Funny story. Burnley Golf Club: 10am.
The clubhouse is quieter than it should be for a big golf day. No welcoming party. No bacon butties. None of those banner things. No people. We walk into the clubhouse. “Hi, we’re here for the golf day,” I say. “The golf day?’ says the pro. “Yes, the golf day. You know. The. Golf. Day,” I say.
There’s a moment when no one speaks. It’s quite a long moment.
“Erm,” says the pro. “We don’t have a golf day today.” A smile spreads across my face. I have seen this one before. The witty pro playing a prank on the unsuspecting visitor. No chance I am falling for that one today, absolutely no chance, I think to myself smuggly. I have seen this one coming.
“We’re not falling for that one,” I say. “Hahaha.”
The pro is not laughing. He’s not even smiling – he’s just staring back at us. He turns his computer around to face us, points to the golf day, points to the day of the week. He’s right, it isn’t today. It’s not even tomorrow. It’s two days’ from now. It’s quiet in the pro shop again. Very quiet.
I have felt this way before in my life when I turned up at London Luton Airport rather than Heathrow for a flight. That wasn’t my fault either. I promise. We’re still standing there. We’ve driven for 2hrs to get here.
The pro is laughing now. We looked bemused. A neat little role reversal. And then comes a sentence to lift our flagging spirits. An unexpected one. A joyous one. “You can still play if you want. I won’t charge you,” says the pro.
Hope. “Really?” we say. This is pity. He thinks we’re simpletons who don’t know our days of the week. I don’t blame him. But we’ll take it for free golf.
And that was how it began. A scramble to the car, shoes on, bags ready. 1st tee. And go. Burnley Golf Club may go down as the friendliest welcome I have ever had at an golf club in England. Not only because the pro gave us a free round but because the golfers around the 1st tee, usher us forward to play the short par-4 opener that rises steeply to an elevated green.
At the 2nd, the group of four in front of us wave us through. On the par-4 5th, another group of three golfers do the same and with good spirits.
We’re feeling so good we even pluck up the courage to tell passing golfers the ‘we turned up on the wrong day story- hahaha, what larks’. Ray, another of The Wandering Golfer team thinks he hears one of them utter the word ‘muppets’ as we walk to the next tee. I’d like to think it was actually something like ‘enjoy the view from the summit’. Maybe.
Even if it wasn’t, it is hard to disagree on this day of all days.
The sun is shining on the golf course and it is in really wonderful condition. The greens are as good as anything we have played in months. Fast, beautifully manicured and true. I mean really, really excellent.
The opening five holes are challenging and offer a hint of what lies ahead. Blind tee shots are certainly a feature. As are changes in elevation. The best of the opening stretch is the 2nd. A blind tee shot needs to the right of the marker post to a fairway that gathers everything to the left. Your drive also needs to be short of the ditch at around 270 yards. The approach is from around 170 yards to a flattish green which is, not unusually here, a delight to put on. It’s a strong start and the views across the valley are wonderful.
We cross the road towards the 6th tee. We’re up on the moorland now. The fairways narrow a little and the scenery is all around us and spectacular.
The 6th, another short par 4, runs alongside a wall with OB to the right. The green is tucked cleverly down in a dip. Another nice hole. The 7th is a good par 3, down to a green well protected by bunkers and by thick rough right.
The course really starts to come to life on the 10th. We fire our tee shots, blind again, over a marker post and onto a fairway below. The green is beautifully positioned between an avenue of trees with bunkers either side.
The par 3 11th is another excellent hole. Short, yes but not straightforward. Bunkers await. An amphitheatre of rough, curves around behind the green. It’s a delightful setting for a par 3 with the green long from back to front.
By now word has spread. As we approach the 15th tee a gentleman playing an adjoining hole introduces himself. “You must be the two who turned up on the wrong day,” he says with a smile. “I’m Alan, the club secretary, you’re very welcome.” And that was the feeling from start to finish at Burnley Golf Club. We genuinely were made to feel very welcome, which isn’t always the case in this game we all love. But here it seems to be par for the course.
The last thing Alan says to us as we look down at the 15th fairway is “Turf Moor is the line!” And it was. The home of Premier League club Burnley was indeed the line for another sweeping par-4, even better if you can hit it with a slight fade. The finish at Burnley was a strong one. The second shot at 15 is likely to be 180 yards plus and often into a breeze.
By the time we reach the 18th tee we are only 2hrs 45 mins into our round. We’ve been challenged by a good course, played some good golf, at times, putted on some of the best greens you’ll find anywhere and taken in the views across the three peaks and beyond. Hard to beat. We’re fortunate that the wind is almost non existent. You could imagine when it blew …
We fire our tee shots away down the hill that carries you back down the clubhouse on 18. It’s a fitting and spectacular finish to the round.
Hit your tee shot well and it will stay in the air for what feels like an age before finding the fairway. The green is well protected and sloped front to back but two solid shots will get you home and safe. And that is it.
We shake hands and wander back into the pro shop to thank Sam for his kindness. He didn’t know we wrote about golf when he offered us a round at Burnley. Maybe he will now. The course gave us lots to write about.
It’s absolutely worth a visit. The only slight difficulty for first time visitors is the number of blind tee shots particularly on the front 9 but the course is in really magnificent condition and you are guaranteed a warm welcome.
We will certainly be back… hopefully on the right day next time.
Best par 3: The 11th – 129 yards: a beautiful setting and a well protected green. Take one more club than you think and fly it all the way to the flag.
Best par 4: The 3rd – 395 yards: unless your name is Rory McIlroy lay up short of the hazard off the tee and then flush your second to get home.
Best par 5: The 8th – 516 yards: there is only one par 5 on the card but it’s a good one. Drive up and over the hill to find the fairway. Long hitters will get home in two although the green is a relatively small target. Great views.