Notts Hollinwell Golf Club Feature Review

By: Golfshake Editor | Mon 05 Aug 2019 | Comments


Review by Kevin Heggie, 14 Handicap, based on two rounds, February 2019 and July 2019


Notts Golf Club, more commonly known as Hollinwell, is located just off junction 27 on the M1, and is widely regarded as one of the best inland courses in the UK, playable all year round due to the free draining sandstone it sits upon. I was lucky enough to play the course twice in 2019, once in February and then in July, after previous attempts were curtailed by injury in 2016 and then snow (in April!) in 2018, and it ranks highly across the courses I’ve played both in the UK and abroad, coming Highly Recommended on Golfshake.

In terms of history, whilst Notts was established in 1887, it didn’t move to the current site until 1901, when Willie Park Jnr, who also designed Sunningdale Old, created the routing which maximised the terrain available across 400 acres of land. At 6,000 yards back then it was long and tough, and this theme continues today, from the back tees it measures 7,250 years (with a SSS of 76), and off the friendly yellow tees we played from it was a mere 6,619 yards (with an SSS of 73, making it one of the few courses from yellows to give you a shot before you’ve teed off!).  

Given all of the above, it’s no surprise that Notts has featured in the Final Open Qualifying process since 2017 - qualify from here and it’ll stand you in good stead for the challenge that awaits a few weeks later. Going back further in time, the venue has also hosted a number of significant events, both amateur and professional, and the honours board in the classically designed clubhouse contains some famous names such as Christie O’Connor Senior (who in 1970 won the John Player Classic, collecting £25,000 in prize money which was the highest ever prize money for a professional golf tournament at the time), Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle, and Matt Fitzpatrick.

Course Highlights

The reality is that Notts really doesn’t have any weak holes - and the design and flow of the course presents a great mix of stern tests mixed with scoreable holes, most notably the par fives.  However, throughout the round you’ll need to be on top of your game to score well as bunkers, heather and long grass await poor shots on almost every hole.

After the arrow straight 1st, the 2nd starts to give you an indication of what awaits. A long dog-leg left par four uphill requires a strong tee shot off the tee to carry bunkers left, which leaves a mid to long iron or hybrid into the green which appears to be carved into the surrounding valley, which is well protected by a greenside bunker.  

The par five 3rd of takes you back down towards the clubhouse and is a great opportunity to claw a shot back from the course, especially as the 4th is to follow.  Similar to the 2nd, it’s a long par four uphill, with bunkers perfectly positioned left and right to catch offline tee shots. Avoid those and you’ll then face another long shot into a back to front tilted green which is also well protected by bunkers. Walk off with par and you’ll have played extremely well.

From the 4th you move into a slightly different style of course with trees rather than heather and fescue shaping the holes, and a stretch of hole which provide good opportunities to score well.  The 5th is a shortish par three, with a number of bunkers surrounding the green to focus the mind, followed by another reachable par five.  

After the 7th, a relatively straight forward par four, the 8th hole starts taking you out to the edge of the golf estate. This hole is notable as it is close to the famous Holy Well, located to the right of the yellow tee box, and gives you a chance to try the local spring water as you wander up towards the fairway.  The 9th is the shortest par three on the course and is followed by the shortest par four 10th. Both holes are great opportunities to score well but pick the wrong club and you could easily end up in bunkers or bushes.

The 11th meanders up towards the high point on the course. On paper, it looks a relatively short hole, but the elevation change adds two to three clubs, and the small green is again well protected making a par a great score.

Past the long par four 12th, the 13th, one of the courses signature holes, is a long par three back down the hill. Picking the right club is key, and extremely difficult! Depending on wind and tee box it could require anything from the short iron to driver to get to the green. Another couple of strong par fours follow, with the 15th requiring a precise tee shot into a small green cut into the hill means there’s little margin for error.

Then some respite before the finish. The 16th is one of my favourite holes with an inviting tee shot from an elevated tee putting you in position to attack a narrow, but wide green with a wedge or short iron. 17th is the final par five and is classed as the easiest hole on the course, despite bunkers waiting to catch out miss-hit shots from the tee and fairway.

Finally, the 18th, a brute of a finishing hole! For most players if you pull off two long shots from the tee and fairway, missing the various bunkers, you’ve got an outside chance to get to the green in regulation, but more likely you will be happy to get home with a bogey five in front of the eyes of those in the clubhouse watching.

Throughout playing here you really get an appreciation of why the course is so highly rated. The heathland fairways are firm and bound on, reducing any early fears over a course playing too long for anyone but the longest hitters, and the greens throughout are in great condition and run smooth and fast (but not too fast - something the club emphasises as part of their environmentally commitments). The other key feature is just how well the course uses the land available - so many of the holes exist with minimal reference with the rest, creating a unique atmosphere and experience as you play your way around in relative isolation.

Verdict

As you may have guessed, I’m a big fan, and was happy to get the chance to play again so quickly after the last, as it certainly lives up to its reputation across the board. Additional extras such as to the fact it also contains an extensive set of practice facilities (driving range, chipping green, and large putting green) means you can get properly warmed up for the challenge ahead.

For a single round, the green fees could be deemed on the reasonably high side in the summer, but if you’re fit enough you can pay a little more for the day rate and you’ll definitely be getting value for money. The winter deals should also be explored, given the condition between February was not too different to the summer.  

Post round, the bar area provides a warm welcome and good value food to eat while you watch the groups behind wind their way down the 18th as you tot up your scores and compare with the scorecards in the display cases containing course records and event winners.

Top Tips:

  • Pay the day rate for maximise value as a visitor or take advantage of the low season mid-week rates.
  • Even on some of the longer par fours, a three wood off the tee is a better play due to premium on hitting the fairways and run you should get from the firm conditions.
  • Take advantage of the practice facilities to ensure you hit the ground running, especially with regards to adapting to the green speeds.
  • Assuming you’re not a scratch golfer, accept that on some of the long par fours a bogey is a very good score, and try to take advantage of the par fives and threes.
  • The course website is a great source of information (and inspiration!), especially the hole-by-hole guide which provides a detailed overview of how to play the hole based on handicap.

Overall Rating - 9

Course (Conditions) - 9

Course (Hole Variety/Layout) - 10

Course (Green Condition) - 9

Course (Challenge/Difficulty) - 10

Club facilities & 19th/Clubhouse - 9

Practice Facilities - 9

Friendliness/Hospitality - 9

Pace of Play - 9

Value for Money - 8


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