I was lucky enough to tee it up here last week for the third time in the last ten years. I know the two nines constitute something of a contrast in styles but I think they blend together beautifully.
On the front nine, I was pleased to reacquaint myself with the sneaky ditch crossing the 2nd and 3rd holes, the fairway that cuts through the sand hill to the green on the 5th and really pretty greensite flanked by trees on the par three 7th.
The back nine just raises the whole playing experience to another level, right from the off at the short par three 10th, with its wonderful back to front titled green. I loved the par four sequence that starts with the right doglegged 12th and ends with the left doglegged 15th then the closing hole with its elevated tee position and three fairway cross bunkers that have to be avoided.
I know there are some golfers (of the “hard to please” variety) who write about the bulldozed fairways on the back nine – remember, it was the same architect who laid out Royal Birkdale in much the same manner – but I think such criticism is just a bit churlish, considering the quality of a finished product that appeals to just about everybody who plays here.
I observed a few simple improvements around the course, like cultivating marram grass around some of the greens and sprigging some of the raised tees with gorse on the front nine. I also noted that fairways were now mown in two halves, rather than with the old striped pattern that was used before. Overall, playing conditions were as firm and fast as you could wish for so the club is obviously presenting its link credentials as best it can.
I also noticed the latest clubhouse development, where a new balcony has just been created at one end of the building, which will obviously be a big hit when we eventually get some decent summer weather. Hillside is certainly more of a cultured track than a raw links but it’s a course that many would be glad to play regularly as a member if they lived in the area.
Date: May 18, 2016