves on the clubs of some British players. A meeting was called with R&A Rules Official Bernard Darwin, who concurred that the clubs should be repaired to meet conforming standards. Despite the USA team being without three key players, Hogan’s side claimed victory after dominating the singles, USA 7 - GB 5. The Ryder Cup was played at Portland in 1947 and at Pinehurst in 1951.

To classify Ganton as a heathland course is a misnomer – one could just as easily categorise it as an inland links, as it’s situated in the rural Vale of Pickering, nine miles from the sea. This sandy, gently undulating site was once a North Sea inlet. Consequently, it has all the characteristics of a links and a heathland course. Either way, Ganton Golf Club is a perfect place to play golf.

Harry Vardon - original signed photo (held by the club)The Scarborough Golf Club (as it was originally called) opened for play in 1891, laid out by St Andrews’ Tom Chisholm. The great Harry Vardon became the club’s pro in 1896, the same year he won his first Open title at Muirfield. This immediately put Ganton on the map.

In 1905, Ted Ray, along with James Braid and J.H. Taylor made alterations to the layout. Alister MacKenzie, Harry Colt and C.K. Cotton made further changes over the next 50 years.

Ganton is surely one of the few inland courses in the British Isles good enough to hold an Open Championship. It would make a pleasant change to break with tradition and hold an Open somewhere inland. After all, Ganton is used to holding important competitions – it hosted the 1949 Ryder Cup, the 2000 Curtis Cup and the 2003 Walker Cup.

The bunkering is quite extraordinary, a real feature of the course. With over 100 cunningly placed bunkers, some of which are simply huge, both in breadth and in depth, whilst others are small. Only lucky (or very good golfers) will avoid the sand traps at Ganton. Bernard Darwin wrote in The Golf Courses of the British Isles, that Ganton “possesses by far the vastest and generally most gorgeous bunker that is to be found, as far as I know, on any inland course. It is a huge pit of sand, with just the depths and shallows, the bays and promontories of the genuine seaside article. It is so large that, by its unaided efforts, it provides highly effective bunkering for the tee shots to the last two holes; and as regards its dimensions, I shall not be flattering it very grossly if I compare it to the bunker in front of the fifth tee at Westward Ho!

If you blend the Old course at Walton Heath (minus the road noise) with Woodhall Spa’s Hotchkin course and then throw in a touch of Muirfield (without the sea), you’ve got Ganton. Nearly 100 years ago, Bernard Darwin compared Ganton to being “a little like Woking, a little like Worplesdon; and, generally speaking, it is the type of course that one would expect to find in Surrey rather than in Yorkshire.” Occupying open, windswept heathland, it’s a supreme thinking man’s and woman’s test of golf; the fast greens and firm fairways test the very best players. Various types of thick gorse, heather and broom highlight the course during the spring and summer months.

Three short par fours provide the opportunity of a game of risk and reward for the big hitters. A minor downside is the fact that there are only two par threes but the strength of the par fours more than compensates for this. The 4th hole, a 406-yard par four, requires a solid drive to a wide fairway before an undulating green sited on a raised plateau is unveiled. The approach shot must carry across a gully and avoid a canny bunker on the right-hand side of the green. From the raised 5th tee, a short 157-yard par three, you have a great view of the well-protected green. Only an arrow-straight tee shot will suffice. Stray to the left and you will be swallowed up by one of two bunkers, stray to the right and you'll be trapped by a huge curved bunker, which wraps itself around the entire right-hand side of the green.

Ganton is a friendly club that opens its doors warmly to visitors (providing you have a handicap). If you are a serious golfer and have never played here, we strongly recommend it.

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Reviews for Ganton

Av. Reviewers Score:

I love golf in the British Isles and visiting Ganton is no exception. The course is located in North Yorkshire which has beautiful rolling countryside and impossible to decipher thick accents. The nearby North York Moors are a national park and the areas surrounding Ganton are comprised of moors rich with bracken, heather and grass that give off a glowing color. The area has a purple hue in the summer from the bursting heather. There is something mysterious and romantic about this part of England and its old stone walls and alluring views.

Ganton is golf from the old school. Aside from 150-yard markers, there are no yardage markers at Ganton. The tops of the flag sticks DO NOT have a GPS target in them. This is golfing the old fashioned way, played by feel, trying to judge the wind and distance by eye or from the distance measured by a bunker or a tree. No golf carts here. This is pure golf. I suppose that deep bunkering is part of the character in the north of England because Ganton also has deep, penal and large bunkers in the style of nearby Woodhall Spa. These are bunkers so deep that you need a ladder to climb in and out of them. I played Ganton without a caddy in sunny, windy conditions. The winter sun was at a low angle in the sky with the crisp air filling my lungs.

The course has a relatively easy start and the front nine isn't terribly difficult or dramatic, although you quickly get a sense that it is wise to stay out of the bunkers and to look around at the idyllic countryside in all directions. Ganton is not unusually short by today's standards, with back tees of 6,935 and would be a real challenge with the wind blowing. The growing conditions in this part of England are ideal due to the rain and cool temperatures, thus, the greens and fairways are as good as any course in the world. I particularly like the 258-yard par three seventeenth hole, where you must hit your tee shot across the entrance road to the course. Yorkshire men are known as a hearty breed, and this hole is built for them.

John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs

November 17, 2016


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Made second visit here today a few years after the first time - and it beat me up again !

GREAT course with numerous MASSIVE bunkers - some fairway bunkers 200 yards out and you are doing well if you get out let alone make any yards !!

Apart from bunkers and even though I could not a hit a cow's a*** with a banjo today I still cant quite work out why it plays so hard BUT IT DOES !!

Give it a go if you haven't already tried it TOP COURSE

September 20, 2016


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Played early March having not played for nearly 9 years. I took a friend who I had bored for that time telling him how good Ganton is. The 133-mile journey to get there was well worth it. Just as I remembered the sandy terrain was perfect to hit from and not a hint of wetness or mud to show after the game. To me Ganton and Delamere Forest in Cheshire are the best inland winter courses outside of the Home Counties sand belt. Thankfully I knew my way around thus avoiding the many fairway bunkers, my colleague was not so lucky on the 1st hole. I took a picture of him climbing Ganton Golf Course - Photo by reviewerdown into the fairway trap, once ready to play only his baseball cap poked above the bunker level, and that was a fairway not a greenside bunker. Course shows its teeth on the 4th. Strong tee shot required slightly left of centre followed by a well flighted approach to a raised green which itself slopes in so many directions. An attractive short hole follows and my guess middle of the green will always be the sensible shot. Bunkers and water await any misdirected tee shot. Hole 7 another favourite of mine which requires a well struck drive with a slight fade which cuts the corner. Don't be too brave though. Hole 10 another solid Par 3 with a long but narrow green with plenty of borrow thrown in. Key is hitting the right club. For me the best is still to come. Hole 15 is straight hole but requires your two best shots of the day. Hole 16 is my favourite. Drive over a huge bunker, from there the hole descends but anything other than one of your best tee shots and you will be faced with another straight faced club to the green and therefore scoring a par a big ask. Hole 17 is fun whether you play it as a Par 3 or Par 4, and hole 18 doglegs right to left and leaves you putting out in front of the wonderful clubhouse. I personally adore Ganton from the course, its heritage and old golfing values. I've mentioned before if you know what you are buying into visiting these places and respect them, then you will have a great time. We were shown fantastic hospitality throughout the facility from the Pro Shop to the caddie master. The framing of holes using pine trees, gorse and heather a bench mark for Heathland golf. I won't be leaving it another 9 years to play again. Marty Brown 
March 19, 2016


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The second day of our annual golf trip to the British Isles, we had the pleasure of playing the golf course at Ganton GC the 17 of October 2015. We traveled with a Norwegian, who lived in York a few years ago. He has boasted very much of the golf course, so it was with high expectations we arrived the course.We were warmly greeted by a very nice lady in the Pro-shop, providing us all we needed for a nice day on the golf course. While we were warming up on the driving range, the caddie-master contacted us to ensure that everything was fine and that we were ready to start our game on schedule. He also showed up at the first tee to take the important "before the round" photo with clubhouse in background.The course was very interesting with very well designed golf holes. The course have no weak holes. Bunkers and Gorse will challenge you during your round. I do like the layout of the fairway bunkers that more or less always gives you at least a half-shot penalty to get out.The first hole is a short par 4 hole with very well placed bunkers and gorse that one should stay away. I feel that the first hole gives you the opportunity to get a good start of your round of golf.I love the third and the fourteenth hole, short par fours, which can be reached in one shot by long- hitters, but also provides some interesting challenges for those who choose a two shot strategy. Perfect holes for match playThe first two par three holes on the course is quite easy as long as you avoid the bunkers. Once you reach 17 tee, the impression of simple par three holes is long gone. The view up the hill towards the green 235 yards from the tee is fantastic. Personally, I perceive this hole as too long from the club tee.Once you pass the green on the left side of the fifth hole, be careful with the water hazard on the left side of the green. One of the players (a Norwegian) in the group behind us parked his trolley in the wrong direction before entering the green to make his put. His trolley decided that it needed a bath, so it started his trip into the water. Luckily, he was able to rescue the trolley, bag and all its contents.A much-appreciated visit on a golf club with a course that is “must play” if in Yorkshire.Lars Stensrud, Oslo, Norway.
October 21, 2015


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It’s hard not to compare Ganton with the Hotchkin course at Woodhall Spa. Both lie on the east side of the country and both sport trademark cavernous bunkers. Ganton Golf ClubUndoubtedly the Hotchkin’s bunkers are deeper, but the bunkers at Ganton are still too deep for many golfers to escape from first time – they are beyond penal and I wonder whether they really need to be so yawning. However, I think Ganton’s bunkering is consistent and each adds definition and character, especially on the two-shot holes.

Which is the best course? Well, I’d argue Ganton because it has more interesting greens in terms of slopes, contours and run-off areas (the Hotchkin greens are pretty flat). There’s also a feeling of “bigness” at Ganton, which is somehow missing at Woodhall Spa, couple that with more graceful movement in the Yorkshire land in terms of fairway undulations and my feeling is that Ganton is a clear winner over its younger Lincolnshire counterpart.

Ganton’s first four holes (although not in any way poor) didn’t inspire me and I felt the course came alive at the par three 5th and it continued to hold my attention until the final putt dropped. Until last Saturday, Ganton was the highest ranked English course that I’d not played, and my feeling is that it’s a very good course that richly deserves the high praise it receives from most quarters. I agree with the point made in Jim’s review below regarding the long par three 17th. As a par three from the yellows, I think it’s a good hole, but making it a par four from the whites, 16 yards further back, is rather strange, as the penalty for laying up and finding one of the numerous bunkers short of and flanking the landing area is likely to be greater than attempting to drive the green. Keith

October 20, 2015


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There’s a certain unpretentious, down to earth, yet very special feel to Ganton. It starts from the moment you drive along the lane to the clubhouse and lasts throughout your stay, both on and off the course. Let’s get the bunkers out of the way first (and yes, I agree they are even more intimidating that those at Woodhall Spa) because you’ll lose the will to live if you get caught in too many of them. Very few of the greens are actually tightly bunkered in front of the putting surface so, if you keep your approach shot on line, you should find the dance floor. It’s the fairway bunkers that are the real killers as you can easily end up in one when playing only slightly off your intended line from the tee. What really impressed meGanton Golf Course - Photo by reviewer were the greens. Their speed and trueness was impressive but what really stood out for me was the magnificent contouring of the putting surfaces. Far be it from me to preach, but if one or two of today’s modern golf architects spent a day studying the shape and form of these greens then we might be spared some of the more outlandishly tricked up examples that I’ve had the displeasure of putting on in recent years. The par four 4th is easily the best hole on the front nine, playing across a gully to a plateau green, whilst the long, demanding par fours at 15 and 16 arrive at a critical point in the round to test your golfing mettle. I think that making the 235-yard 17th a very long par three from the regular tees is a nonsense when it’s only 16 yards shorter than the short par four rating from the championship tees but that’s the only real criticism I can lay against the course, apart from the fact that it was a little greener than I was expecting in places though that’s probably due to the amount of rain we’ve had all summer. I said at the outset to this review that Ganton was a special place and steward Jed Nelson and caddiemaster Paul Harrison ensure that applies off the course as well as out on the fairways. It was also good of the club captain to engage with our group of eight golfers in the bar afterwards to find out how we’d got on and what we thought of the course. It was nice on the long drive home in the dark to reflect on the events of the afternoon - great course, great people, great club; that’s Ganton. Jim McCann.
October 18, 2015


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Response
Richard PenleyMartin
November 11, 2015
I am glad you enjoyed your visit to Ganton. You are not alone in your views on the 17th & there has been some discussion about switching the tees & playing it as a strong three at 225yds off the front of the tee box & a 245yd par 4 off the yellows. I would be interested to know what you think of that as an option?
Sam Mendoza
November 21, 2016

Richard, i didnt realise I hadnt written a review of Ganton on here, but i thought it was absolutely amazing (played it in September 2015).

I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of making it a tough par 3 for the championship tees and then a short par 4 off the yellows. It would make possibly the worst hole on the course into a very demanding finish (the idea of having to finish with 3 pars to win is scary)

Played Ganton today (4th October) as a two ball, teeing off just after 13.30.Incredible track with bunkers lying in wait to snare anything errant from either the tee or around the green. Course immaculate and still running firm even into October.Friendly welcome into both the clubhouse and pro shop. Will definitely return to this stunning golf club.
October 04, 2015


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Like its counterpart Woodhall Spa Golf Club - to which it is often compared - Ganton is renowned for its fierce bunkering. Much like the bunkers at Woodhall, the majority of the bunkers at Ganton are effectively large pits with steep, near vertical grassed walls. And yet while the former may take the mantle as the most ferocious in England, I believe that the bunkers at Ganton actually demand better shot making, and are therefore a sterner test of golf.

Ganton Golf Club - photo by Mark WylieAside from the bunkering, a standout feature of the layout is the green complexes, namely for their sublime contouring. Many greens, such as the par four 15th have beautifully rippled surfaces that reward both careful judgment and execution of approach shots from any length, and in turn provide for plenty of interest and challenge when putting.

If one were being picky they might complain that there is a lack of short and long holes in the layout, with only three par threes and two par fives on the card, making for a total of thirteen par fours. However, there are many excellent layouts with more than ten par fours in their configuration, and what makes all of those courses so great is the challenge and variety amongst their two shot holes. Ganton is no exception, and in many ways it is distinguished by this quality.

Ganton Golf Club - photo by Mark WylieThere is a great mix of par four’s on both nines. Some holes bend with the terrain while others fight it, the latter asking you to shape you tee shot in order to not just have the best angle for your approach, but to ensure you find the fairway itself. In all instances you are required to drive accurately to give yourself a chance of posting a decent score.

Rated index 1, the 432 yard 7th hole is a great example of the difficult challenges the layout consistently presents you with, and is in many ways, a microcosm of the entire golf course. Dog-legging left to right, the inside of the hole is protected by a cluster of four fairway bunkers that sit in the rough. The wide fairway provides plenty of room to avoid them, though the further left you drive, the longer your second. A lone bunker also sits to the left to swallow up anything playing too far down that side of the hole. Your approach is played slightly uphill past several bunkers flanking both sides of the fairway to a large, oval-shaped green protected by three more bunkers – two left and one right.

Ganton Golf Club - photo by Mark WylieDespite the course stretching to almost 7,000 yards there are a couple of genuine short par fours (three if you include the swinging 17th) that are quite interesting from a playability point of view, enticing the golfer with risk and reward options.

Playing slightly downhill, the 3rd has a sprawling bunker that eats into the fairway from the left, asking you to weigh up the need to take driver from the tee. The safe option is to lay up and take the bunker out of play, leaving only a short iron for you second. While it plays to 349 and 339 yards from the blue and white markers, it is only 288 yards from the yellow tee, so for those playing up front, having a crack at flying the bunker and reaching the green becomes a real possibility. A second fairway bunker sits to the right to swallow up anything played too far down that side. For those who have laid up, precision with regards to length is the key with your approach, especially if the pin is cut in the back-half of the green. The is owed to the fact that the entire green slopes from front to back, with out-of-bounds just several paces off the back edge of the putting surface.

For all the great two-shot holes to be found at Ganton, one shouldn’t discount the par threes. The pick of these is the 17th, which is an interesting quandary, partly owing to the change in par between the three different tee markers. At 251 yards from the championship markers and is listed as either a par three or four, from the medal tee it still measures a stern 247 yards though affords four strokes on the card, while for general club play it is back to a par three of 235 yards. Standing on the tee you are confronted with a variety of elements laid out before you that force you to weight up the best strategy to implement: should you lay up in the fairway or go for the green? A road crosses directly in front of the tee pad itself (which is deemed in play), and over the road is a strip of thick gorse, which runs somewhat in a straight line between the ladies tee and the green up to the start of the main fairway. To carry this line of gorse and find the fairway will require a tee shot of only around 160 yards, though the fairway its self is encircled by six bunkers to punish the wayward golfer.

For those attempting to reach the putting surface with their tee shot, the fairway and green are angled slightly left to right across the line of play, such that a straight shot from tee to green must flirt ever so slightly with the bunkers on the right. Should you avoid the gorse and sand, the next issue to contend with is the false front to the green, which makes hitting and holding the putting surface quite difficult. Cleverly, these design elements combine to remove the option of the golfer playing safe for the fairway in the hope that their tee shot may end up running onto the green; and also ensure that the hole presents both as a long, difficult par three and a short, though shrewd par four.

With so many great golf architectural minds having an influence on the layout, it is easy to understand why Ganton is such a fine test of golf. Just make sure you are on your game when you decide to visit, as it is sure to test every aspect of your shot making as well as your resilience.

This review is an edited extract from my Blog titled: An Architect Abroad. The full review can be found at: http://wp.me/p6l5Ih-ef-ef along with photographs taken of the course. Please also note that my rating of the course here has been done specifically against the other courses which I visited on that trip, many of which rank very highly in the top 100 listed on this website for the United Kingdom. For that reason some ratings of courses may be lower than that given by other reviewers.
July 29, 2015


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Six.of us played 36 holes at Ganton on July 3rd in baking hot conditions with the rough knee-high and the course playing very firm and fast. From the minute you arrive at the understated clubhouse and are warmly greeted by the staff, it's clear this is a special club where the game's best traditions are valued and preserved. The course itself is utterly strategic with the cavernous bunkers constantly dictating decision-making. To prevail against it demands exceptional course management and mental fortitude and I can well understand reviewers such as the 'three-baller' below who have not been successful. Others have already mentioned the brilliant four-hole crescendo to which the course builds. I would also highlight the 7th, 8th and 11th as a trio of outstanding medium to long par 4s. The whole way round you are blessed with a wonderful sense of isolation, although the road noise around the 9th is a brief return to the real world. There may be bigger courses and more famous venues - but Ganton has that intangible quality that distinguishes it as somewhere truly special. To a man, all of us would travel the length of the country again to play there. 'Young P'
July 24, 2015


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What a great course. Played in 20 mph winds which made it a very testing round but that didn't take away from the enjoyment. Everyone so friendly, from the initial contact with the secretary to the caddie master who came out to meet us when we arrived. The course condition was excellent. A real gem.
July 14, 2015


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