The following edited extract is taken from James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses by John E. Moreton and Iain Cumming: “Leicester Golf Club opened on the racecourse in 1890; two years later it moved to its present site in Evington fields and became The Leicestershire Golf Club in 1895. An extension of the club’s lease in 1910 led to an invitation to James Braid to improve the course.
Braid came to Leicester on 24th November and made several suggestions for alterations and the installation of a large number of new bunkers. This work was completed during the following two years. Braid returned in April 1912 to open the new course with Vardon, Ray and George Duncan. He was recalled in 1914 to review the position of the bunkers.”
The story of the course’s evolution continues in the following extracts from The Leicestershire Golf Club: A Centenary History 1890-1990 by Derek Charman: “Criticism of the general state of the course had been voiced by a number of influential members in September 1920, including Philip Wykes. He said that he had never seen the course in worse order, the fairways being bad, and the greens even worse.
Suggestions were referred to the Committee, who called in H.S. Colt to advise on the course generally. His recommendations were adopted, and a programme of improvements was carried out between 1922 and 1926. The improvements recommended by H.S. Colt made the best use of the land available, and increased the length of the course from 5688 yards in 1911 to 5802 yards in 1927.
At a Special General Meeting in November 1934 it was agreed that three additional holes should be made upon the land on the extreme eastern boundary, which had, hitherto, been used for grazing. Major Charles MacKenzie had been asked to submit a plan for the new course, which was accepted by the members. There can be no doubt that the completion of this major reconstruction was due in large part to the drive and energy of [Secretary] Monty Whitehead.
The Green Committee decided at a meeting in August 1947 to embark on an extensive winter programme. C.K. Cotton was called in to advise on bunkering. He was invited to visit the course again in May 1948 to advise on a programme of tree and shrub planting, which was implemented in the Autumn. The new 12th and 13th greens which Cotton had pegged out were brought into play in 1948 and 1949 and the majority of his other recommendations with regard to bunkering and tree planting were implemented by the end of 1949.
The Secretary wrote to C.K. Cotton on 9 September 1960 asking for a preliminary consultation on the construction of new holes, the siting of the clubhouse and car park, and the provision of a practice pitch. After referring to his pleasant recollections of his previous visit in 1947, he expressed his willingness to advise the Committee. The reconstruction of the course encountered many problems. There were delays due to bad weather, and the new holes had to be seeded twice because the contractor had used the wrong seed. The new 9th green had to be moved because the new clubhouse was pegged out without reference to the new plan of the course.
It opened at the end of June 1966 [but] the new course was not entirely satisfactory and Frank [sic] Hawtree was called in to advise on further alterations to the 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th and 18th holes. He recommended that the 9th green should be rebuilt to the left, away from the clubhouse, which also involved re-siting the 1st tee. He criticised the blindness of the 12th hole, and recommended that it should be extended to the back by 15 yards to improve visibility. These recommendations were accepted and the work was put in hand in September 1967. The total cost of the course reconstruction, including Hawtree’s recommendations, amounted to £22,311 up to the end of November 1968.
The course has remained virtually unaltered since the reconstruction was completed in 1967. The general opinion amongst those who remember the course before it was reconstructed consider that the present one is no worse, and perhaps rather better in some respects. It is a good test of golf, but it cannot ever be extended to become a championship course, as it was for a short period before the Second World War, because there is insufficient room for expansion.”
The Leicestershire Golf Club was founded in 1890 and is an established parkland course that maximises the use of the land it is played over particular well for a course of this style.
Situated to the south of the city the 18 holes are predominantly tree-lined and I suspect when there are leaves on the trees (my round here was in February) it plays much tighter than I experienced.
What isn’t in doubt is that the greens are of excellent quality; built to USGA specification. They certainly putted nicely for this time of year and a playing partner noted they were the quickest he had putted on the previous summer.
At 6,200 yards it may not seem the longest but with a par of just 68 and no par fives (SSS is 71) the course challenges all standards of golfer. Six par fours over the 400-yard mark see to that.
Where The Leicestershire really excels is in its routing as it takes you across the gently sloping terrain in a well thought-out manner. A number of holes dog-leg just as the land begins to rise or fall and this creates a number of fine holes. The first, fifth, sixth, ninth, 11th and 15th are all good examples of this with many other holes using the contours of the land exceptionally well.
The short holes as a collection don’t quite match the two-shotters where there’s good variety not only in the length of the holes but the shots you are required to play into the greens. The green complexes are also engaging at many of the holes and hold a high level of interest.
All in all I enjoyed my round at The Leicestershire and although it’s not a course that fits my personal taste it’s one that impressed and somewhere I’d recommend a play.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.