It was an iconic image which travelled around the world: Bernhard Langer, with a shock of blonde hair, at Fulford Golf Club playing from a tree 10ft off the ground.
It was a moment in time. A moment of golf history that put this Yorkshire club firmly on the map and ensured it would always be associated with that image.
I grew up dreaming of playing there. Perhaps it was that image of Langer, or the 23 successive years during the 1970s and 80 that it hosted the Benson & Hedges Championship, a prestigious European Tour event.
Winners included Greg Norman, Lee Trevino, Tony Jacklin, Sandy Lyle, Sam Torrance and Mark James – many of whom are immortalised on the scorecard with the holes named after the famous faces that produced great moments at each of them.
However, it is the images of Langer in his tree that really endure at Fulford.
The 17th is named after the German, of course, while there is a plaque attached to the tree, just to the left of the green from which he played, managing to steer his ball onto the green much to the delight of the large crowd gathered at the base of it.
Langer would drop a shot on his way to a round of 67 and finished second behind the American Tom Weiskopf by, you guessed it, one shot. Langer would never win at Fulford Golf Club.
The event moved to St Mellion in Cornwall in 1990. The German won a year later. All that happened in 1981 and some three decades later, it was my turn.
Fulford is only a mile or two from the centre of York, hidden away in the leafy suburb. The clubhouse is imposing and impressive and the pro-shop, housed in a separate building close to the 1st tee, provided the warmest of welcomes.
The land on which Fulford Golf Club sits is mature and varied. Each hole is set in its own amphitheatre, each carved through a mixture of the woodland and heathland native to this beautiful part of North Yorkshire.
The first five holes take you out away from the clubhouse – the par-3 3rd is an excellent hole – before a footbridge takes you to a stretch of eight holes that are the highlight of this excellent layout.
There is certainly a hint Sunningdale Old Course when the heather is in full bloom. And like it’s more celebrated rival, on each hole the bunkering threatens your tee shot, rarely is there an easy landing spot and the straight hitters will be rewarded over the long ones.
A string of tremendous par 4s culminate in the challenging 13th and at each, the fairway appears to narrow at landing distance to make your task of finding the fairway, even harder.
The greens were fast and yet receptive to spin on the day we played. The slopes are subtle and you always feel that good putts are rewarded once you find the pace. As with all good golf in Yorkshire, the wind can, and likely will, have an impact on your round. The final stretch of five holes back to the clubhouse played into the breeze for us, making what was a relatively straightforward run into something much more challenging. And, despite our best efforts, we could not get the ball to stay in the tree on 17. That’s a joke, by the way. Or an attempt at one.
The clubhouse sits close to the back of the 18th green. Only a stumble from final putt to pint.
Fulford is not a club attempting to escape its past and that image of Langer. Why should it? But what I found out on my visit to York, was a golf course that is so much more than that image.
I would recommend it to anyone and my feeling is that it is as good as inland course as any you will find in this part of the world. It will test you, it will delight you and you would be mad not to add it to your bucket list. That said (and I speak from experience) don’t try and climb the tree!
Telephone: 01904 412882
Designer: James Braid and Major Charles Mackenzie.
Where it ranks: 77th in Today’s Golfer top 100 courses in England, ahead of Stoke Park and Close House
Length: 6,743yds, Par 72.
Really good read. I will make sure to bookmark your blog!
A great course. I ranked it number four in Yorkshire. As a grammar pedant I’m looking at the 5th hole on the scorecard and am wondering if the proof reader was off sick that day ?
Thanks for your comments, Mark. It’s certainly a fantastic layout. And as for the scorecard ?