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.
Date: December 10, 2019