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."
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.
For a long time I’d heard great things about this Alister MacKenzie gem tucked away in the middle of England near Leeds. I recently, finally had the wonderful pleasure of experiencing a round here. MacKenzie is my favorite architect and the more of his courses I experience the more confirmation I receive in regards to his insatiable talent at routing courses. I simply love Alwoodley, I caught it on a cold windy day in the early season so the course was still recovering from the winter. In this case it only meant the greens weren’t yet rolling as perfectly as they would be a month or two later. No issue at all when you are here to enjoy the architecture. It’s a wonderful property for golf where MacKenzie made perfect use of the available characteristics.
While Alwoodley is full of solid holes my favorites were the signature up hole par 3 9th hole which has a spectacular greensite sloping back to front. This greensite actually reminded me of something you would see at Crystal Downs. Let’s just say that keeping the ball below the hole would be advisable.
The par 4 18th is also pure magic. A perfect mix of heather and hazards outlines this hole, add the clubhouse in the distance and you have one absolute cracker of a finishing hole.
One other great aspect of Alwoodley is that it’s full of quirk like only the best of the Golden Age architects instilled in their designs by creatively working around land shapes, hollows and natural greensites. The 17th hole is a wonderful example of this. A semi punchbowl green with a 15 ft flagpole is protected by a large mound on the left side, a drive to the left side opens up the hole but to do so you need to take on the course boundaries. Right has more space but requires a blind and very exacting shot.
Never pass up a chance to visit this highly underrated gem.
Famous for its architect, but not a course that generally gets a lot of attention. Due to its location, it may not even come into people’s head for a golf trip. The greater Leeds area is not a top golf destination in England when compared to other more popular geographies. This club is actively seeking play and welcome visitors with open arms. They are breaking down the myth that this private club is closed to outsiders.
Alwoodley is to MacKenzie as Rye is to Colt. It was his first course. The course gets well-deserved high praise for the closing stretch of very difficult holes.
Across the street is Moortown GC which hosted the 1929 Ryder Cup. Rumour has it that Alwoodley turned down the 1929 Ryder Cup, which is a great shame.
The routing across the land is Alwoodley’s top feature, including the dogleg swooping par 5 which inspired the 13th at Augusta National and the uphill par 3 which resembles the template for Gibraltar. I had a very pleasant and enjoyable experience at the club.
I was introduced to Alwoodley almost two decades ago by Nick Leefe, the then Chairman of Greens at the Club and also Honorary Secretary of the Alister MacKenzie Society of Great Britain & Ireland, whilst I was undertaking a university thesis on the work of the Good Doctor. The round provided a fascinating history to the course and an insight into the Club’s plans for the future.
Over the years I have since played and walked the course on several occasions, each time gaining a greater understanding of the layout and its many subtleties. A recent visit came when the Yorkshire Union of Golf Clubs staged their annual County Championships here in the summer of 2014. A practice game followed by two competitive rounds, when the course played extremely impressively, left me in no doubt that this is the real deal when it comes to first class championship golf courses.
I also enjoyed a round here in October 2014 when the course, as you might expect, didn't play as firm and fast but was still a great challenge and in wonderful condition for the time of year.
Unusually for a course predominantly of heathland characteristic the layout follows more of an ‘out and back’ routing. When the prevailing wind blows one must make their score over the first ten holes before hanging on for dear life coming home. The final six holes, when played into any sort of a breeze, are worthy of defining any a champion.
The terrain the golf is played over is extremely natural in appearance and with no two holes even remotely similar you must work the ball both ways if you are to score well. On several occasions when stood on the tee at Alwoodley you are only ever given a glimpse of the hole and it’s hazards; sometimes just a slither of fairway and a few flashes of sand, sometimes a little more. Always enough to know where you are going but never enough to eradicate doubt as to the correct line or distance to drive. This aspect I think is what sets Alwoodley apart from many other top heathland courses and gives it an edge; that degree of uncertainty it casts in a golfers mind. There are many examples of this during the round but the fourth and sixth are perhaps the finest examples you will find.
The strategic architectural merits at Alwoodley were well ahead of their time when MacKenzie constructed the course in the early 1900’s and it is testament to his work that they remain intact today.
As at most top courses the ground game is still very much alive and kicking at Alwoodley and thus the art of shotmaking is too.
The sophisticated golfer, who can make the right decision and also execute the correct shot, will prosper here at this fair but challenging venue.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
This is after just one round a favourite of mine. It flows gently over some fairly flat land (the only elevation is in the far corner) and yet it is very memorable with some really good holes and just a couple of weak ones. Great clubhouse and showers as well.