Celebrating their 25th Anniversary (see page 12)
in the boot LUDLOW AND SHROPSHIRE
Two very different golf courses, all visited as a consequence of journeys in the summer of 2017, for very different reasons, both family related and enjoyable but with the added benefit of savouring golf on new courses or old trusted venues revisited. The first was the Notts Golf Club, better and more affectionately known as Hollinwell, and a truly wonderful majestic course, the second farther to the west on the England Wales border at Ludlow in Shropshire. A country cottage rented in Craven Arms was the ideal base of operations, which would extend from golf to fly fishing, walking and sightseeing, and my passion for bird watching, and of course assessing the merits of the local hostelries, all of which passed muster with flying colours. The golf club in Ludlow, the oldest in Shropshire and founded in 1889, it is adjacent to the race course, not an unusual situation in a number of locations around the countryside. The first assumption might be that the ground is relatively flat, and that would be true of the opening holes, though later in the round good use is made of the natural rise in the terrain to offer interesting challenges on the 9th and 10th holes. The race track and the imposing presence of the grandstand is set to the right of the clubhouse, a homely single story building housing the professional’s shop and the clubhouse. The race track is the boundary on the many of the early holes and it cuts across the 3rd 9th 12th and 15th holes as the course winds it’s way out beyond the Ludlow road which bisects the course, and back to the clubhouse. This is parkland terrain which looks very similar to heathland, it has been populated by areas of gorse and other native shrubbery that add to the challenge and the colour. The layout was redesigned in 1927 by none other than James Braid, five times Open Champion, which in
6 TEE TIMES | March 2018
itself is justification for the visit. It proved to be an ideal holiday venue, not too long, and with receptive greens that putted well. The par 3’s are holes to remember, shots over water, into punchbowl greens each individual and challenging, particularly the back to back 13th and 14th holes. The finish to the front nine is another good hole, a dogleg right over the track to an elevated green protected by bunkers to both left and right. The par fours offer several birdie chances, but the driver needs to be working well to maximise the opportunities to the full, for on the shorter par fours the target is small. A most enjoyable venue, and a welcome waiting in the clubhouse, with a wholesome menu and well served ale.
For those with a wish to trek or walk, the awesome majesty of the Long Mynd, the Townsbrook Valley and the Cardingmill Valley, all readily seen from the golf course, are just wonderful, spectacular scenery that will reward every step. My alternative course of action was to take the fishing rods and attempt to catch lunch, there can be nothing finer than to bring fresh trout from the water to the barbecue. Our session on the well stocked lakes nearby at Delbury Hall was successful, and four good sized trout provided an ample starter for all the family. This is a superb venue located by the walled garden, with two lakes, Garden Lake and Corve Lake, peace and tranquillity and excellent fishing. Shropshire has some wonderful and very interesting towns, and Ludlow is a particular example, black and white timbered buildings, a market and the castle set at the top of the square, nooks and crannies, little alleyways that house some excellent eating places, a town to simply wander around at leisure. There are several National Trust sites, such as Powis Castle and Gardens, and Chirk Castle. The local countryside abounds with picturesque villages, and each seems to have a sign for the delicious cream teas, impossible to pass as the late afternoon bodes.
The visit to the castle, sparked interest in the other historic sites all around, the close proximity of the Welsh Marches, and the invaders meant that many were built, and Ludlow and Clun are just two examples of the many within easy distance. There is a good choice of other courses in the vicinity, the Church Stretton Golf Club, set high on Long Mynd with it’s fabulous views, was designed by James Braid, and is the highest course in England. Hawkstone Park with two first class courses, is a short drive away, Welshpool is another intruiging venue that goes into the unusual category, but a fascinating example of where a golf course can by built, with more than a little ingenuity. There are several courses in the Shrewsbury area, which will merit a visit to play, so the choice is wide. Having played many of them, Hawkstone Park would have to take pride of place, with Hill Valley, Kington and Ian Woosnams’ old club at Llanymynach also high on the menu.
While the hunter gatherer was fishing for lunch, the rest drove to Rhyader, where there is a unique spectacle, the feeding of the red kites at Gigrin Farm. This is a bird sanctuary with a difference, where each day meat is place out in the fields for the red kites to come, on occasions over four hundred have been recorded diving to the ground to pick up the chunks of meat, a memorable sight that was the topic of conversation for days after, and another convincing reason to return. The border country and Shropshire in particular has an abundance of good golf courses and many other attractions, our week proved to be the perfect appetiser, and a return is already on the drawing board. Michael Rees