At last, Silloth on Solway Golf Club’s reputation is becoming recognised more widely, thoroughly deserving its position in the Top 100 and one of England's best links courses.
Founded in 1892, with the help of Railway Company money, the course was originally designed by North Berwick professional David Grant. Willie Park Junior subsequently carried out some modifications to the layout between 1898 and 1902, primarily to remove a few blind shots and introduce new holes at the 4th and 5th. Alister MacKenzie submitted plans in 1915 to make further changes, but financial constraints after the Great War meant the club could only afford to proceed with installing a new green on the 3rd and a new tee on the 4th.
Silloth is famous for its affiliation with ladies' golf. The famous Leitch sisters learnt to play on the Silloth links. Charlotte Cecilia Pitcairn Leitch (or Cecil as she became known), went on to be the best lady golfer in the world, winning a record four British, five French, two English and one Canadian titles. In 1910, Cecil played a match against Harold Hilton (one of the greatest male golfers of the time) over 72 holes, 36 at Walton Heath and 36 at Sunningdale. Sportingly, Hilton gave Cecil nine shots per 18 holes and found himself five holes up in the last round, with only the last 15 holes to play. Cecil, showing true grit, fought her way back and ended up winning on the 71st green 2 up and 1 to play.
Silloth has parliamentary connections too. Viscount Willie Whitelaw was the President of Silloth on Solway Golf Club until his death in 1999.
You have to make an extra special effort to get to Silloth because it is located in one of the most remote and isolated places in England, at the mouth of the Solway Firth. When you get to Silloth, it’s a surprise to see the nearby industry that slightly blots an otherwise perfect landscape.
With heather and gorse adding brilliant splashes of seasonal colour, this is a cracking links golf course. When the wind blows, it’s unlikely that you will play to your handicap. Even on a calm day, you’ll find it tough. "It is also the home of the winds," wrote Darwin, "when I was there the wind did not blow really hard, but hard enough to make a fool of me." Finding the tight greens is no mean feat and when you do, they are tough to read with their subtle borrows.
It’s well worth the time (and the money) to get to Silloth and once you get there, you won’t want to leave. You are at one of the best value golf courses in the whole of the British Isles.
I’d been hoping to play Silloth-on-Solway for some time as I’d heard loads of good things about the course. The chance arose when my son and I had a staycation in the Lake District and we organised a 10am tee time in early August. I hadn’t researched the course, massively, but I had heard it was a real purists dream, combining heathland and links terrain. First impressions, I thought it was typical of an old-fashioned tradition members club, relatively understated yet steeped in history and character. There was a clear air of sophistication about the place, but not arrogance. Head Pro Simon was extremely hospitable, giving a detailed description of the course and making us feel extremely welcome. The course surpassed all my expectations as not only was it a divine mix of my two favourite styles of course, it was a fine example of each. When I think of great heathland courses I generally think of those with elevation changes, variety of dog legs and natural hazards of penal heather that look beautiful but cost dearly. Silloth exemplifies this. Add to this the mountainous backdrop behind Southerness’ Scottish coast, as you glance over the Irish Sea, and you have a beautiful and entirely natural example of Britain’s finest golfing Links landscape.
There are so many incredible holes that have clearly been designed over a century ago, yet still stand the test of time. The par 5, 5th, is reminiscent of the 7th at Royal St Georges as it doglegs left then runs parallel to the cost line, with the added benefit of being able to see the sea from the tee. The par 3, 8th, is a perfect short hole at around 140 yards, again with the sea as backdrop, this heavily bunked short hole presents a devilish test when the wind blows. Another great par 3 is the 12, playing over 200 yards with a bunker short right to catch those who don’t commit.
It’s hard to find a weak hole but there are a few that people will find unfair. The par 5, 13th, was ‘unlucky 13’ for me, as after nailing a drive and hitting what I thought was a great second onto the green I realised when walking to the green why this was a par 5 with a yardage of just 470… it’s certainly a 3-shotter! The elevated green is impossible to hold with a long club, so a lay-up to pitching wedge distance is certainly the sensible play here. The strength of the par 3’s was something I really enjoyed here, the final of the four being the 16th. It’s a real test into the wind, a small target with bunkers left and right and a severe false front. You’ll mostly be required hit a solid tee shot to make par here.
For anyone who can find a way to get to Silloth-on-Solway you really must pull out the stops to get there. It’s not an easy place to get to and, once you have, you feel like there is a little feather in the cap for the chosen few!
As we walked up our 36th hole at Silloth on Solway GC yesterday evening my wee feet were urging "sit down", my belly was rumbling "fish supper" and my golfing heart was whispering "go on, do another 9". The feet and fish supper won the argument but it is a testament to Silloth's fun factor that the idea of playing on was even in the mix, especially given that we were already well into the 13th hour of our day trip, I haven't played 36 holes in a day for over 20 years and have I NEVER contemplated playing more.
On a sunny, dry day with little more than a "one club" breeze, Silloth was simply a joy to play. It was challenging and thought-provoking without being heart-breakingly, esteem-damagingly tough; Colin, my 10-handicap pal, scored 22 stableford points on the home nine in the morning! Unfortunately, my other pal, Nathan, badly cricked his neck just before teeing off, and spent the day moving his neck, head and shoulders like a geriatric, arthritic robot with metal fatigue...and even he had an "awesome" day...and he scored two stableford 4-pointers! We all walked into the sunset (and chippy) with our golfing spirits rejuvenated and with only the merest tinge of guilt at having paid £60...there's good value, there's a blooming bargain and there's...Silloth on Solway GC.
(PS: I know this site requests that contributors focus on the quality of the course rather than the wider "experience" but I still think that friendly, helpful and genuine staff add significantly to a good day out and, on that count too, Silloth on Solway GC scores highly, so thanks to cheery pro Simon Williamson and the friendly catering/bar staff).
I was fortunate enough to learn to play at Silloth as a child without realising how blessed I was! Returning to it now is always a superb experience.
It is the definition of true links where you are fighting nature as much as the course designer.
On the rare windless days, and with a good run with the putter, it is more than possible to match your handicap. When the wind blows it can be an absolute beast.
Almost every hole has a different challenge.. on the first you are hitting to a sunken hidden green, on the fourth you could be forgiven for standing on the tee and asking yourself "exactly where is the fairway".
Hole 9 is 130 yards where, with the wind in play, I have hit everything from wedge to a driver (and still not reached),,
The front nine is the stronger but it is truly 18 holes of links golf as it is meant to be. Nature is allowed to play a part in the structure in the course, there is nothing artificial about it.
It is always in superb condition with fast true greens, and when the ground is hard it is joy to have to manufacture shots using touch and guile rather than just launching it towards the target.
The only thing that stops this being booked for months in advance is the remote location but it is the perfect place to go for a low priced taste of sheer links class.
A brilliant links course with great variety, fun greens, and lots of blind shots. The front nine is particularly strong, and the back nine holds its own, with some great holes. If Deal and Sandwich have the best green complexes in England, Siloth is in the next tier.
Personal favourites are 1, 4, 7, 8, 9, 13, 16 and 17. 1 and 7 have great sunken greens, whilst 4 is a fantastic bunker-less par 4 with a classic saddle green. 9 is a fantastic short par 3, and very quirky, as the tee box is right next to the 10th tee box, almost as if they build 17 holes and had to cram one more in.
It's out of the way, but definitely worth the drive.
I played Siloth on a beautiful May afternoon on my way up to Scotland to play golf at Turnberry. It’s certainly a long drive through the lanes to this part of the country but it is well-worth it!
What a course! One of my favourite links experiences - plenty of elevation changes, the odd blind shot, lightning greens and such great fun.
Solid opening par 4 with a sunken green which is followed by a real treat. Hole 2 is a beautiful dogleg right fully surrounded by gorse and a narrow green with penal bunkers. The elevated drive was one of my favourites.
4 was a great short par 4 in the dunes and the par 5 5th played along the beach was spectacular. There are some more solid Links holes before coming to the short par 3 9th which I loved. Absolutely surrounded by bunkers, your short iron game needs to be on point and you need to try and battle the wind to score well on this one (being completely exposed as you are virtually on the beach).
Whilst being slightly less links-like, I enjoyed the short par 4 10th which is a sharp dogleg left where you need to shape your tee shot to avoid going through the fairway.
Whilst the front 9 has the edge for me, the back 9 is still great golf and 16, 17 and 18 is a brilliant finishing stretch.
You need to be hitting it well and straight to score well here but the course is such good quality that even if you lose a few balls in the dunes or the gorse, I think you’ll still be smiling. Lovely little clubhouse bar to have a post-round pint or two and you’ve got a wonderful day.
Our annual trip away this year gave me another opportunity to play the epic Silloth on Solway once again, having only been lucky enough to play it once before, albeit a number of years ago. Driving towards the course, concerns were mounting amongst the group about the unlikely prospect of even setting foot on the 1st tee box due to a continual and untimely overnight downpour. These feelings were not aided by the majority of fields en-route being completely submerged under water. Unfortunately, the concerns were justified as the inevitable whatsapp message came through from another vehicle in the convoy to confirm that the course was indeed closed. There was, however, a slight glimmer of hope offered by way of a course inspection at 10:00 and the resultant optimism amongst the group meant that the journey could continue.
Upon arriving at the course, the accommodating staff confirmed that the course had impeccable drainage and would in fact be playable despite the deluge due to a break in the weather. There was an immediate sense of relief given that our trip was not cut short a day early. I went off in the first of 3 fourballs and was instantly reminded of the enjoyment I experienced the first time I played the course. The opening holes were as interesting and as appealing as I remember. Undulating, tight fairways which rewarded accurate tee shots with plenty of run and punished wayward shots with treacherous heather and gorse to either side. The third hole, a favourite of mine, had one of a few blind tee shots but after sailing one over the mound you are left with an outstanding approach shot into a raised green cut into the side of a grassy dune. The remainder of the front 9 continued much in the same way….picture perfect holes meandering in and out of the dunes with the Solway as an outstanding backdrop. The 9th hole, a short downhill par 3, finished off a quite frankly exceptional front 9 and despite its length provided a tough test by requiring an accurately flighted wedge over some well-placed pothole bunkers.
The back 9 was slightly different to the front but equally as picturesque and even more challenging. Fortunately, the stroke index 1 par 5 13th was playing downwind and, on this occasion, was generous enough to allow for a well struck 5 iron approach to the raised green, leaving a possible eagle chance. Happy days. My confidence was knocked down a peg or two, however, when tackling the remainder of the back 9 which headed back towards the clubhouse and directly into the wind. This resulted in some tough par 4s requiring a 200 plus yard approach into the green, including the 18th which was a challenging but outstanding hole to finish with. Having spoken to a member in the bar after finishing our second round, he assured us that the prevailing wind was usually in the opposite direction which seems to make sense in terms of layout.
I have to say that having now played this course again, it has cemented it as one of my favourites. The course was a true test of golf and was in absolutely pristine condition. This praise can be given even more credibility due to the fact that none of the other courses in the region would have survived the downpour. Despite the rain, the greens remained firm, true and quick but also receptive to an approach. Every hole offers up its own different test and each time you play it you seem to discover something that you hadn’t noticed the previous times.
I want to give this course a 6 but there are so many great courses that I haven’t yet been lucky enough to play. However, if you haven’t played Silloth before, make sure you do. It is well worth the journey, especially for the price. More importantly, the food in the clubhouse is tremendous!
This might be the biggest "hidden gem" of all-time, particularly if you prefer links golf courses. There is a fee of approximately 50 pounds and you are a member for the day and can play as often as you want. I stayed in nearby Carlisle, about a 45 minute drive, and had my first round around 10AM as a single following a three ball. I was held up slightly on most holes but I did not mind as the day was gorgeous.
The round took just under three hours and after a one hour lunch break I was back out for the second round. I asked a father-son if they wanted to join me but they said no. The second round was much slower, but still enjoyable as I studied the course. The three some behind me never threatened me so I could have some fun on the second round playing from various bunkers near the green or practice putting to spots.
If this course were located outside London, near Liverpool, near Dublin, or anywhere in Scotland it would be a must play.
I liked everything about it and I can't stress that enough. There is a good mixture of holes here owning to a terrific routing. Although it seems short at 6641 yards from the back tees, it really is not given that the wind typically blows pretty fierce. Indeed, I was told before the start of my second round that some locals had shown up to get the round in due to the expected high winds and stormy weather for the next day.
The green complexes are really good, a mixture of uphill greens and downhill greens. There is a mixture of flattish greens and undulating greens, some well guarded by bunkers such as the short ninth, which plays downhill and is only about 140 yards. That was preceded by the hole closest to the water, a long, straight but well bunkered par 5 of about 560 yards.
One note, through the first fourteen holes I did spot areas where they could have extended the course another 250-300 yards if they chose to. It would not cost much to add new tees and walking paths on about five holes. After the first fourteen holes it would be very difficult to add yardage but I don't think any is necessary.
I almost feel like to point out any hole as weaker to the others would do a disservice to that hole. Perhaps only the short tenth, a dogleg left of about 320 yards is a weak hole as possibly is the 17th, a somewhat straight par five of 500 yards (although you are warned not to hit into the houses on the right: I couldn't imagine a shot so badly struck).
The greens are well conditioned as is the course. It is stunningly beautiful on a sunny day due to all of the purple on the heather. The heather is very thick on some holes.
For me the par threes were all excellent, two playing downhill and well defended and the other two playing to raised greens of much longer length. Yet many of the par fours were quirky with hidden greens or greens with sharp falloffs.
The hardest hole for me was the par five 13th which requires a second shot to thread a precise narrow shelf on the top of the hill with thick heather on both sides. A miss to the left is certainly a dropped shot and likely a lost ball. Even if you can navigate this second shot, one must hit a third into a green that is "infinity-like" to the left side. You simply cannot miss this green to the left.
Everyone should have a chance to play such a magnificent links course particularly given the value. Yes, it is way out of the way but Carlisle is a beautiful town and worth walking around it due to the castle and cathedral.
What a golf course Silloth On Solway is. A real mixture of links and heathland combined into 1 to give you a beautiful looking golf course with so many standout holes. The only negative is that its so far away from absolutely anywhere! There’s something about the place I just love as its so peaceful and tranquil when you’re out there. It is just awesome.
I would say that I preferred the front nine a bit more than the back however the back nine was far from shabby. Right from the start you are greeted with a tough par 4 and a blind approach shot into the green, miss it right or left and you may lose your ball. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th are also great par 4’s but all with blind tee shots. When standing on the 4th tee you must take in the beautiful view of the rest of the golf course and also out to sea as it is magnificent. I could talk through every single hole as they were all so strong and unique however you get the idea that you’ve got to play a lot of blind shots and strategy is required very much off the tee and into the greens.
I think that Silloth is not far off a great 6 ball rating however the course condition isn’t quite up to the same standard that i found other 6 ball courses so for that I will give it a very respectful 5 1/2 balls. Although its so far away, I have no doubt that I will play it again soon as I just loved it that much. It is definitely well worth the multiple hour car journey to play there so if you are anywhere up north, play it as soon as you can!
We played Silloth on the way back from a trip to St Andrews, where we played the Old, Castle & Ladybank, and the consensus was that Silloth was our favourite of the 4, despite experiencing the worst of the weather.
If the Old Course is a must play, then in my opinion so is Silloth. Unlike other courses that ease you in to the round Silloth puts up a stern test from the off. The fairways were brown/yellow and running ridiculously fast, just the way I like it, meaning club selection was very difficult when approaching the green. The greens were as good as anything I've played on previously and for me there wasn't a weak hole on the course, although the front 9 was probably the more enjoyable of the 2 loops. In fact, the front 9 of Silloth coupled with the back 9 of Hillside might have a shot of being one of the greatest links courses in the world!
Regardless of location, and this course is way off the beaten track, Silloth on Solway is a MUST play for those who like pure links.
One of my favorite courses in the world is Cruden Bay. It’s quirky, unpredictable, scenic and just plain fun. All those adjectives apply equally to Silloth on Solway. All but one green (# 9) offer a variety of approach shots. And don’t be put off by blind shots on the first four holes. Remember how much you enjoyed the miniature golf windmill hole…….the thrill of darting the length of the hole to see where your shot ended up? You’ll find the same experience in the numerous blind shots at Silloth. Some see these as a detriment and I acknowledge that is so if one is thinking of placing a course among the world’s top dozen or two. Likewise, its lack of strategic challenges from the tee keeps Silloth out of that esteemed group. But my first round here was one of the most fun golf experiences of my life. It can be a long drive, but it was worth every minute in the car from Southport.