Although The Ross-on-Wye Golf Club was founded in 1903, the club moved several times before a densely forested tract of land became available at Jays Green in the early 1960s.
C.K. Cotton, the chosen architect, was quick to pronounce that the site was too hilly and the forest would be supremely challenging to develop into a golf course. However, after much cajoling from committee members he relented and prepared several possible layouts.
In the summer of 1961 the lumberjacks came in and started carving their way through the forest. “My first memory was the sight of the head woodsman,” wrote Donald Steel, “then in his eighties, fuelling a woodland fire with fresh scrub and branches and cooking a lunch of bacon and eggs on the back of a carefully cleaned shovel.” A few months later, the bulldozers rolled in, clearing a path through the roots and tree stumps. After a Herculean effort, the first nine holes opened for play in 1964 and Frank Pennink officially opened the full 18-hole 6,451-yard layout in 1967 when he was the President of the English Golf Union.
It will therefore come as no surprise that the current Ross-on-Wye golf course has narrow fairways carved through chutes of trees where driving accuracy is far more important than length. Holes run in every conceivable compass direction and it is impossible to tell where you are in this maze-like, mature forest.
“There is immense variety at Ross,” wrote Frank Pennink, “and although it has more short par fours than most courses of its quality, they have exceptional features. The 2nd, 10th, 14th and 17th are really severe two-shotters, Peter Townsend once describing the 10th drive as more suited to a firing range. To make up for four short par fours, there are only three par threes, varying in length from 128, 143 and 212 yards. The 6th and 8th are genuine three-shotters. Altogether this is probably the finest new inland course constructed in these islands since the 1939–45 war and is a must for the connoisseur.”
Quality golf courses in this part of England are few and far between, but make no mistake Ross-on-Wye is special, very special, and it is well worth making the trip to play this unsung gem. Although Ross-on-Wye Golf Club has a Herefordshire postal code, the club is officially affiliated to the Gloucestershire Golf Union and is therefore listed in our Gloucestershire Best In County rankings.
I have played this course twice, the first time some years ago, the second time in summer 2017, and to be honest I had forgotten just how good it was. It is a course you have to think your way round. It is as well documented that the course rewards accuracy, hit it straight you will have chances to score, hit it wide... well okay whilst you will probably find your ball, but still good luck getting out of the trees.. you'll need it!
The close tree lined fairways can be intimidating...on the tee of every par four or five the course asks you Clint Eastwood style, 'Do you feel lucky punk, well do you?' Personally I didn't feel lucky enough, so took a three wood every time, and I'm not ashamed to say it either.
Still saying the course 'rewards accuracy' is not in this case a euphemism for 'short course', so that player brave enough and good enough to get their driver out will have a chance to attack the greens.... which brings me on to a whole other topic...
The greens were excellent, they are amongst the best parkland greens I've played.
If you want to play Parkland Golf, you will struggle to find better.
It feel at heart it's a matchplay course, with those risk-reward opportunities, still whatever the format don't turn down a chance to play there.