It was an iconic image that travelled around the world.
Bernhard Langer, with a shock of blonde hair, playing from a tree 10ft off the ground. It was a moment in time. A moment of golfing history that put Fulford firmly on the map and ensured it always be associated with one image.
I grew up dreaming of playing there. Perhaps it was the 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.
The images of Langer in his tree 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 onto the green. 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 never did win at Fulford. The event moved to St Mellion in Cornwall in 1990. The German won a year later. All that happened in 1981 and some 37 years 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 sits is mature and varied. Each hole is set in its own amphitheatre, each carved through woodland and heathland that grows in this beautiful part of North Yorkshire. The first five holes take you out away from the clubhouse – the par-three 3rd is an excellent par 3 – before a footbridge crosses the A64 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. 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 big hitters.
A string of tremendous par 4s culminates 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 a major 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 is 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? What I found out on my visit to York was a golf course that is so much more than that photograph. I would recommend it to anyone and my feeling is that it is as good as inland course as any you will find anywhere in Yorkshire. 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) I do not recommend trying to climb the tree!
Here is all you need to know.
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.