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.
Halifax is an old industrial town in West Yorkshire, a little rough and ready in places as the mills that once made this a thriving hub of manufacturing gave way when the country’s economy shifted away from making stuff. But what’s been left behind is a town with a timeless beauty as tall sandstone factories and low terraces sit within a large valley beside the barren moorlands of the South Pennines. Halifax’s golf club, a few miles away from the town that bares its name mirrors the town of Halifax itself, for this is an unfashionable golf club that won’t attract golfing trophy hunters, but scratch below the surface at Ogden and you may find yourself a diamond in the rough.
You’ll get no airs or graces here, ask the locals and they’ll tell you that we’re in God’s country, and there’s no need for politeness in these parts, just get on your way and don’t cause any trouble. A driving-net with a modest pro-shop beside it will provide you with sufficient warm-up before you take the long march to the first tee past the practice green and the clubhouse whose retaining wall is adorned with golf shoes acting as plant pots. How very Yorkshire.
The natural undulations of the course immediately hit you from the off. A tough, long opener with a large swale in front of a wildly banked and undulating green is laid out in front of wind turbine laden hills that climb off into the distance. “It must be blustery up on top of that hill” you’ll think to yourself, and you’ll get the chance to experience that later as the course climbs and climbs and climbs all the way up to the 13th tee.
Some of the best holes come at the start of the round. A short but tricky par three is played at the 2nd with a green perched on top of a hill, whilst one of two shared fairways (the other being 1 and 18) presents itself across heaving angled land on the 3rd and 4th where you’re forced to cross two streams to raised and rotated greens – “James Braid was ‘ere” you’d be right to think.
The holes roll and tumble after this playing into corners and up steep slopes and across thick bracken and diagonal streams with their stone bridges. Halifax is a course where club selection is pivotal, this was my first visit to the course, and being absent of any Rangefinder or Strokesaver, I never felt comfortable on the tee as distances were difficult to judge by the eye, so bear that in mind on your first visit. The course continues to sidewind its way up the hill until you surface for a breath at the green on the 12th, a quirky up-and-over short par four that plays blind to the green. And this is where you can take that big gulp of air for this is the time to breathe in those rolling hilltop views. The fairways finally plateau from 13-16 where the holes are moderately less interesting to what’s come before, but the wind will likely have you gasping, and if the wind doesn’t have you making a sharp intake of breath, Ogden’s signature drop-shot par three on the 17th from the side of the hill certainly will.
Halifax Golf Club may be a little unkempt in parts but therein lies the beauty. I may also be a little generous with my four-ball rating for a course that will never threaten England’s Top 100, but I am partial to a bit of rough on the side (of a hill), and I do believe that courses such as this one at Ogden are the heart and soul of English golf and they need to be loved and cherished. Anyone can walk here, anyone can play golf here, and most of all, we can all enjoy it.
Enjoyed reading this review. I'm planning to play Halifax as endeavour to complete all of the Top 40 in Yorkshire, and this review has pushed Halifax up the playing list.
I have a penchant for this kind of course Andy. Give me 18 holes over rolling moorland above any standard parkland fodder. Well worth the trip. Don’t expect too much but if you have relaxed expectations and visit on a sunny day, you’ll have a blast. I’ll look out for your review and good luck with the club selection off 17! Tom.
Thanks Tom, and I'm in total agreement with you. Having played Cleeve Hill earlier this year, it sounds very much like the same quality at Halifax. Will be trying to fit it before the Autumn draws to a close.
Must be one of the best value rounds of golf in England. A wild moorland setting for a great collection of holes which live up to the Braid/Mackenzie pedigree, and several of which are unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere.
If you’re playing to your handicap as you walk off the 5th green you’ll be doing extremely well and the expectancy as you wait to see where you’re ball’s going to land on the 17th (the hole for which the term “drop shot” was invented) is always a great moment.
Set on a wild moorland site, Halifax is mostly a James Braid design, with alterations from Alastair MacKenzie. This course really is something different, with characteristics including small sloping greens (and sloping fairways), and lots of decisions to be made off the tee, a lot of the time due to river valleys running through holes.
The moorland conditions mean that generally the course plays fast and firm, and is playable all year round. With the course being high up, wind is always prevalent here. Golfers know they are about to have a unique round ahead of them from the very first hole. The fairway is shared with the 18th ala The Old Course, but it’s the second shot that is intriguing. It plays as a long par 4 or short par 5, and the approach is played with out of bounds on the left, and a ravine with heather on the far side on the right.
The first 16 holes mainly work their way up hill, and a highlight of these is the 12th. It’s a short par 4 or long par 3, and the green site isn’t too different to the 14th at Cruden Bay, sitting in a bowl, albeit with more undulations. Lots of the greens here have sharp run off areas, and they are a great example of how green speeds don’t have to be quick, it’s just the shaping has to be interesting for a fun round. If some of these greens were 12-13 on the stimp they would basically be un-puttable!
The 17th is a massive ‘drop hole’ par 3, and its always fun to watch your ball in the air wondering if you have selected the right club. Overall, the value for money here is some of the very best in the country, and I would recommend a visit to anyone in or passing through the area.
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.