Situated above the picturesque Lake District town of Penrith, this wonderful old moorland layout dates back to 1890 when members of Penrith Golf Club set out the original nine holes around an oval racecourse. Traces of the old race track can still be made out on several of the fairways during the modern day back nine.
The course was doubled in size to an 18-hole layout in 1913 but, with World War I intervening soon after, many of the fairways were ploughed up for crop production. Indeed, it would take almost a decade before golf resumed on the course. Further improvements were made to the layout when the clubhouse was modernised in the 1970s.
Today’s course extends to just over 6,000 yards and this shortage of overall length is thanks mainly to a configuration containing five par threes – two of which play back to back at holes 9 and 10 – and only two par fives. The signature hole is the 365-yard left doglegged 12th, where the approach is played uphill to a green flanked by sand on either side.
I played Penrith for the first time a few days ago and was impressed by the layout and variety of holes, as well as its condition and quality of greens, which for the time of the year were excellent.
Following a warm and helpful welcome in the pro shop, the course eases you in with a couple of gentle par 4's, before facing the stern test of the 3rd hole. I can give no greater praise than to say this hole would not look out of place at Woodhall Spa, and many of the excellent holes at Penrith certainly have the feel of the Lincolnshire gem. The first of a great set of par3's comes at the 4th were an accurate tee shot is needed to find the undulating green which is well bunkered. The 8th is a really good drive and pitch hole, which is well bunkered on the tee and approach shot. The 9th is a very tricky downhill par 3, played from an elevated tee with a full view of the green below...a 3 here requires some very good play indeed. The 10th is just a superb par 3...well bunkered but short, accurate club selection is a must as missing the green could lead to a cricket score. A lovely view follows on the 11th, a fairly straight forward downhill short par 4. The 12th is probably the toughest par 4, requiring a long accurate drive to leave a tough mid iron to a long thin green. Par is a good score here, regardless of your golfing ability. Back over the road 13/14/15 are all good holes, requiring accurate tee shots to avoid danger. 16 is a tricky downhill par 3, while 17 is a great 2 shooter requiring a long accurate approach shot to avoid some severe bunkers.The 18th is a very good finishing hole, requiring some thought with the 2nd to avoid the bunkers short of the green. Penrith is an excellent test of golf, which will require every club in your bag, plenty of accuracy off the tee and a decent short game if you miss any of these greens. I rate Penrith highly; it has a good number of risk and reward holes, with a blend of tough and easier 4's to keep you thinking and as good a collection of par 3's as you would find on any top 100 rated UK course. If you are playing only 2 courses in Cumbria then Penrith and Silloth will give you a wonderful experience.