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: 8.6 out of 10 Reviews: 87
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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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Nicholas Kjelgaard

I very much echo the review below. I played here in September 2020 and as others have written the fairways are not great, but work is being done to resolve this and the course recognised this with a discount on the usual fee. That is all I will say on that matter as everything else about the course is simply brilliant.

We picked the course as we wanted a world top 100 as a fitting course for one of my playing partners 1000th golf course and from the first tee shot to the last putt there was not one point where we didn't all enjoy the course. I have read reviews that pick out different holes or runs of holes and for me it is all good, but my favourite holes are 6, 9, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17 and 18.

17 and 18 seem to divide opinion and I do agree that 17 off the yellows at circa 230 for a par 3 is tough where off the white at circa 240 and a par 4 is much easier. I would simply say play it off the yellow, hitting 230 dead straight is not the easiest, as I found out when I landed in the bunker to the right and had toget the ball over a 6 foot lip. As for 18 I think this is all about strategy you need to hit to the right to see the green, but too far right is trouble or really long for the approach. Go left and you are either in real trouble or you are annoyed as you walk over to find your ball behind some very tall trees with no approach.

All in all I loved Ganton it ran close to a 6 baller for me and I am sure in A1 condition 6 it would have been. I would play again without a second thought.

September 24, 2020
9 / 10
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Andy Cocker

I last wrote a review on Ganton in September 2019 - please see further down for the review. What has prompted me to write a brief update is the recent reviews on Ganton, which have focussed in particular on the conditioning of the fairways. This has resulted in some very low scores. These low scores have clearly missed what Ganton is all about, focussing on one aspect, albeit an important one, but not one which suddenly becomes all encompassing when trying to give an objective opinion on the overall course.

I played in the Yorkshire Challenge on Wednesday - Day 1 of a 3 day tour of Ganton, Moortown and today Lindrick, a Ryder Cup triple in effect.

Playing off the white tees and with a very stiff wind, you suddenly realise firstly what a totally different golf course it is when compared to the yellow tees, but how clever the bunkering and design and contouring of the fairways are.

The rough is penal and the gorse - well forget looking for your ball and hit a provisional!.

This is a course that demands attention from the very 1st tee shot until the last putt on the 18th. You cannot let up once or it beats you up.

Yes, the fairways are disappointing and we were on preferred lies, but the greens were immaculate, as was the bunkering, and with that wind, the challenge was trying to get a ball to stay on the fairway, so you could then moan about the condition!

I understand that leather jackets have been the main issue, and from playing heathland/moorland courses at Moortown, East Devon, Teignmouth, they all have had similar issues this year.

Ganton will get these fairways back I am sure and therefore whilst it would be wrong to claim perfection for it at the moment, please take the time to marvel at the design and challenge of this class track.

6 balls it may not be at the moment, but not in your wildest dreams is a 2-3 ball rating. It's about context when reviewing courses and on balance this course stands up there with the very best of them.

September 11, 2020
9 / 10
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Jack Snell

I played Ganton at the start of August 2020 and have to agree with the two previous reviews that its condition was pretty poor for a Top100 course. Whilst the tees and greens were fine, pretty much every fairway was scabby and bare. However, I’m giving the place the benefit of the doubt and still believe the course deserves its high ranking.

Judging by the reviews from 2019 and further back, conditioning has never been an issue before. So it makes sense to me that this year is an anomaly caused by COVID green-keeping shortages. Perhaps I don’t know what I’m talking about. Perhaps I’m being too kind, too naive, too forgiving? I don’t know. But what I do know is that in the morning before I played a twilight round at Ganton, I played York Golf Club. The conditioning there couldn’t have been better, every fairway was like carpet. And yet at the end of the day there was no doubt in my mind which course I enjoyed more. Ganton. By a country mile.

I think we can all too easily put too much of a premium on course conditioning. I know I can anyway. But it really is only part of the picture. The layout at Ganton is utterly brilliant. The contours of the greens are endlessly fun. The bunkers are brutally spectacular. The views all around of unbroken Yorkshire countryside are breathtaking.

I don’t believe there are any weak holes at Ganton and generally I think the course gets better and better as you go along. A few stand out holes for me:

The 5th, one of only 2 (reasonable length!) par 3s. A lovely downhill 1 shotter towards a well guarded green.

The 9th, a long straight par 5 with a fairway more undulating than many links courses.

The 13th, another par 5, very tight, lined all the way by Ganton’s classically cavernous bunkers.

16 is probably my favourite of the lot. A blind drive over the most ridiculously massive bunker you’ve ever seen, onto a downhill fairway flanked by ancient Scots pine trees on the right.

17 is a 240 odd yard par 3 played over the road towards a large elevated green. I understand it’s sometimes played as a par 4 which is understandable but to be honest, you’ve got to love an insurmountable challenge.

And then 18 is one of the best closing holes I’ve ever played. Cut as much of the corner as you dare and then navigate an approach towards the setting sun, through the gap in the trees towards the green.

I walked off the 18th feeling almost surprised at how much I’d enjoyed it. The course flyover videos they have (which I watched before my trip because that’s the kind of rock & roll lifestyle I lead) don’t do justice to the contours and elevation changes. It really is a roller coaster ride of a course. And it would be worth the £70 twilight rate even if there was no grass on the fairways at all.

September 09, 2020
8 / 10
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Dan Heaphy

I was surprised and disappointed with the condition of the fairways and felt that it should have been mentioned when I booked in. The greens and approaches were fine. However my overall impression was that it was a bit tired and trading on its reputation. Glad I had a county card and only paid £80.

September 09, 2020
4 / 10
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D Johnson

Played Ganton reportedly No.1 in Yorkshire and No.9 in England. A bucket list course for myself having read about itt and its history.

The condition was very disappointing, fairways were in a terrible state my home course in winter has better , greens very slow, two tee boxes were 'temporary ' and placed in the fairway . In winter I'd have been disappointed in the height of summer..more kick the bucket . I've played municiples in better condition for a top course..terrible condition..

August 17, 2020
2 / 10
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Andy Cocker
August 24, 2020

You clearly haven’t played the municipals around Sheffield then :). Seriously, this doesn’t sound like the Ganton I know and love. My friend who is a County member there has said this year the fairways have been very poor. I’m due to play the Yorkshire Challenge there In September - I trust it has improved by then.