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.
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.
It is a hell of a long way from pretty much everywhere BUT it is well worth making the trip.
Brutal when the wind is up ...and still not easy when it isn't.
As if the links is not tough enough, I played in a gale... even the Pro advised against going out! But its a bit off the beaten track to get here so... wrapped up and proceeded! Some wonderful holes but taken altogether, a bit the same to be honest. Enjoyable nonetheless. Whilst the course is very good, the local town seems caught in a time warp and the hotel I was pushed towards was fairly awful... stay elsewhere!
Out of the way, but if you like links golf, don't miss this! Browned out in a very dry summer, it was tough to control your ball but the holes themselves are very well designed, and the greens were green. This is the essence of "hidden gem", and a very good value. M
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.
Played my second round at siloth on a beaming 25 degree June day having battled my way through the worst of the elements on my first last winter, finally getting to see the course at its very best - and with it dispelling any doubts about quite how good it is.
The outward nine, running along the coast, is right up there with any stretch of holes I have played anywhere. Dramatically carved out of the rolling dunes and surrounding landscape, each asks a different set of strategic questions and tests of skill to the last and retains its own individual aesthetic character, yet flows beautifully as part of a wider unit, no single hole feeling shoehorned in to make up the numbers. 1, 4, 5 and 7 are all fantastic, but I have never come across a better use of natural topography as the 3rd, a simple but brilliant short dogleg par 4 playing onto a raised green. Sublime.
The back nine doesnt quite reach the heights of the front, the terrain becoming a little less interesting as you run back inland, but is still a quality set of holes with a handful of belters. Both par 3’s and the par 4 15th are excellent, but the highlight comes at the SI 1 13th, a short par 5 giving the choice of a layup or running a gauntlet for your approach to a second fairway elevated a good 30 feet to the first, with a relatively small green perched at the top and a nasty drop off either side. A lot easier without a siloth wind!
The only holes I didnt feel lived up to the rest came at the turn, 10 feeling a bit of a makeshift hole to link the two nines and 11 squeezed in with OOB on the right, the only two where you are really aware of the architectural limitations of the land. While by no means a bad hole, I wasnt completely sold on the pebble beach like 9th either, which felt unnecessarily short, too penal and a bit gimmicky, missing the potential for a cracking longer par 3 playing towards the sea.
It is difficult to argue the other question marks - its inaccesability, the slightly run down town and (especially) the industrial port shadowing it - don’t detract from it, but they far from stop this being a top drawer course. For me, Siloth is world top 100 material, surpassed only by sunningdale new and a handful of open venues in England as well as the most underrated course I have played and by far the best value.
If you are up in the lakes make this top of your bucket list, because its well worth going out of your way.