Rutland Water is the largest man-made lake in Western Europe, set in the middle of England's smallest county. Three miles south of Rutland Water, as the crow flies, is the Earl of Ancaster's Common with its peaceful and tranquil golf course. Luffenham Heath Golf Club is set on high ground in an area designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest because it is home to some of the country's most important flora and fauna, and a feeling of calm washes over as soon as you drive into the car park.
The club was founded in 1911 and the course was originally laid out by the famous design partnership of Harry Colt and Charles Alison. James Braid revised the layout between the wars and C K Cotton made further changes after the Second World War.
Luffenham Heath is laid out principally in an out-and-back fashion, but the holes are routed in every conceivable direction. When the wind blows – as it often does on this undulating and elevated common – it hits you from all directions. Despite the numerous trees and bushes which line many of the holes, you never feel hemmed in. Most tee shots are pleasantly inviting. Measuring 6,563 yards from the back tees against a par of 70, Luffenham is not long, but it's an intriguing test.
The golf is good and honest and there are some excellent holes. The 7th, a par four of medium length, requires a precision approach shot to an elevated green, which is fiercely guarded by five bunkers. The next hole is the easiest on the card (SI 18) and it's a fun, drivable par four. But our favourite hole is the 17th, a dramatic one-shotter, which measures 201 yards from the tips and usually plays directly into the prevailing wind. The elevated tee provides a fine vantage point... a par here is one to savour.
Luffenham Heath is a course to enjoy rather than to slog round. You will find the golf infinitely pleasant and, at times, rather exhilarating. The recently extended and upgraded course has been awarded Open Championship Qualifying for the 2013 Open at Muirfield. Click here for more. Despite the club's Lincolnshire postal address, Luffenham Heath is affiliated to the Leicestershire & Rutland Golf Union.
I arrived at Luffenham Heath Golf Club on a beautifully bright and mild March morning after a pleasant and stress-free two hour drive.
The car park was empty, the course was clear and I was an hour ahead of my allotted tee-time; every lone golfers perfect scenario.
And then disaster struck!
Imagine my disappointment when registering in the pro-shop and being told that the course was currently on temporary greens (holes cut in the fairway) and they would only return to the normal ones once a light top dressing had been applied to the putting surfaces. The staff were very apologetic and quickly offered a discount off my green-fee, however, I declined and opted to play two rounds instead; the first one to the temporaries and the second to the normal greens later in the day.
It was a good decision because I got to walk the course twice and despite the top-dressing the proper greens were superb; firm but receptive, quick and true. A real credit should go to the head green-keeper and his team.
It’s a fine piece of land that the course is routed over. The opening holes use the terrain especially well and then after playing a few holes on flatter ground the undulations return for the closing stretch.
Despite its name the course isn’t really laid out over heathland, certainly not nowadays. There is plenty of width for the playing corridors but should one venture a little more wayward you are likely to find thorny bushes, scraggly trees, brambles or gorse with very little chance of executing a recovery shot…. at least pain-free!
In my opinion the strength of Luffenham is in the par fours. There are a series of high quality two-shot holes and rarely a straight one amongst them. Many of the holes dogleg or curve significantly and this makes for good strategic golf.
Overall I was very impressed with the golf on offer at Luffenham Heath and it’s a course I will try and return to in the summer when the course is no doubt playing even firmer than it was in March.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.