East Midlands - Top 10 Golf Courses 2017
England’s East Midlands is the first of seven regional updates that will inform our national English rankings, our Britain and Ireland rankings and our World Top 100, all of which will be released later this year.
Two years ago, following an extensive survey across every club in Britain and Ireland, we issued individual news releases for each of the thirty-six English counties defined on the Top 100 website. This time we’re issuing just seven English regional news releases for: East Midlands, West Midlands, North East, North West, South West, East and South East. For the first time we’ll produce a ranking list on a regional basis and these tables will be underpinned by a complete re-evaluation of each and every English county.
The East Midlands is home to more than 4.5 million people but despite the fact that the region is easily accessible from London, it’s not on the mainstream tourist trail. However, travelling golfers from all over the world have at least one course in this region on their to-play bucket list.
There are approximately 170 golf clubs spread across the five counties which form our East Midlands region: Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire. Our new regional Top 10 features five courses that are currently ranked in our English Top 100, three that are placed in our GB&I table, and one that has been anchored in the World Top 100 rankings since Adam was a boy.
Just about every golfer in England has heard of Woodhall Spa and most realise that this is where England Golf (formerly the English Golf Union) has its headquarters since the organisation purchased the property in 1995 from Stafford Vere Hotchkin’s son, Neil. England Golf then added a second course (the Bracken – designed by Donald Steel) as an understudy to the world famous heathland course, the Hotchkin.
The Hotchkin is undeniably one of England’s golfing jewels, but it has been gradually slipping down the English, GB&I and World rankings over the last couple of decades, largely due to the condition of the course’s notoriously deep bunkers and the tree/scrub growth, which has impacted playing strategies over the years.
To arrest the Hotchkin’s decline and preserve its world ranking status, England Golf commissioned the magnanimous Tom Doak:
“I only do this for golf courses I feel strongly about. I only gravitated to what I do because I really love the variety of good golf courses and I want to preserve that.
“I do this kind of as a public service. There are plenty of architects who would be here, just to say they are working here, or have changed something because that’s the most important thing they’ve done.
“I’m here for the opposite reason. I’m here to preserve what’s here and hope that someone in 50 years’ time will treat my golf courses in the same way – instead of changing a bunker to say they have worked on it!”
It goes without saying that the Hotchkin course is our East Midlands No.1, but hot on its heels is the Willie Park Jnr. layout at Hollinwell that enjoys genuinely stirring topography. Notts Golf Club has never broken onto a world ranking table, but a number of respected raters have Hollinwell ensconced within their personal World Top 100 lists.
Attempting to classify Notts is not that easy. It’s sandy and is largely a heathland course, but there’s more than a hint of moorland here and there. Whatever its classification, Notts is a serious golf course that every golfing cognoscenti should have on their must-play list.
Some do not love our East Midlands No.3 as much as we do. Touched by Harry Colt and James Braid, we believe Sherwood Forest is underrated. No longer will you find any of Robin Hood’s Merry Men here, but instead you’ll experience the largest area of low-lying heathland in the Midlands and a course that’s thoughtfully routed across terrain that’s now designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. With bolder bunkering, Sherwood Forest could be bracketed as Nottinghamshire’s equivalent of Lincolnshire’s Hotchkin.
Seacroft is a course that flies under the radar, not least because few people head to the North Sea town of Skegness these days. It’s an old-fashioned, no-frills links course, which plays out towards the Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve and then back on higher ground on the other side of a small dune ridge. This Willie Fernie classic has been permanently anchored in the lower quartile of our English Top 100 rankings since 2006.
Our East Midlands No.5 is Northamptonshire County, which sneaked into our 2016 English Top 100. It’s a Harry Colt design from 1909, which James Braid later modified. In the new millennium, Cameron Sinclair added three new holes, allowing the members to play a 9-hole returning loop, so Northamptonshire County is now a rather unique 21-holer.
Harry Colt and Charles Alison originally fashioned Luffenham Heath (located near Rutland Water) in 1911, before the ubiquitous James Braid revised the layout, followed by further CK Cotton changes. The principally out-and back Luffenham Heath has been in and out of our English Top 100 rankings down the years and was upgraded and extended ahead of hosting Regional Qualifying for the 2013 Open at Muirfield.
Architecture buffs should make time to visit the Alister MacKenzie-designed Cavendish (commissioned by the Duke of Devonshire in 1923), which is set near to the spa town of Buxton at around 1,000 feet above sea level. You’ll often find Cavendish covered in snow during the winter months, as it can be chilly up here in the Peak District. In recent years the club has struggled somewhat and it fell temporarily from grace following our 2015 Best In County re-ranking update. However, we’re pleased to report that Cavendish has now returned to head our Derbyshire county rankings. Put your yardage inhibitions aside (5,721 yards from the tips) and simply enjoy perhaps the most genuine Dr Mac layout in existence.
Coxmoor (#8) is a Golden Age gem, but a well-known architect didn’t design it. In fact, Tom Williamson (the former pro at Hollinwell) laid it out in 1930, aided by Len White, the Coxmoor pro. The course is perched on a heathland plateau close to Sutton in Ashfield (near Notts GC) – it’s one of the highest points in Nottinghamshire – and Coxmoor is no shorty, stretching out beyond 6,700 yards with par set at 73, and boasting a quintet of par fives. The club has also staged Regional Qualifying for the Open Championship as well as the British Seniors Amateur Open Championship. The club is currently well into a ten-year project to restore the course’s heathland characteristics and circa two thousand trees have already been removed – Coxmoor is certainly not resting on its laurels.
Longcliffe (at No.9 in our new regional chart) is located close to Loughborough, where the M1 motorway skirts the east side of the property. Fairways are set out within the arboreal splendour of Charnwood Forest, with the front nine holes played out on higher ground before the routing returns to more level woodland terrain on the back nine. The course extends to 6,625 yards from the back tees, playing to a par of 72, and it's been used in the past by the Great Britain & Ireland ladies team during their preparations for upcoming Curtis Cup matches against the United States.
Lee Westwood's golfing roots are firmly embedded in the fairways of the course at Worksop, which occupies the No.10 slot. The course was established in 1914 as a 9-hole layout, before another nine holes were added a decade later. It's the second course in our inaugural East Midlands Top 10 which Tom Williamson designed. Four new holes were brought into play in 1970, with some further redesign work carried out to the 5th and 6th holes in 1983 and 1995. It's a woodland track that isn't particularly long but, with many of the greens markedly sloped, it's a tough little nut to crack.
East Midlands - Top 10 Golf Courses 2017
|1||Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)|
Click the following links to see in detail our latest Best In County rankings for the five East Midlands counties:
|2||Kedleston Park||Down 1|
|4||Horsley Lodge||Up 1|
|7||Erewash Valley||No change|
|9||Buxton & High Peak||Up 1|
|10||Breadsall Priory (Priory)||Down 1|
Leicestershire & Rutland Top 10 Golf Courses 2017
|1||Luffenham Heath||No change|
|3||Stapleford Park||No change|
|5||Rothley Park||Up 1|
|6||Willesley Park||Down 1|
|7||Charnwood Forest||No change|
|9||Kirby Muxloe||Down 1|
|10||Glen Gorse||No change|
Lincolnshire Top 10 Golf Courses 2017
|1||Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)||No change|
|3||Forest Pines (Forest & Pines)||No change|
|4||Woodhall Spa (Bracken)||Up 5|
|6||Belton Park (Brownlow)||Down 2|
|8||Holme Hall||No change|
|9||Market Rasen||Down 3|
Northamptonshire Top 10 Golf Courses 2017
|1||Northamptonshire County||No change|
|3||Collingtree Park||Up 2|
|5||Brampton Heath||Down 1|
|6||Peterborough Milton||No change|
|9||Overstone Park||Up 1|
|10||Staverton Park||Down 2|
Nottinghamshire Top 10 Golf Courses 2017
|2||Sherwood Forest||No change|
|5||Wollaton Park||No change|
|8||Beeston Fields||No change|
|10||Norwood Park (Norwood)||New entry|
Top 100 Golf Courses
Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin) photos above taken in May 2017 by Clyde Johnson Cunnin' Golf Design