Review for Cavendish

Reviewer Score:


The joys of Cavendish do not just start when you set foot on the course, but on the beautiful, winding journey here. Cavendish is located near Buxton, in the heart of the Peak District, the backbone of England, which offers some of the country’s finest walks. The walk at Cavendish however should never be a good walk spoilt, as this fine course was laid out by none other than golf course architecture’s Master Craftsman, Dr Alistair Mackenzie; Cavendish Golf Club itself being home to the Mackenzie Golf Society. It’s somewhat shameful on us as golfers therefore, that this club nearly became bankrupt during the first Covid-lockdown. Fortunately, I’d assume that Derbyshire’s no. 1 ranked golf course is now on a more stable financial footing, and I hope that it’s a club that subsequently goes on to prosper.

The reason for Cavendish’s financial woe is certainly nothing to do with the course itself, but likely due to its location. Buxton itself is no thriving metropolis, and the larger urban areas in the region are too far away for Cavendish to get high numbers of visitor traffic. This maintains green fees below £40. Surely there can’t be many other golf courses with the architectural heritage of Cavendish that will charge as little?

Capturing my thoughts of some of the holes, aside from a couple of excellent greens (a recurring theme at Cavendish), the first three holes set to the side of the clubhouse serve as good getaway holes but nothing more remarkable. The first eye-catching hole comes at the splendid little drop-shot par three 4th hole with a green that’s set back over a stream and a large bank to one side with a pond to the other.

I’ll describe the course in its current order of holes, but I did in fact play the course in its original Mackenzie routing which I felt is more balanced than today’s sequence of holes, the original routing avoids the majority of Cavendish’s strongest holes predominantly coming into play on the back nine.

The front nine culminates with another par three where the tee is elevated above the green, a green that I understand was rebuilt. Whilst word on the street is that this green is seemingly not to everyone’s tastes, I personally enjoyed its imaginative contouring. I would also repeat similar sentiments at the short 15th, a hole that, in this case, I think is unchanged from its original, and rightly so since this is the best of the short holes with a brilliantly awkward and tilted putting surface that will never have you feeling comfortable when standing over a putt.

Away from the par threes, the 10th hole must be the course’s signature. This is a glorious and long par four played over a couple of wonderfully natural chasms, etched into the earth by the erosion from the burn that passes through the course. It’s a tough hole too, over 420-yards with forced carries, it’s a nerve jangler and demands good ball striking. The par five 14th, the only par five on the card, with the dry stone wall lining the out-of-bounds to the adjacent farmland was another good hole, making the most of this man-made feature. But it was another excellent green with a severe false front that personally left me in tatters; three times it took me to putt my way up to the top of the plateau as the pin was devilishly perched just on top of the change in gradient – a true greenkeeper’s revenge. The turn home is made in front of the rustic-looking farmhouse that overlooks the course in a picture-perfect way that only the English countryside can deliver, whilst the 18th would be my other main hole of note. Like the 10th, this is a fiercely challenging par four over an undulating and unbalanced surface. A par here to complete the round would make a post-round drink in the clubhouse taste that little bit sweeter.

I don’t think Cavendish is devoid of its shortcomings. There’s a modestly sized team of greenstaff here so perfectly kept surfaces are unlikely, and some areas of the ground were a little softer under-foot than optimal, but course improvements are already underway through the careful guidance of course designer, Jonathan Gaunt. Bunkers are currently in the midst of being renovated so there is a mixture of bunkering styles at the moment between the new and the old, but I expect that the club will be quickly upgrading them all to meet the same spec.

The bare bones at Cavendish are plainly clear to see for anyone who plays here, and I do hope that the next couple of year’s work will see the course achieving its rightful potential.

Cavendish’s website uses the marketing tagline “The course that inspired Augusta”. Whether it did or not can be debated, I’m sure many of Mackenzie’s previous works inspired the home of the Masters, but what can’t be debated is that this is a must-visit for all course enthusiasts. It’s a course that combines charm and excellent design qualities proving to be a delightful place to escape to the country for a few hours.

Date: September 16, 2021

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