RUDDING PARK: THE HAWTREE
Paul Simpson’s hole-by-hole review of Golf365’s battle with Rudding Park’s Hawtree course.
Golf365 players: Paul Simpson (handicap 14), Matt Cooper (15), Dave Tindall (24)
The Hawtree Course, opened in 1995, is set in the 19th century grounds of Rudding Park and its 6,883 yard, par 72 parkland layout has a look and feel of maturity beyond its relatively tender years.
It strikes the right balance between accommodating the amateur golfer whilst still offering a challenge to the more experienced player – the water and sand hazards are testing without creating unnecessary intrusion to, and in consideration of, the history of the location of the course.
On the day that we played the course was busy, which is a testament to the success of the venue but at no time during our round did we feel hurried by groups behind or held up by those in front.
Indeed, due to the well-spaced layout of the course at times you can feel as though you have the course to yourself and the scenic surroundings lend an air of serenity to the whole venue.
The clubhouse is a welcome change to tradition and takes on the appearance of a large timber clad log cabin, blending beautifully into the scenic wooded surroundings, with a large stone patio area overlooking the 18th green.
Hole 1: is a relatively straightforward downhill par-four of 372 yards.
That said, we all managed to miss the fairway (we thought it rude to make the course look too easy from the outset; something we all managed to achieve with ease throughout the day).
When we eventually reached the green after a little scrambling from the trees we found the putting surfaces in superb condition with Matt Cooper adopting the flat-stick skills learnt in his role as Golf365 Guinea Pig but having to blame his dodgy contact lenses as his ball sailed past the hole.
Having played this course a couple of years ago I was hoping that I may have an advantage over my playing partners but since that occasion the fairways have been brought in from their generous corporate-width and, while you are still offered some forgiveness from the tee, should you stray, lush rough and trees await.
Hole 2: saw us all get good drives away, avoiding a lake down to the left.
With Dave discovering that a new driver can mean you don’t have to rely on a hybrid from the tee, a new found confidence was growing among us, Matt especially who knocked his 8-iron approach to 10 feet (but couldn’t hole the putt).
Hole 3: This confidence was soon shattered on the third, an uphill 454 yard par-four into the prevailing wind.
Whether it was the prospect of a drive over the lake in front of us, or the fact that we knew it would be a challenge to reach the green in two, both Matt and I managed to hook the ball no further than 100 yards into the rough, perilously close to a stream.
We all needed around another half dozen blows each before walking from the green as beaten men, shamed in the presence of the majestic Georgian facade of the Rudding Park Hotel, taking solace from the fact that at least the hole was stroke index one.
Hole 4: Things looked to be taking a turn for the worse on the fourth tee as we were greeted with a downhill, dog-leg par-four whose fairway conveniently narrowed in the exact position that you would want to put the ball.
Maybe it was the focus of the narrow landing area but we all managed to get good drives away only to be faced with the prospect of a green with a lake to its left.
As much as you may try to avoid it, water seems to act as Neptune’s golf ball magnet and Matt decided to tease the watery god, his ball finishing within a roll of making a splash.
Using a combination of a good balance and a skilful short game, Matt escaped with a respectable five as did Dave yet the hole was to see the first, but not the last, birdie of the day as my 10-foot putt took advantage of the side entrance to the hole.
Hole 5: Satisfied with our efforts on the potentially tricky previous hole we headed to the picturesque par-three fifth hole: not too difficult we thought after our training on the short course, a mere flick over a lake, avoiding the bunkers in front of the green.
The question is what do you do when faced with so many hazards in front of the target? You take too much club of course and put your ball into the trees beyond the green and that is exactly what I did.
Having seen this Dave tried an alternative approach, adopting the Dambusters method with predictable results, followed by a shank into the trees on the right.
Only Matt used the lessons learnt on the short course, mentally blocking out the hazards and finding a respectable and safe position right of the green.
Hole 6: is a par-five of 517 yards that takes you back into the prevailing wind and is made difficult because from the tee a pond on the left and a stream running across the fairway test your course management skills.
That a bit of thought was required from the tee coupled with the fact that we all played good approach shots – exhibition stuff in our eyes – meant that a par and two bogeys were achieved.
Hole 7: The par-four 436 yard seventh hole was played with the wind behind us and we encountered only the second bunker so far, protecting the right front edge of the green, conveniently hidden in a hollow.
We all had our driving boots on by now and were confidently sending the ball down the fairway and, after Matt had toyed with idea of going in the bunker by ‘laying up’ a couple yards short of it, his skill around the green meant that we all walked away with respectable bogeys on the stroke index 3 hole.
Hole 8: From the seventh green there is a short walk which finds you leaving the original boundary walls of the 19th century estate to reveal beautiful open countryside stretching into the distance and you are greeted with a downhill, 176 yard par 3 hole protected by bunkers positioned to the left and right.
I aimed for the gap before dumping my ball into the right hand bunker.
The approach to the green is focused in your vision by trees down both sides and Dave opted for the plantation to the right on this occasion before Matt showed us both that all you have to do is hit the ball straight.
Dave thrashed around in the trees for a time whilst I struggled to escape the steep faced bunker before we trudged off towards the halfway hutt letting Matt bask in the glory of a par three.
Between the eighth green and ninth tee the halfway house takes orders before you tee off from the ninth, allowing you to collect on completion of the tenth. Due to the wide selection on offer, Dave has never appeared move indecisive before plumping for a nutritious burger to sit comfortably upon his previously consumed energy-giving Mars Bar.
Hole 9: The ninth and tenth holes are both par-fives intersected by a hedge (“Becher’s Brook” according to Dave) which runs across the fairways presenting the choice of laying up or taking it on.
At the first time of asking Dave and Matt lay up an unintentionally short distance
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