Fergus Bisset played at Notts and Sherwood Forest Golf Clubs and was delighted to discover two of the country’s finest heathland layouts.
A 15-minute drive north and east of Hollinwell, on the fringes of Mansfield, Sherwood Forest is another historic club, dating from 1895. They have been at the same site since 1912 playing over a course originally laid out by Hary Colt but remodelled by James Braid in the 1920s. Like at Hollinwell, the track has remained basically unchanged since the early part of the 20th century. That’s partly testament to the skill of those great men as course designers and partly down to the exceptional terrain over which this great track is set.
Playing out from in front of the comfortable and welcoming clubhouse, alongside the bronze stag that keeps watch over the course, the 1st hole at Sherwood Forest is a short, tactical par-4 that requires a straight drive stopping short of a well-placed bunker around 30 yards from the green. Like at Notts, the opening is relatively gentle but the challenge increases on the left to right second, heather waits to the left, trees and rough to the right, Straight ahead bunkers loom ominously, but in fact there’s quite a bit of space between them.
With punishing rough and bunkers protecting the edges of most holes here, tee shots are visually intimidating here but the landing areas are reasonably generous. The key to success is to win the mental battle and trust that a good swing, aimed on a reasonable line will find a sensible spot. Often driver is not the correct play though, and even 3-wood might be too much. The 6th hole provides a good example. Although it measures around 400 yards, the safe play off the tee is a long iron or hybrid to lay-up short of bunkering some 240 yards out. This is a course where you must be patient and use your golfing brain. I don’t have one and swept a beautifully struck 3-wood straight into one of those traps on the 6th.
The greens at Sherwood Forest deserve special mention. I’d heard of their good reputation and they didn’t disappoint. Despite some very heavy rain in the day or two before we played, they were exceptionally true and very fast indeed – a real joy to putt on and even I was able to knock in a few decent length putts.
The start of the run for home at Sherwood Forest is excellent and the stretch from the 11th to the 14th is the most difficult on the course. The 11th is slightly downhill and plays from left to right. A bunker off the tee looms large but there’s plenty of room to the left. The approach must miss a clamouring gaggle of bunkers placed to catch a variety of misses.
The 12th requires a strong drive and straight approach to a green framed by trees. Both par-4s, the 13th and 14th turn from right to left and both ask for two well struck shots if you’re to reach in regulation. Get through these four holes in par and you’ve played very well indeed.
Played over springy heathland turf, across fairways lined by heathers and a fine variety of trees, this is a supremely attractive setting for golf and the terrain is ideally suited for the game. Sherwood Forest is another gem of a heathland track and one that deserves recognition for the quality of its layout and presentation.
Once again, the clubhouse provided a grand setting for a debrief. Sitting in comfy chairs below walls lined with honours boards we agreed we’d just played the second of two exceptional heathland courses. These are two tracks to rival any inland layouts in the UK and, if you haven’t done so already, I can’t recommend highly enough that you travel to Nottingham to experience them for yourselves.
For me now, Nottingham is not just a sign on the M1 it’s a vibrant and fascinating city packed with history and culture. It’s also a fantastic venue for a golfing break; home to some of the best heathland golf in the country.
Notts Golf Club (Hollinwell)
T: 01623 753225
Stats: Par 72, SSS 76, 7,250 yards (off championship tees) Par 72, SSS 73, 6,619 yards (off yellow tees)
GF: £85 per round, £120 for 36 holes (June to September)
Sherwood Forest Golf Club
T: 01623 626689
Stats: Par 70, SSS 74, 6,806 yards (off championship tees) Par 71, SSS 71, 6,281 yards (off yellow tees)
GF: £75 per round, £95 for 36 holes (May to September)
Five more notable courses in the Nottingham area
Notts and Sherwood Forest GC are by no means not the only quality venues in the East Midlands:
Another excellent heathland track between Nottingham and Mansfield. Coxmoor has been a regular host to top level competition. Greg Owen and Oliver Wilson are honorary members.
Founded in 1914, the course at Worksop GC is set on the edge of Sherwood Forest and on the boundary of the National Trust’s Clumber Park. Lee Westwood played here as a youngster.
Wollaton Park GC
This is a fine parkland course set in over 500 acres of the Wollaton Park estate. Designed by Tom Williamson, the course dates from the mid 1920s.
Beeston Fields GC
A beautiful parkland golf course designed, as so many in this area were, by Tom Williamson and opened for play in the mid 1920s. Also of note is the stunning mid 19th century clubhouse.
This is a lovely parkland course, just south of Nottingham. Look out for the ridge and furrow fairways – rumples created by traditional farming techniques of years gone by.