The Alwoodley Golf Club is home to one of the finest and most subtle inland courses in the British Isles, located in a secluded spot. In many ways, it is reminiscent of Woodhall Spa’s Hotchkin course, which is very high praise indeed. "This the home course of Dr. MacKenzie ought to be good and, personally, I put it very high among inland courses." Wrote Bernard Darwin in his book The Golf Courses of Great Britain.
Founded in 1907, Alwoodley is the cream of a cluster of excellent courses stretching across the moors just north of Leeds. The great Alister MacKenzie (a doctor at the time) joined forces with the already renowned architect, Harry Colt, to fashion Alwoodley. This was Dr MacKenzie’s first dabble with golf course design. Clearly inspired, he went on to become a full time golf course architect and later went on to design the great Augusta National, home of the Masters.
The course is a combination of heathland and moorland with rippling fairways and fine, crisp, springy turf. There is plenty of heather and gorse, which provides glorious seasonal colour and punishes the wayward shot. There are few trees, other than the occasional cluster of pines and silver birches on this glorious, windswept heath.
Essentially an out and back course, the front nine is generally regarded as the easier of the two nines (the only two par fives are on the outward nine). The back nine invariably plays into the prevailing winds coming off the Yorkshire Moors.
Alwoodley possesses some strong and supremely challenging holes. The 3rd is a very subtle straight par five measuring 510 yards and it used to appear open and devoid of definition. However, in recent years the club has implemented a policy of restoration and improvement of all the bunkers on the course. This has changed the playing characteristics of some holes, including the 3rd. The once lonesome bunker on the left-hand side of the fairway, some 200 yards from the tee, has been joined by a further left-side bunker, 240 yards from the tee, which complements the original one. A new bunker 30 yards short and right of the green narrows the approach, demanding a very accurate shot to the right-to-left sloping green.
The 17th is one of our favourite driving holes if you can avoid the out-of-bounds on the left. It’s a 434-yard par four where a reasonable tee shot will leave a blind approach to a hidden green nestling some 30 feet below.
Make sure that you bring your full compliment of golf clubs. It is likely that this hard but fair course will force you to use every club in the bag. Alwoodley has played host to many important amateur events over the years and it regularly tests the pros when the course is used as a Regional Qualifier for the Open.
2nd March 2009 - Nicholas Leefe commented on our article:
“As the Club Historian, I wish to confirm Alwoodley (1907) was the first golf course designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie. Our records simply state Harry Colt (probably the most famous golf course architect of the time) was requested to visit Alwoodley and he duly came on July 31, 1907. This was after the first medal round had been played. The proposed alteration of the course (presumably by Alister MacKenzie) was discussed with Mr Colt and it was unanimously resolved that it be adopted. Mr Colt visited Alwoodley for his second time on Oct 6 1909 to report on the course, but our records regrettably do not state what action was proposed. This is a MacKenzie course with the Committee wisely seeking a second opinion from one of the most respected experts of that period."
A real classic heathland course just north of Leeds, Alwoodley has Dr. Mackenzies touches present throughout. The way the 1st tee is directly in front of the clubhouse is a intimate start. The 2nd is a short par 4 where the green is hidden if you go for it, but the safer lay up means no blind shot. The 3rd has an interesting two tiered green, and then the 5th gives players lots of options off the tee, but is always a hard approach shot. It just seems the interesting features keep coming throughout.
The 8th could be my favourite hole here, even despite it not suiting my natural ball flight as it dog legs left, there is lots of subtle strategy. The 10th is another good long 4/short 5, and asks all sorts of questions to the player. The 11th is a particularly picturesque par 3, but it’s the sloping green that makes this hole so interesting.
This leaves the brilliant 15-18 closing stretch. 17 in particular has a blind approach to a green with a steep drop off the back, and the quirk of this hole in particular reminds me of somewhere like Cruden Bay. The 18th is a classic British strong par 4 closer, and shows some of the courses teeth and its championship pedigree. Some bunkers have recently been renovated on this hole so I look forward to hopefully seeing them soon. An absolute English gem.
Theres a lot to love about Alwoodley. The first thing is the opening tee shot, where you tee off no more than 10 yards from the members eating their lunch on the patio. MacKenzie offers a gentle first 3 holes offering birdie chances. From the 4th hole and in it is a proper test, and requires lots of different shots. Standout holes personally were 2 (drivable blind par 4), 5, 7, 8, 16 (the 3rd hole tees off over the 16th fairway which is a cool feature), 17 and the monster 18th. A fantastic heathland layout which is well worth the visit. Make sure you pop into its neighbour Moortown when in the area.
The course at Alwoodley is really where it all started for Alister MacKenzie so it’s something of a pilgrimage for admirers of the Good Doctor to make their way to Wigton Moor to play this magnificent heathland track. It’s remarkable to think the original layout had barely changed in over a hundred years before Ken Moodie was recently called in to carry out a well-received bunker restoration.
The course has been lengthened down the years so that it can be stretched to just over 6,900 yards when hosting elite golfing competitions such as the English Amateur Championship in 2016 or the Brabazon Trophy in 2019. From the regular tees it’s still a daunting 6,335 yards, with a standard scratch score of 71 (versus a par set at 70).
My favourite holes were the short par four 2nd (played to a green with out of bounds behind the putting surface), the first (and shortest) of the four threes at the 141-yard 7th, the left doglegged par five 10th (said to be the inspiration for the 13th at Augusta National), and the demanding par four 17th with its semi-blind green obscured by a little hillock to the front right of the target.
Along with nearby Moortown, the club offers brilliant winter monthly Open deals at very affordable rates, playing in a 4BBB stableford format between November and March, and there are some tidy prizes to be won at each of these events. If you don’t want to pay top whack during the summer then this is a great way of experiencing one of the best courses in GB&I when it’s still very playable at the turn of the year.
Amazing golf course in Yorkshire, if anyone gets the opportunity to play here you must go. If this course was located in Surrey among the other heathland course this would easily be one of the most raved about golf course in the UK. There are some demanding tee shots, that if played well give you better access into the holes. Simply put, if you play well here this course will reward you with a good score, however it will eat you up if you're not on your game.
Driving to St Andrews after landing at Doncaster airport, i have decided to use this unexpected drive to stop at Alwoodley.
I think it was by far my best decision of the day !!
Parking at 17h00 i had the opportunity to play at 17h20 and discovered the 18 holes of this brilliant Mc Kenzie desing.
The track is splendid and offers a lot of variety. Some of the holes (especially Par 5 #10) reminds you of some of the most iconic designs from the Dr.
I've absolutely enjoyed this late fternoon round at Alwwoodley and would recommand to anyone driving through the area to stop and play a remarkable and affordable golf course.
The Alwoodley is a very fine golf course, one that members will enjoy playing for years and visitors will enjoy whether they play it only once or several times.
This is a joint H. S. Colt and Alistair Mackenzie design and you really see some of the Mackenzie features throughout the golf course. It is a good routing, both in terms of easing you into the round and the finish. The course is relatively easy for the first three holes, typically played downwind. The fourth is easy a brute as a par four or too easy as a par five as one has now turned to play into the wind. This is followed by another relatively easy short par 4 whose only defense is the uphill shot into a tiered green.
The sixth is magnificent, a longer par four that doglegs left into a well bunkered and very good green complex. The green side bunkers are very good.
The likely most controversial hole is the par five tenth, a sharp dogleg left to a severely sloped green. A long hitter will likely hit this green in two with an 8 iron or less.
This is followed by the terrific par 3 that is well bunkered with a very good green. My only mistake is only playing this hole once as it is that good. I was playing well to here but took a double bogey and did not care.
The next great hole is the 15th, which I played into the teeth of a strong wind. This hole is so well conceived, bunkered, great sloping green that I mistook it for a par five instead of the difficult par four that it is.
The 17th has the only other green that is a downhill shot and brings strategy of your approach shot into play.
The 18th is a very fine finishing hole to a large green.
The Alwoodley likely is not a huge challenge to the long, scratch player but for those of average length playing between 5-20 index it is a lot of fun. It has a very good mixture of hard and easy holes. One should definitely play it if one is in the are.
Whilst i get to play Moortown quite regularly which in itself is a quality course, to play the nearby The Alwoodley on this tremendous golfing land of North Leeds is taking a step up. Yes, Alwoodley has a stuffy reputation but it its like stepping back in time and I like that. Teeing off in front of the clubhouse one gets a real sense of history and nostalgia created by this 1st MacKenzie course.
And it's a wonderful course, with excellent springy turf, heather and gorse, cleverly positioned bunkering throughout.
The 1st time i plated here i was a bit underwhelmed not helped by playing badly but subsequent times has helped embed just how good this course is.
You play out and back and the finishing 2 holes are as good as any course. A solid tee shot from over the lane and a 2nd blind shot into a sunken hidden green, followed by a great finishing hole with bunkers laid out in front of you as you tee off from the elevated tee.
A courae you muat play and regards stuffiness, i didnt ezperience that at all. A wonderful golfing experience.
Alister MacKenzie’s drawing of the course, complete with construction notes, near the men’s locker room. A careful examination shows a very square first green. The current green does not exhibit squareness, but squareness can be found in the WC, where the unusual toilet seats exhibit the same shape as MacKenzie’s now lost green.
We do, however, see MacKenzie’s camouflaging skills at work, most notably at the par three 6th where a bunker that’s 18 yards short of the green appears to be a greenside pit from the tee. And there are traces of MacKenzie’s more famous work at Augusta National. Alwoodley’s 10th is quite similar to Augusta’s 13th, though it would be more true if the stream that fronts the green were not culverted. And the 15th green here, the most brilliantly contoured, bears a striking resemblance to ANGC’s 14th. Unfortunately, most of the rest of Alwoodley’s greens (other than 2, 3 and 16) are rather flat and thus uninteresting.
The club is working hard to eliminate Alwoodley’s stuffy reputation. (It was not that long ago that the pro was not allowed in the clubhouse.) Coupled with the fun layout and the MacKenzie vibe, it’s a treat to visit.
The Alwoodley golf club was one of my favourite golf courses I had played in 2018 for a few reasons. My first reason would be because the club was so friendly and all the members were so kind and talkative which was very nice. One of the members I spoke to talked about the club and made me quite jealous that I lived so far away from there as it is exactly what I look for in a golf club. Only around 200 members and everyone knows everyone making it all the more enjoyable. In addition to this the facilities were excellent with a lovely driving range and short game area however the putting green was a bit small and there was plenty of space for more green behind it which they didn't use. The golf course was beautiful and whilst playing I felt like I had escaped and I had total peace and tranquillity. The course was great and my favourite hole would have to be the 18th with the clubhouse in the background making it even nicer. All in all I would definitely go back again and play but would desperately want to play in the summer when i'm not having to wear 4 layers and still feeling like my hands are going to fall off!
Not to be missed... and outstanding golf course and well worth playing. Loved it. Would play it again if I had the chance. Everything was perfect.