It's always nice to be the 1st to write a review on a golf course. It generally suggests it's off people's radar, but the beauty of the Top 100 listings are that they make you aware of these courses that the panellists have decided merit a place in a Regional Top 10 etc
And so it was with Horsley Lodge. Set in over 164 acres of rolling parkland, surrounded by countryside, this course that was built 31 years ago has now matured into a delightful parkland course, surrounded by 10,000 mature trees, a mix of native species and pine. Built in 2 loops that start and end at the clubhouse/hotel.
The greens are to USGA design and standard with many undulations and multiple levels on many of them.
Measuring 6544 yards off the back tees, there is enough challenge for the lower handicappers without being too hard for those playing to a higher handicap.
The front 9 plays up, down and along gentle rolling hills, but the course really steps up on the back 9, with holes 11 - 17 an excellent stretch.
In particular, hole 12, a 160 yard down hill par 3 played to a green well protected by bunkers, with 3 levels to the green and numerous run off areas a particular attractive hole. The redesigned hole by Peter McEvoy, he said 'it's the best par 3 hole he has ever designed'.
The 11th is also an excellent risk and reward hole. At 363 yards, a blind shot over a hill, has a pond at around 230 yards on the downslope, so a medium hitter could easily find the wet stuff having thought they had nailed a perfect drive.
The 13th also features a dry stone wall which you drive over from a high tee, a pond which eats into the fairway from left and right, and high mature trees for anyone thinking of taking the tiger line. The dry stone wall is built from the ruins of Horsley Castle, a 1200AD castle built by King John. Nice touch.
Hole 14 is a medium long par 5 at 535 yards, played in a gentle left to right shape to a long and narrow green perched on the hillside. Easily reached in 2 by the longer hitters. It's one of 4 par 5's, 3 of which feature on the back 9. It's the longest but in my view my favourite par 5 is the 17th. At 460 yards, it's really almost long par 4 standard, but as we found, it offers a myriad of options. All will depend on your tee shot. Get a good long drive away and you can for the green, across a pond , in 2. Drive shorter or less accurate then you are faced with laying up before the pond. To the rear of the green is the hedge that forms the boundary of the course and OOB, so if you do go for it in 2, that is another potential penalty of too strong a shot or getting a bounce through the green.
The 15th is another gem, at only 344 yards, this dog leg right downhill par 4 offers a birdie chance, but dry stone walling awaits an errant drive left, trees and a pond will catch an errant shot right.
The 16th is another good par 3, played over water, downhill slightly at 186 yards, not the longest of the 4 on the course. All par 3's are good but the best is the 12th (above) with the 9th at 200 yards, uphill back towards the clubhouse, with OOB all down the left hand side (driveway into the property) and bunkers protecting the front, this is an all carry accurate shot!
The last hole at 442 yards is the longest par 4 (3 in total over 410 yards) and played into the wind, played much like a 500 yard par 5. A good finishing hole.
The water hazards are plentiful but not necessary in play too many times. Brooks have been dammed to make ponds which are attractive features. Mainly in play on 2nd, 11th, 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th and 17th - as you can see back 9 centric, which helps make this loop feel different to the 1st 9.
There are good holes on the front 9, of which my pick would be the 2nd (fantastic undulating green with severe run off area) and the 8th, a short par with water all down the left hand side, a real risk and reward hole at 308 yards long.
The greens were in excellent condition, the presentation of the course very good, the fairways like padded carpet and the facilities very good whether practice facilities or the outside patio terrace overlooking the 9th and 18th greens.
At £29 this is excellent value and I will certainly play here again when next travelling through.
Ranking in the Derbyshire Top 10 feels right - whilst Breadsall and Morley Hayes are both nearby, and perhaps even similar in set up, this was, in my opinion, better than those.
Date: September 02, 2021