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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.
The UK is blessed to have a few rare pockets of heathland in some random spots throughout the country. When the great golf architects of yesteryear found these spots to build golf courses on, they were generally built to last. This is certainly the case at Notts.
The natural terrain at Hollinwell is what makes this place so special and the expanse of the land available had ensured it’s able to be future proofed for modern day equipment, with a par 72 measuring over 7,200 yds off the tips. The course is certainly proving to be long enough for modern day standards, as it will be home to the 2019 Final Open Qualifying for the second year running.
That said, the challenge here isn’t all about the length, as the firm and fast fairways give plenty of run out to tee shots. What makes this course challenging is the variety and individuality of the holes. The greens here are firm and true and consist of a mix of grasses, including bent, fescue and some meadow, which is noticeably different to some of the heathland layouts in the South of the country where meadow seems to be the most prominent strand. I’m told they regularly run at 10 on the stimp... impressive when you consider these are the same surfaces that were laid over a century ago.
Willie Park Junior has certainly made the most of what he had to work with, by designing a superbly routed layout that ebbs and flows over an expansive terrain. Elevation changes rein throughout with every hole playing differently from the others.
The opening hole is a basic start to the round, but this soon changes with #2 being exceptional, a dogleg right to left with a greensite tucked into the landscape between a natural valley. The 3rd is the first of 3 par 5’s, each of which is give a scoring opportunity if played well. The quality of the holes seem to get stronger throughout the round, building up to a finish well worth waiting for on the 18th, one of the best closing holes I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing from a tactical and aesthetic perspective. What I really like here is that despite having lots of raised tee boxes you rarely seem to be hitting up hill to a blind flag. This is quite an bewildering achievement, as it seems to defy the natural topography of the land and really enhances the playability.
The lasting memory at this venue is a classic layout with modern day presentation. The tee boxes and greens are immaculate and the turf on the fairways is made for golf. Fair and playable bunkering makes recovery a possibility for the errant approaches, mixed with numerous swails and run offs to demand a variety of short game skills and imagination.
I love the original features in the clubhouse, it gives you the feeling this place is steeped in tradition. I feel a bit of envy towards the members, who must surely play for all manor of palates and trophies carried over from generations gone by.
I’ll definitely be returning to the area to check out the local neighboring clubs which are also built on this heathland belt, but i’d be very surprised if they come close to the overall quality you experience at Notts GC. SB
I thought the start was a bit bland but then... from #5 on this was great golf. Some truly memorable holes.
The start a bit bland? You didn't enjoy no. 2? heading towards the cliffs? Or 3, heading back towards the club? I think its a cracker from start to finish.
One of my fav courses, but agree the first is a bit dull
I agree with Bruce - 2nd was one of the best designed natural holes I've played in a while. Apparently Robin Hood used to sit on the rocks on top of the hill next to the green!
On our annual golf trip to the UK, I convinced the group to extend our normal length trip in order to play two great inland courses in England at the end. The first was Notts GC at Hollinwell, which despite many trips, and having lived in England for several years, I'd not played. Well, I'm sorry it was the first time. Ok, there are a couple of quirky holes, but most are truly great. I only wish caddies were available, because there are many favorable angles to play from which would have been good to know about. Lots of places with gorse bushes you don't want to hit into. A real test. I did walk down the stone steps to taste the wonderful water from The Well. Very warm welcome. M
A trip to Hollinwell came as one of the highlights in the itinerary of a recent golf tour proving to be a serious step up from all of the other inland courses we played during that week. I’ve now played many of what would be considered as the best inland courses in the UK and without doubt, Notts Golf Club has to rank amongst the finest.
After you’ve taken the driveway that oddly leads you right through the middle of the course, the most distinctive and eye-catching feature of the course as you arrive is that it sits within a “half-bowl” landscape. Steep heather sided valleys shape and frame many of the holes, albeit rarely coming into play. The bowl-like nature of the course means that sound carries unusually well across the first few holes.
Whilst the panorama from the clubhouse is pretty special, for most the 1st will come as something of an anti-climax although personally I’ve always been a fan of courses that allow you to get your round off to a relaxed start. It’s a flat and straight first hole and not indicative of the rest of the course because after this, the course is high in quality. The 2nd, a right to left dogleg with a green set against one of those valleys provides a taste of what’s to come, though it’s more akin to what you’ll face whilst playing the back nine. Other than the 2nd, the 6th is the other main highlight of the opening nine; a par five that naturally sweeps and dips up and over rolling terrain. Another aspect that confronts you more than most courses across this front nine is that many of the bunkers come into play off the tee. Factor this with the yardage of the course and scoring well at Hollinwell becomes a real challenge, so it’s completely understandable why so many top events have been played here.
Undoubtedly the front nine is very good, but it’s from the 11th where the world class holes really start to appear and after this they come in quick succession one after the other. A drive needs to be eased through a steep banked valley on the 11th with a glorious amphitheatre style green then set into the hill. The 12th then tees off behind this hill and it’s the only hole that truly plays blind whilst 13 is a stunning signature downhill par-three and a true examination of your long game. At 15, you have another one of those holes where you play into a heather sided bowl whereas 16 is typical of the numerous risk and reward holes that you’re faced with throughout the course. It’s a set-square shaped dogleg of a par four where you can either take the tiger line and try and thrash one towards the green or play it safe for the centre of the directional change in the fairway. A large bunker then provides protection in front of a heavily sloping green, ready to gobble up any under-hit approach shot.
Then at 17 came my favourite hole on the course. It’s a tee shot that’s been designed to intimidate from the tee with what looks like a tiny landing area between gorse on the right and big fairway bunkers to the left. Keep your ball in play between these two hazards however and it’s quite reachable in two. The 18th is also no disappointment as this fine closing hole chicanes between bunkers that flank the fairway before an elevated green sits in front of the clubhouse backdrop.
Overall, Hollinwell is a high class layout and in my opinion better than a good handful of higher rated courses. Elevation changes are plentiful and there is real beauty across a variety of the holes. I’d go as far to say that the back nine in particular is everything you’d expect of a World Top 100 club. As excellent as that nine is, the front nine whilst good doesn’t quite hit the same heights for me and prevents it from edging the course into 6-ball rating. Having said that, I’m splitting hairs here. It’s a first-class golf club in every way and I’d return back in a flash.
I agree the back 9 is better than the front, but the 3rd is also a great hole (heading back towards the clubhouse) especially from the Championship Tees. The 8th is also really good - heading over the spring. If it were in Surrey, this would be a World Top100 course.
This was my third trip to Hollinwell and with each visit I seem to grow more attached to its seductive charms. The tranquil setting is right up there with the very best of British inland layouts, the course just getting better and better as the round progresses. The heather lined fairways are a joy to walk as you journey through areas of wooded heathland, banks of gorse and briefly over a small section of moorland. As good as the front nine undoubtedly is, my favourites being the excellent curving 2nd and the sequence of holes between the 6th and 8th, the back nine is truly magnificent. The variety in the design is tough to beat with every hole offering something different and in my humble opinion there isn't a weak one to be found. There may only be one par-3 on the back half but what a beauty it is. Requiring a 200+ yard shot over heather clad slopes to a well protected green, the downhill 13th lives long in the memory. The16th provides us with another downhill cracker, this time doglegging around the heather to a treacherous raised green. The par five 17th offers a chance to shave a shot from your score but the challenging 18th will more than likely take it straight back. I just wish I lived a little nearer. Brian W
I've been raving about the golf course at Hollinwell to anybody who would listen for the last 20 years since I first played here.
Back then Notts appeared little known outside the Midlands save for those who were in the know. That day I played for the first time I knew I had stumbled upon something extra special.
In more recent years Notts Golf Club has deservedly gained more notoriety and nationwide acclaim. It now ranks closer to the summit than the foot of the various top 100 golf course listings but in my opinion it still has further to climb. Much further.
I don't say it lightly but this is within my personal top five favourite English golf courses and one I enjoy playing above some Open Championship venues. And that is coming from somebody who loves links golf! On an inland level it more than stands shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Ganton, Alwoodley, Woodhall Spa in the North and all of the famed Surrey/Berkshire sandbelt courses further South. In my opinion I would say there is only perhaps the New course at Sunningdale that is its superior.
I've played Hollinwell on a number of occasions and I struggle to find fault with it. Each hole on its own is so strong but the majesty comes when you put them all together. The flow of the course in my opinion is unparalleled, a joyous wooded-heathland nirvana. There are so many different flavours and textures of holes it really gives a sense of deep joy.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
This course is the tale of two nines. The front nine is relatively benign with numerous standout holes (eg: dogleg 2nd and par 3 9th).The highlight of the course is the back nine, which is played through beautiful valleys and across much more turbulent land. The genius of Willie Park is on full display for the remainder of the round.
I was thoroughly impressed playing uphill through challenging valleys and downhill corridors. The long driveway to the clubhouse adds excitement to the remote nature of the club and leads you towards beautiful yellow gorse and wonderfully maintained playing surfaces.
I think saying the front nine is "benign" is quite harsh, the 3rd is also a great hole along with the 2nd in that 3 hole opening pocket (i'd agree the 1st is a little uninteresting.) Then the 5th and 6th are lovely holes, while the 7th tee shot from the proper tees over the water and through the narrow corridor of trees is one of the toughest tee shots i've had to play.
I'm personally a huge fan of Hollinwell and put it right up there with the top inland courses in the country.
It is really a close call which course is best of Notts, Alwoodley and Ganton. Best to do what we did and play all three in the same trip. Notts has some really cool holes and lots of elevation. As a comparison at Alwoodley I traversed six floors, at Notts nineteen. For some reason it felt like a parkland course planted in hilly terrain but it still did'nt felt misplaced. Highly recommended!
I visited Nottinham in late april and plyed this course and Sherwood. I loved them both but Hollinwell is a cut or two above Sherwood. The clubhouse and first holes are set in a wonderful valley and it whets the appetite for the round you're going to play. The gorse was in bloom, and the greens were a joy to put on, however not as fast as the immaculate greens on Sherwood. Notts really is a second shot course. Most of the fairways, however treelined, are broad but angle tot the green is of great importance. There are some quirky blind shots that were hard to judge for a first timer like myself, given the elevation changes. Unfortunately the courseguide also didn't really help.
Had an absolute blast though on a very memorable course with no weak hole whatsoever. It's a bit peculiar that there's a driveway right next to the hard and fast and downwind playing thrid green, which results in some awkward downhill chipshots that have no place to land when you miss the flag there. It does look very charming though, as does the rest of the course. The course is very fair and it's definitely possible to make some birdies out there. Would love to play again! LAst remark: we played in a winterdeal on the 24th of april, including18 holes and a meal afterwards, which is great bang for buck!
I played Notts as a first-on-the-course single on a beautiful April morning. This is a simply delightful course, with a wonderful variety of holes winding there way through a series of beautiful settings. I found the course challenging, yet not punitive off the tee and on approach shots. Perfect for the low to middle handicapper looking for a nice test of skills, but not numerous lost balls. I was told that I was the first American visitor during 2017 at Notts. This suggests to me that many American visitors are ignoring the tremendous degree of depth which exists in English golf courses. After you get beyond the Open rota, there are dozens of high quality English courses which welcome visitors with reasonable green fees and terrific traditional golf layouts (e.g. Woking, Addington, Formby, West Lancashire, etc., etc.). My day concluded with a round at the stellar Lindrick course, roughly 20 miles away, and offering much of the same hospitality and quality golf.
Good point about the almost hidden variety of quality English golf, and you didn't even get to the South West, East, Cumbria or Northumbria. Ran Morrissett, the founder of Golf Club Atlas, curated the England section of the latest edition of Tom Doak's Confidential Guide and, to paraphrase, says it has the most varied good golf of any country.