Silloth on Solway Golf Club
Cumbria, England

Ninth hole, 145 yards, The Manx; This short one shotter shares similarities with the infamous 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 kicks sharply away toward a nest of three bunkers six paces off and below the putting surface. From below 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 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 9th’s small putting surface, made all the more elusive by the ever present wind.

Twelfth hole, 205 yards, Heather Bank; As the name implies, heather is a dominant 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. It isn’t the most dramatic hole but it benefits from the architects having left well enough alone.

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 in nature and shrugs off any but the straightest of shots. The green itself is on an exposed knob and falls away on all sides.Though not long in length, the thirteenth is full of character with a wide range of scores often seen within each group.

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

The 13th green is the 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 this hole would be much better known 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. Its significance 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 decisions. Sculpted-out fairways with hazards to the sides lend themselves to dull golf. The design of Silloth on Solway is the antithesis of that, with the golfer always wondering what challenge he’ll face next.

Sixteenth 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 crosswind. Veteran players often elect to drill their tee balls low and have them run up the six foot bank onto the putting surface. With bunkers left and right, the hole is exacting, regardless of what method the golfer attempts.

Any tee ball that finds the putting surface is well played indeed.

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

The tee ball 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 and the par five that follows might be the most underrated hole.’ 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 here. 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