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. 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.
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.