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: 95
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Faiz Alam

My wife used to have family holidays in Filey and we decided to all go again this year. As I'm sure the rest of you can imagine, I was thrilled to find out Ganton is just up the road.

Months of thinking about it and reading countless reviews filled me with excitement and also hopes of not being disappointed. It seems to be a real marmite course.

I drove up early, the entrance is quite grand and builds anticipation for what's to come. I had a long chat with the pro(?) in the pro shop which was useful and then went to the range. Beautiful range where you play off grass.

Two of us teed off just after 4 taking advantage of the twilight rate. We had fantastic weather and the course itself was just glorious.

We knew it had a fearsome reputation but actually both of us found it slightly easier than we were expecting. The only way to really lose a ball is in the gorse and when found I didn't find it too difficult to make a bogey. Most of the time I should have done better to make a par but this is where the tricky nature of the course is at play.

All the hazards, run offs, humps and hollows are well placed to catch errant shots and put you into a jumbo bunker. I would not say it is unfair though, well placed shots are rewarded, the greens are tricky but I putted well on them just occasionally getting the pace wrong to leave them just short of running in. Not that they were slow though.

I did give the course a lot of respect generally trying to play safe when I could. I am a fairly long hitter so I was mostly teeing off with my longest iron and getting great run on the fairway to leave mid to short irons in.

I thoroughly enjoyed the round as a whole but particular holes that I enjoyed were;

Par 4s - 3, 14, 16 & 18

Par 3s - 10 & 17

Par 5s - 13

I've named 7 holes and it was a struggle to not name many more!

Holes 3 and 14 were the shortest par 4s, both drivable but with plenty of challenge if you wish to take it on. Very easy to play safe if you choose to but on 3 the green will take your ball towards the bunkers.

Hole 16 is stunning, a bit of a blind drive over a gargantuan bunker leading down to a really beautiful approach with deep bunkers on the right.

The 18th is a great finisher, I miscalculated the distance from the whites and luckily hit my best drive of the day over the road, a great pitch and lipped out for a closing birdie.

Hole 10 is semi blind from the whites, you can see the top of the pin and if you move to the right angle you can see all of it through the gorse. A big bunker waits for you on the left and several small ones on the right. My playing partner (sadly for me) put his tee shot to a couple of feet!

Hole 17 is ridiculously tough, we had 230 odd into the wind, I hit one very poorly trying to smash it and then played my Apex UW over the green. Not sure I could have hit the green in 10 goes in those conditions but I did enjoy the challenge.

The 13th was my favourite of the par 5s, a tight tricky drive is required to avoid some terrifying bunkers on the right, trees on the left. The second shot is a bit easier with a slight downhill slope allowing the ball to run out. Mind you several bunkers could catch your ball along the way.

One thing I must add is that the tee boxes were the best I've ever seen. If only all courses could have tee boxes this good.

The real questions is would I come back? Yes, undoubtedly. I'm already excited about next year's family trip to Filey!

As for my playing partner, in his words 'This is the best course I've ever played.'

June 22, 2022
9 / 10
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LeeHopkins

Played in the May Am/Am and this course is tough! All 4 of us struggled to get the pace of the greens, with some fairly quick and others much slower, and this led to many a 3 putt. The bunkers are tough, so should be avoided at all costs if you want to score well.

Overall though, we really enjoyed the course and I think it's deserving of it's place in Englands Top 10. The only downside was the halfway house was cash only, and we had £5 between the 4 of us so missed out on what looked like good food.

May 05, 2022
8 / 10
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Patric McGuinness

I was lucky enough to play this course with a pro from another course so he helped me navigate round. A real sense of history on this course, you can feel the age of it and the championships that have been played on it, the bunkers are brutal if you manage to find yerself in em, to the point where one is near 12 foot deep with the steepest ladder ive ever walked to get in and out of it.

Well worth a visit if you get the chance...

November 03, 2021
7 / 10
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Josh

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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