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, it was originally designed by Davy Grant (with a little help from Willie Park Junior). Silloth is famous for its affiliation with ladies' golf.
The famous Leitch sisters learnt to play golf 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.
In my eyes Silloth is a golf course that has the ability to transcend your typical ‘championship links’.
It has charm, character, intrigue and an identity all of its own but at the same time presents the truest, and quite often, stiffest of challenges to the golfer. It's an inspirational golf course with an endless collection of brilliant golf holes.
And now for the reason why I personally hold it in such high regard… the fun element. In addition to being a true challenge the course has three key aspects which tick all the boxes that I look for in a truly great golf course; movement of land, unique and varied green sites plus the quality of the turf. Silloth scores top marks in all of these categories.
The lightly-bunkered fairways toss and turn like a crumpled duvet but not only that these billowing humps and bumps contain vast amounts of strategy as they wend their way through and over the large sand dunes. The seventh is perhaps the best example where the tee shot sets up a heroic drive over a mass of heather but it is the angled ridge that runs through the fairway that adds an extra dimension to the hole. Use it wisely and your ball will feed to the left and nearer to the green, but leak your drive right and you will land on the wrong side of it and face a much longer and tougher approach to a hidden and sunken green.
The green locations at Silloth are virtually second to none in my playing experience. The front nine especially exudes such a wide variety of shots required to find the putting surfaces. You play to a wonderful punchbowl green at the first - a hole which simply says "Welcome to Silloth, this is what I'm all about and this is what you're going to get for the next few hours" and then another at the seventh, a brilliant raised plateau green at the third, a terrifyingly long and narrow green at the fourth, with steep drop-offs at either side, and a deftly raised green at the exceptional short ninth with bunkers and deadly fall-aways defending it on all sides; one of the best short holes in golf.
If you are willing to embrace the quirky elements, Silloth is close to being a flawless golfing experience with a rhythm that is unmatched. It has so much variety within its 18 holes I can’t think of many courses that interrogate the golfer with a mix of eccentricity and challenge as well as this Cumbrian masterpiece does. You could play the course for a lifetime and continue to learn new things about it each time because it is never predictable.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Classic out and back course with the wind hard against on the front and with on the back and subsequently shot 89 (52 and 37 !). Notwithstanding the breeze (force 5), I felt the front 9 was generally tighter, although it was closer to the sea so topography more interesting. I found Siloth a really solid course with a number of standout holes including:- 5, 7, 9, 13, 15 and 18.
This is a very good links course, with some memorable holes. Outstanding collection of par 3's will test your control, especially if the wind blows. Surprisingly for a links course, the greens were very receptive, and the course was in super condition, even in November. A few blind holes might upset a few people, but comes with the territory. Its not as pretty, as difficult or in the condition of Dornoch but its well worth a visit, and represents excellent value for money at any time of the year
Second visit here and it beat me up as badly as last time !!
First visit was ten years hence and my only memory was long brown grass and wind whereas this time I recognised little as it was lush green with loads of gorse patches and it was even windier.
The front nine was hellish hard in the main out into it, and although the obvious lessening of the wind at the turn (!!) I was so beaten up I could not fill my boots (as others did) on the seemingly easier wind-assisted home run.
Well worth a visit despite the "back end of nowhere" location but next time I really must take a golf swing with me.
Well worth its place in the rankings and is a tough - especially when it blows, which apparently it usually does - course so be warned but enjoy.
I returned to Silloth today - eight years after my last visit - in expectation of a decent winter’s day out on the links under sunny blue skies and I’m glad to report that neither the course nor the weather disappointed. In fact, the course was WAY better than I remembered it from June of 2006.
Silloth is most certainly the real golfing deal and I’m sure if it was located further south (even only as far as the Southport coastline) it would be lionized nationally to a far greater extent.
There’s so much to admire here – the frequent use of offset tees set at 45° to the fairway, the number of semi blind approaches to bathtub greens and the general ruggedness of the tumbling terrain, to name but a few of its attributes.
And what a tester the (stroke index 1) 13th is: playing steadily uphill from the tee, with an intimidating ridge that slashes diagonally across the fairway, this is one tough par five if ever there was one, even from the regular tees.
My only complaint (and it’s picky, I know) is the slightly cramped feel to the holes at 10 and 11, where out of bounds encroaches on the right of the fairways. I only mention this as I thought at the time: “all those unused acres to the left, between these two fairways and the Firth, and both holes end hard up against the perimeter fence?”
Don’t let that minor gripe put you off though as Silloth’s a mighty links that’s well worth a visit, especially when the club charges around 30 quid for a round in the close season – time to step in!!