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.
Date: September 10, 2020