Fulford Golf Club is located just one mile from the centre of the historic city of York. It's a high-class heathland/parkland course, home to the Benson and Hedges International Open during the 1970s and 1980s. This televised tournament immediately made Fulford a household name and gave it nationwide recognition as one of the country's best inland courses.
The club was founded in 1906 but it moved to its current site in 1935 after James Braid identified the land a few years earlier. Major Charles MacKenzie, the brother of the legendary Alister MacKenzie of Augusta National fame, designed the course on predominantly sandy ground. A major renovation has recently been completed by Mackenzie & Ebert.
The fairways wind their way between avenues of trees. But there's one particular tree at Fulford that will remain a monument to Bernhard Langer for as long as it lives.
In the 1981 B&H International, Langer hit his approach shot to the 17th into the branches of a large ash tree. Amazingly, the ball remained lodged. Rather than taking a penalty drop, Langer decided to shin up the tree and play the shot from where it lay. From a precarious and unusual stance, Langer chipped out and to everyone's astonishment, the ball landed on the green. A plaque on the same tree now commemorates Langer's remarkable feat.
Measuring 6,779 yards from the back tees, Fulford is a serious test for the handicap golfer, but the course is too short for today's long hitting professionals. Just ask Ian Woosnam. "Woosie" posted the All-Comers' course record in 1985 with an amazing 62.
It is most unlikely that we'll have the chance to score 62, but we'll certainly enjoy Fulford. It's a fine golf course in a beautiful part of the country and, thanks to Langer, it will always be remembered.
Fulford is a classic heathland/parkland layout which simply gets better and better each time I play. Since I last played, the R&A have been in an advisory role given the course recently hosted the Girls Amateur and have made a few changes, mainly visual i.e. making the club remove gorse and I understand, in the Summer when the Amateur was held, growing the rough up considerably. Thankfully when i played yesterday this had been cut back although given the mornings wet conditions the rough was dense and gnarly and difficult to extract your ball from.
This course provides a stiff test, course rating 146 off the whites, and the opening stretch sets the tone.
According to the clubs website, hole 1 is a potential confidence builder! Wait, you haven't warmed up properly (my fault) and you're faced with OOB down the left and trees encroaching into the fairway on the right at about 200 yards. Be straight and yes a good start is on the cards of this 410 yard par 4, but drift left or right and a bogey start is waiting for you.
The next 4 holes offer 2 long par 4s at 438 yards and 456 yards, and 2 par 3s, both which played tough given the breeze against us. The 1st is 189 yards a full shot was required, over a front bunker to a receptive green sloping back to front but with bunkers left and right and ground undulations catching any slightly errant shot.
The 2nd par 3 on the 5th, at 165 yards is more straight forward but again bunkers left and right catch any shot slightly adrift.
After this start, you head over the A64 and into the more heathland part of the course where you start with a par 5, another long hole at 558 yards, but navigate the bunkers off the tee and a birdie opp is waiting for you.
You then turn back towards the clubhouse for the 1st time playing a 413 yard par 4, plenty of gorse in this expansive part of the course.
I still feel 8 through 13 is my favourite stretch, which starts with a short dogleg right par 4, where bunkers line the left side of the fairway and a copse encroaches from the right. A real thinkers hole.
You then follow with my favourite par 5 on the course, short at 481 yard, with a gentle dogleg left and certainly a birdie opportunity. Following this as you reach the back corner of the property is a beautiful par 3 with heather and a brook in front, and a bunker to the front right. A tricky well sloped green adds to the challenge.
Then as you play along the back stretch of the property a tough and picturesque par 5, teed off below visibility of the fairway, teeing off over gorse and heather, and played into a stiff breeze, this 508 yard hole posed many questions.
The 12th is a short par 4 but accuracy again is key with trees left encroaching and tree lined all down the right. The green has sever run off areas which make this hole harder than the 317 yards scorecard suggests.
Last hole before heading back over the A64 is the tough 469 yard par. OOB all the way down the left hand side and the green perilously close to the OOB, this is a seriously tough test.
The last stretch starts with the final par 3, which whilst ranked SI18 has plenty of challenges, with brook and hedge in front and hollows surrounding the green.
Another long par at 15, 439 yards, but a flat large green does help your 2nd long approach shot. Again straight driving is required on 16 as copses creep in and block any shot drifting right. This was again very apparent on Langer, the 17th. What should be a straight forward hole, i have never played well. The line is down the left hand side but the tee box pushed iver to the left side makes this shot harder to commit to. So you drift right and yes, you're blocked out by a copse. Whilst i didn't end up a tree, i did end up in the trees and tried a Seveesque shot to the green. Failed and in the brook, penalty and a 6 on what should be a straight forward par 4. Next time, wood or hybrid off the tee!
And finally a confidence filling short par 5 at 480 yards, the green was reachable in 2 and whilst i missed my eagle putt, a birdie to finish always makes one feel good.
The clubhouse, staff and members are extremely friendly which adds to the feeling of enjoyment.
Whilst it is too short for the pros this is a serious test for amateur golfers and i recommend you make the time and journey to play Fulford.
I made the trip to play Fulford in September 2020 on a lovely Autumn day. The course was in excellent condition. The putting green in particular was perfectly consistent with the greens on the course, which isn't always the case so that was a good start to the day. There was constant interest and intrigue throughout the round, with excellent tree-lining and some wonderful risk and rewards shots. The SI1 and 2 holes in particular were the stand outs for me. Personally I preferred this to Alwoodley, and would rank it just half a ball behind Moortown as a local comparison. Well worth a visit.
I last played Fulford several year ago and had forgot how good this track was. Played in May this year on a beautiful sunny day, this golf course and it’s conditioning were sublime. We played in a shot gun starting on the 8th, but for purposes of this review will run through the course in chronological order.
Located near York in the village of Strensall, this flat heathland course was an absolute dream to play and relief from the hilly course of Wortley Golf Club where I am a member in South Yorkshire.
The 1st is a straightforward enough par 4 and the are followed by some strong holes - there are no short par 4’s to speak of before you cross the A64 into what I think is the strongest section of the course, holes 8 to 13. Hole 8 is relatively short par 4 compared to the others but sweeps left to right with a severe sloping back to front green. Following this is a gorgeous par 5 (birdie opportunity) and then a strong par 3. This part of the course is beautiful heathland and is a pleasure to play.
With the sun getting lower towards the end of our round, the long shadows across the course gave a magical feel and when playing the 17th and the Bernard Langer tree, you really understand why this was a regular stop on the European Tour all those years ago.
The short par 5 18th gives you the chance to finish your round on a high, hopefully as you started and leave a very favourable impression of the course.
Would recommend playing this on the way to or from Ganton.
The true glory days of Fulford Golf Club may now be behind it but the course still remains a fine and fair test of golf and is undeniably one of Yorkshire’s best venues.
Its days of staging 23 consecutive European Tour events in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s firmly put Fulford on the global golfing map before modern day professional golf ran riot with many of the country’s classic courses.
The course, located close to the city centre of York on flat land, begins as a fast-running parkland course as it heads away from the clubhouse towards the busy A64 that dissects the course into two distinct parts. Cross the road and you enter a more wooded setting with a touch of heathland about it before re-crossing the road and playing the final five holes parallel to the opening stretch.
After a very solid start, which includes the excellent par-three third, the eight holes across the bridge showcase the best of Fulford. There are three superb par fives amongst this stretch of holes, that change direction often, as well as a number of excellent par fours (the tough 13th is undoubtedly the most note worthy) and a fine one-shotter at the tenth.
As at most of the holes at Fulford being in play from the tee is paramount, however, your task is not an easy one because there are several very well placed bunkers at various lengths from the tee. Quite often the fairways narrow at the ideal driving distance as bunkers pinch the fairway and necessitate accurate driving. Many of the holes are also lined by trees and/or gorse and this makes the course play even narrower. At the 17th you can even be on the fairway and not have a shot at the green because you are blocked out by a large oak.
I always enjoy an annual visit to Fulford for their 36 hole scratch event, the MacKenzie Salver named after the designer Major Charles MacKenzie (brother of the more famous Alister), held in September each year. The Club hold many other opens during the season and I would strongly advise a play here.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Don’t expect to find fairways that pitch and roll across an undulating landscape at Fulford as that’s not how the land lies in this particular part of Yorkshire. It’s pretty flat for much of the round so the main aesthetic interest comes from the large, cleverly contoured greens and a wonderful set of beautifully appointed fairway and greenside bunkers, all of which are currently being restored to original specification by architect Martin Ebert.
The opening five holes head steadily away from the clubhouse in the same general direction before a bridge takes you over the very busy A64 to access holes 6 to 13 on the other side of this main road. There’s little movement in the land until you reach the par five 9th hole, where the fairway gently dips and rises from tee to green. It’s followed by a lovely short par three at the 10th which benefits from the clusters of regenerated heather in front of the green adding greater definition to the hole.
A terrific short par four breaks the sequence of long two-shotters at the 12th, two holes ahead of the final par three, a hole that starts the march for home into the wind. The 17th is a fabulous right doglegged par four, the famous “Langer” ash tree dominating the left side of a green that sits behind a cunning ditch.
Fulford’s one of the of the most famous championship courses in British golf, having hosted 23 European Tour events between 1967 and 1991 and since that golden age for professional golf tournaments in the north of England, the course has never reached the same level of national prominence.
The current ambitious bunker restoration program, once completed, might just see people talking about the undoubted quality of Fulford once again.