The grandeur of Woodsome Hall Golf Club speaks for itself.
From the moment you drive through the gates of this handsome 134-acre estate and sweep up towards the 16th century grade-1 listed clubhouse, you get a sense of what this place is all about.
The Woodsome Hall experience begins long before you step onto the 1st tee of this James Braid-designed golf course and it is one to be savoured. There’s simply too much at Woodsome to relish for it to be a ‘change your shoes in the car park, dash onto the golf course and disappear off home quickly after you putt out on the 18th green’ kind of place. You’ll miss out on so much of what makes it special if you don’t give yourself the time to appreciate the whole experience.
We’d been invited to this picturesque corner of Yorkshire to mark Woodsome Hall Golf Club’s centenary and to see for ourselves the work that continues here, driven by a constant and unrelenting pursuit of perfection. Rick Devine, the charismatic and energetic general manager, is at the heart of that attitude with improvements on the golf course, within the sprawling clubhouse and in the Dormy House, which sits directly behind the 7th green. More on that later.
History is unavoidable at Woodsome. Yes, the club is ‘only’ 100 years old but the Elizabethan clubhouse which sits front and centre has been around for almost 400 years with many original features still intact. The central corridor is still paved with the original York stone, the oak-panelled dining room has what must be the largest fireplace in England with a clock which dates to 1652 hanging above it.
That sense of history follows us into the bar, where we sit down for the kind of breakfast that every golfer should consume before a round. It’s there we meet Roger Ellis, who has just finished his third round of the week. He tells us he is about to celebrate his 85th birthday and has been a member at Woodsome Hall Golf Club for 71 years. Rick then tells us that Roger isn’t even the longest serving member at the club – an extraordinary stat which speaks volumes about member satisfaction!
Later that evening, we’re back in the courtyard, sitting outside in the sunshine to enjoy a memorable dinner. Through the gates and a few hundred yards away, is the Dormy House, which sits behind the 7th green – beautifully adjacent to everything and yet far enough away to feel private too. This sumptuous 8 twin-bedroomed property is an incredible base for golf in Yorkshire, whether you are playing Woodsome, Fixby, Crosland Heath or travelling further afield to play the likes of Alwoodley and Moortown. A communal sitting room sits at its heart, with each bedroom featuring en-suite bathrooms and WIFI.
What then of the golf course itself? The 1st tee will certainly test the nerves and is up there with Prestwick when it comes to opening tee shots which sit so close to the clubhouse that you will often find an audience watching you strike your ball. A pair of opening par-4s are a gentle introduction to this layout, with the uphill 2nd the tougher of the two. Woodsome begins to move through the gears as you reach the par-3 3rd, which is a wonderful short hole – one of a string of them here. The par-4 5th is one of several risk reward par-4s that hold your interest and dangle the promise of a birdie to get your score back on track.
To score well at Woodsome Hall Golf Club you must drive the ball well, particularly around the turn. There is room for those who don’t but often you find yourself blocked out from a line to the green or tied up in fairway bunkers. The run of holes around the turn have an almost Amen Corner feel, particularly the par-5 9th, which brings water into play and really challenges you to think your way down the hole.
After a quick stop at the half-way house, which comes after the 10th rather than the 9th, you move into a different area of the golf course, which takes you up into the hills above the clubhouse for some wonderful, memorable holes. The par-3 13th is a charming uphill, short hole and the two par-4s which follow will challenge you in completely different ways. The par-5 16th was my favourite hole on the course, with the bold line a big drive over the corner of the dog-leg right, although your ball must carry the woodland, to leave the green in reach.
It’s no surprise the likes of Ian Woosnam, Peter Alliss, Bobby Locke, and Walter Hagen were such fans of Woodsome Hall Golf Club. The whole experience makes it what it is. And it is through that lens which it must be judged. This beautiful club may have begun life when a group of locals met at The George Hotel in Huddersfield and had the idea for a golf club. Thank goodness they did, because it’s hard not to enjoy your day at Woodsome Hall Golf Club. Take your time, drink in the surroundings, and take your time to explore the historic clubhouse. Play well and stay overnight in the Dormy House and you’ll love every minute.