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.
First and foremost, golf at Silloth is exceptional value for money with green fees less than £50 (£35 midweek) for a top 50 course. Silloth is a good, old fashioned out and back layout with a real wild, untamed feel to the terrain – it’s very natural and nothing is tricked up here. Not overly long at just over 6300 yards from the regular gents tees, it really is a remote jewel that shines brightly in the northwest corner of England.
The clubhouse was a very welcoming place and indeed there was an Irish golfing society outing presentation taking place when we were there after our round. God knows what it must be like to score at Silloth when the wind gets up as this tight little track was a tough cookie to play on a good day in perfect scoring conditions. Pity about the old harbour mill which looms behind the clubhouse as you play the last few holes but concentrate on the job in hand as you’ll need your wits about you to get home in as few a number of blows as possible.
If you come this far off the main drag to play Silloth then I would highly recommend that you also play Southerness across the Solway Firth on the other side of the border giving you a real tough twosome to test your golfing prowess.
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