The royal hunting Forest of Sherwood in middle England is world famous as the legendary home of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Sherwood Forest is also an important home to some of Europe’s finest trees and heathland. The Sherwood Forest Golf Club is now designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest because it contains the largest area of low-lying heathland in the Midlands.
But it wasn’t always this way. Life began in 1895 as the Mansfield Golf Club on the fields of Ravensdale – the area is now a housing estate. In 1911, the club became the Sherwood Forest Golf Club in readiness for a move to new heathland ground at Eakring Road. Harry Colt designed the new course and James Braid revised the layout in the mid 1920s – today’s layout bears his hallmark. Further minor changes – larger greens and new tees – were implemented in the early 1980s after recommendations made by Cotton, Pennink, Steel and Hawtree.
Today’s course looks very different to the original layout, but only because the trees have grown up over the years, creating an enclosed feeling. The back nine wends its way, each hole in isolation, through the trees. The first few holes possess a more open, heathland feel. But there’s no doubt that Sherwood Forest is set on superb golfing terrain and it’s also a supreme test of golf. The club has played host to Open Championship Regional Qualifying and even Gary Nicklaus, son of the great Jack, failed to qualify here, not only once, but twice.
Renowned for its fantastic greens and friendly welcome, Sherwood Forest is certainly a course to put on your itinerary when visiting the Midlands. Include it alongside Notts and Lindrick and you will have played three of the best inland courses in the country.
Sunlight reflected from the purple haze of Sherwood Forest, the starter announced me on the tee and memories of my best ever nine holes, inspired a wallop down the middle of the first.
Alas, I must have been in ecstatic reverie when he told us that the red flags denoted the BACK of the green. Thus, my chip was 20 yards short and a one-point five was recorded.
Yep, here, unusually, blue flags are at the front of the green and red is at the back with yellow in the middle. Definitely worth remembering.
Fortunately, our opening lapse did not set the tone and we took advantage of benign conditions and prevailing wind to score well early on at the Sherwood Forest Mixed Open.
This was mainly because we adhered to the starter's tip of resisting big-hitting and concentrated on staying on the fairways.
However, we were caught out a couple of times on the downhill par threes with both the 4th and 7th proving much trickier than they looked due, in the first instance to a fiendish pin position just behind a bunker and in the second because of sand-trap protection nearly all around the green.
We found Sherwood Forest's greens easier to read than many of those at England's top 100 courses, offering few surprises. Consequently, the par-five fifth, which has a deep dip in the middle of the fairway and iridescent heather on both sides, yielded a birdie to my safety-first golf.
Heather is the trademark of the course and, although not as deep or dense as that in Surrey or even nearby Hollinwell. Consequently, balls were found and a pitching wedge (the club for all heather!) found safety.
Back on the course, the second nine is such a different proposition to the first that the last time I played it I scored 12 points against 24 in the opening half.
The difference wasn't as pronounced this time but points were much harder to find.
This is true of both pars 3s (the 10th and 15th) which I failed to reach with a driver because the breeze had by now strengthened considerably and was against us. We had brief respite on the long downhill 11th which has a tough blind tee shot.
Thereafter, every hole was into the teeth of the wind - among them the fiendish 12th and 14th - the respective third and first hardest holes.
If I were to have a criticism of Sherwood Forest it is that the stretch of 12 to 14 are a bit samey - precise and long drives needed over heather before another heave or even a heave and a wedge.
However, the final stretch is a more beguiling proposition, including a relatively short par five, a dogleg which rewards accuracy and a sweep towards the clubhouse which is deceptively long as it rises and dips and rises again.
It was a shame that those last few holes were played in driving rain but their beauty was still evident and they left a glowing memory.
Indeed, even as we trooped off sopping wet, we all agreed that Sherwood Forest would be well worth revisiting.
Not far from Holinwell and in a beautiful part of the country, Sherwood Forest has all the ingredients to be a top golf course. There’s a lot of heather, and good use of interesting elevation, but it’s mainly playable.
The par 3s are what stuck out to me here, all interesting holes, and the 7th in particular. For me, due to its style of bunkering and also having two greens it’s reminiscent of golf in Japan, and in particular the 10th on the Fuji Course at Kawana. Another favourite hole was the long, tough par 4 17th.
I went into my round here with high expectations, due to its top 100 in England rating and being spoken about in the same breath as Holinwell. For me it didn’t reach these high hopes, but is nevertheless a nice place for a round.
Sherwood Forest mixes a great routing, interesting elevation, and a warm welcome from the membership perfectly. The clubhouse, staff and service are all fantastic, which is echoed on the golf course.
The heathland layout has teeth on the back nine, so you need to score well on the front. Holes 1, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 are standouts. 7 being extra quirky, a very short par 3 that is only a wedge, with 2 different greens to hit at, just like you're playing in Japan.
The back nine is longer and harder, and early on is a bit too claustrophobic for my liking.
Sherwood Forest makes for a perfect stop off if travelling between Woodhall Spa and Liverpool, and is also half of an excellent 36 hole day with Notts (Hollinwell), 15 minutes up the road.
Sherwood forest, accurately described as 'off the beaten track' is a superb heathland experience on a site of specific interest.
Although the weather wasn't with us, Covid 19 unfortunately was. And this meant the bins and ball washers were out of action, rakes taken away and being warned about touching flag sticks and shaking hands.
All the drama of the 'pandemic' aside, Sherwood Forest doesn't cause any more drama than it needs to. Well designed holes and great undulations combined with some tricky bunkers makes for a great test of golf. It's a very passive course, not many holes I would stand on the tee and 'wow' at but more of a combination of very solid holes which you can really appreciate.
A great view from the clubhouse over 2 tees and 2 greens to watch all the action at the 19th and a great reception. The assistant or shop worker was very friendly, two groups let me (a single player) through with no question and were also very friendly.
I quite like the closing stretch, the last two are scoreable if you can hold your nerve coming to it and the driving range looked to be taking shape nicely.
Overall it deserves to be firmly within the top 100. I'd love to come back and play on a nice summers day, but not before I've given Ganton and Notts a go!
This is a class heathland course and on some rankings is in the Top 100 in the UK. I would rate it this highly.
I played it on a gorgeous sunny day with the heather out in full bloom. The 1st is a gentle opener at only 334 yards over heather and to a flat green. Accuracy however is key as it is surrounded by bunkers, but a par should be your aim at worse. This is followed by 2 short par 4’s so a good chance to get your score going, before you get to the 1st of the par 3’s which is an attractive hole heading back to the clubhouse. At 183 yards the main aim is hitting the putting surface as it is surrounded by 4 bunkers and if you miss the green you’ll be lucky to get a par.
You then head back away from the clubhouse on the 1st of the par 5’s before you head into a really tough section of the course. The 6th, par is a brute off the back tees before you get to the short par 3 7th, which is a delightful looking hole but plays harder than the 130 yards distance. With a front to back slope this can leave a tricky putt.
The another par 5, followed by a par 4. The heather looked amazing on this hole, just try and a void your ball going into it. Like Hollinwell, the heather adds real beauty but if your ball is tracking towards it, keep a close eye on it and good luck finding it!
The 10th is another par 3 at over 170 yards and again surrounded by bunkers and long grasses so once again anyone wayward will be punished.
The locals call the next stretch their ‘amen corner’ and say that anyone coming through these with level par deserves respect. I didn’t!
Hole 14 is a beauty, another long par 4 but slight dog left and then the longest of the par 3’s at over 200 yards really does test your game.
The 16th was welcome respite, a shortish par 5 which allowed me to get to the green in regulation, and then 2 more par 4’s with the last a shortish and more gentler finish to the round than some of the par 4’s you have already experienced.
This is a class act and worthy of 5 balls, but by definition, the best in the region is Hollinwell (Notts) and so this has been given 4 1/2 balls, but I may yet review this on my next visit. It has less standout holes than Hollinwell but this area of the country is a class act and I love playing these 2 courses along with Coxmoor, Worksop and LIndrick in South Yorkshire.
Definitely a course worthy of a trip to play... well presented, wonderful greens, some lovely holes and very walkable. I would love to play that again.
The opening stretch at Sherwood Forest is all laid out in front of the clubhouse so it’s a wonderful vista to display what’s in store for the first time visitor. You’re introduced with an undulating and pretty start where the first four holes play in a small loop, but you’ll need to be sure to make your score over these opening holes as what begins as a relatively modest test of your game then starts to show its teeth from the 6th. This is the part of the course that takes you towards some wonderful open heathland where you play golf in splendid isolation. Whilst the 6th is a real tough-nut and maybe the most difficult hole on the course, the most brutal stretch is in the middle of the round starting from the 9th. This is the point where five par fours all play over 400 yards in the space of six holes, averaging in excess of 440 yards from the white tees. Make sure your long-iron game is in good shape as you’ll be hitting plenty of them into the greens. Despite this, the course is still scoreable. Fairways are wide leading to interesting angles into greens and birdies are available through the closing stretch of holes as you return to the clubhouse.
All three par fives are reachable in two but it’s the 8th that stood out for me as the most interesting. It’s the first of a sweeping four hole stretch that takes place across valleys as you pass adjacent to a mass of heather and forest as far as the eye can see to the right-hand side of these holes. The bunkering across the course is another highlight, well shaped and thoughtfully positioned meaning that most shots are accompanied by the potential of going into a sandy hazard.
Overall, I was close to giving the course a 5-ball rating and it must be on the cusp of the Top 100 GB & Ire rankings although I’m struggling to see how the club can make further improvements so it can make that leap. Whilst it’s not on the same level as Notts, it simply doesn’t have the striking holes to compete with its more illustrious neighbour, it’s a seriously good course all the same and there are no weak holes.
Sherwood Forest is a superb heathland golf course that is played over an amazing isolated property which reveals its full beauty through holes seven to 14, both visually and playing wise.
The other holes aren’t bad either though and many a first time visitor will be surprised at just how good the quality of golf on offer is at this Nottinghamshire great.
The first third of the course stays relatively close to the clubhouse and is the best place to make your score with a couple of shortish par fours and a reachable par five in the equation. The standout hole of the opening stretch is the second which requires you to decide on the tee just how much of the fairway you wish to bite off; superbly positioned bunkers on both the inner and outer elbow of the dog-leg is the probable fate for those who fail or inevitably a longer approach waits for those who bail out to the left.
Much of this opening gambit at Sherwood Forest can be seen from the clubhouse but also spied by standing on tiptoes and peaking over a wall that separates the car park from the first tee. I can remember doing that for the first time a few years ago and having my breath taken away by the beauty and anticipation of it all.
The inevitable comparison now begins between here and Hollinwell due to their proximity and inevitable local rivalry. For me Notts is the clear winner but only because of how much I love that course rather than any negativity towards this one. A footnote should be added that I have always found Sherwood in the better condition, especially their glassy greens.
Once you also throw into the mix courses such as Lindrick and Coxmoor one starts to realise this is a real unsung area for high quality golf.
There’s a lot to admire about Sherwood Forest and in my opinion it should be rated much higher than it often is by national magazines and the like. Its northerly location, in the East Midlands close to Mansfield, may lose it some points when pitted against the Surrey heathlands and that’s a shame because it more than holds its own against its southern counterparts.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
What a treat. Few courses are as picturesque as Sherwood. The clubhouse is set on a plateau so the views over the course are very pleasing to the eye. The course is not overly long, but challenging enough! The greens were very fast, especially for april. Highlights were the little wedge par 3 7th, with its lowered narrow green surrounded by bunkers and the following par 5 that is a fairy talehole. Now the gorse was i bloom but I cn only imagine what it looks like when all the heather is in bloom. The back nine has some tough long par 4s and you cannot lose your focus until the very end. The concitions were very good and I loved the beautiful mowpatterns. After the round we met the most wonderful lady from the bar Maureen, she couldn't have made us feel more welcome. I will definitely return.
My aim is to play the top 100 golf courses in the British Isles. I have currently played 145 but only 80 of the current list. Last Wednesday I played Sunningdale New and was very disappointed with the condition of the tees and bunkers and it's green were barely 8 on the stint meter. However my Thursday golf was at a vastly superior course at Sherwood Forest. The bunkers had sand in, the greens were about 10.5 on the stint meter and were very true and all the tees were easy to find. Sherwood Forest might not give the single figure golfer the same challenge as say Walton Heath or Gleneagles PGA Centenary but the condition and the fun the course gave me was superior. I cannot understand why this course is not ranked much higher.
In defence of the New at Sunningdale our usual hollow tining took place in late March/Early April after the Foursomes so naturally both courses are recovering. Whilst we have a brilliant watering system there is nothing like some heavy persistent rain to help the process and we simply haven't had any. I don't know Sherwood Forest so can't make the comparison but I don't think the New's ranking lies- I think you will struggle to find two courses as good as Old and New anywhere in England, the UK or the World. TT