Tom Williamson, the professional at Notts (Hollinwell), designed the course for Longcliffe Golf Club on two hundred acres of the Garendon Estate in 1905. Nine holes opened for play the following year then the full 18-hole layout was made available shortly after, with Hugh Williamson, Tom’s brother, appointed as the club professional.
Some course reconstruction became necessary when the M1 motorway was built to the west of the property during the 1960s, resulting in the loss of the 8th green, 9th hole and 10th tee. In the early 1980s, Donald Steel carried out some course improvements, adding new tees on the 2nd, 4th, 12th and 16th, as well as remodelling the par three 15th hole.
A number of ponds have been enlarged and trees removed over the years and other smaller changes have been made which, although continually improving the course, have not significantly altered its general character. The 17th was modified in 1994 to tighten the approach (and add a bunker to the left of the green) and the reconstruction of the 1st tee in 2004 with sloping banks of heather certainly surpassed expectations.
A round at Longcliffe starts with a par three at the 179-yard 1st but there are only two other short holes played after that, at the 131-yard 5th and the 163-yard 15th. Feature holes include short par fours at the right doglegged 6th and left doglegged 14th, and there’s also a good chance of ending with a birdie at the 338-yard 18th, rated stroke index 18 on the scorecard.
I arrived at Longcliffe with reasonably high expectations; after all it's the 2nd best course in Leicestershire, according to Top 100, behind Luffenham Heath and with a £60 green fee to boot, I was expecting above average. I wasn't disappointed.
This is an excellent parkland/heathland course, carved out of Charnwood Forest that flanks the course with it's mature silver birch and oak trees, bluebell woods, gorse and broom. I say part parkland as the design of the course does involve numerous holes that run parallel to each other with only a light smattering of trees separating them. Part heathland as many of the holes play in splendid isolation, with holes fringed with gorse and dense woodland.
The course's turf was springy and fast running, despite the monsoon downpour which had occurred just before I arrived, although given the many sloping fairways in the early part of the round, fast running could land you in trouble!
The course starts with a par 3 - never a fan of par 3's starts, mainly because I have rocked upto the tee with minutes to spare and not being warmed up want to hit the ball with as large a piece of metal as possible! So take time to warm up in the excellent practice area and range beforehand.
At 179 yards, the hole plays uphill and there's a large off putting tree in front of the green protecting it's approach. Once you've navigated this tricky opener, the course settles in to a nice rhythm over the next 3 holes as you to and fro up the hillside with 2 medium length par 4's and a short par 5. The holes all slope either left to right or vice versa so position off the tee is crucial to get right.
The 2nd of only 3 par 3's follows next and this is a delightful short par 3 at 131 yards played to a green above you, the shot requires all carry with bunkers protecting against thing that falls short. The backdrop of a hill behind with rocky out crops, bluebells and mature trees is easy on the eye.
Following this you a play a short par, which is isolated in woodland and sweeps gently dogleg left to right to a green above you before descending down the hill side with 461 yard par 4 and then a 565 yard par 5, which takes you back into the valley floor. The front 9 finishes with hardest hole, SI1, a par 4 back up where you have just come from and at 416 yards it certainly plays its length and then some.
The back 9 is routed more in the valley with some more quality holes. Hole 10 is short, downhill but also a dogleg left to right, followed by another short gently dogleg left 11th and then a long par 4 at 481 yards played along flat terrain. The greens were incredibly smooth and slick despite the rain. you could trust them and no doubt come the Summer they will be very fast indeed.
A difficult tee shot on 13 awaits as trees and hedging, OOB protrudes into your tee shot - you have to thread through the eye of a needle or play a gentle fade over the OOB on the left. This is the only part of the course where you hear any noise other than wildlife as the M1 is close by. Otherwise tranquility and beauty abounds.
Another dog leg short par 4 awaits after this, before the signature hole. Played from the top of a hill, covered in bluebells and mature trees, the wonderful 163 yard downhill par 3 is a sight of beauty. With water protecting the left and a ditch and banking to the rear and bunker to the right, the plus is the green is quite large but you'll take anywhere on the dance floor off the tee!
Another dog leg left at 16 is followed by a short par 5 - at 492 yards, bunkers have been added to make the approach more difficult and the green has a false front, but it's not a difficult hole in my view.
And then back to the clubhouse with a visually impressive 18th, bunkers in the fairways and protecting the green. On the bunkers, the sand was quality white sand, consistent throughout and the fairway bunkers were low and easy to get out from, with the greenside bunkers offering more depth, as you'd expect.
A pint in the relaxing and friendly clubhouse afterwards brought a very pleasant afternoons golf to a close,
I saw on a listing today that this is in the Top 100 Hidden gems. It shouldn't be hidden; it's a quality track, well designed and Thanks to Top 100 it's no longer a hidden gem for me. Would certainly recommend.
I have played this course twice on the Robert Rock Junior Golf Tour and its a good well kept course with some challenging holes. definitely worth a visit if you're in the area
A beautiful undulating course running through forest. Most holes are not very long but the courses defence is that it is tight, care is needed off the tee if you want to score well. The fairways are well kept and always tend to run across, tee shots need to be placed on the upper side to allow for the roll if you want to stay on the fairway.
I really liked the bunkers, there are many that are well placed in the scoring zones and the sand is firm allowing good lies and consistent contact. The greens were OK for this late in the year.
All in all it is easy to see why this course is second in the county. I really enjoyed it even if I didn't score so well throughout the round. I will definitely be returning again.