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Seascale

Yardage
6450
Par
71
SSS
72
Built
1893
Architect(s)
Willie Campbell, George Lowe
Nature:
Fine undulating links with a wildness and a 'joy to be alive' seascape
Location/Address:
On west coast of Cumbria, 12 miles south of Whitehaven. CA20 1QL
http://www.seascalegolfclub.co.uk
Secretary
John Barrow
Telephone
01946 728202
Professional
-
Green Keeper
Rob Brown
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Access Policy:
Visitors welcome
Dog Policy:
Dogs welcome
Open Meetings:
Various
Fees in 1960s
30p
Fees today
£35

Review

“We walk here on turf not grass” is a cerebral remark by Ron Brown, the Seascale greenkeeper. When he arrived here 32 years ago, the greens were pure poa annua (meadow grass) following a period of the course being managed by farmers.

Ron, a native of North Berwick, without the use of a large budget, now has greens that are 80% fescue/bent grasses, which provide firm, true, putting surfaces, all the year round, mown at 4.5mm.

The Club is not wealthy and the centenary history book chronicles its many financial crises but over the years regular investment in both the course and the clubhouse has ensured that this

The multi-roofed clubhouse

The multi-roofed clubhouse

Club has remained at the forefront of Cumbrian golf, along with the better known Silloth up the coast, with which it is sharing the English Amateur Championship in 2012.

At first glance, the scorecard does not appear to offer an encouraging challenge with as many as six short par fours of under 340 yards but most of them have stood the test of time from when Willie Campbell of Bridge of Weir laid down nine holes in 1893 and George Lowe of Royal Lytham St Annes extended the layout to 18 holes in 1899.

No mention is made of any famous architect leaving their imprint on the course so perhaps it was the Andersons, father and son, the professional and greenkeeper here from 1893 to 1966 (thought to be a unique record of service – though West Sussex GC has claims too), who supervised the course’s gradual evolution – and how natural it all looks.

The first three holes threaten with OOB located down the right and the first in particular requires an unnervingly tight drive.

An angry sea behind the 7th

An angry sea behind the 7th

From the high first green, views of the Isle of Man and the highest mountain in England, Scafell, only a few miles inland, can be enjoyed. This course offers a stunning seascape and I can confirm that it was a complete ‘joy to be alive’ out on this hilly links.

When I played here on the first Saturday in October, the wind was gusting between 40-60 mph and the Pros competing in the Dunhill tournament in Fife had decided not to play that day!

One wonders whether golf architects these days ever consider course designs that prevent the ball on the green from being blown away? Every green here at Seascale, except possibly the long seventh, is protected in some way from the full force of a wild Nor’ Wester, and we had little problem with vibrating balls.

The intrepid foursome, that I was a part of, had the time and best value of its life, playing under clear blue skies, beside a grey, angry sea.

This is a course built on changing levels and offering three types of golfing ground: links along the sea, moorland across the middle level and downland at the highest part. Apart from at the first and seventeenth, one feels one is gazing down on every hole with Wordsworth country at one’s back and the Irish Sea ever present in front. As writer Jim Finegan said, “this is not mountain goat country, nor are the stances and lies awkward. It’s simply the terrain is always in motion”.

The routing, that runs parallel to the sea, apart from the ninth hole, is well balanced between the two halves with four short holes (two on odd numbered holes, two on evens) and three par fives, giving a 6,450 yardage, par 71, SSS 72. Nevertheless – and very much emphasised on this particular day(!) – the driver on the odds plays into the prevailing wind, a Nor’ Wester, on eight occasions and the evens drive is downwind six times. No problem deciding the choice between the odds or even holes, that the lower handicapper takes when playing foursomes!

The 3rd fairway

The 3rd fairway

The third hole is memorable as a dogleg round a wall that encompasses a cow pasture. This hole has plenty of risk/reward options, playing to a green located in a hollow.

The drive at the fourth is one of the few blind shots in the round, another being the drive at the seventeenth, that is played from a tee near the railway track running along the beach, that takes one back up an escarpment that one has had on the left hand side of the most famous and best hole, the sixteenth.

The tumbling 9th

The tumbling 9th

All the short holes are engaging: these use a dyke at the fifth, a shelf green at the eighth, and a beck (stream) in echelon at the long thirteenth to give character. However, it is the tenth, measuring just 142 yards from a high back tee across a winding beck that hugs the downwind right hand side of the green, that is perhaps the most intimidating.

The ninth fairway, split on two levels, tumbles down to a green with the beck immediately off the back and right of the putting surface. With undulations in front and with a deep bunker front left, one has to gird one’s loins and take on the challenge, though there is some bail out opportunity if going long left.

Sellafield overlooking the 11th

Sellafield overlooking the 11th

Some might avoid mention of the presence of the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant that dominates the long eleventh but it is well screened from most of the course and the prosperity BNFL has brought to the area is to be welcomed, as is the good work they do in helping the nuclear industry keep our lights on.

The fourteenth is a classic par five sited along the railway with plenty of undulation and the short par four fifteenth, played to a green in yet another dell, is encircled by sandhills up and into which one pitches with the bottom of the pin blind.

the 16th,railway & clubhouse

The 16th along the railway

The sixteenth (470 yards Par 4) comes at exactly the right time in the round and is unusual but deserving of its stroke index one. It has been described as mighty and ferocious. A tumultuous early fairway and then up to a blind punchbowl green, protected by the escarpment on the left, this hole certainly defeated us at first try.

The eighteenth returns us to downland ground in front of the attractive, multi-roofed clubhouse, requiring a shot over a deep chasm to a redan-like large green that slopes away.

Two of my compatriots were so taken with the ‘joy to be alive’ feeling that they played another twelve holes from the seventh after lunch, while I rested my back and enjoyed some Scotch with the delightful Ron Brown and the Club Captain. They confirmed that they had been slit

Ted Ray and Great Triumvirate

Ted Ray and Great Triumvirate

overseeding for the last twelve years – in September each year when the fescues can be expected to successfully take. Either seaweed concentrates or iron are applied as necessary but never phosphates or potash.

My hosts also showed me a photo hanging in the clubhouse of James Braid, Ted Ray, J H Taylor and Harry Vardon being driven in a Sunbeam Tourer in 1912 en route to the Muirfield Open. These four had the remarkable achievement of winning 17 (British) Opens and 2 US Opens between them.

See ‘Seascale Golf Club, the first hundred years‘ by Jack Anderson.

Review by Lorne Smith, 2010.   Your comments are welcomed below.

Reader Comments

On July 29th, 2013 Alan Brack Said:

First class course always great to play it.
Played 27/28th July 2013 open competitions. 2 rounds of golf for £30 bargain. A must play for links course lovers