The Delamere Forest Golf Club originated in 1910 when eleven local business men got together informally and agreed on forming a golf club in the ancient hunting grounds known as Delamere Forest. The land was underwater during prehistoric times, making for a sandy foundation that allows for year-round golfing. Even after a heavy downpour, the greens still play like they haven’t seen rain in weeks.
The renowned golf course architect Herbert Fowler designed the original course and today it still has a fine collection of challenging par fives, short and difficult par fours as well as some long and testing par threes. This ‘hidden gem’ is certain to test your game.
The shortest hole, the 6th, is arguably one of the most challenging. Accuracy is everything, should you find yourself either side of the green you face an arduous chip to get yourself back on track. It’s a hole that has been known to strike angst into even the most experienced golfer – Lord Hawke, captain back in the ‘50s even had an alternative tee constructed in the trees, now known as Hawke’s Folly.
Off-course facilities take place in a redesigned 'Cheshire Black and White' style building, originally designed by the founding member Alfred Powles. Powles was a prominent architect who took a fancy to the designs and architecture of the surrounding area. Facilities include a new visitor's locker room, member's lounge, improved formal dining room, refurbished member's locker rooms, casual lounge, and a new Professional's shop. Sitting in the casual lounge after a day of golf will offer fantastic views over the course and the stunning Cheshire countryside.
Only four golf professionals have been employed at Delamere Golf Club since its inauguration. The original golf pro, renowned James Arundel, had a strong Scottish golfing background and provided professional services for 35 years. The last golf pro to be hired, Martin Brown, has been a qualified PGA Professional since 1990. He is currently a Level 3 Coach and Class AAT PGA Member.
James kindly contributed the above article.
John Mulder, former Hon Secretary of Delamere Forest Golf Club, contributed the following article:
Despite the word 'Forest' in its title, Delamere is a natural heathland course. Certainly, trees are part of the strategy on several holes, but, in general, Delamere Forest provides a glorious backdrop to the panoramic views from the higher parts of the course.
Fowler had no qualms about asking the golfer to undertake a number of blind drives, carrying some considerable distances and enjoying the healthy exercise of hill climbing. Overall, there is much variety in hole lengths and every kind of shot will be called for, but the opening five holes really stretch the average player.
There are many holes with character, for example the 5th, with a long uphill carry to the green with a pond to the left and below the green and the need to hold the shot up to that side. The 6th is a short hole from an elevated tee to a small green set at an angle to the tee with enticing views over the pond below the green to the left, with woods and fields in all directions. The 8th requires a long straight tee shot to find a narrow fairway to give a long iron shot to a steeply sloping green. This hole was reached from the medal tee in the 1970s by one of our past members, Mr George Johnson. The 15th hole is a dogleg left with a blind drive over a hill and an out of bounds in the Forest on the left. The raised plateau green is situated in a delightful dell with a bell to be rung to tell those behind that the coast is clear, with the finishing hole having a rough patch of reeds just short of the green.
The course leaves and returns to the clubhouse twice and players cross at the 6th and 16th tees.
In 2018, the club celebrated the conclusion of a six-year programme to restore its historic heathland course back to the original 1910 design intent.
Under the guidance of architect Tom Mackenzie, every bunker was returned to its Herbert Fowler design and greens were enlarged to provide new pin placement options and run-off areas.
Officially opened in 1911 with a challenge match featuring James Braid, Ted Ray, Sandy Herd and James Arundel, the course was altered in 1959-60 by Hawtree Ltd. Work included bunker remodelling, fairway realignment at #3, #6, #11 and #17 and greens reshaping at #1, #2, #3 and #18. Fred W. also suggested a tree planting programme, which the club duly implemented.
Nearly sixty years later, the course was more than ready for this Tom Mackenzie upgrade. New millennium alterations also included the addition of eight new tees to challenge better players and the lengthening of the 18th hole.
Past Captain Steve Lamb commented: “It’s been a long process of change for the club, but the outcome has been well worth the wait and all of the members are proud to show visitors just how well the course plays and how good it looks.
Delamere Forest has always had a strong reputation as a quality course with great turf and superb greens. Now we believe that reputation will be enhanced with the changes that we’ve made under the direction of one of the world’s most respected course architects.”
Seldom have I experienced such a warm welcome arriving at a course. I was introduced to the club pro and then had the best course brief after chatting about golf for 20mins. I popped in and had a cup of tea with one of members who again gave me some local knowledge before heading out. What a stunning course, I was told to told it might be wet after the down pour we had had the night before but it was in fantastic condition tee box to green. As you get to the green on the first you catch your first climbs across the smooth rolling layout a head of you. The wind was up but the sun out and it was just pure fun. Thanks to a local derby football match I pretty much had the course to myself and thoroughly enjoyed the peace and quiet of the place. For me it goes into my personal top 20. I must if in area or even if you are not!
A strong contender for best inland course in the region, but just falls short for me based on my appetite to return soon being slightly behind others. The general layout is very good and there’s a nice variety of holes to add intrigue. Being sand based it drains well so always a good place to go inland in winter, but this year (summer) I just didn’t think the condition was as good as other local courses I’ve played. Not sure why, as usually it’s very good, and I’m confident it will get back to normal soon.
There’s been a lot of recent work on remodelling and I think the course has been enhanced in many ways, but notably the detailing around the bunkers has been a good improvement and really adds to the course appearance.
The clubhouse experience was the only real letdown to me. It was ok and there are some nice views, but I just didn’t have that warm, fuzzy feeling that great clubhouses give you and for me at least, this is part and parcel of assessing my experience.
It’s a course I will continue to visit every year or so as time goes on, and it’s definitely worth playing if you’re travelling this way.
To be fair, i hesitated hovering over the 6 or the 5 and a half with this course, but that was only due to my standards that i try and adhere too when giving my reviews of courses i play. But this one ranks up there in my top 5 played.. It is such an unassuming presence, the drive up too the gates etc one would believe it is just someones land with a building at the end of it, but one passes through the gates into the car park and is met by the most astounding view!! The gap between the club house and the members trolley storage had a early morning sun peeping its head up and through the mist one catches a glimpse of the 1st tee box and fairway!!... It truly is a magnificant view and one can tell why the club is in the top 100 to play.
The surrounding area is truly a thing of beauty and just enhances the whole playing experience, the Green tee's which i played off gave my playing handicap of 6 a true test and i managed to get round in a respectful 81 which i was more than happy about.
There was a slight bit of work taking place between 14/15 but didnt hinder play, greens were playing around 10.5/11 which was ideal as they really are true enough greens where one can go for the hole and they keep the line.
Fairways were a pleasure to play from as you could tell members gave it the respect its due and raplaced divots, the 1st & 2nd cut was playable but stray farther than that and you can find yourself in real trouble and losing balls.
Jonathan and Harry in the pro shop were fantastic and delivered a real welcoming service. Gave good sound advice and encouraged several holes to be played 'going for the pin' which i personally like.
My only negative experience was 2 of the young bar staff whos attitudes were less than desirable, but apart from that, my whole experience of the club was amazing and i would defiantely play there again.
If you are passing through the area, i would absolutely encourage you to go and play it. You wont be dissapointed....
Delamere has one of the most exclusive memberships in Northwest England, but thankfully that exclusivity does not extend to visitors who have always been made welcome by the club. Additionally, the exclusivity of Delamere Forest means that membership numbers are limited hence congestion on the golf course is not commonplace. This all makes for a relaxed visit with a good pace of play. Also, given the countryside location of the golf course with little in the way of property and road traffic nearby, the experience at Delamere Forest is a very peaceful one.
My suggestion for any first time visitor is to start the day with a coffee or breakfast on the patio so you can assess the panorama across the 1st, 9th, 10th and 18th which makes for excellent viewing from a seat next to the clubhouse. From here you’ll notice that trees are relatively sparse. The entrance to the actual forest of Delamere is a few hundred metres up the road with the golf course set aside from the dense woodland.
A minimalist approach to course design has generally been taken meaning that there’s plenty of width from the tee with well positioned bunkers and an economical amount of heather used as hazards across the rolling terrain. Angles are an important part of the strategy at Delamere Forest too, and I’d expect that the sandy base for the course offers a good chance to get the course playing firm and fast in Summer making angles more of a priority.
There is a slight imbalance to the course, with holes 1-8 being the more taxing since six of the holes play in excess of 400-yards alongside one 200-yard par three, whereas holes 9-18 are gentler in terms of distance, but offer the greater variety and more visual interest. The spells from 9-11 and the par fours at 14 and 15 are the main highlights and feature large, heaving fairways with a combination of raised and sunken greens. The green-sites and backdrops at holes 14 and 15 are the ones that I found deserving of a special mention and the most visually captivating, but overall, I’d probably struggle to name a weak hole on the course making this a fine experience. You’d probably have to travel across the Pennines to Leeds before you get to enjoy an inland course that has land and design of the qualities that surpass that at Delamere.
First things first, if you are creating a mental picture of Delamere Forest prior to visiting based solely on the name alone, then I guarantee you will be well and truly awry with your assumptions. I had expected tree lined fairways and a certain solitude walking between towering avenues of trees. Although bordering the eastern edge of Delamere Forest, this course instead enjoys wonderfully undulating and relatively open ground and plays much more like a links than I had anticipated (which I liked very much). The property is attractive, well manicured and our anticipation levels were high having surveyed the scene while enjoying our lunch.
This Herbert Fowler design (I have played a number recently) is another example of engaging green sites and enticing risk reward hole layouts. The jeopardy around the greens is typical Fowler, with the need to be aware of where the most severely punishing misses are. It is this that is always in the forefront of your mind when playing into the greens, even from relatively short distances. We got a taste for this straight away on the 1st with the flag perched atop the slippery slope on the front third of the green; short of the flag here was certainly the order of the day.
The front nine offers a lot of variety and interest throughout with opportunities and troublesome holes in equal measure. You will try to make your score on holes 2/7/9 while holes 4/5 and 8 will certainly give you food for thought. Not necessarily the best hole in design terms, but I particularly enjoyed the character of the downhill par 3 6th, with its thimble like green played to across a valley containing an attractive pond and a smattering of pin high bunkers.
The run around the turn is where the real quality of the course begins to shine from hole to hole. From the tee shot on 8 until the 15th tee, there is so much to love and so much intrigue at every turn. 8 is one of the most beautiful yet demanding tee shots you are likely to play anywhere, with the cliff like bank on the left pushing you across the angled fairway into the waiting rough and bunkers. 9 seems so easy and yet so hard once you have played it and 10 is a peach of a hole playing back out away from the clubhouse. Hole 11 has benefited from a new tee and this has significantly strengthened this hole by all accounts. What we found was one of the most charismatic and testing par 5 tee shots I’ve played in some time; it’s all there in front of you, you just need to commit to the shot and hit the inviting fairway.
Changing tack slightly, my next comment is made with no intent to cause quarrel and from my opinion purely as a player (I have no qualifications in regard to architecture). I felt the course could possibly function better as a par 70 rather than a 72 and I also feel it would be a more exacting test in that form. The 2nd hole, would be perfect as a truly testing par 4 rather than the modest par 5 it pertains to be. I am not the longest hitter by any means, yet I hit a reasonable drive and a 7 iron to the centre of the green (albeit in firm conditions). At 488 yards from the tips and 440yards from the yellows, my feeling would be this would be a stronger golf hole in the modern day as a par 4.
The other hole I felt could benefit from a potential rethink is the 15th. This is an extremely short par 4 at a little over 300 yards from the very back tee that was recently updated by Tom Mackenzie and team. My view is that, due to its proximity to the course boundary and a completely blind tee shot, there is no real risk reward to this hole. You could hit a driver in the general direction of the green (which is somewhat unclear from the tee) and take your chances. In reality however, the hole has only one real way to play it with a card in your hand. I hit an 8 iron over the marker pole off the tee followed by a wedge to the green from 120 yards. That to me indicates that a change may be required, or alternatively, that my game has become particularly cautious in my advancing age. I think there are two solutions to improving this hole; either excavate the ground in front of the tee (and clear the corner) to allow sight of the green (and risk takers landing area), or more likely, change this hole to a par 3 played from in and around the marker post.
My comments on holes 2 and 15 aside, this is a wonderfully tranquil golf course and one that would continue to test you round after round. There can be few better pieces of golfing land than this in England and it is the sort of golf that I love to play. Visually stimulating, testing at every turn and thought provoking on the greens. This may not have been the tree lined affair I was expecting, but I left with the view that this is a golf course exuding quality and that has a little bit of everything.
On our 4 course tour of some of England’s finest golf courses in Cheshire and Derbyshire we saved the best to last, but were greeted at Delamere Forest by leaden skies, high winds and heavy rainfall. So gusty were the winds that I was one of two in our Fourball that had his umbrella snapped off from its connection to the trolley on just the second hole. But fortunately the rain became lighter, the winds lessened and the rest of the round was played in testing but by no means impossible conditions.
And Delamere Forest delivered. We first set eyes on the glorious panorama of the course from the Clubhouse before we ventured out, and immediately noticed its open almost moorland nature with a strange absence of trees. But a massive golfing treat awaited, and we all completed this golfing experience understanding why the course is second in Cheshire only to the Open Championship venue at nearby Royal Liverpool. The emphasis is on a clear, positional and strategic approach and clean, accurate hitting. Course maintenance was flawless.
The variety of tests posed by the course are a pure joy. After our difficult start, the unusual challenges of Delamere are almost intoxicating as the fast running fairways demonstrate that a course doesn’t need to be just for big hitters to be outstanding. We played from the yellow tees from which the course has a par of 72 measuring just 6100 yards, although it seems longer with the many upward and downward slopes. None of the 4 par 5s are more than 500 yards long, and unusually two are less than 450 yards, but none of our Fourball threatened one of these four greens in two hits.
The feeling of space in this ‘Forest’ with so few trees is awesome, as is its quiet exclusive feel as we played ‘millionaire’s golf’. All the holes are good although I found the highly rated short 6th far too good for me, as after hitting the front of the green exactly as planned with my 8 iron tee shot, I watched with horror as it rolled off the back, leaving me with a tough chip shot to a tricky target which my short game failed woefully to accomplish successfully.
The stretch from holes 9 to 16 are quite special, with my sumptuous drive at 9 to the left hand side of a large plateau before a thinned wedge across a big dip in the landscape to a large green with the pin on the front edge a reminder of how fortunes can fluctuate in the game, just in two consecutive shots. A frankly ludicrous putt across the green from 25 yards then followed and I walked off the green with a birdie three and all was right with the world.
Further short par 4s follow at 10 and 13, one uphill and the other flat but with many bunkers, and these holes are interspersed by a magnificent par 5 through a valley and then down the other side and par 3 at 12 that was every bit as fiendish as the aforementioned 6th. The fact that 6 and 12 were the two holes I failed to score on and they are by some way the shortest on the course tells it’s own story.
And then came the 14th, the most scenic hole on the course with a lovely downhill approach to a green surrounded by bunkers and 15 with a frightening drive over a hill with far more space beyond than it seems from the tee. The pitch shot to this green looks so easy but the need for pinpoint accuracy and control of length found us all out.
The par 3 16th with its semi blind tee shot, was followed by a similarly difficult tee shot at 17, before the majestic rolling 18th provided a suitable climax for our round. And heavy rain returned just as we were playing our final hole, perhaps the elements were smiling on us.
Delamere Forest has so many memorable holes and is located in a fabulous setting, that it is simply a grand place to play the game.
"Watch out for the ninth. It has big dips in front of the green and beyond and I watched two scratch golfers make a mess of it on YouTube."
Fortunately, having come to grief on the aforementioned hole on a previous visit to Delamere Forest, I took the advice I was giving to my fellow tournament competitors, took an extra club and made par.
What a pity I didn't pay such keen attention on the rest of the holes because I slunk away having played one of my worst rounds of the year.
This beautiful Cheshire course is deceptive. There isn't much heather and the fairways seem wide. But I can testify that a lack of precision around the greens can be very costly.
As said, it wasn't as if the course was new to me. Intriguingly, I wasn't caught out by the more memorable ones - my best were the downhill third which offers great views of Cheshire and the spectacular 14th which winds down into the furthest corner of the course to a green, protected at front and sides by bunkers.
However, blobs came aplenty elsewhere.
I didn't cope with the doglegs - coming to grief on the 8th and 18th despite tee-shots which had put me in strong positions.
This was down to finding way too much sand.
There is many a slant at Delamere Forest which feed the ball into bunkers and by the end of my round I felt as if I was playing more often on sand than on grass.
And when I did finally hit the green, I found their twists and turns too subtle. The number of times I edged the hole had me frothing with frustration.
Despite my abysmal return, I felt that a good score could have been achieved at Delamere Forest but not if it is taken lightly. I did my homework but I wasn't as precise as I should have been.
However, my wretched final score did not prevent me from recognising, once again, that this is a special course.
I can't comment on the hospitality because Covid regulations meant we weren't allowed into the clubhouse. A shame because it looked most inviting from outside.
Delamere Forest is a superb golf course and along with Royal Liverpool I am certain that you have the top two courses in Cheshire here. A different type of course to its links counterpart, comparisons have been drawn between Yorkshire's Ganton and Delamere and I believe that this is fair. Sandy turf is the order of the day with bunkers aplenty, interesting tumbling fairways and a premium placed on course strategy. Framed by wild grasses, gorse and solitary pines, the course as manicured to perfection and the definition between fairway, semi and rough was clear. On my visit I played the back nine first starting with the tenth hole, but this didn't skew my perception of the course one bit - indeed the 9th hole would provide any course with a strong closing 18th hole. Highlights for me were the 14th and 15th holes (my 5th and 6th) and the 17th and 18th (my 8th and 9th). The 14th and 15th are two lovely short par 4's with sloping fairways framed by heather, and greens set below tall pines; and the 17th and 18th are a strong, long par 4 and par 5 to finish your round. The old fashioned clubhouse provides an excellent backdrop to the closing holes and it is an excellent spot to soak in the panoramic views back up the course - a day at Delamere Forest is like stepping back of time and traditional in every sense of the word; the course is fully deserving of its spot in the British and Irish elite.
I'm an 9 handicapper and I played Delamere towards the end of winter 2020. Frosty sunny morning. I have to say, this is a superb course. A true pleasure to play and probably the best inland course i've played. It was immaculate, especially considering the amount of rain in the previous weeks. You just feel like you're at peace with just you and golf playing here. The members were friendly and I look forward to returning. Fantastic course.
Delamere Forest was one of my golfing highlights of 2019. I teed it up here immediately after the club’s hosting of the Women’s County Finals in September and the course was polished to absolute perfection.
Tom Doak drew an interesting parallel, suggesting Delamere is North West England’s version of the North East’s Ganton. It’s an astute comparison as both have sand to spare underfoot and both are laid out on a grand scale. In my opinion Delamere has more exciting topography than Ganton, but Ganton has better green complexes.
There’s a real sense of stepping back in time at Delamere, where tradition is front and centre. The on course architecture follows a similar pattern to the club itself, there’s nothing brash, just delightful understated elegance. Delamere is right up my street, it has everything I like in a golf course.
The tumbling ground is perfect and the thrills and spills build as the round progresses through a fascinating routing of twists and turns up and down the heathery valleys.
I don’t know why Delamere has never been listed in our Britain & Ireland Top 100 before now. The club’s heartland location, off the beaten tourist trail, maybe a contributing factor. I’m sure if this course were set anywhere near the heathlands of London it would be a completely different story.