Seascale Golf Club, five miles south of Whitehaven, fits neatly into a small area, overlooked by the Sellafield Power Station, but providing views of the Isle of Man and the Lakeland Hills in keeping with the popular perception of the beautiful county that is Cumbria on the North West Coast of England, Wordsworth Country.
Founded in 1893, the course covers less than a hundred acres without giving the impression of one hole encroaching on another. The links are the design of Willie Campbell and George Lowe.
Whilst not long by modern standards, Seascale encompasses a varied terrain at different levels without testing the golfer's fitness. It rises on the 1st and continues down the inland side of the course.
The 3rd provides the first panoramic view from a high tee, as the course continues northwards until the par five 7th turns in the opposite direction. The 8th is a long par three followed by the 9th, the only hole played directly towards the sea. Driving from a high tee, the line is straight at the Isle of Man.
The more memorable holes are on the back nine, starting with the short par three 10th, where a stream provides a hazard, as it does again on the 13th. In between are two par fours, one measuring 468 yards then a shorter two-shotter in the opposite direction.
However, the real test is to come. The par four 16th measures 471 yards with more defences that its mere length. The 17th tee overlooks the beach and the drive over a high hill requires accuracy for an ideal position for a long second shot into the green.
The 18th is ten yards shorter than the penultimate hole at 334 yards and the main challenge here is the enormous, L-shaped home green, where several pin positions can give the golfer one final problem – how do I get from the front round a corner to the hole?
The lasting impression is of having played eighteen holes of interest and variety – a very good partner to Silloth, further north up the Cumbrian Coast.
I’ve been meaning to swing by Seascale for some time now. When you’re on the M74/M6 between Scotland and England, it’s all too easy to remain on the motorway and avoid making a wee detour around the Lake District National Park to have a look at places like this along the Cumbrian coastline.
A couple of days ago, I had a few extra hours to spare on my way home from Cheshire so I decided to leave the main drag just before Kendall and head further northwest to the village of Seascale, a spot best known for the Sellafield nuclear plant located immediately next door to it.
Am I ever glad I took such a circuitous route back to Glasgow! Seascale was an absolute delight; as authentic a links as you could care to imagine, featuring absolutely fabulous green sites with wonderful run off areas allowing all sorts of little shots to be played around the putting surfaces.
It starts off modestly, a couple of par fours climbing to the highest point on the layout before the 3rd doglegs right around a couple of fields, flanked by a low dune ridge to the left of the fairway. Back-to-back par fives played in opposite directions at holes 6 and 7 complete a solid, if unexceptional sequence of holes.
After turning to face inland and play a long par three at the 8th, the par four 9th then heads straight back down towards the coast, plunging steadily towards a green that’s protected by a meandering grassed ditch to the front of the putting surface and this is by far the best hole on the opening nine.
It then gets a little cramped on this low-lying area to the north of the property, with a couple of, albeit very good, par three holes squeezed into the corner next to the power plant at holes 10 and 13. After this, we head for home and what a start we make to that journey!
Holes 14 to 16 are absolutely top drawer and wouldn’t look out of place at any of the more well-known links championship venues. Each of them has wild fairway contours and testing putting surfaces laid out on really turbulent land between the railway line and a big sand ridge that runs parallel to the shoreline with the Irish Sea.
The 17th requires a blind tee shot up onto the higher ground that occupies the closing two holes and, in particular, the large front-to-back sloping home green in front of the clubhouse. It’s a great finish to a round that was full of surprises – mostly pleasant – for me.
The nuclear station does dominate the northern skyline but, apart from holes 11 and 12 which head directly towards then away from the razor-wired perimeter fence, it never unduly impacts on your enjoyment – a bit like Seaton Carew, there’s too much going on close to hand to worry about any peripheral industrial interference.
Looking in the Top 100 news archives, an article was published last year entitled North West England – Top 20 Golf Courses 2017 with Seascale listed at number 20 in a region of around 270 golf clubs. I think that impressive ranking position tells you all you need to know about how good this place is.
Let's start by saying that getting to Seascale is not an easy or particularly enjoyable drive, even from within Cumbria. My 60 mile drive took nearly 2 hours, but it was worth it. That's location covered !!. In terms of condition, it could have been better...greens were slow, with too many bald patches on for a top 100 rated course, especially for June. Friendly welcome in the clubhouse when I paid the green fee (superb value at £17.50 for playing after 2pm), but no yardage chart available.
The course itself starts with two short and fairly dull par 4's, and then you have the 3rd, a great right angled par 4 requiring an accurate drive to avoid the internal out of bounds and a well struck long iron to find the green. The 6th and 7th are decent par 5's, which give you a chance of a birdie. The 8th is a very good down hill par 3 where you need to hit the green and avoid the bunkers to make par. You then move onto the best stretch of holes on the course.
The 9th is a really great par 4, requiring an accurate tee shot down the left, before a mid iron iron second shot to a well protected green with water well right, and a small dip around the green (this may have carried water at one time, which would have made the hole outstanding if they ever brought it back. Great views as well.
The 10th is a very tricky little par 3 with water, bunkers and a sloping green to contend with. If the pin is back right, don't be tempted to go at the flag as the green runs down to the water at this point. This hole would not be out of place on a top 20 course in the UK...it's that good.
The 11th should be a par 5 as you won't get up in two shots here, no matter how good you are. I liked the 12th...a clever hole with good bunkering near the green, and a little dip short of it, which makes the approach shot shorter than it actually is.Take one club more here. Hole 13 is a strong par 3 needing a long iron played slightly left to right to find the green, which slopes from back to front.
Hole 14 is a straight forward par 5, with chances for a birdies and hole 15 is drivable. Hole 17 needs a straight tee shot to ensure a short iron to a straightforward green, which brings us to the 18th. You need to hit this down the left side, and ensure you aim your second to the right of the flag as the green moves sharply right to left, and it's easy to miss the green when the flag is on the front left.
Overall, this is a good course, with some outstanding holes, but a few weak ones that miss out on top marks. If the greens were better, this would be nearly an Eagle course, but birdie is about the right rating based on its current condition. Certainly worth playing for the 9th and 10th alone.
Played today (12th April) and got it with "its trousers down" as no wind. There was a however a persistent mist that turned to light rain all the way round BUT it still SHONE as a GREAT "true links" and I will be back hopefully to get some sun and wind burn and see it in its full glory.
Friendly staff and met Captain in passing. A very helpful member walked back about 150yards to the tee we were "following" him onto and he was jumping holes, so save me a wrong detour. REALLY enjoyed the course, some great par 4's and 3's - PROPER LINKS COURSE (NO gorse corridors or waist high rough etc)
Nice cask ale - and when you go - YOU MUST - "sally satnav" took me over an almost scottish alpine sheep park with a one track road - some of it with tight stone walls .... luckily as always the "silly cow" took me back a different route (???) which was more suitable.
Once submitted this I am going to email the secretary with whom I booked a 2pm "twilight round" to thank her and then get onto Golf Empire to see what Opens I can enter.
WELL WORTH THE DRIVE and - just as the airport does NOT spoil Prestwick - Selllafield looming does NOT spoil Seascale - MAKE THE TRIP SOON !!