Some of the best links layouts in the UK start with a familiar pattern, steady as she goes for the opening holes as you get away from the clubhouse before you then start to approach the more prime land further into the round. Not so with Silloth, the drama starts immediately to the point where I was verging on being giddy with child-like excitement through seven holes, such was the quality of the opening stretch. The front nine as a whole is world class and has some of the best green sites I’ve ever encountered. Some greens sit within hidden dells, most notably the 1st and 7th which are played into sunken punchbowls. The 3rd is nearing perfection with its delightfully sweeping curves playing up to a plateau green, whilst the fourth green, hidden from view from the tee but sitting amongst sand dunes, is a table top structure that punishes any misses left or right due to the deep hollows on either side of the green.
The 5th is the most classic looking hole, similar in appearance to the 7th at Royal St George’s, it hugs the shoreline playing out along the firth from a raised tee with two well positioned bunkers guarding this reachable par five. Silloth is a rustic course with blind holes aplenty and 6 through 9 continue in the same vein, all high in quality with the 9th tee having views of the Scottish hills across Dumfries and Galloway.
After the heady heights of the front nine, the back nine was always going to struggle to maintain this momentum. Indeed, the 10th feels like a connector hole and in general, the back nine never quite reaches the same standards as the first half of the course. That’s not to say that the second half is poor. 13 and 14 are excellent consecutive par fives; the former tempting you to go for the green in two with its putting surface standing proud above the rest of the course providing picturesque 360-degree views. The final holes then have bite, particularly the 15th which plays well over 400 yards and is heavily lined with gorse, whilst 16, a long one-shotter, is a genuinely top-notch par three to a raised green. Despite the backdrop of the docks surrounding the clubhouse giving the 18th an industrial appearance, it was one that I personally admired and felt added to the club’s character.
It’s fair to say that Silloth on Solway Golf Club is pretty isolated. Sitting on the northern border of the Lake District, it takes dedication and devotion to the cause to take the long drive to Silloth, but I can confirm that it’s well worth the time and energy to make the journey. Whilst conditioning isn’t perfect, the greens roll well and true. But it’s the layout that is the star here, and at £55 for a full unlimited day’s golf during peak season, Silloth must represent the best value course in England.
Date: July 25, 2018