Located just outside Lancaster, on the east bank of the River Lune, the course at Lancaster Golf Club is set in the grounds of Ashton Hall, the 14th–century mansion that now operates as the club’s rather grand clubhouse.
The club moved from its former location at Dolphinlee in 1933, with the new layout opening on 3rd May that year. The following edited extract is taken from John F. Moreton & Iain Cumming’s book James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses:
“The course measured 6,560 yards and was laid out ‘exactly in accordance with James Braid’s plan.’ The turf was in ‘absolutely wonderful condition’, the fairways were ‘well-nigh perfect’, only one or two greens ‘needed attention’. The course even possessed a burn and a heronry.
Braid’s course had two holes over 500 yards, the 5th and 14th, and three short holes: the 3rd, 165 yards; the 13th, 150 yards; and the 18th, 154 yards. The burn was in play during the 1st, 9th, 10th and 18th holes.
The parkland course is situated close to the estuary of the River Lune, and was in two nine hole loops, with a number of doglegs, but only three par threes. And this was the perceived problem, along with the order of the two nines.
Very quickly, with Braid’s agreement, the two nines were reversed, holes 10 to 18 remain fairly faithful to his design, but the front half contains a new par three 4th and a new 7th though the other holes are structurally as laid out by Braid.”
Having played Lancaster GC a few times over the years, it is always a course to look forward to playing. The greens are good and run true, although we played it just after hollow tining, and they were not up to their usual standard. Course maintenance is an accepted necessity so sometime you just have to grin and bear it.
The layout is a fine parkland track, using the land well with some interesting holes, but a bit of an up and back feel in places. Most James Braid courses start with a gentle opener, something to ease you into the round. Not Lancaster. A 400+ yard up-hiller to get you going followed by 2 more 400+ yard holes.
The first and last of the par threes are the pick of the shorter holes, teeing off high above the greens to well bunkered targets. Of the longer holes the SI1 par 4 9th gets my vote for the strongest hole. A drive that rewards bravery down the left to a dogleg, and a resulting shorter approach to a green across the stream. Stay safe to the right and have a longer approach but don't risk being blocked out.
Playing Lancaster after a rainy August meant there wasn't a great deal of run on the ball and the first cut was a little long, meaning slow rounds, as balls had to be searched for, but again, weather conditions mean green-keeping staff have their own challenges. These conditions meant it felt a bit of a slog as it is a long course, and the chances to hit a drive and a short iron into the greens were limited.
On the whole, Lancaster is well worth a visit, the clubhouse is magnificent, and the welcome warm, if not a little overzealous in these Covid related times. The views are wonderful especially on the estuary side holes, just as the legs are starting to feel it. A suitable reward for a good walk, hopefully not spoiled.