“The best compliment I can
pay to Alnmouth is this,” wrote Bernard Darwin in A Round of Golf on the
LNER (first published in 1925), “that after playing two rounds of it,
carrying my own clubs in a stiff south-west wind, it was only with the greatest
difficulty that I restrained myself from playing a third…”
“… One thing must be said, a little regretfully, about Alnmouth, there is not quite enough of it. Nature intended it to be a nine-hole course. The narrow undulating strip of golfing country between the sandhills on one side and the high grassy hills on the other must have been ideal for nine holes in the days of the ‘gutty’… Then, since the nine holes grew crowded, another nine holes had to be added on the summit of those grassy hills.”
The following article was written by Sean Arble who nominated Alnmouth Village as an English GEM in May 2018.
The 1874 Open was of historical importance because it was the first time the 9-hole Musselburgh links hosted the event. All eyes were on the high flying duo of Young Tom Morris and Willie Park, who already possessed seven Open titles between them. However, it was the ex-seaman and younger brother of Willie Park, Mungo, who carried the day on the back of a 37 & 38, posted over the first two rounds.
While successful, Mungo seems to have been in the shadow of his older brother’s (Willie) success in all aspects of golf, including architecture. However, true or not, it is fitting that some credit Mungo with the design of Alnmouth Village GC.
What is certain is that Mungo was the first professional for this pocket-size 9 hole links wedged between the winsome village and Alnmouth Bay. Established in 1869, it’s thought this is the oldest 9-hole links in England, but let’s not use this descriptor as a way to diminish the quality of the course. With lovely terrain and high quality turf, Alnmouth Village is the real deal.
It’s easy to confuse the Village Club with the much newer Harry Colt-designed Alnmouth Golf Club next door on higher ground. For a short period Alnmouth Golf Club had two courses, the upper and downer, until the Village Club was formed in 1936 and took over the management of the downer links. This in itself isn’t odd until we note that the parish has less than five hundred residents! While the links seem a sleepy affair these days, Alnmouth was one of twenty-four clubs which controlled the Amateur until the R&A took the reins in 1919.
Holes 2-7 all have something to shout about, but #s 2, 5 & 6 are exceptional. The second features a runway green. Hard on the beach, the fifth is a short par four to the corner of the property. Having run out of space, the 6th turns inland and a blind drive is sharply uphill. That isn't all; the volcano green is a tough target and makes this an All-England candidate. We now play downhill and toward the charming golf pavilion which hasn't changed much in over a hundred years.Alnmouth Village impressed me greatly and I can only wonder why it wasn't included in the True Links tome. I hope to return during a summer period when the course is in its glory, much as it was all those years ago.
There are so many gems in Northumberland and I’m delighted that this has been added to the Top 100 listings. I would add that Bellingham ought to be looked at seriously by those Doing the bi annual rankings because that is a quality inland parkland course near Kielder that is far better than courses I see in the rankings for other Counties.
Turning to Alnmouth Village, this 9 hole course plays on the flat sandy land between Alnmouth beach and the cliffs behind for 7 of the 9 holes. Don’t let the fact it;’s 9 holes, sandwiched into a small parcel of land fool you. This is a quality, if short By modern standards (6000 yards) course with firm rolling fairways and immaculately maintained greens.
The course plays outwards for 5 holes where it narrows at a headland, only to turn and play up the cliff side and then teeing off on the 7th from a highly elevated tee back down to the lower land and finishing back where you started from.
It is quirky in that respect, plus you play over the road to the beach on the 2nd hole and also the 8th so be wary of cars as none of them appear to read the sign that they are crossing a golf course.
The 9 holes have 1 par 3, the 1st/10th and 1 par 5, the 8th/17th, the remainder a mix of par 4’s ranging from 294 yards to 386 yards.
The firm fairways are undulating as you would expect, but run fast. The approaches to the greens varies - some, like the 1st are played to a raised green on all 4 sides, whilst others are more sunken - the 2nd is a good example of this. Some have Swales before then - the 5th, whilst the 6th is played up the cliff and then to a very raised green that falls away severely to the front and sides. This part of the course comes up to the adjoining Alnmouth GC.
The views throughout are wonderful, none better than on the 6th tee looking back over the 1st 5 holes to the beach and village and then again in the 7th tee from such elevated position.
Today I shot my best ever round of golf, 1 over, and that including bogeying the last. Does that mean the course was too easy? No, but with only a little wind and the sea fret, whilst reducing the distance the ball travelled, not having a great impact given the shorter holes, it meant I could play attacking golf. The greens held well as long as you came in from height or the more traditional bump and run into the flatter greens also worked. The course is as long as I play back home, but there’s something special about links golf and in particular this little gem, with a worthy pedigree as oldest 9 holes in England dating back to 1869, that made playing it an absolute pleasure.
Having played Dunstanburgh ranked No 5, this isn’t at that level but would be worthy of a top 15 rating if the rankings were extended.
By note, the club house wasn’t open when I arrived so there is a total trust system in place, something rare these days. Somehow that was fitting, as it felt like a step back in time to when things were simpler but the quality of the golf links spoke for themselves.