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S edge of Skegness near Nature Reserve
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Willie Fernie, Guy Campbell
If you follow the signs to Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve, which extends along the picturesque Lincolnshire coast from the southern end of Skegness to the Wash, you'll come across a traditional bracing links. More than 150 miles of coastline stretch between Seaton Carew and Hunstanton – Seacroft is the very best seaside links you'll find in between.
Originally founded in 1895, Seacroft Golf Club started out in life as a nine-hole course and, in 1900, Willie Fernie extended it to 18 holes. Sir Guy Campbell made alterations in the 1920s, although nine of Fernie's original holes still remain intact. "It is one of those courses that runs, roughly speaking, straight out and home," wrote Bernard Darwin in The Golf Courses of the British Isles. "And the nine holes that we play with the wind in our face we think really beautiful, while with the wind behind us we are just a little disappointed... it must often happen that the wind is neither for us nor against us, but blows straight across the course. Then the golf must be really difficult, for the fairway is uniformly narrow and the rough wonderfully tenacious."
The course begins in pleasant suburbia and immediately the scene is set – accurate driving is the order of the day at Seacroft Golf Club. The outward nine occupies lower lying ground, a small dune ridge runs down the left and the road to Gibraltar Point and out-of-bounds lies threateningly to the right. The 8th hole, called "Sand Pit", epitomises the challenge. From the back tee you have to drive bravely over the edge of the road. To make matters worse, a cross bunker waits eagerly to catch your best drive. The 9th hole, a par five called "Gibraltar", will stick firmly in the memory on the way out.
Coming home, there is a feeling of elevated spaciousness, which lulls the unsuspecting into a false sense of security. Gone is the road to Gibraltar Point, instead there's acres of gorse. This is no place to open your shoulders. "Sea View", the par five 13th, "strikes equal terror into the soul," wrote Darwin. "Here the hole stands on a small plateau, and in front is a big bunker in the face of the hill...and the hole lives up to its name, for there is a view of a big stretch of sea."
Apart from straight hitting, you'll need to score well on each of the four excellent short holes. The 12th, called "Island", is a cracking par three (a par four for the ladies). It measures 210 yards and invariably plays directly into the teeth of the prevailing wind – a par here is one to savour.
Seacroft is certainly off the beaten track and Skegness isn't the holiday destination that it once was, but a visit to this amazing understated links will certainly lift your soul.
Played Seacroft for the first time on a cold February day after a spell of very poor weather had closed the Nottinghamshire courses (Hollinwell and Sherwood Forest) that had been on my list. I thought a links might have stood up to the conditions rather better, and was proved right. In fact, I was astonished at how good the greens were, still hard and fast despite being battered for weeks.
Overall, was it worth the drive? I'd say yes, certainly. As other reviewers have mentioned, it's classic links golf in the traditional mould, with very tight fairways and plenty of blind or semi-blind shots. I wouldn't say it is anywhere near as good as Silloth, as is implied in the main article here, but it's no gimme and a lot of fun to play. The 7th 8th and 9th make a run of three highly entertaining holes, and the 7th in particular, played into the wind, wouldn't look out of place on courses of much greater renown.
Seacroft is a golf course for those who like their links golf pure and undiluted. It's a classic out-and-back course with just the right mix of rugged duneland and quirky, humpty-dumpty terrain. It creates a blend of unique links golf that is both testing and immensely enjoyable.
I'd been aware of Seacroft for some time but never ventured to the seaside town of Skegness to play it until 2014. After my first round I was left wondering why I had left it so long in my golfing career to sample this time-honoured links course and immediately promised myself I'd be back sooner rather than later to experience its charm and challenge once again. I have now returned several times and each time it impresses me more.
I had that same feeling once before after playing Silloth on Solway for the first time and I can't help draw comparisons between the two. Not necessarily in the style of the course, as they are both quite different, but in the sense that until fairly recently Silloth was relatively unknown to the mass golfing world. Now it is widely acclaimed as one of the finest links courses on the planet and as a result golfers flock to the remote part of Cumbria from afar. It was even awarded the English Amateur Championship in 2012 adding further to its status.
Seacroft has similar accessibility issues to Silloth and although not quite as far off the beaten track it's not the easiest, or rather the quickest place, to get to from major towns and cities across the UK. Nor does it have allies in other strong links courses nearby where players may stay and play a few courses in the area. That certainly shouldn't act as a deterrent for you to venture to the Lincolnshire coast though. It alone is well worthy of the trip.
I feel that by playing Seacroft I have been let in to a little secret. But it's a secret I'm not willing to keep. I'm confident that this is a ticking time bomb of a course and once the cat is out of the bag it will lead to it becoming a much more well-known and sought after destination. This won't occur overnight, and will require the main-stream national golf media to laud due praise on it, but I'm certain it will happen and I for one will be recommending people pay a visit.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
I played Seacroft on a clear April day and was very glad that I made the effort. This is a classic, old-school links course which plays hard and fast, with excellent greens. Many interesting and challenging holes, and no poor holes that I can recall. Due to its location, roughly an hour away from Woodhall Spa, this course can be readily added to a larger golf itinerary for a player who doesn't mind an hour or two of driving to reach his next day's challenge. Very good golf is available both to the north and south of Seacroft, and can be readily researched on the Top 100 website.
From the elevated 6th tee, you get a good look at the long ridges running like spines along the various parts of the course. Although this hole only measures 343 yards, in summer you can reach the greenside bunkers with a good drive.
The 8th is one of my favourite holes. You drive over the corner of the road and need to be near the out of bounds fence on the right for the best angle into the green which is slightly raised behind a large bunker. Birdie is a chance here... but so too is double bogey.
Seacroft is an interesting old style links course. Some of the holes are similar to those at Hunstanton, its neighbour on the south side of The Wash. Everything here is very natural and has its own distinctive feel. This lesser known links should definitely be added to your list of courses to experience.
This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every English course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.
The course has few weak holes. The start and finish are both strong while I particularly enjoyed the holes around the turn (8-10) which have great design features. The out of bounds fence and road hard to the right of the 8th should really focus the mind with a drive to a narrowing fairway, as should the approach over the fairway bunker and dune that cuts in from the left. The 9th is similar in aspect, although longer as a par 5, with a green hidden behind a gap in the dune offset diagonally to the line of the fairway. The false front on the 10th – one of many contoured putting surfaces – makes it look intimidating from the raised tee, which is heightened with a flag position tight to the deep bunker on the right. From the 13th onwards the layout builds to a strong finish with one par 3 and 5, with the rest being long or tight par 4s. The green complexes are varied. Holes 2, 3, 4, 10, and 13 are raised, meaning slight adjustments to clubbing are required. Meanwhile 7, 8, and 9 are tucked partially behind dunes demanding some degree of shot shaping to get close.
One criticism of the course is that only the 10th and 12th run across the course with all the other holes pointing towards or away from the clubhouse. Other reviewers have noted a lack of challenge but the club could easily remedy that by growing the rough in from the fairway edges. I imagine they reason that would make the course a chore in high winds for many. However, it is undeniably a quality links with a warm welcome. Well worth the trip.