East Midlands of England - Best In County Rankings 2019
Five counties in our East Midlands region – Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire – feature in this article, the first of seven English course re-ranking publications to appear in advance of our revised Top 100 table for England.
Covering an area of six thousand square miles, with a population of more than 4.5 million people, the East Midlands region is strategically positioned around the geographical centre of the country, in close proximity to London, but you would be hard pressed to describe it as a golfing powerhouse.
Still, around 170 golf clubs operate here and four of the 18-hole layouts in this area are nationally ranked at the moment, with two of them also comfortably embedded in our Great Britain & Ireland Top 100 chart. So, without further ado, let’s have a look at each of the five counties in question.
Six courses remain in the same position in our new Top 10 for Derbyshire, and one of these is the No. 1 layout, Cavendish, which took over at the top from Kedleston Park when we updated the listings two years ago. Located in the market town of Buxton, close to the county boundary with Cheshire, the course is a short and hilly Alister MacKenzie layout that has managed to retain many of its original design traits.
Cavendish Golf Club
Architect Jonathan Gaunt feels the course also had a large bearing on one of MacKenzie’s most famous courses: “Cavendish had quite a bit of influence on the making of Augusta National… with its relatively wide and sloping fairways, carefully and strategically-placed bunkers, meandering water hazards and dangerous greens… so much of what golfers love about Augusta can be found at Cavendish, almost untouched for 90 years – and still a challenge.”
|2||Kedleston Park||No change|
|5||Horsley Lodge||Down 1|
|7||Erewash Valley||No change|
|8||Buxton & High Peak||Up 1|
|10||Breadsall Priory (Priory)||No change|
Leicestershire & Rutland
Situated between Peterborough and Leicester, Luffenham Heath maintains its status as the No. 1 course in our Leicestershire & Rutland chart. It opened for play in 1911 with a match between Harry Vardon and James Braid to mark the occasion then Braid is credited with toughening up the original layout of Harry Colt’s design partner, C.H. Alison. Further revisions were made immediately after World War II by C.K. Cotton and a major bunker renovation was undertaken by Martin Hawtree in 2003.
Luffenham Heath Golf Club
Two courses move up two places in the new county standings. The first of these is Rothley Park at No. 3, which also celebrated its centenary in 2011, and it has benefitted from recent consultancy work carried out by Tom Mackenzie. The other chart climber is the bunker-free 9-hole Charnwood Forest course at No. 5. Formed in 1890, the club is the oldest in the county, and James Braid is again recognized as having made course improvements following a visit he made in 1927.
|1||Luffenham Heath||No change|
|3||Rothley Park||Up 2|
|5||Charnwood Forest||Up 2|
|6||Willesley Park||No change|
|7||Stapleford Park||Down 4|
|9||Kirby Muxloe||Up 1|
|10||Glen Gorse||Down 1|
Nobody should be in the slightest bit surprised to learn that the Hotchkin course at Woodhall Spa is still our No. 1 track in Lincolnshire – not only is it also listed in our Top 100 charts for both England and Great Britain & Ireland, it also occupies a very respectable position in our World Top 100. Don’t expect to see it knocked off its county perch any time soon, especially after a very well-received 3-year renovation that’s just been completed by Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design firm.
Woodhall Spa Hotchkin course
Our US Consultant Fergal O’Leary had this to say when he played there recently: “Tree clearance, vegetation clean-up and bunker improvements have amalgamated into a golf course today that has never looked better… some holes are truly unrecognizable due to the tree clearance... the heather that lines the fairways continues to get healthier… the course oozes good health and has a wide-open feel in places which brings improved light and air… overall, the results are not to be missed.”
|1||Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)||No change|
|3||Forest Pines (Forest & Pines)||No change|
|4||Woodhall Spa (Bracken)||No change|
|5||Belton Park (Brownlow)||Up 1|
|7||Market Rasen||Up 2|
|9||Holme Hall||Down 1|
The course at Northamptonshire County comfortably holds on to the No. 1 slot in Northamptonshire. Designed by Harry Colt in 1909, the layout was one of James Braid’s last projects when he visited in 1946 to upgrade the bunkers and remodel the closing hole. At the start of the new millennium, Cameron Sinclair then added an extra three holes, installed new tees and reworked some of the bunkers, bringing the course into line with modern day requirements.
Northamptonshire County Golf Club
Andy, our Marketing Director, visited Northamptonshire County earlier this year and this was his verdict: “The club are investing in the course with some great looking updated bunkers and the always needed woodland management/tree clearance program on heathland – views across the course are now so much better and that extra light and air can only help… I can only see positive opinions from golfers that play here.”
Mention should also be made of yet another James Braid design, Peterborough Milton, which opened with an exhibition match involving the architect on 20th May 1937. The layout rises two places to No. 4 in the county chart and this pleasant parkland track in the grounds of the 16th century Fitzwilliam estate is due to host the English Senior Women’s Amateur Championship next year.
|1||Northamptonshire County||No change|
|4||Peterborough Milton||Up 2|
|5||Collingtree Park||Down 2|
|6||Brampton Heath||Down 1|
|9||Staverton Park||Up 1|
|10||Overstone Park||Down 1|
The course at Notts Golf Club was first set out by Willie Park Junior more than a century ago and it was refined in its early years by J.H. Taylor and club professional Tom Williamson, who served the club for all of 54 years and had a hand in designing a number of Midlands courses during his tenure at Notts.
Notts Golf Club
Hollinwell, as it’s called locally, is currently on the Final Open Qualifying roster, which tells you all you need to know about its pedigree as a well-maintained track, meeting the R&A’s stringent requirements of precision off the tee and accuracy with the approach shot. The club has made great efforts in recent years to promote firm and fast playing conditions, along with encouraging heather regeneration around the property.
There’s one new entry in the Nottinghamshire listing and it’s the Admirals course at Oakmere Park, which was first laid out by Frank Pennink in 1972. Tom Mackenzie has been involved in renovating all the bunkers and replacing a couple of blind holes with more appealing alternatives so this major upgrade is now reflected in the county rankings.
|2||Sherwood Forest||No change|
|5||Wollaton Park||No change|
|7||Oakmere Park (Admirals)||New entry|
|9||Beeston Fields||Down 1|
|10||Norwood Park (Norwood)||No change|
The next English region to be reappraised is the West Midlands, featuring Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses