Silloth on Solway Golf Club
Cumbria, England

One of the game’s great green complexes, the 4th resembles the 1st at Pine Valley Golf Club with a fairway that runs onto the green that features sharp drop-offs left and right.

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 bear much resemblance to today’s course. 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 the revered Maidstone Club on Long Island. Alister MacKenzie, who lived several hours away in Leeds, also lent a hand at the third green and fourth tee.

The town of Silloth is no longer the thriving resort that it was in Victorian times. Nonetheless, golfers are still thrilled to head here just as both these master architects must surely have been over a century ago. Afterall, the property before them constitutes something near the ideal: stunning location set along the Cumbria coastline, panoramic views of Scotland to the north, humpy bumpy landforms, gorse and heather, and the ever present wind off the Solway Firth. What more could you ask for?!

Today’s routing is generally out and back in nature with the ninth and tenth holes being the farthest points from the clubhouse. However, the property is wider than other out and back routings such as Royal Troon and The Old Course at St. Andrews. At its widest point, the property’s breadth accommodates the seventeenth, second, third, fourth and fifth holes – and that’s with the third 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 is that one nine can play relatively easy compared to the other. That is not true at Silloth – the best holes are evenly spread throughout the course and the course is engaging in all winds.

Apart from the sheer beauty of this part of Cumbria, the lasting impression is made by the quality and variety of the green sites. Three are located in their own dells (e.g. the first, seventh, and seventeenth), its most famous green site is located at the highest point on the course on an exposed knob (the thirteenth) while the one prior is enclosed left and behind by a thick bank of gorse. Some of the smaller greens are heavily bunkered (e.g. the ninth and sixteenth) and five greens (e.g. the first, fourth, seventh, thirteenth and seventeenth) are bunkerless though well defended by natural features.

The variety in placement of the green sites creates much of the course’s lasting interest. Pictured above is the first green in a dell which gathers balls in from well back in the fairway.

Given the firmness of the turf and the wind, when coupled with the imaginative green sites, this is 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 blindly fires his 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.

The thick heather down the left needs to be avoided off the tee.

Fourth 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 narrow green, reminding some of the dangerous eleventh at the Country Club of Charleston.

This man’s approach was pulled slightly left, leaving him with an awkward stance to a green some ten feet above. Though the recovery was well played from the slight downhill lie …

…the golfer’s ball didn’t quite hold the putting surface and trickled down the right bank of the green. A quick (and easy!) ‘6’ was carded on this 370 yarder from just a slightly pulled approach.

Fifth hole, 520 yards, Solway; The placement of the tees in the dunes creates an appealing and strategic diagonal carry to a fairway that parallels the coastline of the Solway Firth.

The fifth tee offers a tempting diagonal carry that can bring the green within reach for the stronger golfer. One readily imagines how the glorious beauty of this part of the world is fully revealed on sunny days.

Sixth hole, 200 yards, Natterjack; The first of an exceptional set of one shot holes, the sixth 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 them or 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.

Played from well above the putting green, the 6th tee ball needs to avoid 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 other Silloth green complexes, the interior contours are good without being exceptional. However, the surrounds of the green are of exception and when taken together, the green sites at Silloth create great short game interest.

Though bunkerless, the 7th green complex doesn’t lack defenses.

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