Sherwood Forest, famous for being the mythological home of the gallant outlaw Robin Hood, is far smaller than in ancient times. Today, the 1000 acre forest is hemmed in by Mansfield to the west and Worksop to the north. The village of Edwinstowe is completely surrounded by the Royal Forest and nearby is the famous 800(ish) year old Major Oak; Robin Hood and his Merry Menís shelter from the elements and Machiavellian Sheriff of Nottingham.
Tucked between the forest and Mansfield is a delightful patch of heathland given over to golf in 1912 by the 6th Duke of Portland. Despite the abundantly fanciful images evoked by the name Sherwood Forest, it is inconceivable that any other name would due. It would seem HS Colt contributed with advice to an already existing course the club built when it moved to the Dukeís land and that Braidís substantial work was completed by the green staff in 1927. Much of the work centred on lengthening the course and the bunker work associated with such changes, but most of the previously exciting greens remained in tact. The result is nothing short of delightful. Mind you, at 6300 yards from the daily tees and with five par 4s measuring over 400 yards Sherwood Forest is tough enough to test a high standard of golfer. Indeed, the club hosted Regional Open Qualifying from 2002 through 2007. I believe Regional Qualifying will return to Sherwood Forest in 2014. This honour has nudged the club into making some changes. There are several bunkers being worked on, some of which I believe are new. Interestingly, and this is only from memory, the club seems to have decided to toughen up the tee shots for numbers 12-14 (already difficult holes!) by placing bunkers in the landing zones. I think if work is going to be done, this is the best way to approach it. Too often clubs will increase the challenge of the breather holes, thus disrupting the rhythm of the design.
While the footprint of Colt remains evident throughout, Sherwood's first seven holes are essentially as Colt designed and as is often the case Colt opened his courses with holes that aren't overly taxing. That is certainly the case at Sherwood.
The course quickly swings into shape with a cracking two-shotter which features beautifully placed bunkers. In general, the fairway bunkering is outstanding.
The approach. Notice the large berm behind the green. This is very reminiscent of Camberley Heath. Although the 6th runs behind this green I am not sure why the berm was utilized.
There are several blind drives, the first of which comes at the third. The bunkers shown below cut-off the fairway at a very reachable distance so it is best to lay-up.
#4 is a majestic par 3. While the house isn't a great backdrop, one can easily imagine that from inside there are outstanding views of #s 1 & 5 going out and #s 4 & 18 coming in. However, it is the small details which can separate the very good from great courses. In the photo below, the tee blocking the view of the left bunker detracts from the balance of the set piece.
A closer look at the expert shaping.
The boozers' loop completed; the fifth is the first of two fine reachable three-shotters which play over/through valleys.
Fairway bunkering once again plays a major role in the decision-making process.
#6 is a tough blind tee shot par 4 with its fairway narrowed by very well placed right hand bunkers.
Yet another stunning set piece, the par 3 seventh features two greens. I suspect the left-hand green is original and the right acts as a temporary.
The beautiful golf continues with #8, the second par 5. Braid changed the line and pushed this green much further left to take full advantage of the valley.
The side ends with the first hole of Sherwood's murderer's row. One must get his score on the opening eight holes for all the par 4s between 9 and 14 are 400 plus yards. The ninth's beauty belies its difficulty. At 453 yards it is the longest of these stretch two-shotters. The drive is blind, has heather threatening the right side and a bunker left. While the course features some terrific fairway bunkering, the greenside bunkering is a bit of a let-down. Almost without exception left and right is on the menu.
In the Colt influenced rendition of the course, the homeward nine had four sub 300 yard holes and a monster par 5. Braid used existing fairway corridors to create the challenge which exists today. The short 10th offers some respite (perhaps too early?) from the big hitting.
The course continues its final stint of the eastward march on #11; another exquisite hole of simple allure. I think the right green-side bunker had its profile raised for better visibility.
The long road home begins on the 12th. The course is far less attractive heading in and the wind is no longer friendly. It is also the 12th which signals the start of serious new bunker work. From the daily tee, a freshly built large bunker covering the left half of the fairway is blind - as is the landing zone. Below is the approach.
It is very unfortunate that five of the last six holes head straight into the winter sun. This drastically effects the enjoyment, but it is also the case that the holes are not nearly as compelling as found earlier. The 13th is a flat par 4 bending around trees to the left with a new bunker blocking the safe play on the right. #14 slides left as well and has new bunkers protecting the inside of the leg. The remaining four holes are a great deal easier than the previous four. The final par 3 is quite good with the expectant heavy bunker protection.
#16, while not up to the standard of the front nine par 5s, requires sound shot-making to earn a birdie due to a profuse number of bunkers.
#17 is a moderate length par 4 with a large bunker pinching play toward the trees right. A lay-up is the obvious play - not one of my favourite holes. Thankfully, other than sun issues, the home hole is very good. It is feasible that flat bellies could reach this green, but only in favourable conditions. A large valley bisects the hole and makes the golfer choose between a lay-up, or risking a blind approach from the valley floor if going for the far side.
Despite the few shortcomings of Sherwood Forest such as the green-side bunkering, winter sun problems and perhaps the lack of a true drivable par 4, there is a lot to admire...especially the fantastic front 9. The condition of the course is very good and the greens seemed to have improved over last year. While I can't point to any exceptional hole, the whole is far greater than the individual parts of Sherwood. There is an undeniable grandeur to many of the holes which should slap a smile to any golfer's face. The par 5s as a set are good and as a balance to the many long par 4s don't in any way create an added burden for the golfer. The threes are earnest, if not exceptional, and the fours demonstrate good variety. Finally, and this is something which is quite important to the visiting golfer, though often not mentioned, the club is very friendly. This area of Nottinghamshire is well blessed with the very solid Coxmoor and striking Notts just the other end of Mansfield - all the more reason to stop by for a few days of golf. 2012
Previous stops on the Tour:http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,32655.0.html
The Old Coursehttp://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,50086.0.html
The New Coursehttp://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,50078.0.html
The Castle Coursehttp://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,30926.0.html
Next scheduled stop:
Saunton East & West