Golf first began in Manchester in 1818 when a few enthusiastic golfers played on Kersal Moor. Eight Scotsmen founded a new golf club in 1882 which was originally called Manchester St Andrews to avoid any confusion with the Old Manchester Golf Club which folded in the latter stages of the 19th century. Having now dropped its St Andrews suffix, in 1912 the Manchester Golf Club moved out of town to its current location at Hopwood to play on a course that Harry Colt designed and laid out on sandy, undulating ground.
The Manchester Golf Club was first nominated for inclusion on the Top 100 website as a gem by Peter in January 2007. Since then, the Manchester Golf Club has attained a well-deserved Lancashire Best In County ranking position. Peter’s original nomination comments are as follows: “Having played many golf courses in the UK and abroad I still feel Manchester Golf Club is as good as any with a very strong last four holes. Built on 248 acres of moorland/parkland, it is certainly worth a mention.”
Considering the club’s relative close proximity to the city, the first striking aspect of Manchester is the scale of the golf course which is routed in a grand style across the open moorland landscape. The second aspect is the ever-present wind that whips across the course trying its best to create havoc with your scorecard. Strategy is the watchword here at Manchester and thoughtful club selection will reap rewards on this rather hilly layout.Measuring a respectable 6,650 yards from the blue tips, Manchester is a stern test that will challenge every facet of your game. The Lancashire Amateur Championship returned to Hopwood in 2011 cementing the club’s reputation as one on the finest inland courses in northern England. John Carroll won the four-round strokeplay event by one shot from Manchester's Gareth Clarke. The aforementioned two players were the only golfers to card two sub par rounds during the entire competition and nobody broke par cumulatively for the four rounds.
The Manchester Golf Club is routed over almost 300 acres of mostly moorland with touches of heathland and a sprinkle of park thrown in. Surrounded by scenic and far-reaching rural views it is a real delight to golf on the springy fairways of ‘Hopwood’ where shades of green meet hues of brown in an altogether attractive landscape.
This is golf on a big scale sprawling across the Lancashire countryside. From the second tee you can see another golf course in the far distance and may initially wonder which one it may be. You eventually realise it is the same one you are playing such is the size of the estate!
Most holes at Manchester benefit from the spacious, rolling landscape as you are faced with welcoming drives and play to some wonderful green sites. The downside is that there a couple of awkward holes; a few blind drives and some steep uphill approaches, but these can be forgiven because the majority of the course is so very good.
In keeping with the surrounds, and now under the direction of a new head greenkeeper, the fairways are wide with graded rough but if you do stray too far from the straight and narrow you will be met with gnarly moorland grass, that coarse, wiry type which is so very hard to extract a golf ball from (if found) with any sort of control.
The bunkering, of which there is plenty, is clean and sharp, and if not wholly attractive, certainly unoffensive. It is also used generously; indeed I counted seven within 100-yards of the green on the second hole. But the size and number of them work well in helping frame the holes on what is an expansive environment. There are also a number of cross bunkers that need to be carried; I suspect these will come in to play more for shorter hitters on their second shots because a few of them couldn’t be reached with a driver and didn’t really come into play on the approaches although on my most recent visit I encountered the opposite wind to normal.
There were only a couple of things I wasn’t keen on at Manchester. The main one being that on such a large property there should really be no excuse for having internal out of bounds, but I spotted the dreaded white posts on a number of occasions. I suspect the one down the side of the sixth is due to health and safety (to avoid players coming up the seventh) whilst the one on the 11th is for pace of play issues (due to thick undergrowth down the left). Looking at the local rules on the scorecard I believe this could be a similar case at the 10th, 14th, 17th and 18th!
That aside and overall through Manchester is a splendid golf course, arguably within the top 100 in England, and is certainly worthy of higher recognition.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Played on a Sunday in May. This is a very nice course with many interesting holes - the biggest let down is the 18th in fact with no grandstand finish or feature to remember but the rest of the course is worth experiencing. The greens could have been better - a bit pot-marked in places but it certainly didn't spoil it. What did spoil it however were (a minority) of the locals. One pairing were completely flummoxed by us calling them through so time was wasted there and even then they didn't understand but worse than that was the decision by one fourball behind us deciding it was still acceptable to hit while we were still on the greens and then offering no apology. They easily reached us (luckily they weren't very good so missed the green).