“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.
Date: May 05, 2021