Silloth on Solway Golf Club
Established in 1892, Silloth on Solway originally opened as a par of 4,750 yards. Though many of the original playing corridors are still in use, the initial holes laid out by David Grant do not bare much resemblance to the course of today. For instance, the first two holes occupied the ground of today’s 380 yard opener, but were one shot holes of approximately 200 yards each.
Principal credit for today’s stirring links course belongs to Willie Park, Jr., who designed Sunningdale Old and his own favourite Huntercombe in England as well as several world class courses in North America headlined by his revered course at the Maidstone Club on Long Island. Alister MacKenzie, who lived several hours away in Leeds, also had a hand in some of the finishing detail work.
Once a thriving Victorian resort, both these master architects must surely have been captivated by the opportunities that existed at Silloth as the property is ideal: humpy bumpy links land set along the Cumbria coastline with views of Scotland to the north, gorse and heather throughout, and the ever present wind off the Solway Firth.
Today’s routing is generally out and back in nature with the 9th and 10th holes being the furthest points from the clubhouse. However, the property is wider than other such out and back routings as Royal Troon and The Old Course at St. Andrews. At its widest point for instance, the breadth of the property accommodates the 17th, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th holes and that’s with the 3rd running straight toward the coastline.
With such width available, the architects had greater freedom to route holes so that the player rarely encounters the wind in the same direction for more than two holes. The drawback normally associated with an out and back routing in having one nine play relatively easy compared to the other is not true at Silloth – the best holes are evenly spread throughout the course and the course is equally engaging in all winds.
Apart from the sheer beauty of this North West part of Cumbria,the most lasting impression is made by the quality and variety of the green sites.Three are located in their own dells (e.g. the 1st, 7th, and 17th),its most famous green site is located at the highest point on the course on an exposed knob (the 13th) while the one prior (the 12th) is enclosed left and behind by a thick bank of gorse bushes. Some of the smaller greens are heavily bunkered (e.g. the 9th and 16th) andfive greens (e.g. the 1st, 4th,7th, 13th and 17th) are bunkerless though well defended by natural features.
Given the firmness of the turf and the wind, when coupled with the imaginative green sites, the golfer is fully challenged with genuine links golf of a high order.
Holes to Note
Third hole, 370 yards, Criffel; The golfer climbs a steel ladder to see when the fairway is clear and then fires his blind tee ball between two sand hills. The fairway curves left toward a green benched into the far hillside. The shorter way home off the tee (down the left) must confront heather and bent while the longer way home (down the right) leaves the golfer with a more awkward stance and a greater distance to cover.
4th hole, 370 yards, The Mill;After the second blind tee ball in the first four holes (i.e. real links golf!), the golfer is faced with one of the game’s great approach shots. The fairway feeds directly onto a bunkerless green site whereby one foot off the green to the left is a ten foot drop and one foot off the right of the green is a seven foot drop. At 38 paces, the green is the longest on the course and shots played to the back hole locations require tremendous skill and nerves. The great local female golfer Cecil Leitch no doubt relished this hole as a way to showcase her tremendous talents. Many a golfer has played ping pong across the 4th green, reminding some of the dangerous 11th at the Country Club of Charleston.
Fifth hole, 520 yards, Solway; The placement of the tees in the dunes creates an appealing andstrategic diagonal carry to a fairway that parallels the coastline of the Solway Firth.
Sixth hole, 200 yards, Natterjack; The first of an exceptional set of one shot holes, the 6th plays downhill twenty feet to a green guarded left and right by fronting wing bunkers which are distinctly in play when a) the hole is downwind and the only way to stay on the green is to land one’s tee ball between the mor b) the hole is into the wind and the golfer balloons his tee ball from the elevated tee and the wind gobbles it up and deposits it into one of the fronting bunkers.
Seventh hole, 425 yards, Battery; The pressure is on to hit a long and true tee ball as the second shot must scale a twenty foot ridge to a green tucked in a dell. Common with many of the other green complexes at Silloth, the interior contours of the 7th green are good but not of exception. However, the surrounds of the green are of exception and when taken together, the green sites at Silloth create great short game interest.