Rushmore Estate nestles within the chalk plateau of Cranborne Chase in central southern England and the modern day character of the property is largely due to the efforts of Lt General Pitt Rivers, who inherited the landholding in 1880. He fashioned a deerpark and ornamental parkland within the grounds, creating the Larmer Tree Gardens for “public enlightenment and entertainment”.
In the modern era, the Estate is involved in a variety of activities such as farming, forestry, leisure and a number of different sporting pursuits, one of which is an 18-hole course that opened for play in the mid-1990s. Interestingly, the original 9-hole layout (1st-3rd and 13th-18th) within Wiltshire has no bunkers whilst the newer holes on the Dorset side of the county boundary do have sand and water hazards.
Set on free-draining land allowing golf to be played throughout the year, the layout measures a modest 6,349 yards from the back tees, playing to a par of 71. A round on the course starts out within the estate’s old deer park then crosses the county border into Dorset where holes 4 to 12 are laid out, before the routing then returns to Wiltshire for the final six holes.
Notable holes on the front nine include the longest par four on the card, the 449-yard 5th (“Shire Rack”), and the 8th (“Michael’s Pond”), rated stroke index 1, which has a rather intimidating little water feature protecting the front of the green. On the back nine, there are short par four birdie opportunities on offer at holes 11, 13 and 16.
The round concludes with another chance of picking up a shot at the 384-yard 18th (“William Pitt”), but it’s important for the approach shot to finish on the top tier of the putting surface if that’s where the pin is positioned on the longest green on the course. And after sinking that final putt, it’s time to head straight into Rushmore’s welcoming clubhouse to sample the fine selection of drinks and home-cooked food.
Rushmore Golf Club became a Top 100 GEM in July 2018 and will be considered for a coveted Best In County ranking position when we re-evaluate Dorset in 2019. Why have we listed Rushmore in Dorset rather than Wiltshire? The short answer is: Rushmore Golf Club is affiliated to the Dorset County Golf Union and we align English clubs to their governing body rather than their postal address.
My first visit to Rushmore - a lovely early summer morning looking at a course for the first time, always a treat. Good to see the course as a GEM, one that may have been overlooked before now – unlikely to become a Dorset big hitter (top 5 not going to be toppled) but the course is a valid top 10 contender.
What we have is decent parkland course that has holes split over Wiltshire and Dorset, the Dorset nine are bunker-less but the Wiltshire 9 holes (4th to 12th) have the excitement levels at the highest. The course presentation and condition in June 2018 was close to perfect. The first hole to get my attention was the 3rd – a short par-4 at around 340 yards but a majestic tree in the fairway and a pond short of the green are the protection. My pick of holes on the front half is the 8th hole – a 430 yard hole that depending on the tee shot, will decide your second-shot fate. A good tee shot will likely leave around 200 yards (could be less if you get the run down the hill) but this shot is very demanding as water needs to be carried – the lay-up option must not be ignored. The next thing that more or less has to happen on the 8th, is to get your ball on the same level as the flag (there are three very slippery heights on the green) – a brilliant hole and there will be many more sixes than fours every day.
One observation that I did have after playing the 10th hole – to get to the 11th tee, it is around a 250 yard walk back towards the 10th tee which obviously adds double that length on to the round – just an issue with the routing for me – the 11th is good once played though; 330 yards with some very strong new bunkering left, right and then short of the green. The 13th is another good par-4 – the tee shot needs to be around 220 yards, so in summer choose the shot wisely – anything too long can reach the pond short of the green. Get the tee shot right and a full pitch to a very skinny green is where you have to be most accurate. There are two par-3’s on the Dorset side (14th and 17th) and as both bunker-less, it is hard to make them standout; these two holes probably just need a little extra thought in the future I think. The 15th tee is a nice spot with views across the course – very similar to standing on the 2nd tee just to the right – the hole is a short par-5 and the right-side of the fairway should be favoured all the way to the green. The final hole at a little under 400 yards needs a little care from the tee as the course boundary hugs the left side but if too far to the right, the long green maybe blocked by the lone tree just short of the putting surface.
Glad to have played the course and would recommend it – very, very tranquil out there and plenty of strong holes.