Silloth on Solway Golf Club Cumbria
England

Ninth hole, 145 yards, The Manx; This short one shotter shares similaritie s with the more famous Postage Stamp hole at Royal Troon two hours north up the motorway. The putting surface is long but narrow and any tee ball missed right is kicked sharply away toward a nest of three bunkers six paces off and below the putting surface. From beneath the putting surface, the golfer is (unfortunately!) in the ideal position to practice several recovery shots before seeing his ball finally settle on the green. The author observed one such occurrence in a tight match where two attempted recovery shots landed within a foot of the putting surface only to trickle back into the same bunker. The resulting hissy fit spoke to the maddening challenges of links golf in general (maddening in the sense that the golfer may not realize where the real trouble is until it is too late)and of the merits of this well designed hole in particular.

The view from the ninth tee is deceiving as it suggests that 'the smart miss' is anywhere but short left. In fact, with the sharp fall off to the right, short left leaves the easiest bogey.

This view from closer ahead shows the small putting surface at the ninth, made all the more elusive by the ever present wind.

Twelftth hole, 205 yards, Heather Bank; As the name implies, heather is a dominate feature on this one shotter as it wraps around the left and back of the green. Thus, many a tee ball from those familiar with the course comes up short and right, leaving a tricky up and down but at least nothing worse than a bogey.

The attractive one shot twelfth with a bank of heather dangerously close to the back left of the green.

Thirteenth hole, 510 yards, Hogs Back; A superb, one-of-a-kind hole that exemplifies one of the accepted definitions of a classic three shotter, namely each shot gets progressively more exacting. The drive is over flat terrain and the golfer is likely to find one of the few level stances on the course, which is a good thing as the second must quickly climb uphill between a gully in two dunes. As its name implies, the second higher portion of the fairway is hog’s back and shrugs off any but the straightest of shots. The green itself is on an exposed kno band falls away on all sides.Though not long in length, the 13th is full of character with a wide range of scores often seen within each group of playing companions.

The tee ball pictured above was ideally played and leaves the golfer around 220 yards for his second into this three shotter.

The thirteenth green is the highest, most exposed point on the course. The green tilts from left to right, and the sight of a golfer walking off the green in search of his approach is a common one.

Fourteenth hole, 510 yards; Mark Rowlinson suggests that more would be heard of this hole if not for the fame of the preceding three shotter. A central obstacle in the form of a tall dune falls approximately 380 yards from the tee and divides the fairway. The significance of it depends on the wind but in general, if the golfer has found the fairway off the tee, carrying the dune should not be too difficult and a birdie might be in reach. However,finding the heather off the tee often leads to laying up shy of the dune and the resulting blind approach from 150 yards tilts the advantage to the course. The merits of central obstacles and hazards cannot be overstated as a) they are always in play and b) force the golfer to make a decision/do something. Sculpted out fairways with hazards to the sides lends itself to dull golf.The design of Silloth on Solway is the exact antithesis of that, with the golfer always wondering what exciting challenge he’ll face next. 16th hole, 200 yards, The Mount; The far dune was leveled off to make room for a small putting surface which hardly seems big enough at just 21 paces deep to hold a tee ball in any kind of cross wind. The real golfer might elect to keep his tee ball low and run it up the seven foot bank onto the green. With two bunkers both left and right, the hole is exacting, regardless of what method the golfer attempts.

Any tee ball that finds the putting surface at the sixteenth is very well played.

Seventeenth hole, 495 yards, Duffers; No friend to duffers, the penultimate hole features a forced carry but once again, the neatest aspect of the hole is its green complex, this time of the punchbowl variety with out of bounds to the right.

The tee ball at the seventeenth must carry this dramatic mix of broken ground, heather, gorse, bent and sand.

After the round, the author witnessed a conversation among golf course enthusiasts that essentially went as follows: ‘Can you believe how good the set of par three holes are? It is certainly the best I’ve seen on our trip’ which was followed by ‘That may be true but the strength of Silloth on Solway surely lies with its par four holes.’ In turn that observation was met with, ‘Though you both may be right, the par five 13th is the single best hole on the course.’ Such is the golf on offer at Silloth on Solway. With no obvious weaknesses and plenty of merit, the author can think of no reason why Silloth on Solway isn’t as equally well known around the world as such remote links as Cruden Bay and Machrihanish. The three courses share many similarities. Just as some of the game’s greatest architects gave Cruden Bay and Machrihanish their green complexes, the same holds true for the green complexes at Silloth. Golfers always relish the opportunity to invent shots around interesting green sites and in large part for this reason, these courses remain forever engaging to play. Throw in the beauty of Silloth with the Cumbrian mountains in the distance to the south and views of Scotland to the north and the golfer may be forgiven if he hopes to keep Silloth his own secret for just a few more years.

The End