SillothonSolway Feature Review

By: Rob Cross | Mon 20 May 2019 | Comments


Review by Golfshake Ambassador Rob Cross (Handicap 8)


One of the best links courses in England (some say the world) tucked away in North Cumbria sits Silloth on Solway Golf Club. Situated on the North-West coastline “On Solway” and around 40 mins from the M6 motorway, a course and club steeped in history and prestige awaits. Highly Recommended on Golfshake and part of its “Top 50 Value for Money UK Venues” article Silloth on Solway is a course well worth looking up.

A traditional links course, built in 1892 by David Grant, which has evolved over the years, with changes and tweaks offered by the world-renowned Dr Alister MacKenzie and Willie Park Jr. Blind holes, off the tee and some approaches are something of a novelty in more modern courses; Silloth is a million miles away from this. A members club BUT with a huge amount of visitor traffic, the plaudits for value are somewhat misleading, as yes, it’s great value but this in no way reflects just how good the course is.

Part of The Open Qualifying series for seven years and hosting numerous men and women’s events including the prestigious English Amateur Championships, indicates that Silloth is a course of the highest standing within the world of golf. Par 72 and measuring 6,408 yards, accompanied by Alan Oliver (Club Secretary and PGA Pro), we were allowed to tee it up off the whites. The championship tees take the length of the course to almost 6,700 yards, we weren’t that brave!

Pre-Round Thoughts

Playing midweek, on arrival (via the cobbled streets of Silloth) the car park was empty, bar a few cars and it was extremely quiet. Via the pro shop I found my way to the club office where I was greeted by Alan and we headed to the 1st tee. As you walk around you can tell the club is traditional, the furniture, the wooden doors not to mention the snooker room!

Behind the first tee extending across the front of the clubhouse is a huge putting green; a couple of nets close to the tee were made use of to get the body warmed up.

Growing up, in my early years some 20 minutes south of Silloth, never having played here, loving links golf and hearing universal praise – I stood on the 1st tee and could not wait to play. Gorse, rough, heather, sand, the sea, blind approach shot, fairway undulations. Links golf at its finest. The only thing missing was the wind! Blessed with (of a handful) a calm day for us to enjoy the course (April 2019).

The Course

Front 9 Overview

Silloth is a traditional links course, beautiful but brutal. Rewarding great golf, punishing anything not. Buy a course planner, play with a member, use the marker posts and walk up to blind greens. Get as much help as possible!

The course begins with a 380-yard par four, heather and gorse on the left and the sea and sandy ground on the right of a straight but typical links fairway. The approach is blind with a marker post behind the green, which sits below the fairway. A tough start but a true links hole in all aspects.

The front nine continues with a short dogleg right to left, again blind off the tee and the par four 3rd offers a huge slope from back to front and anything short will fall down this. The 4th is worth of a mention, (pretty much all of the holes are!) a blind tee shot down into a valley. The green is narrow and slopes away from the fairway. The challenge being, don’t go left or right as steep slopes await leaving a tough recovery.

The first par five on the course measure 523 yards (a championship tee sits almost 40 yards back of the whites!) the 5th hole aptly named “Solway” from the tee you have to stop and take in the view over the Solway across to the hills in the distance. Back to the course, the fairway runs at an angle to the tee along the shoreline. Left is aggressive, right is safe. Your approach has to be up the right side clearing the new bunkers which sits 30-40 yards short of the green. Green slopes right to left. Great views on a a beast of a par five (if the wind was blowing!).

Back 9 Overview

The back nine starts with a 90-dogleg right to left. Around the green are clever bunkering and it’s a tight area to be landing driver if the big hitter fancies a crack. Stood on the tee, looking straight and ignoring the dogleg, I said that this looks like a natural par five, using the contours. Alan informed me that in previous years Alistair MacKenzie re-designed the whole course and due to the war, the work was never completed, however, he viewed the hole exactly the same and on the plans a Par 5 into the adjoining field was advised.

As the back nine continues do not be fooled by the par five -13th – “Hog’s Back”. Stroke Index 1 but a short 468 yards on the card. The tee shot is to a fairly flat fairway over gorse and heather. It’s the approach where the trouble lies. Through a narrowing fairway and up to an elevated green, however, the ridge up to the green is angled like a hogs back, anything right goes right, anything left goes left. Heather and gorse await those who attack! Take a par and move on if you can!

The course finishes with a strong par four – 433 yards but normally wind assisted. The tee is elevated but you can’t see the green, sweeping from right to left. Gorse waits as do two fairway bunkers, more room on the left than it looks. Well placed bunkers short and green side to the 18th green which sits just past the clubhouse windows.

Hole Highlights

Silloth on Solway has some truly great golf holes, but a special mention has to be the par threes. Varied, and stunning. Elevated tees, bunkering and small greens, play these well and you’ve got a chance of making a good score.

6th – 182 yards downhill over an old track with bunkers short left and right and a mound awaiting anything right. An undulating green awaits.

9th – 131 yards – raised tee with spectacular views. Tiny green surrounded 8 bunkers, and a huge drop off right. Tough tee shot, as you need to play downhill over the bunkers.

12th – 200 yards- Gorse, gorse everywhere. Framed by wonderful yellow this long Par 3 is usually wind assisted. A sloping green either means flying all the way or the golfer can hit a running low shot.

16th – 180 yards – a small green surrounded by gorse long and right. Double bunkers left and right make sure the last par three needs a mid to long iron to be well struck and straight. Left hand bunkers re-laid and look fantastic. True links bunkers.

Post-Round Thoughts

A standard good golf course would have three or four standout holes. Silloth on Solway has 18. I genuinely cannot think of a hole that isn’t brilliant. I spent my time walking around the course, looking around, smiling, and feeling that I would like to play here every day. The layout is shaped naturally, I loved being below the fairways on some holes, yet being above the whole course on others.

The condition was fantastic; greens were quick and true despite recent work. Tight fairways, the rough not as long as it will be, come summer.

Playing with Alan who has been at Silloth in various positions including Club Professional was a bonus, learning about the club and its history, also plans to improve and grow. Maybe, most interestingly learning that 50 years ago the course had zero gorse, which seems impossible, given the amount of the yellow colour present around the area.

The clubhouse, with windows overlooking the putting green (out towards the first tee), and out to see the 18th green felt homely, the welcome from members sat on the benches outside was warm.

Verdict

Silloth on Solway is out of the way, location wise it’s almost as far north as you can get before hitting Scotland. Often ignored because it’s deemed far too cheap to be any good (£55 for a day ticket is unbelievable) with visitors to our shores expecting to pay £100+ for a top course. This is a top course. Forget where it is, come and play here.

On the way round, Alan said something to me which stuck in my mind, “My job is to get people here; once they are, I don’t need to do anything else. The course does the rest.” If you play here, you will come back.

Everyone has heard the story about Greg Norman being turned away when enquiring about playing a round prior to The Open many years ago, well some of us know the real story. Truth or urban myth? The secret is safe with me. But I can tell you something for certain; it would have been worth his wait to play here!

I may be biased, (I’m from Cumbria after all!), I love links golf with a passion. I have played 100 + golf courses (including Woburn, Royal West Norfolk and Royal Portrush to name a few). The highest compliment I can offer is that of the all the courses I have played, given the choice to play only one course forever, Silloth on Solway would be my choice.

Overall Rating – 10

Course (Conditions) - 9

Course (Hole Variety/Layout) - 10

Course (Green Condition) - 9

Course (Challenge/Difficulty) - 10

Club Facilities & 19th/Clubhouse - 10

Practice Facilities - 9

Friendliness/Hospitality - 9

Pace of Play - 10

Value for Money - 10


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