Sand Moor was originally designed in 1921 by Henry Barran and the course opened for play in 1923. However, it would take another three years (1926) before the golf club was founded.
The club claims “the major influence in the creation of the course was Yorkshire born Dr. Alister Mackenzie, who chaired the first AGM on March 7th, 1925.” When additional land was acquired in the 1960s, the layout was modified by Henry Cotton, resulting in the loss of the first two and last two holes and the construction of four new holes on the other side of Alwoodley Lane.
In recent years, Andy Watson has carried out an extensive audit of the course, recommending a number of improvements to the golf club committee, and this has resulted in him carrying out a sensitive mix of renovation and restoration work.
As the architect says, “some of the original MacKenzie features are no longer relevant to the modern game, whilst others have been removed or covered by encroaching tree lines. In places, I have gained approval to restore some of the classic features of this layout, and in other situations, create something of a similar ilk to challenge the modern golfer”.
A newly refurbished clubhouse sits at the top of a hill, to the south of Eccup Reservoir, where holes 1, 5, 6 and 18 run up to and down from this elevated position. The first par three at Sand Moor is not played until the 8th hole, which is played across a gulley to a green that’s guarded on the right by bunkers. The other three short holes on the card are all played on the back nine, at the 10th, 15th and 17th.
Listed in Frank Pennink’s Choice of Golf Courses, he believed Sand Moor to be: “One of the most beautiful courses in the north of England, with wonderful, moorland turf laid on a subsoil of sand and sandstone.”
Additionally he wrote: “It is a moot point as to whether Sand Moor or its neighbour Moortown is the better course – they are so different scenically. But it is certain that Leeds is indeed fortunate to have them, and Alwoodley, three courses of the highest inland calibre.”
Sand Moor Golf Club, located in the golfing-haven of North Leeds, was developed under the guidance of the famed Dr. Alister MacKenzie in the mid 1920s.
Situated close to two other famous MacKenzie courses, Alwoodley and Moortown, this venue also boasts many of the Good Doctor’s trademarks and has a particularly strong set of short holes.
A major change to the course took place in the late 1960s when the first two and last two holes were lost and land to the west of the original course was purchased for three new holes. A fourth hole was also then created between the current 12th and 14th.
A few years ago The Club began a project to update the course, to stay abreast of modern day equipment but remain loyal to the original design concept, and the fruits of this labour are now starting to reap its rewards.
The collection of par-three’s often get the plaudits at Sand Moor and rightly so because they are all superb. The only minor criticism is that they all tend to play a similar yardage and the severest danger on them all is to the left. However, individually they are things of beauty and a real joy to play. The angle of the greens, the borrows of the putting surfaces and the visually striking bunkering all add up to create wonderful golf holes. In my view the clearance of many trees around the holes would make the contouring and features of each hole stand out even more and take them to the next level.
There are a lot of good things going on during the round at Sand Moor and you are required to be able to play a number of different shots; sometimes you can open your shoulders with the driver whilst at other times placement is crucial. The greens have the perfect amount of slope and keep it interesting until you have holed out.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Really good fun course. Not too challenging. Very entertaining layout and the greens are excellent. Will be back.