Thoughts of the 1929 Ryder Cup are rarely absent when visiting Moortown!
This nearly lifesize photo of Samuel Ryder presenting his Cup to GB&I Captain George Duncan hangs in the foyer.
It is a little recognized fact that Yorkshire is the site of the first and last pure British and Irish Ryder Cup victories. The home side was successful at Moortown in 1929 and Lindrick in 1957. Sandwiched between these victories was a Hogan led team which came from behind to win the 1948 matches in a war ravished England. It is also little known that Alwoodley turned down the invitation to host the 1933 Ryder Cup which was a squeaker win for Britain at Southport and Ainsdale. The Ryder Cup Matches have a long and cherished history and no club celebrates this legacy in quite the same manner as Moortown. The entrance drive, hall and Dining Room are given over to the historic 1929 Matches. It is also fitting that the creator of Moortown is memorialized in the MacKenzie Bar.
More concentrated and single designer focused than the 3 Ws, it wasn’t all that long ago that four courses designed by Dr MacKenzie were in close proximity (one could easily walk the distances to the front gates with clubs in tow) just north of Leeds. In 1970 Moor Allerton sold its land for housing and moved further north and now plays over a Robert Trent-Jones Senior course. Moortown, Alwoodley and Sand Moor remain on their original plots. All three courses have been altered somewhat, but Moortown and Sand Moor did so to accommodate the ever increasing growth of Leeds. However, Moortown remains overwhelmingly a Dr MacKenzie design. In recent years the club engaged Ken Moodie to work on the course. The original idea was to rebuild two greens, but the job eventually turned into a complete bunker restoration project incorporating new bunkering for three holes built in the 1980s and some added bunkers here and there to test flat bellies.
While many know much about MacKenzie, it is worth noting his meteoric rise in golf. From humble beginnings as a founding member of Alwoodley in 1907 to designing an iconic course (Alwoodley) in the same year and a host course of the Ryder Cup in 1909 (after using Gibraltar as a means to recruit members) to winning the Country Life Lido Prize in 1914 and becoming an R&A member by 1915 is remarkable by any standard. Even with this sort of talent and resume, few would have predicted the even greater accomplishments MacKenzie would achieve before his death in 1934.
While hosting the 1929 Ryder Cup is undoubtedly Moortown’s feather in the cap, the club has been the venue for many high level professional and amateur events. Many will remember the Car Care tour event in the mid-80s. The 1984 event was notably won by Nick Faldo at +2 for the week. Well prior to the development of the European Tour, Moortown hosted the prestigious Yorkshire Evening News Professional Tournament on 19 occasions. The year of the 1929 Ryder Cup was won by American Joe Turnesa. Major amateur events too are well represented at Moortown with five Brabazon Trophies (the most recent in 2009) and a scattering of English Amateurs. Suffice it to say that Moortown has remained relevant as a championship venue and the recent work will ensure this trend continues.
Moortown greets the golfer in a gentlemanly manner. There is no bothersome unpleasantness with strictly straight requirements on the first. This three-shotter can be reached in two, but par is a fine start to the game.
Measuring an uphill 440 yards from the daily tee, the 2nd is all most golfers can handle. The ditch crossing the fairway considerably increases the difficulty. The green too runs hard from the open right side. This is the first of six 400+ yards holes which on windy day are all testing.
The third is a pretty par 4, but not terribly memorable. The short 4th plays over swampy ground and while difficult is probably Moortown's least memorable par 3. The fifth is the only shortish two-shotter on a course which could desperately use more of this type to create some variety in the 4s. Without question, the inclusion of only one hole in the yardage range between the longest par 3 at 170 yards and the second shortest par 4 of 363 yards is the single biggest weakness of Moortown. There is a lot of potential for excellent golf in that 200 yard gap. Unfortunately, due to trees on the dogleg, an otherwise excellent hole is somewhat spoiled.
Two holes built in the late1980s follow. The drive on #6 is obscured, but there is plenty of space to play...much of it down the left which brings trees into play. Although, many trees have been cleared to great effect and a new bunker was added on the left. The fairway zig zags abruptly around the trees to a somewhat domed green leaning left.
More to follow.