Dr Alister MacKenzie, the celebrated course designer, was commissioned by the Duke of Devonshire in 1923 to lay out a new 18-hole course, replacing a 9-hole course in nearby Buxton. The course at Cavendish Golf Club was ready for play two years later and it has remained virtually unchanged in character for more than three quarters of a century.
With an overall length a modest 5,721 yards and a par of 68, Cavendish holds true to a couple of MacKenzie’s design principles – that the golf course should look as natural as possible (with artificial features blending in seamlessly with the landscape) and, above all, be interesting to players of all abilities.
Cavendish has plenty to arouse the golfer – whether it be it the elevated tee position of the short par three 4th hole, the blind drive at the 8th hole, the two-tiered green on the 9th or the crescent shaped putting surface on the 13th – there’s many stimulating design features to enjoy during the round where accurate approach play is essential in making a reasonable score around here.
Architect Jonathan Gaunt, who has been a playing member at Cavendish Golf Club since 2010, started a renovation project at the club in 2020, remodelling bunkers to a MacKenzie style and thinning out woodlands to recover lost views across the course. The plan originally focused on holes 10 and 11, considered to be two of the best on the layout. It's intended to have all of the work completed in time for the club's centenary in 2025.
Played on a Friday in June. Course was in excellent condition running fast and firm. The routing is outstanding. All the par 3s are brilliant with for me the changes in elevation and green complexes making them highly interesting. The pick of the bunch being the 15th with a severely sloping green. The par 4s offer variety. The 2nd having a narrow green reminiscent of the 12th at the Augusta. The 6th is stunning looking golf. The 10th is a brilliant par 4 with trouble lurking in all directions. The 11th for myself takes the glory as the best 2nd shot on the course. No margin for error. At Cavendish its fun, challenging and friendly. A truly lovely course and club.
A renowned Alister Mackenzie course designed by the Master back in 1925 is still largely unchanged and provides a hugely satisfying test on a sloping site just outside Buxton in the heart of the Peak District.
At under 5600 yards from the yellow tees with a par of just 68, Cavendish may seem a pushover, but the reality is very different. The typical Mackenzie green complexes are probably the course’s biggest defence with huge movement and very few straightforward putts, but the incredible variety of the holes provides a thrilling ride for the golfer.
After three short par 4s to start which introduce the need for an assured short game, the course just gets better and better. All 5 par 3s are excellent holes but it is the giant 10th and classical 11th which are probably best remembered, before a rousing finish at the supremely tough final hole.
Course conditioning is barely adequate but this mustn’t detract from a very special sequence of 18 holes in the Derbyshire countryside. Cavendish provides a majestic setting and enjoyable place in which to play the game.
Played here at the weekend. Blowing a gale which added to the course. Some wonderful holes. All the Par 3s are all excellent. Par 4 10, 11 and all great too. Greens have some huge slopes in them,if you get the wrong side of the pin you can be left with a lightning putt. Overall good fun course just let down a little by its condition, when in top 100 I would expect it to be immaculate. Very good condition but not pristine. Well worth a visit.
I have sought out lots of MacKenzie courses over the last few months, and I make no apology for this! Cavendish is a MacKenzie design that goes under the radar, but is worth a visit for anyone who enjoys the good doctors courses, especially with its setting in the beautiful Peak District.
As you would imagine for a course in this area, the terrain is hilly, and the fairways and greens continue this sloped theme. There are a couple of short par 4s to ease you into the round, and by the time you get to the 2nd green you know have an enjoyable round ahead of you.
It’s a par 68 but plays a lot harder, another gentle reminder that par doesn’t really matter! There’s a great run of holes from the 8-11, played around and over a brook. My favourite green was the par 3 13th that had lots of slope which meant being out of position could bring in a big number.
The par 4 16th was also a memorable hole, reminiscent of 17 at Portrush, played downhill. I've seen Cavendish ranked highly in a publications 'fun' list, and rightly so- for me fun in the most important aspect of any course.
Cavendish is something of an understated architectural masterpiece, a true gem in a beautiful setting. Mackenzie's design has stood the test of time , and I am very much looking forward to returning to see the changes being made in the future.
The golf course itself has greens that cannot be attacked from certain angles, and every bunker comes into play. At 5721 yards, the course can be overpowered but only by someone with good distance control as well.
A short walk takes you to the first, a 354 yard par four with a blind drive over a valley to a sloping fairway. The three bunkers on the right stop people from attacking the pin from the right side. A fine hole.
The second is a 314 yard par four back up the hill with a slanted fairway. It suits a draw off the tee. The green is split in two by a ridge. An impossible putt awaits if you pitch up on the wrong side.
I like the third, a 288 yard par four down the hill. A shot missing the green left could find its way into the second tee, or the first green. Again, the angle of attack is important, suiting a fade.
The fourth is a very special par three, 122 yards off a virtual cliff face down into the valley, shrouded in vegetation and with a beautiful stream on the left side. It is a rather easy par three, but has great scenery.
I do like the uphill 5th, 420 yards with water up the right. Originally our group believed the 16th fairway was the way to go. The raised green is one of the best green complexes on the course and anything on the front sixth will run down the slope.
The 6th isn't as good as the first five. 412 yards from an elevated tee down to a simple fairway. The scenery here is nice, but there is nothing overly impressive on the hole.
I have grown to like the 311 yard 7th. It looks simple, but the narrow green is closely protected by bunkers. It can be driven if you hit it miles. The view of the clubhouse is very special.
The 8th is a fine par four of 389 yards. It starts with a blind drive uphill, but turns downhill with a bunker right in the middle of the fairway just short of the green. The approach is very difficult to judge.
I adore the downhill 9th, 139 yards, with an incredibly complex green complex sloping heavily from back to front. Three putts are common. The hole suits my game (I took hybrid as I am a 13-year-old junior), but a lot of our group struggled here.
The tenth is one of the finest holes anywhere. It is 422 yards uphill with a sweeping fairway and an approach over a stream and a vegetation-clad ravine. The approach is semi blind. Possibly the best hole in the county, and if there was an exception it would be the 4th at Matlock.
I like the downhill eleventh, 415 yards with another approach over a ravine. A very sturdy hole with a generous target off the tee. It isn't as good as the tenth, but a fine hole indeed.
The twelfth is merely ok in comparison, 350 yards on flatter terrain. The green complex is interesting with two bunkers short, but the actual target is a little wide for my liking.
The thirteenth is not my favourite par three. It is 183 yards uphill with a bunker short. The green is raised well above the apron of the green, but not as extreme as the 5th.
The fourteenth is an example of a great par five, 496 yards curving heavily to the left, with an OB wall close to the fairway and a green raised in similar fashion to the 5th. It requires extra club on all three shots. A fantastic hole.
The fifteenth is a masterpiece of only 116 yards with two pot bunkers fronting the green. Anything short of the green will run off at the front. One believes this to be the best of the five par threes.
A short walk takes you to the downhill 16th, 403 yards that allows for massive drives. It isn't as architecturally interesting as the 5th and 10th of similar length, but it is a very fun little hole.
I am fond of the flattish par three 17th, 160 yards over a gentle valley to a green sloping from back to front and pinched by two bunkers. I would rate this 4th out of the five par threes.
The 18th is a magnificent end to the course, 441 yards on a heavily sloping but wide fairway and then playing terrifyingly close to the clubhouse to a heavily raised green with runoffs at the front.
The conditioning is improving, the greens are true and quick and the course architecture is a masterpiece. A gem of a course that should be in the top 100.
Even on a sunny summer's day, prepare for the wind to blow at Cavendish, part of the Duke of Devonshire's estate on the outskirts of the picturesque spa town of Buxton. Don't be surprised if you walk off the 18th wondering why you didn't score better. It may be relatively short but Cavendish holds plenty of peril - even a slightly errant shot could see a ball tumble down the banks which provide many of the greens with their elevation. Club selection can vary considerably, depending on the direction of the wind and a wrong choice can see a drift into valleys and, at worst water. Cavendish has many challenging holes but the one which hides its teeth the best is the second which seems benign from the tee but has a dip in front and wall immediately behind a heavily sloping green.
A short but challenging McKenzie course which is worth seeking out. With soft ground whenever I have played it, it therefore plays longer than the scorecard suggests, with some wonderful holes throughout the layout.
Based on the courses I have played in Derbyshire this is certainly the best of the bunch in what isn’t a strong golfing county. However Cavendish is certainly worth seeking out.
Cavendish is a magnificent piece of golf course design by the world's greatest architect - Alister MacKenzie. On the card it looks short - way less than 6000 yards - but I challenge anyone to come off thinking they have played a short course!
I enjoyed playing Cavendish so much in the dry summer of 2018 that I took the plunge and joined as a full member. It was a great decision and the 30 minute drive to the club from my home in Stockport through the beautiful Derbyshire hills is almost as enjoyable as the course itself.
At just 5,700 yards Cavendish may be on the short side in terms of length but there is nothing lacking in the amount of fun that can be had at this Derbyshire delight.
Here you will find some of wickedest and most interesting putting surfaces in the UK and a handful of wonderful green complexes.
Yes, there are a few ‘filler’ holes along the way and Cavendish is far from the complete package but if you enjoy the challenge of relatively short approaches to well-guarded, undulating greens – and where missing on the wrong side can be fatal – you will love this course.
And in truth there is some big golf required along the way too, especially when the course plays soft, which it invariable does with its valley location in the heart of the Peak District. Holes five, six, ten, 11, 16 and 18 all weigh in over the 400 yard mark and with five par-three’s, versus just one par five, the par of 68 does mean that it’s not all drive and pitch golf.
Not all of MacKenzie’s work is still intact with much of it having been tinkered with over time but the basics are undeniably still there. The routing of the course remains pretty much the same and this is a real credit to him because whilst this is a very hilly site the walk is actually relatively easy-going.
At Cavendish there are some really cool features throughout the round, most notably on and around the greens, with more than half-a-dozen outstanding golf holes. These come at the fifth, 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 18th.
Cavendish may not be everybody’s cup of tea but it’s rare to find so many strong elements on a course like this and is 100% worth playing.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
A group of us played Cavendish on spec on the way back through from a Summer golf trip drawn by the McKenzie connection and positive word of mouth.
It was very damp underfoot after some recent wet weather (athough not Deluge-like) with the ball plugging in fairways, and on occasion the small area was apparent when playing around other games and up into the corner by the road.
Overall though a very friendly club in lovely surroundings, fun golf, good value and definitely worth a game.