Arriving at the Notts Golf Club - or Hollinwell as the locals call it - you feel as though you are in the middle of the English countryside, a million miles from anywhere. The landscape through which the holes meander is both beautiful and varied. As a result, the course has several distinct feels of being part heathland, part moorland and part woodland, which all blend seamlessly as one moves through the layout.
The opening three holes at Notts are played on a parcel of land to the west of the clubhouse and are separated from the rest of the layout by the entry road. These opening holes are configured in a triangular loop such that the third green sits directly adjacent to the 1st tee and the 18th green. From here you cross the entry road and pass across the front of the clubhouse on your way out to the 4th tee. For the next seven holes you continue playing on gently undulating ground, with holes meandering in and out of treed and open areas. Several of these holes are framed by the adjoining farmland, which provides for some attractive district views.
One then encounters some steeply rising ground at the par four 11th, and it is at this point that the layout really takes advantage of the more interesting terrain found on the property. You must embrace a roller coaster ride over the final seven holes - both physically and metaphorically – as they rise and fall dramatically over ridges and through several valleys. A real charm of the course is the fact that the quality of holes, and the subsequent drama and excitement, build slowly as you progress such that by the time you have reached the later stages of the round you’re hoping there might in fact, be a third nine out there somewhere so you don’t have to return to the clubhouse just yet.
While the downhill par three 13th is the ‘post-card’ hole of the course, I consider the closing four holes to be the best stretch in the eighteen.
At the uphill par four 15th your drive needs to negotiate both a menacing fairway bunker set just below the crest of a ridge on the left-hand side, and a strong left to right canter in the fairway itself. Longer hitters who are able to carry this bunker must be careful to avoid a second one further up on the right, cleverly placed to capture running balls feeding left to right off the heavily contoured fairway. You are then asked to follow that up with an approach into a small, steeply pitched green nestled at the base of a valley. With thick heather, gorse and long grass abutting both sides and rear of the green there is no bail out here other than short.
At the downhill par four 16th one may be tempted to take on the corner of the dogleg with the driver so as to get as close to the green as possible, but in reality a well-struck mid-iron is all that is required to utilize the steep downhill slopes and find the fairway, leaving a pitch into a huge tired green protected by a deep bunker spanning its entire front. One gains an advantage by successfully hugging the left-hand side of the fairway so as to then play the approach down the full-length of the wide, but relatively shallow green.
After navigating these two testing holes, one finds welcome relief at the short par five 17th. Measuring just 501 yards from the tips there is plenty of opportunity here to claw a stroke back with a birdie. Playing as a right to left dog-leg, the shortest route home requires one to hug the left side off the tee, flirting with both long rough and a carefully sighted lone fairway bunker. Again longer hitters are to take note of a pair of fairway bunkers situated further along on the left half of the hole. An open front provides sufficient room to skip your approach shot up the bank and onto the large, punchbowl shaped green, though veer too far in either direction and you’ll end up in one of three greenside bunkers. The beauty of this hole lies in its simplicity: a reachable par five with plenty of width and an inviting green, where the penalty for poor strokes is harsh, yet considered fair in the context of what is being asked of the golfer.
Standing on the elevated 18th tee, one is given a commanding view over the full length of final hole, whose green is set somewhat attractively below the clubhouse. Being downhill it plays much shorter than the 460 yards listed on the scorecard; yet is still no push over. This is largely due to three separate pairs of staggered bunkers, which are carefully placed along the length of the hole guarding either side of the defined playing surfaces. In what appears to be just for good measure, one final greenside bunker lies to the back left-hand side of the green to swallow up anything slightly left and long. Try not to be distracted by the views, as this holes beauty is matched by its challenge, forming a great finish to an impressive layout.
This review is an edited extract from my Blog titled: An Architect Abroad. The full review can be found at: wp.me/p6l5Ih-9A along with photographs taken of the course. Please also note that my rating of the course here has been done specifically against the other courses which I visited on that trip, many of which rank very highly in the top 100 listed on this website for the United Kingdom. For that reason some ratings of courses may be lower than that given by other reviewers.
Date: July 14, 2015