Away from Yorkshire's famous courses, the quality and variety of the area’s supporting cast is as good as it gets. Rob Smith finds out more
Founded in 1892, this is the oldest club in Leeds, and the course boasts the very strongest pedigree with major input from Alister MacKenzie and Harry Colt.
It opens with an absolute cracker; a good drive leaving a pitch to a beautifully framed green protected by Adel beck. On many courses this would be the feature hole; here it is one of several. There is plenty of interest at holes such as 3, 4 and 7 before you reach the next real gem, the tough par-4 9th, which has a ditch some way in front and an Augusta-like backdrop of azaleas.
The back nine starts with another – a perfectly formed par 3 back over the valley to a well-protected green. It is one of a trio of classic short holes on the way home, the others being 13, a kind of Postage Stamp played up to a green seemingly cordoned off by deep pot bunkers, and 17, a glorious one-shotter played along the side of a slope to a perfectly sited green. If you seek variety, scenery, challenge and conditioning, Headingley has the lot.
Stats: par 71, 6,575 yards
GF: £55/£70 per round/day all week
Bingley St Ives
This fascinating parkland/moorland hybrid starts with an inviting and good-looking short par 4. The first par 3, the 4th, is a very distinctive hole played from an elevated tee over an old quarry alongside mature trees. The 7th is another photogenic short hole and the next two take you through more glorious woodland onto the moor. Here, there are a handful of testing heathery holes, the pick of the bunch being the dogleg-left 11th. The course finishes with an idiosyncratic par 3 played from a high tee, down over a bridleway to a narrow green beside the welcoming clubhouse.
Stats: par 71, 6,458 yards
GF: £30/£40wd per round/day, £30we per round
Any preconceptions that suburban courses are noisy and surrounded by concrete can be firmly dispelled by a visit to this superb club just over a mile from the town centre. Choosing standout holes is difficult with the front nine consistently appealing all the way, bookended by two belting par 4s. On the way home, the sweeping par-4 12th is one of a kind and very tough, while the par-3 13th over a wide, jungle-gorge to a small green is another wonderful do-or-die hole. Also known as Fixby Hall, Huddersfield deserves to be far better-known, full stop.
Stats: par 71, 6,514 yards
GF: £60/£65wd per round/day, £70/£80we
The area north of Leeds is home to some exceptional golf and Scarcroft more than holds its own. There is a stern opening stretch with the first two holes protected by ditches, before some relief at the pretty par-3 5th. This is immediately taken away by an encounter with the demanding SI1 6th. Two strong par 4s take you to the turn and the charming halfway house, and the back nine is probably even more enjoyable with the long, snaking, water-protected 14th among the best holes. Sometimes overlooked, Scarcroft is yet another delight that is more than worth its modest green fee.
Stats: par 71, 6,456 yards
GF: £45/£55wd per round/day, £55/£65we
The Riverside Hotel
Situated just a few minutes’ walk from the pubs and restaurants in this handsome old town, the Riverside Hotel is also central to the many top-notch golf courses in the region. The traditional and characterful building has a bar offering award-winning local ales, a restaurant with a wide and very reasonably priced menu and friendly staff. To the rear is the River Wharfe, and the very attractive course at Ilkley is just a couple of minutes by car.
The menu at this smart, efficient, friendly and reasonably priced restaurant contains a wide selection of both modern and classic Italian dishes, and there is an open kitchen for those wishing to see how things are done. There is also an extensive wine list, and the Roof Garden is a lively and fun place to eat while enjoying panoramic views over the town and up towards the peaks of Ilkley Moor.
The Cow and Calf
Located on the site of the first hydropathic hotel in England, this country pub with rooms is situated next door to the rock formation of the same name and right above the enchanting Ben Rhydding nine-holer. There are fabulous views back down over Wharfedale, especially from the beer garden, plus an extensive menu of pub classics and more, as well as a fine selection of beers and wine.
The lush course at Shipley is a treat from start to finish and boasts quite fabulous back-to-back par 3s at 7 and 8, while the lovely riverside course at Ilkley has a particularly memorable finish with 16 worth the green fee on its own. Sand Moor is another highly regarded Alister MacKenzie course and Pannal has hosted many important events and is recognised by The R&A as an Open qualifier venue. For scenery and fun, the nine-holer at Ben Rhydding in Ilkley is hard to beat, and everyone I spoke to mentioned courses “just as good” as those I was playing. The West Riding could easily be the home for several golfing trips without ever needing to play the same course twice!