Moor Allerton Golf Club was originally founded in 1923 and the original 18 holes were laid out by Alister MacKenzie close to Moortown. Later, the club moved a few miles away to the present site because it was "bursting at the seams". None other than the famous Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed the new course – his only ensemble in the UK – and it opened for play in 1971.
Jones laid out 27 holes on 220 acres of undulating Yorkshire countryside, in three distinct loops of nine holes. It's just as well that each nine starts and ends at the welcoming "Waterhole" halfway house, because Moor Allerton is a big course. You'd be wise to replenish your energy levels to cope with Jones's design philosophy, where a par is tough and a bogey is the norm.
Clearly Moor Allerton contrasts with its near neighbours, Alwoodley and Moortown. The Moor Allerton style is modern and American – big contoured greens, large teeing areas, long boldly-shaped bunkers and, of course, water hazards. Having said this, the layout blends beautifully into the delightful landscape to combine the best of Yorkshire and America.
The threatening par five 14th epitomises Trent Jones's design ethos – woodland to the right and water to the left. The 18th is also noteworthy, a tough par which calls for an accurate approach shot over a watery gully to an elevated green, guarded jealously by bunkers.
Many famous pros have walked these fairways when the PGA European Tour came here in 1982 for the inaugural Car Care Plan International – including Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo – when England's Brian Waites won the event by one shot. Howard Clark was the playing professional for several years and Peter Alliss was also the resident pro for a period of time. Alliss reckons that "Moor Allerton is a golfing experience larger than life", and who could possibly disagree?
Moor Allerton is friendly and relaxed off the course but as tough as nails on course. The 27-hole combination is configured into three loops as follows: Lakes (1-9), Blackmoor (10-18) and High (19-27). The championship course, which is considered to be the toughest 18-hole combination, comprises of the Blackmoor and High circuits.
I played the Blackmoor/High loops of 9 yesterday. This is a big course, parkland played through woodland, with all 27 holes starting out and returning to the Clubhouse, which sits imposingly overlooking the 19th tee, 27th green and 18th green. Both the 19th tee (where you tee off across the gully) and the 27th Green where your shot from the fairway to the green is shot over the same gully, give you an immediate feel of how tough this course is likely to be. A glance to the left and the approach to the 18th green across a narrow entrance to an upward green with water in front, reminds if you needed it, how hard the round you are about to embark on will be.
And it is tough. The land is very undulating and there are not many level lies on the 1st loop we played (19th-27th)
The greens are large and undulating, making where you land your ball so important. I found them however very true if you got your line right. The greens are flanked by some large bunker complexes, The fairways were cut tight and narrow. The rough, whilst only a few inches deep wrapped around your clubs and was very ‘sticky’. The tight fairways, given rain in the days preceding, meant that the 1st signs of Autumn/Winter golf were visible. Ball striking had to be clean otherwise your club would snag on the damp course.
Best holes on this loop? The 19th which you first tee off from is straightforward from the tee, but drift left or right and your second shot is made difficult by the dip before the green, narrow fairway and sticky rough. The par 3’s (holes 20 and 24) are similar, nothing too standout about them.
The 21st is a solid par 5 but certainly a good birdie chance, followed by a strong 22nd, where the tee shot needs to be played up the left hand side to create a better 2nd shot opportunity. Bunkers to the front right and steep banking to the right provide protection and a difficult shot if you play from the right. The 23rd is a dog left right and the 25th are nothing special in terms of design, but the green complex around the 26th is visually a great looking green. You then descend down a sweeping 27th where unless you are a big hitter, you will need to lay up and then hit a confident 3rd across to a large green complex back in front of the club house.
You will no doubt be tired even just after 9 holes, so make sure you get some added energy from the half way hut or pro shop before heading onto the 2nd loop.
The 10th is a good starting hole for this loop. Be brave and aim over the trees on the left as your tee shot will feed into the fairway leaving a straight shot to the green. It’s still a long way protected by bunkers front and right with a brook in the dip before the green. The 11th simply needs a good drive over the brow of the hill leaving a straight forward if uphill mid iron to the green. 12th, 13th and 14th are strong holes. It helps to have played before because on the 12th the fairway narrows very close ahead of the green with bunker to the right and steep fall away to the left. Do not go left at all costs. The 13th is gorgeous looking par 3 with the shot being all carry to the green, bunker in front. The 14th is a narrow par 5 with woodland to the right and water in play down the left. Key is where to lay up your 2nd shot, leaving a short iron over the pond to the green. Be too greedy or not committed to your shot and it will end up in a watery grave. 15th and 16th are nothing speciial followed by an uphill par 3 - nice but very similar to a lot of the holes with bunkers front and steep banking in front of it.
When you are totally tired you then climb the hill to the 18th. Play to the left/centre of fairway as the fairway slopes off to the right and a slice will see your ball lost. You are still left with a difficult 2nd across the gully, over the pond and to a raised green protected again by bunkers and undulating green. Tough finish, tough hole.
You certainly know you have played a tough golf course, with so many hills, narrow fairways, undulating fairways and greens, all in an American style design.
It’s a good course and worthy of playing after you have played the greats of Alwoodley, Moortown as well as Sand Moor. It’s not in their league but it offers something different and if you want to test every aspect of your golf game, as well as stamina, then it is worth seeking out.