Cheshire could easily be known as the “Surrey of the North” because there are a number of high-class heathland courses in the county. Sandiway Golf Club dates back to 1920, when Ted Ray, the 1912 Open Champion, was given the task of designing a course that should remain in keeping with the land.
Ray made fantastic use of the contours of the land and in 1925 Harry Colt made improvements that make up the course as it is today. Sandiway is a delightful wooded, heathland course and it’s quite rightly regarded as one of the best inland courses in the north of England.
It’s a pretty course with tree-lined fairways and many doglegs. Keeping your ball in play is a huge task with the emphasis definitely on accuracy. Measuring 6,400 yards from the back tees, with a par of just 70, this is a stern test, especially as six of the par fours stretch out beyond 400 yards in length. Factor in the rather small greens and it’s easy to see the challenge ahead.
Sandiway holds your interest right from the off with the opening seven holes having a different par to the last. The par three 3rd is a gloriously picturesque tree-lined hole to a bunker-guarded green. The tip here is to trust the yardage as the bunkers are further from the green than they look. The 10th has a stroke index of three and it’s certainly one of the hardest holes on the course. This par four measures 466 yards and the fairway slopes left to right, inevitably leaving a long uphill approach shot to a small green.
The course is respected highly in the game and has played host to several county championships and EGU events. Sandiway was also used as an Open Championship qualifier in 1969.
During WW2, American GI’s were stationed in the area and the evidence is still here. To the left hand side of the 5th and 8th tees there’s a copse of old trees with names carved into the tree trunks… does “Crawford, Ohio 1941” mean anything to any of our readers?
In 2005, member David Garnett had the remarkable feat of two holes in one on consecutive competition days. He aced the 6th on Saturday and the 3rd on Sunday. We reckon the odds for this to happen are approximately 64 million to 1.
We played last week after over an inch of overnight rain, you'd never had known. What a great course. There are 18 very different holes, with some real gems - especially the back 9 with views over the Petty pool. Greens are excellent, all the par 3's are very strong, you can see why a par 70 and an SS of 72. We had a really nice welcoming clubhouse and serve excellent food. The welcome from the pro shop is second to none. Superb practice facilities, it's well worth a visit either a green fee with friends or an open. It's the sort of course you'll never forget, it's that good and you'll return time after time. I asked about membership and am thinking about putting my name on the waiting list, I feel it's is that good and worth the wait!
A round at Sandiway, on a glorious spring afternoon, completed my playing of all the recognised top inland golf courses in Cheshire.
And this one pushes my personal favourite, Delamere Forest, very close to topping the list. There are so many good things to say about Sandiway but I’ll start by saying why it didn’t quite displace its near neighbour as my number one choice in its county.
Firstly the greens just didn’t float my boat. The condition of the putting surfaces was excellent but there simply wasn’t enough movement in them for me. Of course there were slopes, many subtle, and some were titled but overall they were far too flat for my personal taste. The actual locations of the greens, however, are simply sensational. Maybe bold contouring would be overkill but it’s something I would have liked to have seen, at least to a certain extent, and this would perhaps have tipped the balance.
I truly love the openness and the almost linksy feel to the front nine at Delamere. Despite sharing similar brilliantly undulating terrain, Sandiway is more tree-lined and plays much narrower, at times it is overly tight for me. However, there’s no denying this mature woodland course is an absolute joy to play and walking the fairways, in almost seclusion at times, is exhilarating and will be preferred by many.
Anyway, enough comparisons! This review is about Sandiway and there are so many highlights I could be writing for a long time if I were to give a hole-by-hole account. In fact there were only two shots in the entire round that I didn’t really care for; the tee-shot at the par three 11th, a hole that seems out of kilter with the rest of the course, and the drive at the 14th (and no I didn’t slice it out of bounds before you ask!). Those minor irks aside Sandiway is superb.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.