The following edited extract is from A Matter of Course: The life of William Herbert Fowler 1856-1941 by Derek Markham:
“The club was founded in 1891, and 1894 saw the establishment of eighteen holes on Baildon Moor. Four years later the decision was taken to move to a new site at Hawksworth. The new course, designed with the club’s professional W.C. Gaudin, was opened in 1900.
By 1919 the club decided to call in a recognised expert to evaluate the course’s potential and suggest improvements. Harry Colt was chosen for the task and Alister MacKenzie, by now in partnership with Colt, drew up plans to improve the bunkers.
The 1921 club annual report, published in January 1922, reported: ‘the Green Committee, in consultation with Dr. MacKenzie, have evolved a scheme for the alteration of the course, getting rid of the sixth hole, and bringing the length up to the standard for a first class inland course.’
Most surprisingly, the club’s committee then performed a volte face. It was announced that, after all, the contract for a redesign of the whole course would be awarded to Herbert Fowler. Fowler’s fee of £20 plus expenses was very similar to that paid to Colt two years earlier.
The sixth hole had been unpopular because of the long climb required to reach the tee. Fowler abandoned that area altogether, but still managed to design to an overall length of just over 6,000 yards.
He was able to modify the areas around many of the greens to suit his principles; several of the approach shots required became more challenging, and many bunkers were modified to suit Fowler’s preferences.
The need to retain as many of the existing greens as possible restricted Fowler’s routing options somewhat, with the result that some areas of the course were a little more awkward than he would have liked. Franks, Harris Brothers were appointed as contractors, at a cost of £1,977. The re-vamped course was ready for use in August 1923.”
Ken Moodie currently consults at Bradford, overlooking bunker upgrading, tree management and improved drainage, all of which are designed to return the course to its original heathland roots.
I always feel this course doesn't come alive until the back 7 holes, which are played across a small valley, meaning raised tee shots to the fairway below. Sometimes the greens are raised too, sometimes not. Interspersed is a notoriously tricky uphill par 3 to a steep sided green. Miss at your peril. Before that, there is an extended warm up, with two short holes (the 4th and 11th) that are driveable par 4s, and a couple of really, really long par 4s, which all but the longest hitters must treat as 3 shotters.
The recent course work, opening up the space by removing hundreds of trees, as appears to be the fashion, has given the feeling that you are one of many groups trooping around the landscape. Everywhere you look there are golfers. Shouts of 'fore' ring out, seemingly every 5 minutes.
We played the day after heavy rain and the course stood up well. The greens were receptive, good paced and ran true. Knowing they all slope towards Baildon Moor is a craft tips the locals know only too well.
The clubhouse/pro shop/lockers are all befitting of a respected club, and the views are to die for (if that can be said of a view towards Bradford) after your round, whilst enjoying a libation.
Bradford G.C is a course you should play. It offers a little bit of everything, just try play it on a quiet day, so you don't feel like you are one of the crowd.
I played the course in an open in August 2020. Fairways are generous but if you do miss them there are plenty of trouble to find. The greens felt small and were undulating and generally slightly raised so any shot short or slightly wide wouldn't make the green. On the day we played the greens weren't in there usual flat and true condition, it looked like they had not fully recovered from summer maintenance (maybe due to wet weather). Lots of great holes from a design & visual point. Though not the longest course it is great fun to play. forward to return here next year and will no doubt become an annual trip.
The Bradford Golf Club, known locally as Hawksworth, is a fine example of a good Yorkshire golf course. Perched high in the beautiful and peaceful countryside this part-parkland, part-moorland course is only a few miles from Bradford city centre but has the feeling of being in a much more remote location than it is.
I've played here on many occasions and it has always been in immaculate condition. The presentation of the course and the trueness of the greens are often head and shoulders above many other courses in the area.
Indeed the greens are the main defence of the course and you are introduced to this fact at the opening hole with a putting surface that falls from front-to-back and from right-to-left.
It is not an overly long course but boasts a handful of lengthy par fours and it is these that are the best holes on the course. Many of the holes run in the same direction and parallel to each other at Bradford although the routing of the course does not give you a feeling of going 'up and down'. There are just three par 3's on the undulating layout and it is mostly these that tend to run at right angles to the longer holes.
In summary Bradford is an enjoyable, well-presented course which has some good holes and requires you to putt well if you are to score well.
The recently refurbished clubhouse and welcoming staff set you at ease straight away here and it is a course I always look forward to returning to.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.