Willie Fernie set out the course at Appleby Golf Club on Brackenber Moor in 1903, twenty years after the club was founded.
Soon after opening, the new layout was described by the Manchester Guardian as “a champion’s course” and “The Sunningdale of the North”.
Even though Appleby is easily accessible from the main A66 road (which traverses the Pennines) the course is set remotely on glorious expansive moorland from where there are panoramic views of the Lakeland Fells.
You can be at one with your inner Heathcliff here, especially if you can negotiate in regulation no fewer than eight par fours that stretch out beyond 400 yards.
If you’re visiting Appleby in early June, you simply have to check out the world-famous Appleby Horse Fair which is a colourful annual gathering of Gypsies and Travellers.
I’ve decided to choose Appleby as my first review on this website. A course I have played many times, a course close to my heart as my great uncle was captain here, and a course that epitomises fun golf.
Always guaranteed a warm welcome in a relaxed environment, and a unique golf course to boot. A course over a vast piece of land, with no hole particularly close or running parallel to one another. No par 5’s to speak of but does not detract from what is a truly unique experience. Noticeably, the 5th tee shot shooting high up on the hill, the fabulous 6th with its amazing view down the fairway, and the well talked about par 3 15th (bell hole) are my stand outs.
Peaty terrain, a course full of sheep, and 18 electric fences protecting the greens adds further uniqueness to a fabulous day out.
My top tips;
1) perfect for a stop off on a golf trip to Scotland (or vice versa)
2) a brilliant day out in its own right, particularly if you’re playing 36.
I’m easily pleased. All I ask for is good turf, natural movement in the land and engaging greens. Simply give me all of those on a golf course and I’m a happy bunny.
Sadly most courses don’t offer any of the above. A relatively small number have one of the trio whilst the saying ‘two out of three ain’t bad’ can be applied to even fewer venues. However, at Appleby it’s a case of tick, tick, tick.
It’s a spectacular course in a vast and exposed landscape. It’s easy to see why it has been described as "Gleneagles in the raw".
Incidentally golfers have no right of way on the common land moor which is shared with horse-riders, cyclists, joggers and dog-walkers as well as various livestock.
A mixture of heather and wispy rough frame the generous and modestly undulating fairways. I drove the ball quite badly but never had trouble finding a ball off the fairway in early August. There is minimal, if any, fairway bunkering and greenside pits are used sparingly too.
Despite the modest yardage of 5,998, playing to a par of 68 (SSS 70), Fernie’s creation is undeniably testing, and contains no par-fives although there are some long and challenging two-shotters.
What struck me most about the course, however, was the number of excellent short par-fours. Four of them come in at under 310-yards and the opener at 336 could just about be placed into this superb group of what on paper are easy holes but in reality are testing little gremlins.
The course gets quite linksy around the turn, particularly the 182-yard tenth, with sod-wall bunkers defending the green. The final par-three, the fine 17th, also has similar characteristics.
Of all the fine holes at Appleby it is the short 15th that is likely to be the most memorable. The almost blind “Bell Hole” is a 176-yard par-three that is as unique as they come. The setting is simply lovely, the teeing ground would make an idyllic picnic spot at the side of a babbling stream, and the deep bathtub green, fired to over a ravine and played to from the long-side, could produce hours of short-game fun. I think I took about a dozen photos of this hole as it looks marvellous from all angles.
The course just flows so effortlessly over the land and the contours of the putting surfaces are simply perfect. This is a course that packs a big punch and comes with a huge thumbs-up from me.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.