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Feature review: Radcliffe on Trent Golf Club

By: Adam Smith | Sun 27 Sep 2009

As soon as you drive through the security gates you soon get that nervous golf excitement.

Radcliffe on Trent Golf Club is certainly a golf course that can provide you with so much pleasure after a great round, or the course can swallow you up, as you vow never to play the game again as you sample some of the 19th hole delights.

The club which is celebrating its centenary year this year, 2009, is within easy reach of Nottingham, Leicester, Newark and Grantham and offers a challenging course measuring 6374 yards.

The small clubhouse and pro shop gives you the sense of a local community, as you walk through the small arch way you see the 18th green surrounded by sand and in the distance the huge first tee.

If you want to get limbered up before you get going, Radcliffe has adequate practice facilities, with putting green, chipping area and driving range, but unfortunately without yardage markers.

An overview of the course is a beautiful parkland set-up with tree-lined fairways on most of the holes, two long par 5’s usually playing into the wind, and long par 3’s each of them presenting themselves with different dangers you must overcome to shoot a good score. Over the years the greens have been some of the best I have played on in the county, but only if you play to the conditions, lightening quick and hard in the summer and receptive but still a decent speed when rain falls. Overall Radcliffe will test your skills, course management and patients with hopefully a hint of enjoyment along the way.

The pro shop is relatively small for a course that has hosted many English amateur events, but on the other hand has all you need. Excellent service, tips and any help is always there if you need it from the pro and his assistant. A nice touch in the past six months is the introduction of pin-placement cards, the number that is hung on the side of the starters hut besides the first tee coincides with the number on the card and where the pin is placed on each hole, for those low handicappers, a good chance for birdie will now start at the tee shot.

The first fairway is very wide and gives you ample opportunities to get off to a good start, but only if you are not too aggressive. Long hitters will benefit in good conditions as they can take on the dry ditch some 220 yards down, a good long iron or fairway wood will leave you anything from 160 – 200 to the pin. Anything hit to the left side of the fairway though will be blocked out by a huge oak tree that has had many a hits over the years. The view for your approach shot is very slanted as the fairway over the ditch runs very much from left to right. Two bunkers either side guard a green that slopes from front to back, if you can carry all the way make sure you can stop it as you will find it run through the back. A par is a very good start on this hole.

The second and third holes are relatively short par 4’s but again as with every hole at Radcliffe they have their own dangers. The second can be driven but you need to miss the two bunkers which again guard the green either side. A good risk and reward hole as birdies are as common as a six or seven.

The third dogleg’s right, but you can reach the corner with a tee shot of around 200 yards; if successful it will give you a simple straight forward shot into the green.

Over the past year Radcliffe has reviewed the courses stroke index and many holes have been raised or dropped in difficulty. The fourth was the hardest hole on the course on the old card, but has now dropped to S.I 4. A long par 4 which dogleg’s left at about 150 yards from the tee is still one of the most demanding on the course. A par here will feel very much like a birdie.

You need to be accurate on tree lined 5th as you will get punished by not being able to get to the narrow green, which is only one of two holes without a bunker.

The as you walk through the woodland on to the 6th tee the new easiest hole, you are faced with the first par 3 on the course. At its longest you are 180 yards away from the pin, with which you can’t see the bottom as a mid way bunker is blocking your full view. A deceiving hole as over the mid way bunker you have more room than you think. Anything flown all the way will hold on this relatively large green.

After you finish the first par 3 you step onto the first par 5 which has gained the status as the hardest hole on the course in the stroke index shakeup. The second of the two holes without a bunker has out of bounds all the way down the right, and trees all the way down the left. Accuracy is a must.

Just like the 6th the 8th is a deceiving par 3. Three mid-way bunkers are situated a good 50 yards from the green, but look closer from the tee. Look to your left as you walk up the 7th fairway to see how much room you have to play with.

As you walk off the 8th green, you will be forgiven if you went towards the 14th tee, as lack of signs of where to go could confuse a first time player. This is because as you come back round to the middle of the course you find the 5th, 9th and 14th tee’s all within close proximity.

If and when you find the right tee, you do find a hole that is at last slightly forgiving after a tough first eight holes. This gets you thinking you can finish your front nine with a good score. A wide fairway starts to narrow about 150 yards away from the large green. A good tee shot and you will have a mid – short iron in hand to attack the flag.
If you play on a weekend you will usually find the half-way house open, which gives you the usual range delicacies. You will need some sort of boost as the back nine does not give you an easy start.

10, 11 and 12 are Radcliffe’s answer to Amen corner, all be it not as difficult. The three holes are somewhat separated from the rest of the course, get through these three still with your scorecard still intact and you will have confidence to go on and get a good finish.

The 10th is a short dogleg right par 4, but as soon as you reach the green you are faced with the hardest green on the course. Sloping heavily from right to left and back to front, the pin placement card you hopefully picked before your round could become your friend very quickly. End up in the place on this green and three and even four putts are not uncommon.

Whatever your mood coming off the 10th green, you will be happy stepping onto the 11th, a long but relatively straight forward par 3 should hopefully get you a good score. If still fuming from a bad start to your back nine though, you will no doubt see your ball edging to the small lake to the right of the green, enough club and plenty of talking to your ball will hopefully see you carry it. You now find yourself at the far end of the course, usually quiet, surrounded by the neighbouring countryside you can gather your thoughts before you hit the par 5 12th.

An uphill blind tee shot, gives you about a 50 yard gap to get through 200 yards down as trees either side see’s the fairway narrow dramatically. Over the last year or so they have cut the fairway this way to try and encourage the big hitters to try and go over the top of the trees on the right hand side. If you hit a good drive then the green is in range again for the big hitters, but you should be putting for a birdie if you hit the fairway.

As you walk back past the halfway hut and the car park on your right, you come to the long par 4 13th, another wide fairway narrows around 280 yards down, any drive sliding to the right will be gathered up by another small lake. A good drive will still leave you a good long to mid iron in. The green again is a good size and fairly flat a par here is a very good score.

14 and 15 are short par 4’s which players should try and attack before they start to head home.

Standing on the 16th tee you are about to play the most demanding finish to a course you are likely to play. 16, a long par 4 uphill, bunkers, rough and trees will punish any wayward shots. After the tiring walk up the fairway, deep bunkers either side protect the narrow green.

A lot of the trees on the par 3 17th have been cut back but only to reveal another lake. This one though shouldn’t come into play. Your iron shot has to be pin point accurate to get through the tree lined entrance to the green and also to miss the bunker that sits at the front of the green.  A par here would be a great score as you walk up the hill to the elevated last tee.

Dram Awaits is the name of the 18th, a short par 4 of 331 yards can prove a lot more trouble than you think. Placement on the fairway is key, anything down the left side either in the rough or even on the fairway will have their second shot blocked by another huge oak tree that sits about 20 yards from the front of the green. Get your tee shot down the right side and careful not to run out of fairway or into the bunker then you have a wedge in a green that is quite tricky and defended by three bunkers.

This par 70 is a fantastic challenge of golf, which you will want to play again and again.

If the name of the 18th takes your fancy, then take your spikes off and go and sample some of the delights in bar.

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