SOME courses just seem to get better with age and Richmond falls very nicely into that category, having matured into a very fine test of golf.
Situated just above the picturesque town of Richmond, North Yorkshire, the club was formed in 1892 but has been based at Bend Hagg since 1904 when it was decided the rolling fields would provide a better lay-out.
Also the fact the new Richmond course was designed by Frank Pennink clearly helped. The original nine-hole course was extended to 18 in 1972 and there have been some changes and tweaks over the years including the 10th being extended from a par four to par five this year.
While it’s not the longest of courses at 6,073 yards and with a par of 71, it’s the rolling nature of the land, the number of out of bounds and trees, combined with tricky greens which makes it a wonderful test.
Sited as it is above the town the wind is also a real factor, and as I expected the course was in immaculate condition.
Happily, there are no plans for major changes – why should there be? But as with all courses, the infrastructure is under constant review and improvements are always on the cards.
There’s an interesting start with a par five (465 yards off the back tees, 460 off the yellows and 451 off the red).
Straightaway you encounter the rolling nature of the lad with a drive down into a big swale followed by a blind second shot.
It is reachable in two and a birdie is a real possibility but there is a hint of dogleg right and there is out of bounds left and behind the green.
The par four second (335/337/303) requires an accurate drive back across the deep incline, but while it may seem a fairly gentle par four, the undulating green is a real test of your putting skills. Not surprising then this is stroke five on the card
The third, another par four (312/300/292) may be tempting for the big hitters to have a go, but there is out of bounds all the way down the left and it’s a narrow fairway with loads of trees and bunkers down the right.
The fourth (180/165/154) is the first of Richmond’s five par threes and every one of them is a real gem and this one requires a really accurate tee shot because anything slightly left will be swept into a dense thicket while there’s a steep bank on the right together with gorse and a massive bunker.
And so to the fifth (383/366/346) a terrific par four dogleg right. No surprise it’s stroke index one.
It’s not long but the tee shot is a blind one downhill, and blind because of some well-placed trees which you will have to carry to catch the right-hand side of the fairway and give you a nice approach away from the out of bounds down the left into another tricky green guarded by two fearsome bunkers.
The par five sixth (512/508/458) requires a good tee shot into a sweeping valley, but beware there is a water hazard out there which will worry the big hitters, and there is out of bounds all along the left.
You can get there in two but they will both need to be long and good, and many will settle for getting there in three. There are no bunkers around the green.
The seventh (187/179/165) is the second of the par threes. The elevated tee box affords lovely views across the course and down into the Vale of York beyond, with the North York Moors often visible in the distance.
The green sits on a bank on the other side of the valley so your tee-shot has to fly all the way and then check fairly abruptly or you’ll be chipping and putting.
The par four eighth (414/404/397) is a severe dogleg left and a real test. You really do have to cut the corner or hit a long draw across another little valley and up to the fairway beyond.
If your drive is too straight you could easily run out of room so the best route is to hit that draw or cut the corner. If you can do that you’ll have a reasonable second shot but beware the mound to the left of the green.
The front nine concludes with another testing par three (198/173/144). This is a real cracker with tall trees close in from both sides framing the hole which has a trio of bunkers up on the right of the green.
The ninth takes you back to the clubhouse as all good courses should do and the par five 10th (540/532/526) has its tee-box alongside the first.
There’s a generous fairway and it ‘s not a long par five, but there is enough out of bounds to concentrate the mind and there are also plenty of bunkers near the green. Take a little extra time because there are some spectacular views of the nearby Zetland estate.
What a superb hole the 11th is. A short par four (301/297/287) the temptation is to have a real go at it, but it doglegs right and that’s where the out of bounds is.
The lay up is not easy either with two bunkers at the turn of the dogleg where the hold slopes downhill to the green, which is another tester.
The 12th (135/125/123) is the shortest hole on the course but the green is protected by a long crescent-shaped bunker to the front and right while there is also a tree halfway down on the right which you must carry.
Now to Richmond’s feature hole – the par five 13th (484/474/468) – a sweeping hole curling left to right with out of bounds all the way down the right and with steep undulations giving it a tremendous flow.
The tee shot is blind and uphill. Get it on the top of the hill and your second is across another rolling swale to the tricky green.
This is possibly the best and most picturesque part of the course and the par four 14th (411/399/291) has an elevated tee-box from which you can enjoy the views.
Make the most of it because this is not an easy hole even if the fairway is nice and wide because the approach has to carry a swale which includes a water hazard, although there is gap through the middle if you come up short.
If you think that’s tough, the 15th (425/413/410) is a real test because there’s an uphill drive with loads of trees on the right and the green sits up in a little glade on top of the hill . . . again, it’s tricky!
The 16th (356/346/303) is another par four with links-like undulations in the middle of the landing area with more trees down the right and the old quarry to the left.
The par four 17th ((251/242/239 is another tempting, reachable hole, but there are so many small hillocks and mounds in front of the green plus two fearsome looking bunkers to the left, so laying up may be a better idea.
Not many courses have a par three (164/153/126) to finish, but this ain’t no flick and putt hole. A thick, tall wood separates the tee-box from the green with just a narrow path cut through the middle that gives no more than a glimpse of the green. Good luck!
Richmond has the reputation of being one of the friendliest clubs in the North East and the bar and restaurant awaits you. If it’s a sunny day, you can take a seat on the newly refurbished patio area and watch how others tackle that 18th.
NAME: Richmond Golf Club.
ADDRESS: Bend Hagg, Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL10 5EX TEL: 01748 823231
PROFESSIONAL 01748 822457.
EMAIL: email@example.com Website: www.richmondyorksgolfclub.co.uk
DIRECTIONS: From the A1 take the A66 turn off and follow the signposts for Richmond and the golf club is located above the town.
GREEN FEES: Midweek £25 a round, £32 a day; Saturdays and Bank holidays £30 a round £35 a day; Saturdays and Bank Holidays £30 a round, £35 a day; Sundays only small groups permitted after 3pm. Golf buggy hire (2 persons) £15. Monday special: £10 a round; Friday £15 a round; Limited time: £40 per fourball any weekday.
VISITING PARTIES:18 and 27-hole packages available for parties of 12 or more including food. Handicap certificates required.
MEMBERSHIP: There is no waiting list and no joining fee and there is a special offer of full membership to December 31 2011 at £595. Full membership £575 (£555 senior citizen); Five-day £485 (£465); Country and overseas £315 (£295); 22-30: £345; Junior 18-21: £180, 12-17: £85; 8-11: £50.