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14 miles N of Nottingham
Contact in advance – weekdays only – handicap cert required
Martyn Bonner MBE
Willie Park Jr., Tom Williamson
“After being too long away I lately went back to Hollinwell, which, as all the golfing world knows, or ought to know, is the course of the Notts Golf Club,” wrote Bernard Darwin in an article for Country Life. “On one side of it, there runs a pleasant wooded path by a series of lakes, and by this path Byron used to walk from Newstead to see Mary Chaworth at Annesley. Behind the course stands a hill covered with bracken from which Robin Hood used to watch for signals at Nottingham warning him that the Sheriff was setting out in pursuit. These are romantic circumstances, and I thrilled as I was told of them.”
Hollinwell is so called because there is a holy well located amongst the trees close to the 8th fairway. Water from the well is said to lend much needed strength to the golfer, especially during the heat of summer.
One of Britain's finest inland golf courses, Notts opened for play in 1887, originally designed by Willie Park Junior. Modifications (primarily to bunkering) were later made by club professional Tom Williamson and John H Taylor, to whom the club paid the princely sum of five guineas for his services. Tom Williamson built three new holes when further land became available in 1910.
The bunkers at Notts are relatively shallow, unlike some of the cavernous bunkers found at Woodhall Spa or Ganton but the course at Hollinwell plays across wonderfully undulating ground where some of the fairways sweep through wooded hillsides and where others run through heather, fern and gorse clad valleys. Unusually, there are a number of varieties of gorse at Notts, and even in the depths of winter, you will find some in flower.
The course feels very much like heathland (the soil is sandy and the turf is springy), but it also has a moorland flavour and a touch of woodland. Despite the varied landscape, this attractive course comes together really well and actually gets better and better as you progress from hole to hole. It is also worth mentioning that a great deal of effort is being put in to encourage the heather to return to its former glory.
Over the years, Notts has hosted a number of professional and amateur events. The 1970 John Player Classic (won by Christy O’Connor Senior) was probably the most notable, with a world record first prize of £25,000. Notts is a monster of a course (at more than 7,000 yards long) and it is probably capable of hosting a modern tournament.
Keep an eye out for the fabulous 13th hole; six bunkers surround the green. It’s a downhill par three (228 yards from the back tees) with stunning views.
A course that took me by surprise when competing in a golf tournament back in 2014. The course was my first taste of English Heathland golf and on my return back home I was craving some more! At the time I was pretty young and naive and had no idea why people weren’t talking about this course? The routing ambles through a midlands forrest with a variety of land movement which feels like it comes from all directions. A delightful balance of a course that is challenging, yet a wonderful escape from the urban environment.
What a fantastic golf course! Played here in a recent invitation day. The course was in very good condition, given the recent weather. Why stands out about the course is the variety of holes, changes in elevation and pure difficulty of several holes.
The only indistinctive hole in the course is the 1st, every other is characterful and interesting. The 2nd, 3rd, 11th, 13th, 16th and 18th stood out to me as top holes.
Have to say Alwoodley being above Hollinwell in the rankings seems bizarre. Alwoodley has lovely springy turf, but Hollinwell is in a different stratosphere of class in terms of layout and pure fun.
My playing partners had never seen me move so quickly. The 35 miles-an-hour wind literally snapped my pal's umbrella holder and the brolly was cartwheeling across the course. Showing rare athleticism, I retrieved it and returned it to its owner who was already downcast by a chastening round at Hollinwell, a woodland course which would be tough even in benign conditions.
He was not alone in his distress. I also contributed feebly to our team's tepid score in a Pro-Am before which we had high hopes.
The truth is if you don't have a good start at Hollinwell, you probably won't get the chance to make up ground on the back nine which includes what must be the toughest stroke index 18 in the country - the par five 17th.
By then, our round had well and truly gone west, the ferocious wind having blown many a promising ball into the punishing rough.
Hollinwell is a very fine course with some belting holes and brilliant views over the Nottinghamshire countryside - even in drenching rain.
I am biased in reckoning the downhill long par-three 13th as my favourite because I nailed a birdie two when, for a brief interlude, the sun came out.
It was a rare success during a round which showed why we should have thought more about plotting our way around Hollinwell than trying to defeat it and the elements.
Anyway, as it is the nearest in the UK's top 100 to my home, I must go back when the sun is shining and the wind is calmer. I am sure than I will be more beguiled by its beauty then.
Hope you get to play it on a calmer day Neil. It's a truly class track. I wouldn't say the par 5 17th is that hard. I generally get a par and am not a big hitter by any means. Suspect it was the rain and wind which made it play harder for you that day.
Played Notts in the Senior Pairs Open on Wednesday. Course was in excellent condition, tough but fair. The management team made sure that we got a warm welcome with a greeter in the car park advising of all we needed to know. The social distancing and sanitizing regime was fully in place throughout the public areas.
The Corona virus impacted the catering and we were not allowed in the dining room. However all of my group were happy to sit outside and have our chips and sandwiches and watch the others come in.
A good day on a great course.
From the moment, the course comes into view after you drive in from the entrance, you always know you are in for a special day when you come to Holinwell. An old school club that is also very welcoming to a visitor, the whole vibe of the place is great. A heathland track, that normally plays firm and fast in summer, there is great holes throughout the round. Starting with the 2nd, a dogleg left par 4, that first asks you how much you want to take off with the drive, followed by a fun approach into an awesome green site that sits just over, and on the side of a hill. The 4th is a punch you in the face par 4, which is long, well bunkered and has an undulating green. For me this says a lot about what Holinwell is about- extremely tough, but extremely fun. After players tee off on the 8th, there is a chance to drink from the natural spring, the ‘Holy Well’, that gives the club its nickname. 10 is an example of the different ways to play the course, which, despite a tight tee shot, if players lay back they can give themselves more room. The stretch from 11-13 is about a good as a run of holes you will play anywhere, with 11 featuring a S shaped fairway in a valley, 12 a blind tee shot that leads to a green that is best accessed by a low, runner, and the picturesque 13th which is a downhill par 3. The 15th is another great green, which is basically surrounded by rough and heather. Players should know by now, but playing out of this heather aggressively is a real recipe for disaster! 16 and 17 is a short par 4 followed by a short 5, a last chance to salvage something before the strong finishing hole, played right up to the clubhouse. I don’t say this lightly, and really enjoy Royal St Georges, but I think I would have to say Holinwell is my favourite course in England.
Arguably my favourite course in England. Played it many times, the reviews below summarise it better and in more poetic terms than I ever could. But the 2nd, 3rd and 8 through 18 live long in the memory. Brilliant use of the natural features,its like the land was designed for the golf course.
Absolute top class. Playing off the blues its an absolute classic.
Have you ever played out of Heather? Well, since you’re on a website such as this, I imagine you have. The sort of passionate golfer who spends their free time (or sneakily spends their work time) reading reviews such as this, has probably had some experience in hacking away in vein at a Titleist Pro V1 buried in the thick, purple shrub. But when I stepped onto the first tee at Notts Hollinwell, I had not. What a shock my wrists were in for.
Notts Hollinwell is a simply wonderful golf course. The long and winding road that leads you through the forests is enchanting, and upon turning the final corner and seeing that road stretch out towards the clubhouse, flanked either side by fairways, you know you’re in for a real treat.
After getting off to a relatively gentle start, the second is a tough, sweeping dogleg left par 4 that sets the tone for the rest of the round. A fairway flanked either side by heather so thick it’d vote UKIP, a tall ridge and deep bunkers guarding against the cutting of the corner and a green attractively situated at the bottom of a hillside, with tall trees looming over. A regulation 4 is anything but regular.
The third is a splendid long but downhill par 5. The tees are cut up in the hillside presenting an attractive drive towards a wide fairway. Longer hitters may be able to reach the green in 2, but be warned, it’s surrounded by a myriad of punishing bunkers.
Skipping ahead to the sixth we find another par 5. And when played from the back tees presents a particularly scary tee shot, over a lake and through narrow shoot in the trees. Once navigated the troubles are not over, as the fairway narrows towards the landing area with bunkers encroaching from the right and gorse bushes lying to the left. More penal bunkers, heather and gorse lie ahead as you try and navigate the next 300 yards or so to the green. Birdies don’t fly around these parts often.
From here you’re presented with a charming selection of holes as you meander through the Nottinghamshire forests until you find yourself on the 11th tee, about to enter the first of 2 very fine 3 hole stretches.
The fairway of number eleven sits pleasingly in a valley banked either side by sloping hills. This gives you the confidence to whack a driver down there, safe in the knowledge that any wayward ball will find itself bouncing back into the fairway. This confidence is misplaced. Invariably the ball will stay on the bank, leaving you a dramatic uphill or downhill lie for your approach out of thick grass or heather into a small, secluded green.
Twelve presents a blind drive over a huge hill, up onto the highest part of the course. From here the views across the rolling English countryside are a sight to behold. The approach may also be played blind as the fairway significantly dips in the middle, a huge swell of lush green turf guards the green. A bunker also waits short left. A punchy one below the wind to the right hand side should comfortably bounce and roll across the contours towards the target.
And now for the showstopper. Thirteen is as spectacular a par 3 as you’ll find anywhere in the country. 241 yards from the championship tees, 80 yards downhill, over a heather and gorse filled gorge towards a well guarded green. From this height, over this distance, the ball is at the mercy of the wind and club selection is nigh on impossible. Hit anything other than a perfect, penetrating shot and the golfing-god only knows where your ball will end up.
After a pair of strong par 4s in fourteen and fifteen, you come to another thrilling 3 hole stretch, this time leading you all the way home.
Sixteen is a superb risk-reward par 4. Just about reachable for the longer hitters if you dare risk the carry over the gorse filled hillside towards the heavily bunkered green. The safer but lets be honest, less heroic play, is a long iron down the wide part of the fairway, leaving a short flick to the raised, undulating putting surface.
Seventeen is a reachable par 5, if you can find the fairway. But to do so requires a drive that threads the needle of gorse bushes on the right and a duo of well (irritatingly) positioned bunkers on the left. The narrow fairway slopes severely towards these traps so you’ve really got to flirt with those bushes to pull it off. If successfully navigated it’ll take some serious disciple not to attempt a searing fairway wood to the large green. The scots-pine topped hillside beyond the putting surface makes for an attractive target. Long is better than short as more deep bunkers gobble up any weak effort.
The grand finale is exactly that. Eighteen is superb par 4 played down the gentle hillside towards the clubhouse. With bunkers peppering the fairway at various distances, accuracy is key for both the shorter and longer hitter. Strike a bullet down the last and you’ll leave happy, especially if you follow it up with a tidy approach to generous but inevitably well-protected green.
Notts Hollinwell is a cracking course, probably the best in the midlands. It’s got all the charm of the more famous Surrey heathland courses but without with hefty price tag. If you’re in the area it’s a must. If you’re not, it’s well worth the journey.
Notts is a terrific golf course and deserves to be in the discussion of which golf course is the best inland course in England. I believe there are six to be considered - the two at Sunningdale, Woodhall Spa, Walton Heath Old, and Swinley Forest.
After a gentle starting hole, you are hit with a very difficult second hole, a dogleg left uphill to a small green. This is followed by what should be the easiest hole on the golf course, a short downhill par five. Yet my host, a very good, long hitting index 5, put his ball onto the road behind the green and all the way beyond the 18th green on our second round of the day. That was after he birdied this hole in the morning.
There is an excellent variety of holes throughout the course, and even though it has a few "easy" holes such as 1, 5, 15 and 17, there are some holes on this course as difficult as you will find anywhere.
We walked it twice the same day (August, 2019) and I admit I got a little fatigued going up 11 and 12 on the second round. But those golf holes are joyous, so wonderful are the strategy and the golf that is asked of you.
The greens are not always tricky, and the greens always run pure, yet there are some greens that are perplexing.
I really enjoyed the routing and the elevation changes throughout the golf course. It has a good mixture of long and short holes, doglegs and straight holes.
It is a very different golf course from the member tees to the back tees. I would strongly advise not going to the back tees unless you are a 5 and below and average 300 yards on your drive. Otherwise, the back tees would be too much for you.
I mark on my scorecard a series of markings for holes I consider good to excellent. At Notts, I made a notation for nine holes with 2, 11 and 13 the best. 18 is a very good finishing hole and typical of the golf course, well bunkered along the fairway and at the green.
There is great golf in Scotland, around Liverpool, and around London. But Notts and a few other golf courses relatively near there make the are a "must-destination" if you want to play the finest golf courses in the UK.
This is my favourite course I get to pay on a regular basis and I cannot recommend it highly enough. As you turn into the driveway that meanders down through the woodland you will not believe what a treat Hollinwell has in store for you. As you sweep right out of the trees the long drive down towards the clubhouse opens up for you. Take it all in. I have never known a better entrance to a golf club.
This club is one of pure class from start to finish. The clubhouse sits grandly next to the 1st tee and 3rd and 18th greens and has always offered a warm welcome when I play there.
Good practice facilities and putting green and a friendly pro shop.
The 1st tee is manicured to perfection (as is the 4th which is also near the clubhouse!). Some comment that the 1st is bland, but given the stern test of golf you are about to commence a gentler start is only fair to help you ease into the round. That said, with bunkers left and right and heather on both sides there is plenty to get you into trouble from the get go if you hit a wayward shot.
The 2nd is a hole of such quality, gently sweeping right to left, with the tall stands of pines behind the green making an imposing frame to the hole. Some alterations requested by the R&A like exposing the rock face have been less than positive although heather and grass is no growing back and making it look more natural
The 3rd par 5 is a welcome opportunity for par or birdie before you head across to the 4th. This is a brute of an hole, with bunkers ideally located to catch your drive and a long 2nd awaiting you. The par 3 5th is protected by bunkers to the front but there is bail out and chance for par if you miss the green to the right hand side, albeit a tricky up and down.
There is not a weak hole on Hollinwell. The best section however is the 11th through 15th. The 11th is my favourite hole with a narrowing funnel like fairway and a narrow green being played to up hill. Get past the pin and a tricky downhill putt awaits. Surrounding the hole is bunkers and gorse.
The 12th across the top offers amazing views of the surrounding countryside as does the signature par 3 13th, where I have taken anything from a 6 iron to driver depending on the breeze. Downhill, playing over 185 yards, with bunkers front left and right a par on here is a great result.
The 14th is enjoyable but I really love the 15th, similar to the 11th in that it narrows as you approach the green.
The 16th has seen some recent bunker changes and then the 17th, an easier par 5 with the stands of pines framing the hole and in the summer/early autumn the yellow pollen wafts across the hole, dancing in the breeze. Truly memorable.
The 18th is a tough finishing hole. Open up your shoulders and let rip, quite a wide landing area but a 2nd strong shot is required to reach the green in two.
Afterwards enjoy a drink of gunners/rock shandy in the bar and wonder how a course of this class is not even further up the rankings