One of the reasons I’m not a member of a golf club is that I don’t want to be playing the same course all the time.
I want to take on new challenges. I want to experience difference.
And if you think along the same lines and fancy playing golf in a setting that stands out, head to Beverley & East Riding Golf Club – just a 20-minute drive off the M62.
Formed in 1889, it lays claim to being the oldest inland club in Yorkshire and, with a pleasing if unintentional nod to one of the England’s most iconic golfers, is laid out on Beverley’s picturesque Westwood pasture.
I’d driven past some of its holes numerous times and, on a pleasant September day, finally scratched an itch when taking advantage of the website’s online tee-time service and booking an afternoon round for just £12.
Several of the reviews I’d read had mentioned cows and, on previous drive-bys, I’d noticed a few lolling around the edge of the course.
But cows are an integral part of the Beverley & East Riding Golf Club experience as I was to find out.
After checking in and being given a friendly welcome, my first experience of these bovine beauties came when walking from the clubhouse and over the road to the first tee.
A couple blocked my path as if to say ‘you’re not from these parts’ but, responding to my anxious smile, kindly shuffled aside to let me through.
For a moment it flashed through my head that I was in India where cows are seen as sacred creatures, free to roam wherever they fancy.
But this was Beverley not Bangalore. The scene felt strangely incongruous.
Smiling at the unusual start to the day, I launched a decent drive down the dog-leg first but then, disaster, my second shot leaked right and, you guessed it, landed in a cow pat.
Thankfully, it was a dry one and I chipped off it. However, had I bothered to do my research a bit better, I’d have noticed what the club refers to as their “extremely unique local rules”.
Rule 6a: Dung: If a ball lies in or touches dung or when dung interferes with stance or area of intended swing, relief is taken under Abnormal Ground Conditions in accordance with rule 25-1.
There’s also 6b: Hoof Marks. Basically, if your ball is in a hoof mark, you can move it without penalty.
Somewhat ironically, my play over the first five holes resembled a huge pile of steaming sh*t, although I was enjoying the course and its excellent views. Lots of superb scenery including an old windmill tower known as the Black Mill and, away in the distance, the famous Beverley racecourse.
I hadn’t witnessed any cows for a while but the fact that they “share the course” (website’s own words) with us golfers meant I’d seen something else very different – the greens.
Another unique feature of the course is that posts and wires surround all 18 putting surfaces. Keeping the cows off is obviously a necessity but the upside of this unusual form of protection is that the greens are in superb condition.
They’re smooth, fast, look great and put greens on far more celebrated courses to shame.
These posts and wires are treated as immovable objects, leading to another local rule, 4b. If a ball strikes any part of the protective fence, the player may disregard the stroke and have another go.
I landed a few approaches near to the wires so just took a free drop outside of them.
Does it put you off, chipping onto greens surrounded by wires? It didn’t me. All I could think was that they were offering protection to the prized greens within and were thus doing a good job. It seemed a price worth paying.
I didn’t encounter any more cows until the 15th when a gang of them were loitering around, but outside (of course), the green. They watched me hole a decent putt although offered no applause.
And then, a slight problem. Things I’ve spotted on tee boxes down the years include a lost glove, a full banana, multiple Twix wrappers and, once, a broken putter. But never a herd of cows.
After a brief Mexican (Friesian?) stand-off, I reckoned that if I swished the club during a practice swing they’d panic a bit and leave. Not so. Complete indifference. These laid-back cud chewers weren’t going anywhere.
I decided to go ahead and, despite a fear I’d top my shot into a cow’s backside, I actually launched an absolute corker, the ball sailing over their heads in a perfect arc and landing on the green 189 yards away.
For a split second, I thought I might even have my first ever hole-in-one but saw the ball pull up. When I got to the green, I was only six feet away and, not wanting to waste the chance to post one of the strangest birdies of my life, took my time, breathed in the country air and stroked the putt right into the middle of the hole.
And, yes, I did do a celebratory moo.
After crossing the road again to play the last, I almost made another two at the par-3 closer but it didn’t matter. It had been one of my very favourite rounds of the year.
If you seek manicured perfection on every part of a golf course, there are plenty of options elsewhere.
But if you want a more rustic edge and yet still get the benefits of links-style fairways, excellent greens and some challenging holes (the 187-yard par-3 4th (‘Jubilee) played through a narrow chute of trees to a small green is still giving me nightmares), give Beverley & East Riding Golf Club a go.
It really is a gem.
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