I was lucky enough to play Delamere Forest Golf Club last night with @Liverbirdie. I have played it 3/4 times before but this time we had the pleasure of playing it with 2 members who chatted to us about the club, membership, the course and the changes that they have made and are planning to make.
For those who have never heard of Delamere Forest is a Herbert Fowler designed (remodel by Mackenzie and Ebert in 2012) course set in Cheshire. It has an excellent reputation as one of the best (if not the best) inland courses in the North West.
It is a very traditional members club and with a small number of members. In their constitution they limit themselves to less than 250 male members. This obviously makes entry to the club difficult and there is a waiting list and you do require a sponsor. There are no bookable tee times for members (not even for competitions) you just turn up and wait for a clear tee. With so few members the course is rarely busy. The club does have thriving junior and ladies sections and they boast several outstanding players who compete at regional and national levels.
The first thing I would like to state is to dispel the rumour that the club is ‘stuffy’ and ‘unwelcoming’ to visitors. Every time I have been the welcome has been friendly and the members and staff chatty and helpful. The 2 members we played with were great company and we had a great time listening to them talk to us about their club. The club does have plans to develop signage and facilities for visitors.
We were offered a loosen up on the practice area. There are complimentary balls for both members and guests, but the first real sense that you are somewhere special is when you walk down the side of the clubhouse to the first tee. You are greeted with a stunning vista of curving fairways, heathland and greens that looks like it has been carved out of Delamere Forrest itself. With the Cheshire White Oak clubhouse in a raised backdrop is just idillic and it is a real picture postcard.
There are several tee’s. The members play of the (scratch) greens, visitors off the yellows, ladies off the reds and there is a championship blue course. Its worth looking at the blue tee on the first hole which lengthens the par 4 hole to 495 yards, longer than the par 5 2nd hole! The carry needed would bring a tear to most peoples eyes! Delamere Forest is littered with a really good blend of strong par 4’s, risk / reward par 4’s and 5’s and short and long par 3’s. No 2 holes are the same. Whether it be the signature Fowler bunkering (that was restored in the Mackenzie/Ebert redesign in 2012), the elevation changes, the green sizes and their contours ,the stunning vistas all make the course very playable and so enjoyable. From the first green you can see quite a lot of the other golf holes and the backdrops are spectacular. However, you move from there to the back 9 where on the SI 1 11th, it’s just you and that golf hole giving you that sense of isolation and serenity. The natural contouring of the wonderfully manicured fairways and shaped rough leading into the naturally purple grasses is very easy on the eye and makes the course so playable. It is a challenging course, that if you play well, you can score really well, however, if you miss greens in the wrong places, or take the wrong line off the tee, it makes the hole much harder. We were lucky that our hosts pointed out the best lines (not that I always found them . They spoke so passionately about the course and that they are progressive in continuing to make improvements to the course. They have removed 100’s of tree’s and inserted new tee’s (which make the championship blue course tough) that enhance the views and develop the strategy needed to score well.
The spectacular holes that stood out for me are the SI1 11th - it wouldn’t look out of place on either of the Sunningdale courses, the short par 3 6th from an elevated tee hitting down into a well bunkered green and water on the left and the 18th, which we played off the new blue tee is framed by the tall tree’s and again your carry dictates the length of your second shot. Take on more off the corner (longer carry) of go left and its a lay up all day to the green with the clubhouse in the back drop.
Delamere Forest is without doubt up there with the best heathland courses in the UK. There are plans to increase the accessibility of the course to visitors and to develop the club website. It is a must play if you are ever up in the North West!