Situated close to the old market town of Altrincham, the 18-hole course at Dunham Forest Golf & Country Club enjoys a woodland setting that was once part of the Earl of Stamford’s estate.
The US Army used the land on which John Beasley laid out the original 9-hole course as an Italian prisoner of war camp. The course opened in 1961 and Alex Hay became the first Dunham Forest professional. The layout was extended to 18 holes during the 1960s when further land became available.
Dave Thomas replaced Alex Hay as club pro around the time Thomas had finished runner-up to Jack Nicklaus in the 1966 Open Championship at Muirfield. Thomas is largely responsible for the Dunham Forest course that's in play today and he was subsequently made an honorary club member.
Those first 5 or 6 holes had me believing I had stumbled across an absolute gem. The rolling fairways had my interest from the off. I believed the course would go on to be a Heathland classic… sadly it deceived after that.
Don’t get me wrong it’s a fine course, but it went from Heath to just a parkland layout. What I did find strange is how many public paths their seemed to be? At one point there was joggers and dog walkers coming at me from all angles.
I certainly wouldn’t be saddened to play here again but their wasn’t anything hugely memorable about the course.
The greens were very good but very slow. It was the fairways that left me disappointed and gave me a sense of a public track. All in all I felt it would benefit from greater definition, in the fairways and rough. Their was little approach to the greens despite it being of good growth.
I would recommend but I think once you’ve played it, you would be happy you ticked the box but not eager to return.
Reading reviews beforehand sometimes prejudices one, so ruefully, this will be an attempt to set aside other reviewers thoughts, and stick with one’s own. This was the first visit of the season to an away course, and it difficult to form a benchmark under such circumstances. Covid protocols were in place, and strictly adhered to, which while some will find overbearing, for the vast majority will be accepted as a necessity.
On to the course, a gentle par 5 opener, reachable in two with a good drive, but more often than not a 3-shotter to a large green. Initial conditions show early season issues. The wet winter, followed by 3+ weeks of no rainfall have left the fairways scratchy in places. It’s fair to say preferred lies were needed, although nearing the end of April, this shouldn’t be the case. The greens were much shorter (quicker) than I have been used to, so it was a pleasant reminder of the challenge that the ‘game within a game’ presents.
The first 6 holes meander around the forest, between substantial ancient trees, augmented with plenty of silver birches. As the course is around 60 years old, it will be 40 years before the latter start to die off, and replanting will be required. Not something I need to worry about. The holes are beautifully shaped, and give the golfer that feeling of splendid isolation. Once all the trees are in full leaf, that will be even more satisfying. Course design that asks for a draw one hole and a fade on the next to find the A1 position is always welcomed in my book.
The middle section of the course is not quite as tree lined, but interesting nonetheless. Hitting the right line is key, as I found out driving a tad left on 7 and running out of golf course. Work going on around the back of no. 9 showed that the course is being managed back to full health.
Back into the forest and with plenty of dog walkers and strollers out to enjoy the criss-cross of pathways it was great to see they were polite, patient and knowledgeable. Wending our way uphill, and coming across the underground reservoir was a first for me, and the drive across it on 16, whilst feeling a little peculiar and not in keeping with the rest of the course, was inconsequential with a 200+ yard drive. Once on the fairway it was a short jab to the green.
In summary, Dunham Forest is a wonderfully designed course that needs an extra push to put it into the uppermost bracket. It has some really strong holes, and course management is key to scoring well. The course needs a bit more TLC/hard work and maybe for mother-nature to be kinder with the weather.
I thought this would be how I remembered this course when I last played about 5 years ago, but I was disappointed when I arrived at how scruffy it looked around the 1st tee area.
After teeing off I found the 1st fairway very sparse and rock hard with not much grass on it,let's see what the greens are like
Excellent 1st green.
But I did find this was to be the order of the day, scruffy paths, awful tees the whole look was unkempt
Greens are great but this wasn't the Dunham I remember
Paths are shoddy, tees are on the whole awful and uneven
What a shame
But for the price not a patch on other courses of the same price bracket
Don’t be fooled by the relatively easy par 5 opener. This is a tough course and punishes wayward tee shots. As one visitor was overheard to say at the bar “I know it’s called Dunham Forest but wasn’t expecting so many trees!” Greens are excellent and the course is exceptionally good over winter due to sand base.
Based within the National Trust this tree lined course is playable throughout the year. Start and Finish are excellent and the 14th is a stand out. You need careful placement and club selection as the wayward drive often gets punished. Definitely worth a round if in the Greater Manchester / Cheshire area with great clubhouse.
Played today on a bright and sunny afternoon, but following heavy rain over last few days. Delighted that we were on 12 full greens. That says something about the course, which drains well. Granted it was rather wet in places so finding a dry lie at times was difficult.
I have read Ed’s previous review and would concur that Dunham Forest has an attractively routed start, a rather bland parkland middle section and then a good finish, back amongst the towering trees.
The course plays pretty open, helped by the time of year when there are no leaves on the trees to narrow your view of each hole.
As it is Winter they had closed the 2nd hole (although you still walk down it!) and have an additional par 3, sanctioned between 15 and 16, called 15A. Personally I cannot see the point of closing just one hole, unless of course they rest different holes in rotation. Another annoyance was the scorecard. It’s a Winter card so hole 3 is omitted and 15A included. Yet, we played hole 3 (missing out hole 2 as mentioned above) so it then became confusing when marking your card, well at least for a while.
The course also meanders around a bit, and sign posting could be better. Moan over. For now.
The course starts promisingly with a gentle par 5 opener, the 1st of 4 on the course. Plenty of room for your drive and a green that is over a hill, but easily reachable in 3 shots. We couldn’t play the 2nd but the 3rd is short par, the 1st of 5 (given 15A), The 4th then takes you back to the clubhouse, before you cross behind the 1st to get to the 5th. The 5th is the pick of the front 6 in my opinion, a lovely looking hole with a sweeping right to left towards a well positioned green. And a lot of the holes do sweep gently either left or right, little is laid out directly in front of you. And with the trees framing the holes, when in bloom I would imagine the course will look pretty striking.
The next set of 6 holes (7-12) play more flat and are rather bland with exception of the par 3 8th, which at 158 yards, playing downwind was a pretty par 3, and the 9th which again sweeps right to left but again has good bunkering and a green that slopes back to front.
The course picks up again after the 12th, an uphill sweeping par 4 , with the 13th which is the pick of the par 3’s. At 192 yards a long par 3, but slightly downhill onto a large green with gentle back to front slope which receives the ball well.
The 14th plays alongside the covered reservoir. The reservoir visually spoils the hole with it’s railings and concrete. A shame as the 14th green complex is exceptional - a severe back to front slope that in Summer must be very tricky if leaving your ball above the hole.
The 15th is a par 3 played to a green on the side of the reservoir. At 205 yards, the longest par 3 and into a breeze. I took driver, walked off with a par - was happy with that.
15A is another par 3, which you play from the top of the reservoir onto a quality green roughly 150 yards away and below. With bunkers either side and a narrow green, and with a strong wind blowing, play over the trees and allow the ball to drift in the breeze towards the green. A par is a good result
I didn’t like the 16 tee position. You tee off across the reservoir top which is requires 200 yard carry. Found it strange. Once down the other side of the reservoir, the hole carries on as normal with trees once again surrounding the hole and green.
The 17th and 18th are good finishing par 4’s. The 17th a 422 yard par 4 to a green which again slopes back to front. Bit of work going on behind the green, but an attractive looking hole.
And the 18th to the clubhouse. Open fairway and a 2nd to a long and wide, rather flat green.
A very enjoyable round and one I would visit again when all the trees are out in bloom and the fairways running quick and the greens faster.
Nice clubhouse and friendly staff and a discounted rate of £25 given the few temps and the value for money was excellent. Overall the course pleases, having nice routing on the whole, but with little in the way of standout holes. On basis I would come back I have rated 3 1/2.
Good course through the trees with some good tough holes.
A quick afternoon dash around Dunham Forest in mid-March, following a meeting in Manchester earlier in the day, provided a very enjoyable couple of hours. In summary; the course makes a more than promising start, loses its way a little during the middle part of the round and then recovers well for a fine finish.
There is a certain tightness to the opening holes at Dunham Forest with all of them tree-lined to some extent of the other; the second, fourth and sixth being particularly narrow in places. It works really well here and coupled with excellent green sites the opening stretch is very impressive and has a lovely secluded feel to it. I particularly enjoyed the approach shots to these early holes, all offering something different and their own unique challenge.
It’s actually very easy to split Dunham Forest up into three thirds. The first six holes wend their way through beautiful, mature woodland with delightfully undulating terrain. The next third of the course is on the lower part of the property and is positively parkland in comparison to the opening stretch. There’s a short par three at the end of the flatness that is perhaps the pick of the bunch where a false fronted green and a couple of potentially tight pin positions add interest. The green complex at the 11th, one of four par fives, also has a bit more going on than the rest of this part of the course.
For the final third you return to the more secluded part of the course and play a number of strong holes. The downhill par three 13th is a nice tee-shot whilst the green setting at the next is exceptional. The shelf green at the 14th is perhaps a tad severe when played from its maximum yardage of 205 yards but is fascinating none-the-less. And then you have three impressive two-shotters to end your round; the 16th interestingly plays over an underground reservoir.
If the entire course lived up to the very high standard of the opening and closing thirds Dunham Forest would be one of my personal favourites in the North-West. As it is, the middle section means that it just stays behind the likes of Delamere Forest, Sandiway, Prestbury and Wilmslow. Well worth a visit though.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Dunham is a lovely woodland course and a pleasure to play. It prides itself on great greens, gorgeous tree lined grounds and being playable all year round. Over the winter when many courses in the region are on temporaries or mats on fairways Dunham remains playable and fully open. The worst hole has to be from the 16th tee above the reservoir, but once you get back down again you're back into the National Trust grounds surrounded by trees. Really lovely track which I recommend playing.