Founded in 1895, when members had use of a 12-hole layout at Lightcliffe, Halifax Golf Club moved to Ogden in 1902 and the opening of the new course was marked by a 36-hole exhibition match between Sandy Herd and Harry Vardon on 2nd October that year.
Changes were made to this course soon after it had been unveiled, resulting in another official opening, and this time the match on 8th September 1906 was between James Braid and J. H. Taylor. It's not documented who made the course alterations, but it's possible that the club's first professional, George Lowe, who designed the original course at Royal Lytham & St Annes, may have influenced the shaping of the Ogden layout.
According to the book James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses by John F. Moreton and Iain Cumming, “in 1908 Herbert Fowler was called in to advise, and in 1912 Dr. Alister MacKenzie, when further changes were made.
Finally, in 1920 in the October it was to Braid to whom the directors turned, and his plan for course improvements was accepted, notably a new 6th, 7th and 8th, and apart from subsequent minor changes, this is today’s course.”
The Ogden layout extends to a 6,388 yards from the back tees, playing to a par of 70, but don’t let such a modest overall length fool you into thinking this is an easy course – a standard scratch score of 72 might just indicate otherwise.
Holes of note include MacKenzie’s par three 2nd and Braid’s trio at 6, 7 and 8. On the back nine, there are testing par fours to negotiate at the 10th and 16th, before plummeting down from the top of the moorland at the par three signature 17th.
The Halifax Golf Club, often better known as Ogden, is a course that divides opinion. Some people love this fascinating James Braid layout whilst others hate it... and a few even vow never to return! I'm most certainly in the former category and really enjoy golfing at this moorland gem of very high quality.
If you are looking for a flat, easy-walking, manicured parkland golf course and are not willing to accept the odd unfavourable bounce or raggedy lie then this is probably not going to be your cup of (Yorkshire) tea. But if you want a thrill-seeking, natural course that requires you to use every club in the bag and play some rousing golf holes then you will enjoy your round at Halifax Golf Club immensely.
The weather is often unfavourable at this elevated and exposed venue (and that it is what often deters the fickle from returning) but although high on the moors much of the course sits in a basin and tends to have its own micro-climate - sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse!
A recent visit here was in April 2014 and whilst the weather was calm and dry on the day it followed a period of heavy rain and the course didn't play as hard and fast as it does when it's at its usual best. My most recent game here was in August 2015 and the course played fast and firm as normal.
It's not an easy walking course and when I say that the vast majority of holes are slightly uphill, or on the flat, you may wonder how that is! Basically, the first 10 holes work their way out from the clubhouse up to the farthest point of the course, but still visible from the clubhouse, the 11th turns at right angles but continues to climb whilst holes 12 through 16 are perched on a shelf high above the rest of the course. The signature hole at Ogden, a par three of medium length, is then played from the plateau to a green at the bottom of the valley, which must be well over one hundred feet below! It's a cracking hole where club selection is virtually impossible and you're never sure you've hit a good shot until the ball lands. The 18th, a hole that shares its fairway with the first, then returns (uphill again) to the clubhouse.
The 17th is such a unique hole and is often the main talking point when discussing Ogden which in many ways is a real shame because that dilutes the other 17 holes, several of which are phenomenal, especially the ones earlier in the round with hints of quirk at every corner.
As with most moorland courses there are many elements of seaside links golf here and therefore the wind can play a huge factor in the way the course plays. The course is not long with a new set of 'blue' tees, enhancing the course significantly, stretching it to just over 6,300 yards. However, there are a few holes with a restricted lay-up which means it tends to play longer into the greens than you may initially think.
Aside from the architectural merits of the course the views and wildlife at Ogden are also exceptional and add to the unique landscape.
It's undoubtedly a course for the purist but I'm yet to play a better moorland course and it is those who are put off by the elements and severities that are missing out.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.