According to some locals hanging about in the clubhouse, Weston-super-Mare literally means Weston on (near) the sea. Why some form of Latin was used for this oft used descriptor I don't know. By then I was on my second pint of the local stuff and lost interest - though I am sure a reasonable response to my initial enquiry was delivered at some point in the proceedings. I figured the origin of the name may be the first question so I thought it best to get it out of the way.
Dr Mac remodeled the course at some point around 1922 before sailing for greater fame in Oz and USA. It is for this reason and this reason alone that I wanted to see the course for these past dozen years. The fact that the course is at most 1.5 hours from my home and yet it has taken me 10 years to knock on the door is testimony to the seriousness of my architectural interests
In any case, the Winter Tour of England continued today under the lowering skies of January. I didn't really have many expectations for W-s-M and to be fair my expectations weren't far off the reality. That said, the course wasn't at all bad and I believe this is mainly due to the often clever greens employed by Dr Mac. For the greens are without any shadow of a doubt the main draw of this links. They are often slightly raised and tilted toward one advantageous angle or another. This may sound inconsequential considering the generous width of most of the fairways, but in fact, I think the combination of width and desired angles plays out very well at W-s-M. Now, onto the course and I must apologize for the inferior quality of the pix, but I can only offer what nature provided.
The first glimpse of the course from the tee isn't at all promising. Perhaps this is why it is even more impressive that Dr Mac created something of any interest. Weston starts off gently with a very mild opener, but one already gets the sense the action of this course will by and large come around the greens. The 2nd is not too unlike the opener. The most favourable line of approach is from near the boundary line on the right. Throughout the course Dr Mac offers these strategic options. Ever present are these old dyke works which presumably had sand at their base at one time. I think it is very cool that Dr Mac left these hazards in place. Well, I assume they were left there by Dr Mac, but I don't really know. Also take notice how the green is slightly raised. Many of these examples also shed shots on at least threes sides which further accentuates the correct line of approach.
The 3rd is the first a few very groovy one-shotters. The green isn't visible from the medal tee, though there is more room right over the wall than appears to be the case. A large dip short of the green and the wing back rear of the green conspire to encourage the golfer to hit plenty of club.
Behind the green.
The 4th ratchets up the funk with a very busy looking tee shot. Out of nowhere a sodded wall makes an appearance. The hole bends right to one of the more than four corners of the course through the a gap. For those looking to lay-up there is a perfectly placed bunker up the left and a tree right. Perhaps the drive could be made more thrilling if the gap were wider, but I doubt planning regulations would allow a chunk of the wall being removed.
5 & 6 are stranded across the road in an area which has seen flooding. They aren't poor holes, but it is the scenery which is the highlight of this area. An arm of the River Axe cuts around the 6th to a mooring area with the Old Church of St Nicholas in the background.
The beach is plentiful with the town of Weston stacked up the hillside. Below is a look at Brean Down. It looks like an island, but it is in fact a small headland with the island of Steep Holm directly behind from the vantage point of the course. The Range Rover Sport looks free and easy on the beach. But for those of you back home, remember, the Severn Estuary has one of the highest tidal ranges on the planet and the speed at which the tide can roll in is to the say the least, alarmingly dangerous. For those who want to see something special, make time to see the Severn Bore. There is a fantastic viewing point at Over Bridge, near Gloucester.
The first real testing shot of the day comes on the shortish par 3 7th. As is evidenced by the photo, the green is raised and all the trouble is up front. What you can't see is the green is angled to the point where one needs to focus on using the length of the green to hold a shot - nevermind where the hole is. There are also sharpish drop-offs left and right. Pay attention to the hill in the background. I doubt Dr Mac built this feature, but for all its awkwardness it is used very well. 5 holes of the course come into contact with this earth work!
From the 14th tee.
The 8th is a very cool low grade short par 5. The wind can push tee shots over toward the fronting ditch used for #3. Its sounds crazy, but for such a flat course I couldn't believe how many times I didn't clearly know where I was going. There is very little definition for many tee shots; giving the false impression of a wide-open course. However, the highlight of the hole is the magnificent green which looks like it belongs at Woking. From right of the green.
The 9th is another one of those strategically lovely holes. Trouble is dotted throughout the left and right sides of the fairway and the green is slightly raised. The 10th is a shortish par 4 which encourages players to hug the oob left. To keep the player on his toes, this green slopes much more toward the front than it appears. The 11th, the 3rd very good par 3, takes us back out in the same direction as the 1st. The bunkers are no bargain as they are a sort of mixture of dirt and sand which often encloses around balls causing fried eggs. There is however a simplistic beauty to raw pits like this. The 12th legs hard right around a bunker. If playing downwind it is very easy to run out room left should one opt to stay well clear of sand. Here is the only trademark "Mackenzie" green of two tiers on the course.
The following par 5 continues the march toward the far end of the links and the freak show that is the huge built up hill that comes into play for several holes. Its quite ingenious use of what I can only assume is a man made feature. I just don't know what to say about this green site...it reminds me of the par 5 at TNC.
The short 14th with Old St Nicholas in the background.
We finally come to Weston's Road Hole. Now, if there is any other hole on this planet which is such a blatant copy of its namesake I would like to see it. One has to hit blindly over the hill which the 13th green was carved into. This hole is a complete monster and was easily the most difficult on the course and one of the most difficult par 4s I have encountered. That said, it is a great hole if a bit too tight! Even the green is a good copy of the original.
16 marks time as an old man on his deathbed...a dreadfully dull hole. The three-shot seventeeth turns abruptly left around blind oob and isn't much of a hole. Thankfully the final hole is a goodun'. Most people can't reach the two huge bunkers about 300 yards out. The green is hard on the oob right and for most a five is satisfactory.
Well, I hope you enjoyed what little I could show you of Weston-super-Mare. I really enjoy the course, but I can fully accept that this sort of thing will not impress many people. There is plenty of scope for great improvements to the design, but I suspect it is a pointless excercise to discuss. However, that doesn't at all mean that Dr Mac hasn't created something of merit from this extremely unpromising terrain. But, in good conscious, despite my liking of the course, I couldn't really recommend folks making much of an effort to stop by unless they are extreme Mac Heads on some sort of unnatural quest. W-s-M is more the sort of course one may play quite by chance and if seen in the right light, it shouldn't disappoint. 2016