Kedleston Park Golf Club was established in 1947 but its origins can be traced back to the mid-1890s and the formation of Markeaton Golf Club. This now defunct club, one of nine founding members of The Derbyshire Union of Golf Clubs in 1913, did not survive the expansion of the city of Derby immediately after World War II, but many of its members continued to play by switching their allegiance to the newly formed Kedleston Park club.
The intended move to the grounds of the historic Kedleston Hall, ancestral home of the Curson family since the 12th century, had actually been planned in 1939 – when James Braid pegged out an 18-hole layout in the hunting grounds of the estate – but the war intervened, preventing a new course being built. When hostilities ceased, John Morrison, the design associate of Harry Colt, worked with construction company John R. Stutt to complete the course.
The course remained intact for all of half a century until David J Russell collaborated with European Golf Design to remodel the layout, building several new holes and reconstructing all the greens to USGA standards. Architects Mackenzie & Ebert advised on a three-year bunker renovation project in 2013 and Head Greenkeeper David Leatherhead – who started out with the club in 1974 – led the in-house team carrying out the upgrade work.
The toughest hole on the front nine arrives early in the round at the left doglegged 2nd, ‘Abell’s Forest’, where a single bunker protects the raised green on the front right hand side of the raised putting surface. On the back nine, the 417-yard 15th, ‘Oak Corner’, is another strong par four which doglegs right this time to a green guarded by sand on either flank.
The spectacular neo-classical Kedleston Hall mansion lies to the south west of the course, on the other side of the Cutler Brook, and it can be viewed from many of the holes on this beautiful parkland track. Designed by architect Robert Adam, this magnificent building was completed in the 1760s and it’s well worth a look around if visiting the golf club for the first time.
Course designer DJ Russell commented as follows:
I am thrilled that you are recognising Kedleston Park on your website. It is a major part of my life as I was assistant professional there for two years then represented the club whilst playing on the European Tour for twenty years years before becoming the Club Professional in 1996, a position I proudly held until I took on Archerfield Links in 2001. I redesigned Kedleston Park with European Golf Design in 1996/7, reconstructing all eighteen greens and approaches to USGA specification.
Holes 5, 6, 13 and 14 were completely rebuilt to give the course a better balance, turning the 6th from a par five to a par four (the 5th and 6th were both par fives originally) and the 13th from a par four to a par five. All of the remaining fourteen greens were modified to enhance the way that the holes were traditionally played.
It was a great opportunity that gave me the stepping stone to become a recognised golf course designer and I thank the members of Kedleston Park for trusting me with their course and hope that golfers will enjoy the wonderful surroundings of Kedleston for many years to come.
Head Professional Ian Walley describes his two favourite holes:
Hole 5 – Par five, 527 Yards
The 5th is a hole that requires distance and accuracy, providing a birdie opportunity for longer hitters whilst still rewarding those that play it sensibly. It has no bunkers but strategic groups of trees make the fairly straight hole feel like it somehow doglegs. This hole opens onto some beautiful scenery at Kedleston Park with the historic bath house set in position by the tee. On approach to the green, you’ll gasp at the grandeur of the imposing Kedleston Hall and just to the rear of the putting surface there’s the fantastic Adam Bridge, which was designed by the famous architect Robert Adam.
Hole 10 – Par four, 375 Yards
The 10th could be considered one of the shorter par fours on the scorecard and it’s a doglegged hole that veers to right from a slightly elevated tee box. The fairway is guarded by two strategically placed bunkers that will trouble both the shorter and longer hitters. The approach shot carries most danger with a large pond situated just a yard or two from the left fringe. The hole is tree-lined and the undulating green is framed by rhododendron bushes, providing a beautiful backdrop during the early part of the season.
In a list of type of courses to play, parkland courses would always be bottom of my list. There’s something about tree lined holes playing up and then down, often with views across several fairways that really don’t get my juices flowing. So the biggest draw to play Kedleston was simply that it was ranked 2nd in Derbyshire and I hadn’t played it before. Also, having played No1 and No3 in Derbyshire, I’d get a good sense on the accuracy of the rankings.
Kedleston Park did tick a lot of boxes; the tee boxes were immaculate, the fairways lush and green, often with a velvety feel to them, the wispy knee high grass which formed part of the rough and greens that offer variety in shape, contouring, conditioning, quick and true.
All good so far, and if you’re a fan of parkland courses then this course will rank higher than 4 balls even, but its the lack of real standout holes that hold this course back.
After a gentle opener, a par 5 494 yard in length, from an elevated tee near the clubhouse, the main protection being the bunkers at around 250 yards, there are 2 par 4’s, both over 400 yards, the 1st favouring a draw and the next a fade. This is common feature of the course with holes playing up and down against each other. This is a rather uninspiring part of the course, including the 4th, the par 3 at 161 yards, a rather straightforward tee shot to a receptive green that slopes back to front with only the bunkers front left and right providing any real protection. This par 3 is almost replicated at the 11th and 16th which is a great shame, as with only 4 par 3’s on the course, some variety to the challenge would have been welcome.
The 5th is a slightly longer par 5 playing down to the river and lovely views of Kedleston Hall. A tee shot to the right of the bunkers on the left hand side of the fairway leaves a 2nd shot which has to be accurate to navigate the tress on either side of the fairway.
The 5th starts a nice little section with a 436 yard par 4, followed by the best of the par 3’s, an all carry over water, 160 yards to a large receptive green. This is then followed by a short risk and reward par 4. Measured at 326 yards but less as the crow flies, this is driveable, but get it wrong, you could find your ball in the trees, the rough or the river! To finish the front 9, the 9th is a gentle right to left, to a raised green, protected by bunkers to the front left and right, making that 2nd shot in all the harder.
Then you cross back in front of the 1st tee to commence the back 9. And the best looking hole on the course in my view. A beautiful looking hole, played from an elevated tee, 240 yards to the corner then dog leg right and a short iron to the green, protected by a pond to the left and bunkers to the right. The green has undulations, like they all do, making your iron approach shot crucial and testing your green reading skills.
The section 10-15 moves into more mature trees, birch, oak, even pine and it therefore has more of a woodland feel to some of the holes. The grass was wispy surrounding the holes, the bunkers well designed and with the sun shining, this felt a very pleasant part of the course. The 12th is a strong hole, a 440 yard par 4 and whilst the fairway slopes downhill, the green is then raised with a false front so again all carry.
The 13th is a par 5, short at 484 yards, again with a gentle left to right followed by the 14th playing right to left. I really liked this short par 4, where a good drive over the edge of the left hand trees yielded a wedge into the green which was long and narrow and multi layered. The 15th standout feature is the green, wheel designed and contoured. The pin was placed in a hollow which did make the approach shot easier.
You then head back out into more parkland for the last 3 holes, the best of which is the par 5 17th, pleasant shaping and fairway bunkering although not challenging. The 18th almost replicates the 9th, sweeping right to left and to an uphill green, similar distance as well. That was a shame.
And I guess that what’s sums up Kedleston - too many holes which are similar to others on the course, with only a few standout holes. Don’t get me wrong, the conditioning and quality of presentation and care given to the course is excellent, so is the short game area and practice range, and the friendly welcome I received, plus the sale price merch I bought in the pro shop made this a lovely day out.
In terms of rankings for Derbyshire, I totally agree that it’s not at Cavendish level but it is a big step up from Chesterfield, so 2nd spot seem right.
In terms of rankings, English parkland courses will always be behind links and heathland categories, unfortunate but that is the way it is and most would agree with this. There are some exceptions to the rule; Woburn, Stoke Park, Moor Park and few others but it seems that however much the parkland style of course tries, many times it will come-up short of dining at the top table.
Kedleston Park is in that category:- the positives are that it is presented and conditioned well, it has a healthy membership, this year will host regional Open qualifying and the 10th hole is a beauty. This hole is from an elevated tee that turns right at around 240 yards to a green and setting that could be described as Augusta like. Other good things about Kedleston are the strength of the par-4’s with at six of them over 400 yards, so a great test.
My slight issue, after these positives are that some holes are a little dull; the par-3 161 yard 4th would be much improved with an elevated tee. The very next hole is a par-5 at 527 yards and very straight and the only protection seems to be two bunkers on the left at about 220 yards – to make this a stronger hole, the last 300 yards needs a re-think – I would suggest some fairway shaping and bunkers at the lay-up area would do wonders. The par-3 7th over water is a good and memorable hole but the par-3 11th for me is just to similar to the 3rd – it is about 20 yards longer and has a decent green but not a great looking hole, maybe an offset tee option? The run of holes from 12 to 15 are a little up and down and again, nothing to get juices flowing.
I was looking at a 3-ball ranking for Kedleston, which means average but I think I will just give the ‘good’ ranking here (4-ball) because of the positive points. I hope I have not put visitors off or upset any of the membership but after a good day at the club, I just wasn’t that excited about the course. I suppose your feelings of courses like Kedleston Park also have to be taken in context in terms of how many courses you have played and your own personal favourite style.