Ganton - Yorkshire - England

Ganton Golf Club played host to the 1949 Ryder Cup matches between the USA and Great Britain. Team Captains were Ben Hogan (US) and Charles Whitcombe (GB). The U.S. Non-playing Captain Ben Hogan raised a concern about the grooves on the clubs of some British players. A meeting was called with R&A Rules Official Bernard Darwin, who concurred that the clubs should be repaired to meet conforming standards. Despite the USA team being without three key players, Hogan’s side claimed victory after dominating the singles, USA 7 - GB 5. The Ryder Cup was played at Portland in 1947 and at Pinehurst in 1951.

To classify Ganton as a heathland course is a misnomer – one could just as easily categorise it as an inland links, as it’s situated in the rural Vale of Pickering, nine miles from the sea. This sandy, gently undulating site was once a North Sea inlet. Consequently, it has all the characteristics of a links and a heathland course. Either way, Ganton Golf Club is a perfect place to play golf.

Harry Vardon - original signed photo (held by the club)The Scarborough Golf Club (as it was originally called) opened for play in 1891, laid out by St Andrews’ Tom Chisholm. The great Harry Vardon became the club’s pro in 1896, the same year he won his first Open title at Muirfield. This immediately put Ganton on the map.

In 1905, Ted Ray, along with James Braid, J.H. Taylor and Vardon implemented major alterations to the layout. Harry Colt, Alister MacKenzie, Tom Simpson and C.K. Cotton made further changes over the next 50 years.

Ganton is surely one of the few inland courses in the British Isles good enough to hold an Open Championship. It would make a pleasant change to break with tradition and hold an Open somewhere inland. After all, Ganton is used to holding important competitions – it hosted the 1949 Ryder Cup, the 2000 Curtis Cup and the 2003 Walker Cup.

The bunkering is quite extraordinary, a real feature of the course. With over 100 cunningly placed bunkers, some of which are simply huge, both in breadth and in depth, whilst others are small. Only lucky (or very good golfers) will avoid the sand traps at Ganton. Bernard Darwin wrote in The Golf Courses of the British Isles, that Ganton “possesses by far the vastest and generally most gorgeous bunker that is to be found, as far as I know, on any inland course. It is a huge pit of sand, with just the depths and shallows, the bays and promontories of the genuine seaside article. It is so large that, by its unaided efforts, it provides highly effective bunkering for the tee shots to the last two holes; and as regards its dimensions, I shall not be flattering it very grossly if I compare it to the bunker in front of the fifth tee at Westward Ho!

If you blend the Old course at Walton Heath (minus the road noise) with Woodhall Spa’s Hotchkin course and then throw in a touch of Muirfield (without the sea), you’ve got Ganton. Nearly 100 years ago, Bernard Darwin compared Ganton to being “a little like Woking, a little like Worplesdon; and, generally speaking, it is the type of course that one would expect to find in Surrey rather than in Yorkshire.” Occupying open, windswept heathland, it’s a supreme thinking man’s and woman’s test of golf; the fast greens and firm fairways test the very best players. Various types of thick gorse, heather and broom highlight the course during the spring and summer months.

Three short par fours provide the opportunity of a game of risk and reward for the big hitters. A minor downside is the fact that there are only two par threes but the strength of the par fours more than compensates for this. The 4th hole, a 406-yard par four, requires a solid drive to a wide fairway before an undulating green sited on a raised plateau is unveiled. The approach shot must carry across a gully and avoid a canny bunker on the right-hand side of the green. From the raised 5th tee, a short 157-yard par three, you have a great view of the well-protected green. Only an arrow-straight tee shot will suffice. Stray to the left and you will be swallowed up by one of two bunkers, stray to the right and you'll be trapped by a huge curved bunker, which wraps itself around the entire right-hand side of the green.

Ganton is a friendly club that opens its doors warmly to visitors (providing you have a handicap). If you are a serious golfer and have never played here, we strongly recommend it.

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Reviews for Ganton

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Description: This sandy, gently undulating site was once a North Sea inlet. Consequently, Ganton Golf Club has all the characteristics of a links and a heathland course. Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Reviews: 92
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Jez

Ganton golf club, or Scarborough as it was once known, sits miles away from the coastline but you'd be forgiven for losing track of where you were.

I'm going to throw in the disclaimer that I played this in mid October. I try my best to imagine the course and how it's playing in the summer as it's not fair to really blast the condition of the course at this time of year. It's been a busy year with the return to golf and the course probably needs some restbite, but it's not a proper review from me without a couple of negative points!

The drive in off the main road is lovely. You get the feeling you're at a special place from the get go. Although there aren't any signs to point out, there are two holes that require shots over the road so be careful and try to not get hit before you even start!

Ganton is absolutely soaked in history. Mr Vardon himself was the professional, it's hosted every big tournament that it can and that really translates into the clubhouse. Many opportunities to see the history, whether it's the pictures of the US team winning the Ryder Cup in 1949 located in the visitor changing rooms, the replica of the same cup in the clubhouse or the countless pictures throughout the place.

The layout of ganton is good, it's a fairly straightforward course and I had no real trouble navigating my way round. I was a little disappointed with the greens however. Given the fact it is october I was prepared to let it slide but upon seeing a few reviews about the greens in the summer being very slow did have me a little disappointed. Could it be that Ganton has seen it's best days? I hope not. But a course that sits in the world top 100 and top 10 in England really needs to be doing a little more I feel.

I wouldn't really say that Ganton has any real wow holes. They are all good quality and I wouldn't really say there is a bad hole there but they have all merged into one a little for me whereas some of the other top 10 courses I could still remember every single hole a year on.

The members are very friendly here indeed, one of the better courses for that. Me as a 1 ball with a friend walking along I was let through by 4 groups. I think with the volume of visitors Ganton attracts they are used to it by now. I had mentioned to one gentleman that I was up for the Newcastle v Tottenham game and he came and found me on the next hole to give me one of his beloved Leicester City balls! Gestures like that go a long way with me and it certainly put a smile on my face.

Overall, I'm still a little undecided. I'd need to come back in the summer to make a real fair assessment, but in my mind a course that's as highly ranked as this would be in very good condition all year round and I'm not quite sure it was yesterday. Of course reviews are down to personal preference. Everyone has their way of doing things but I just think Ganton relies on it's history a little too much at the moment.

Value for money given it's status was pretty good. A world top 100 course under £100 I think is a fair deal. But currently I think there are a fair few better courses that are ranked lower.

October 18, 2021
6 / 10
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Henry

Prior to playing Ganton I had heard a lot about it… it seems to be a course that you either love or hate, and the difficulty of it perhaps leaves a lot of people struggling to remain positive about it. Well I loved it, in fact most of our group did. Some holes at Ganton are unlike anything I’ve played and the rugged aesthetic is fantastic. It’s a stern championship test and easy to see why it hosts so many England Golf events. A must play.

October 04, 2021
8 / 10
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andrew dinsdale

I played Ganton on 7/9/21 from the yellow tees. First up I absolutely loved the historic feel of the clubhouse and surroundings. Straight away you felt you could be in a period drama playing with hickory shafts, long socks and smoking a pipe.

Onto the course the first 5 holes allow you to ease your way in to the course… id say they are some of the easiest of the 18. Holes 6 and 7 though are brutally tough. 6 being one of the most difficult par 4s I’ve ever played. If you can avoid going in a bunker and finish with your original ball you’ve have done well. The 9th was a tight but gettable par 5 if you dared to take driver and the 10th a nice short par 3 slightly downhill. The best hole for me was the 16th. On the tee ignore the mammoth bunker that covers the whole fairway and hit a solid drive, which if straight enough will be rewarded with a huge 50 yard kick down to around 140 yards in where a small slim green is guarded by a thin deep bunker. A really good hole which has the courses only substantial elevation change. Hated the far too long 17th but really enjoyed strong 18th to finish.

On the whole though I have to say myself and playing partner were thoroughly disappointed. Its fair to say we completely didn’t get it.

Disclaimer: I know people on here love this course and a lot of the negative reviews of Ganton are defended vociferously but I will always be honest and hopefully fair. I feel I have to say why I found it disappointing from my perspective. I do this without wanting upset or cause any offence and having played many top courses in the Uk and Ireland I feel I am about qualified to critique this with good background knowledge and experience.

My main issue is that the surface of the greens were of poor quality and slow. They were the slowest id putted on all year. They were a little fluffy and putts really had to be hit rather than stroked from anywhere outside 20 feet. We had played in the morning at Fulford which was 30 miles away and the contrast was astounding. We couldn’t have played such excellent greens followed by such poor ones. Worse than my modest home course and almost dare I say it municipal like in tempo. There was also some weird white possibly paint blobs around a couple of the holes, one was in line with one of my putts and although not a big deal I thought it odd for such an esteemed golf course. For the price of the green fee and its standing they weren’t anywhere near good enough and hugely disappointing.

The bunkers were completely OTT also, too many and too demanding. They sucked the fun out of the round. In a decent wind avoiding them was almost impossible for all but the elite golfer. At St Andrews from my experience the fairway bunkers are varied, some are friendly, some give you a small chance at the green and some are so monstrous they come with a name like hell or coffin. Deciding which ones to aim away from and which ones to take on are part of the challenge and fun. Here every bunker is of the same ilk, created to add at least a shot on to the card or worse ruin it. This created a distain for them and rather challenging you to hit an aggressive shot, maybe landing just short of the green or maybe even get to the green they forced you to hit out 10 or 15 yards. They also weren’t particularly sandy and again in comparison to Fulford the sand was again not of the same standard .

Overall it just wasn’t our cup of tea and I can see now why it gets such mixed reviews. It isn’t a lot of fun and it was too much of a test for the mid handicappers in the group. I felt disconnected with the course having played North Berwick the week before (which we all loved). For anyone who has played there knows of its quirkiness, the story of the course, the challenge, undulations, the fun, its romantic golf at its best and Ganton is the complete opposite in almost every way. Its more about challenge and accuracy and you really have to grind to get a score here.

Ganton feels like a scratch golfers course and you can certainly see why it hosts big amateur events and qualifiers. A course perfectly suited to separate the wheat from the chaff. I wanted to love it but sadly I didn’t.

When you play these top 100 golf courses though you always have the top level conditioning to fall back on and this is where I struggle with Ganton. For its price and prestige the conditioning didn’t warrant the asking price and had we paid full price (we paid for a twilight ticket) I would have asked for a partial refund.

Instead we jumped in our car and headed for home aloof to what all the fuss is about?

September 20, 2021
6 / 10
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David Baxter
October 05, 2021

Interesting views on the condition of putting surfaces. I haven't played Ganton but I have for quite a while thought that some of the higher ranked top 100 courses (including some of my personal favourites) are not providing putting surfaces up to the level of their rankings, and way below that have of low key unranked courses. Undoubtedly some of them rely on their reputation, but I suppose it begs the question as to how much significance green surfaces should have in ranking a course ?

Steve Caldwell

This is a great track with lots of old fashioned golf, and bags of skill needed to beat it. Loads of history and very high ranked.

For me the ranking is fair to a point, there are better and as good courses much lower ranked around. Some voters like the history more than me.

I like judging the actual course, and a small amount of the club. It is super and well worth a game!

Just be carful not to feel a little underwhelmed when you go. This is so subjective, the ranking will make you think I can't wait as this will be top drawer. I did love it, but as I said above it didn't live up to its ranking.

Greens and turf were pretty good, the fairways had been burnt off through the drought, but that made it linksy and a real challenge to strike the ball.

Staff were friendly and knowledgeable...

September 18, 2021
7 / 10
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James Stephens

Nice course and well maintained. Some amazing bunkers, however none of the hole designs blew me away. Worth the visit but not the high green fees.

September 05, 2021
6 / 10
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Greg Watson

Lucky to get to play here on an annual basis with a club reciprocal. Good track, struggled recently through the dry spell with the fairways but do not let detract from the great layout. I love personally the strong holes 4-10 and can't wait to get back to play it.

June 13, 2021
6 / 10
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Gary Pearce
June 25, 2021

Thank you for the feedback on the course and I am delighted that you enjoy playing at Ganton.

The fairways are back to normal now, after experiencing two years of difficult draught conditions; thanks to the hard work by our green keeping team.

In fact recent comments from our members and guest, consistently suggest that the course is better than any of them ever remember it.

We are ready for the R&A Seniors Amateur Championship next week and the Brabazon (English Amateur Strokeplay Championship) in August.

Regards, G Pearce, Managing Secretary

Chris Griffiths

Played this course as part of our BBSC golf society tour to The Humber in 2020, and this was at the top of my list.

At first arrival I was struck by the sublime clubhouse. A trip back in time, with more than a nod to tradition and service.

The course itself was exquisite, with every hole unique from the last. A very memorable day and a course to visit if you're ever in the area.

May 12, 2021
8 / 10
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Neil White

“Is that Chapel St Leonard’s, Mablethorpe or Sutton on Sea?”, quipped our resident wag and north-east beach expert as one of our teammates found himself neck-deep in a cavernous Ganton bunker.

We had been warned that Harry Colt’s masterpiece was tough but only after the first of our shots submerged into sand did we fully grasp the level of difficulty.

I played Colt’s beautiful Blackmoor last week and while it was tricky, it was doable.

My colleagues and I found Ganton even prettier but far more punishing.

We took two fourballs from our golf club to North Yorkshire for an Am-Am open event, meaning we played one of the world’s top 100 courses for a very good value £75. We even had a bacon butty, cup of coffee and Ganton’s own bottle of beer chucked in.

The welcome was very warm and the practice facilities so good that I even partook in a bunker lesson from our star man. He showed me where I was going wrong but understandably gave up as I struggled to find the solution to my sand travails.

I soon found out that Ganton isn’t a place to have doubts in the traps. The bunkers are reminiscent of Woodhall Spa’s Hotchkin course but I would venture there are more of them and they are even deeper.

Anyone managing to swerve around the 18 holes at Ganton without going in one deserves a place on the honours board.

Not that they strike immediately. Actually, the par 4 first hole is so friendly that our team rustled up six betterball points. Talk about lulling us into a false sense of security – it was the first and last time I scored a birdie against my 11 handicap.

It wasn’t just Ganton’s bunkers which psyched me out. The gorse bushes consumed three of my balls never to be seen again, I found the rough too tangly to conquer and the contours of the greens left me bamboozled.

I don’t know why but I struggled to find a route to attack the pins, consistently falling short, particularly of those which were perched above slopes.

Despite all of this, I loved Ganton. It is old-fashioned but very attractive. The tee-boxes are pristine, the fairways have returned to tip-top shape and the lead-up to the greens had an exciting links feel.

There are also some staggering views.

And there are many cracking holes.

The sixth – a 448 yard par 4 was a favourite – the water which adds to its prettiness should not come into play but there are bunkers awaiting on either side of the fairway once it has been avoided. I confess I played it like a par five and was rewarded with two points.

It symbolised how a mid-handicapper should tackle Ganton – placement before piledrivers.

I didn’t learn my own lesson.

Consequently, I messed up the two alluring par fives because I was unnecessarily greedy before I reached anywhere near the green.

Inevitably, the 16th and 17th will be remembered most – although for very different reasons.

The 16th has the biggest bunker I have ever seen, both in depth and width, stretching across the entire fairway.

But that is far from the last of the demons. Any attempt to avoid subsequent sand down the left could well result in a losing battle with the trees.

Did I report that Ganton’s fairways are narrow? Well, they are.

Then there is the 17th which has now been made a par three off every tee.

At 243 yards of the whites, across a road to an uphill green past the ubiquitous deep bunkers make it, in my opinion, a plain silly stroke index 14.

Ganton is like no other course I have played – it is not a links but its greens could easily be at the seaside, it is not heathland, yet its gorse is as thick as any heather and it is not parkland, yet I had tree trouble.

It has a bit of everything and that is why we loved it and must go back now we have at least an inkling of where it shows its teeth.

As a final note, I should say that it was rather disappointing that the club stopped serving food nearly two hours before the last Open competitors finished their round.

The halfway house pork pie had been so delicious that some will have been licking their lips in anticipation of further goodies only to be denied accompaniment to a tasty pint of Taylor Landlord at the end of their round.

But that was the only blip on a stupendous day out.

May 05, 2021
8 / 10
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Adam Dewhirst
May 06, 2021

Thank you for posting this Neil, a very good read. Just in terms of the 17th hole, the white posts are now at 232 yards, with the yellows at 218 yards. The scorecard will be amended the next time it goes to press. Still a very challenging long par 3 at a pivotal moment in the round! The SI supports the congu guidelines on a balanced scorecard; once upon a time it was SI16!

Mike Brooks

I am loath to make too firm a judgement of a course having only played it once, especially when I arrived tired after a long drive, but I found Ganton underwhelming. It is a decent course with some fine finishing holes. However it didn’t strike me as special. Others clearly rate it highly and so I definitely need to give it another chance at some point.

January 10, 2021
6 / 10
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Chris Wanless

Depending on which direction you drive to Ganton Golf Course, the last town you see seems to be miles away. You then drive into the middle of nowhere and upon arriving at Ganton, it is almost as if you have been transported back in time.

The Old World clubhouse is packed full of golfing memorabilia to which the staff were only too keen to show you around and talk you through it.

The course itself is described as a mix between Heathland and Links, but when the wind is up in the Vale of Pickering, this is pure inland links and the ability to create shots to compliment the wind is imperative to scoring well.

The course is first class and you instantly you feel as though you are playing on hallowed turf. It plays across rolling countryside with cleverly contoured fairways, but the real standout feature of Ganton is the bunkering and of the courses I’ve played, only Woodhall Spa can rival its quality in this regard. Layered, full of sand and deep enough to leave you picking a line into the green and in most cases, just praying to get out. Some of the best I’ve played. I had read a few reviews on here complaining about the state of the fairways, but save one or two, that was not my experience and the greenkeepers have clearly done a good job to bring these back to health.

As you navigate the course, you are left amazed at just how remote it is! Only a church and a couple of farm buildings offer any other signs of life.

Favoured holes for me are the Par 3 5th with a well guarded green, the beautiful Par 5 6th which is made even more stunning in the Autumn, the Par 4 11th with a cavernous bunker stretching across the fairway and the closing stretch from 15-18. I am not normally a fan of blind tee shots on a final hole, but it’s so well designed. The tee shot needs to find the right hand side of the fairway to have a shot into the green, but too far right and you are in trouble. Find the left hand side and you have no shot and too far left and you are descending ladders into one of the biggest bunkers I’ve seen.

Throughout the course the greens are superb. Fast, clever and in immaculate condition.

As I walked off the final green, I was left with a feeling that I was honoured to play here and it is a course that fully deserves it’s lofty status.

For all photos of reviews, please follow Chris’ Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/top.100.golf/

November 02, 2020
9 / 10
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