Some courses just take the breath away. You only have to stand on the new first tee at Wetherby Golf Club, a lush 18-hole North Yorkshire parkland course that hugs the banks of the River Wharfe, to feel a giddy sense of elation. The tee is situated on a disused railway line high up above the fairway and the distant green.
It has to be one of the most spectacular first holes in the region and sets the tone for what is a course of genuine quality and beauty.
Wetherby Golf Club is situated in the picturesque village of Linton on the outskirts of this fine Yorkshire market town.
The course, designed by the legendary Dr Alistair McKenzie who was responsible for the Augusta National among numerous world-class lay-outs, is set on an escarpment and bordered by the fast flowing River Wharfe, which provides stunning views on six of the holes.
The club, which will celebrate its centenary in 2010, boasts an array of first-class facilities, including a driving range, a pitching area, a chipping green, a well-stocked professional shop run by head pro Mark Daubney and an excellent clubhouse.
The clubhouse, built just 14 years ago, is the centre point of the complex and has a panoramic bar, terrace and restaurant along with a function room and excellent locker rooms with showers and towels.
New caterer Richard Goodbarn offers good food from 11am to 9pm, serving everything from a bacon sandwich to a three-course meal.
Its picture windows offer sweeping views, particularly of the 1st and 18th holes.
The course is renowned for its verdant fairways, its variety of wonderful, mature trees and its superb greens.
Much work has been undertaken on the lay-out in recent times, the changes to the 1st and 18th in particular adding to the overall playing experience and difficulty.
It offers an entertaining and challenging but fair test of golf - and the white championship tees also offer significant length just under 6,700 yards.
However, there are now five tee options in all, meaning the course is well suited to everyone, from the absolute novice up to the professional.
However, the club is particularly well set-up for the hosting of societies and large visiting parties.
What's more, it's fairly flat, apart from the steep walk down to the 1st fairway from the tee area and the walk back up to he clubhouse from the 18th green.
The club also has a new secretary in the shape of Stan Owram, one of the best-known figures in North East golf after stints at the Northumberland club in Newcastle and latterly at Thirsk and Northallerton GC.
There is an array of tees to choose from at Wetherby, from the highly challenging whites to blues for members and yellows for visitors that present a 6,231-yard test.
Things get underway with a pretty challenging par 4 of 378 yards. It's great fun to drive off from the new tee on the old railway line and you'll need to find a good straight hit between the two tall trees to profit here. The hole is nice and straight with a slightly raised and undulating green that is well protected by sand.
Accuracy from the tee is also vital at the par 4 306-yard 2nd. The hole features a gentle dogleg left over a tree plantation of only medium height, which the big hitters will be tempted to take on. From the favoured right side off the tee, the bunker can foreshorten the shot.
The 3rd is Wetherby's opening par 3 and at 173 yards it requires a solid strike but there are a couple of bunkers at the front to negotiate while a beck that feeds into the river is tight in at the back.
The 4th is a testing par 4 of 424 yards that bends slightly right between two thick stands of mature trees, though the fairway is reasonably wide making it a good driving proposition - and you will need to find some length from the tee to reach the green in two.
The par 4 5th is considerably shorter at 288 yards but its more marked dogleg right makes club selection both vital and a little tricky, while there's a well-placed fairway bunker on the right just in the spot where you'd like to land your ball.
The SI 1 6th kicks off a testing little section that also includes a couple of par 5s as well as a par 3. At 384 yards it's not overly long but with the river on the right and a sharp dogleg left, accuracy is paramount, while it's hard to keep a long approach shot on the putting surface.
The par 5 7th is another stern test at 519 yards and while it's a fairly straight hole, the river is on the right, there are thick trees all the way down the left and an array of fairway bunkers to avoid. The green is raised and very well protected.
The par 3 8th looks relatively straightforward at 144 yards but don't be too distracted by the nice views of the river from the tee, as the green is hard to hit due to its narrow shape and the two bunkers at the front.
The front nine is completed by another long par 5, this time of 513 yards. The 9th is another good driving hole as the fairway is good and wide but watch out for the beck crossing the fairway about 100 yards from the green.
The 10th is a par 4 of 348 yards. It's another stunning hole to look at from the tee, from where it's easy to miss the hidden beck running across the fairway while there's also more room on the left than appears. The green slopes from back to front and is surrounded by tall trees.
The 177-yard 11th is the hardest par 3 on the course and it's hard to find a green that nestles in among some mature trees and rick foliage. There's also a fair bit of sand about.
Twelve is a par 5 that measures 471 yards and it can be reached in two by the longer hitters. Aim for the left-hand side of the fairway but watch out for the waiting bunkers. All in all a tricky hole that, despite is relatively modest length, is rated as the toughest par 5 at Wetherby.
The 13th is a very tight par 3 of 147 yards. There are big trees about, especially on the left, but the main issue is the huge bunker that cuts across the front of the green.
The par 4 14th comes in at 363 yards and the greater degree of its difficulty lies in the
approach shot to a sunken green that is consequently hidden from view and consequently tricky to gauge.
The closing stretch begins with a lovely par 5 of 492 yards. You'll need to get a good drive away here, avoiding the fairway bunkers, to have a good view of the trouble further up with yet more fairway bunkers and encroaching timber on both sides. Then green is also protected by more sand.
The 16th, a par 4 of 386 yards, is rated as the hardest hole on the back nine, while it's long and straight with thick trees to both sides, the fairway is generous. The large green is fairly well protected though, particularly by a slope that makes it look closer than it is.
The par 4 17th is rated as the course's easiest hole as it measures just 312 yards, but it's by no means a soft touch. A group of trees, including a large ash, impinge from the right so aim for the big tree on the left. From there it's a fairly simple chip to the raised green with a narrow entrance between deep bunkers.
The final hole is a real gem. It's long at 406 yards and difficult to reach in two due to the fact that the green is tucked away on the right with a beck running diagonally across the fairway in front of it. From the raised tee the long hitters will fancy crossing the beck but mortals will have to be more circumspect. It's best to try and find the right side of the fairway but that will make the approach trickier.
All in all, a superb course in wonderful countryside that is immaculately maintained and backed up by top-notch facilities that could hardly be better or more extensive.
Course Name: Wetherby Golf Club.
Address: Linton Lane, Wetherby, LS22 4JF.
Contact: Golf shop: 01937-580089 ext 22; or 01937-580089 ext 27.
Location: From the A1(M) North: Take the Boston Spa and Otley exit (filter lane). At the roundabout take the third exit and follow the signs for Wetherby town centre. Cross the bridge over the river Wharfe and at the mini roundabout turn left signpost Harrogate. Go through the market place and as you leave the town centre take the left hand fork signpost Sicklinghall and Linton. After half a mile turn left towards Linton. The golf club is 300 metres on the left.
Green Fees: Four balls may be booked in advance for £100. Twilight golf available in the summer for £15. Monday pm discounts available.
Societies/ Visiting Parties: Welcome. Contact Mark Daubney on the above phone number or by email for special rates.