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James Boon

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As many of you know I am a proud member at Notts Golf Club (Hollinwell) and I’ve been lucky enough to host quite a few of you there over the years.
 
To those that first discover the course, it is often referred to as a “Hidden Gem”, but to the golfing cognoscenti it is often unclear how such a wonderful course isn’t better known? Afterall, for us GCAers the course was the host for the 2015 Buda Cup, is one of Ran’s 147 Custodians and is one of 18 within Tom Doak’s Gourmet Choice in his Confidential Guide.
 
Perhaps it is the courses location, which while being in the heart of England’s Midlands is not a typical golfing destination in the same way as the Surrey ‘sandbelt’ or the links courses of the south east or the north west? Or maybe it is in the name? Notts or Hollinwell? Notts Golf Club playing at a course called Hollinwell seems easy enough, but there isn’t a town or place called Hollinwell as there is a Deal or Brancaster or Baltray and the name instead is derived from the Holy Well on the course.
 
Recent findings in the clubs archive have helped the club embrace its past, especially with the ‘Original’ Willie Park Junior layout being discovered which I hope is of interest to many of you here! I’ve briefly outlined the findings below, but a new eBook on the history of the club explains this in more detail along with many other recent findings, and can be downloaded from the link below:
http://hollinwellhistory.co.uk/
But the club is also looking to the future, and as part of this the decision has been taken to concentrate the clubs identity around the course name of HOLLINWELL. But how and why did we come to this decision?
 
The Archive
 
When I first joined Notts Golf Club (Hollinwell) the clubs historian was an elderly gentlemen who didn’t play much golf anymore. It became noticed that I had an interest in the history of the club, but especially the history of the development of the course, even though in all honesty all I had done was actually read the clubs history book 100 Years at Notts Golf Club by Valerie Collins from the clubs Centenary year of 1987. This interest lead to the secretary manager from time to time sending me queries related to the history of the club and course, to respond to.
 
Fast forward several years and I’d stuck my head above the parapet to joined the Committee. One area of responsibility for me was therefore naturally the clubs history and archive. The archive room was a small room at the back of the first floor of the clubhouse, that was bursting with files, books and ephemera, all pretty much in an unsorted state. Without the time to catalogue this properly I’d looked through the room in search of any hidden gems (“There couldn’t be an original Willie Park Junior plan of the course could there?” No there couldn’t!) without really making progress. My experience as an architect working on projects to save historic buildings often lead to seeking volunteers to help with the research but before I could ask the membership, another member of the committee had volunteered. Nick Jones had just recently moved from Chair of Greens to Vice Captain so was surely to busy? A retired surgeon and remarkable man (who is too modest to notice this himself) when it comes to the time and passion he puts into the golf club, it was about a month after I’d passed him the keys to the archive that he informed me he’d done it. He had tidied and catalogued the entire archive and was already starting to write an updated history of the club!
 
History of the Course at Hollinwell
 
Anyone who has tried to write a book or paper on the history of anything will know that its not as simple as regurgitating all the information you come across. I’m certainly no expert in history writing but as well as the legwork of finding the raw information there is always an element of interpretation of information that could as easily mean one thing as the other. With my specific interest in the history of the course, Nick and I poured over the historic photos but struggled to equate the hole numbers to our understanding of the history of the course and the topography we new and were seeing in these photos.
 
It was well known that in 1913 Tom Williamson had designed the 3 holes to the west of the driveway, that are the 1st to 3rd holes on the course, and that the remainder of the course was altered at this time with both the current 6th and 17th par 5s being formed from short par 4s followed by short par 3s, the current downhill par 3 13th being built and a few other changes. It was always assumed that the layout that existed before this was the same as that designed by Willie Park Junior in 1901, for which a line diagram dated 1912 was in existence. That is until further research by Nick at the British Library discovered an article from the Nottingham Evening Post in 1901 which described the very original course designed by Willie Park Jnr.
 
The course described didn’t match up with the plan of what was thought to be the old course. Therefore further looking at the historic photos once again and Nick going through the archives and minute books started to form a clearer picture of the history of the course. But the only way to finally figure this out was to walk the course and its wider setting searching for archaeological evidence of the previous layouts. As the military historian James Holland says, there is no substitute for walking the ground to get an understanding of the historic situation, and so it proved with the history of the course layout. This was especially true when we ventured into the hillier parts of the course no longer used for golf holes.
 
What we have discovered is that there have effectively been three layouts of the course at Hollinwell. The first in November 1901 was the 'Original' course by Willie Park Jr. but almost
immediately alterations took place because of the introduction of the Haskell ball and from 1902 until 1905 JH Taylor and Tom Williamson modified not just the bunkering as was previously thought but the original layout as a whole removing holes and creating new ones. This resulted in the 'Old' course that lasted until 1912. Then as we know, more land to the west was obtained and the three new starting holes and several alterations to the rest produced the 'New' course in 1913.
 
The “Original” course certainly follows a similar routing to the “Old” and the “New”, staring at what is now the 4th and for several holes following a similar route, but the big changes were the removal of some holes that involved some interesting and challenging tackling of the hills in the area. The current 11th and 12th both tackle the hills well, and are in essence original Willie Park Holes, the 11th climbing up through a valley and the 12th cresting across the top of the ridge with far reaching views. However most of the remainder of Willie Park’s efforts through the hills were eliminated by Tom Williamson. A drop shot par 3 which was the original 7th would have required a steep climb up to the tee, while several holes later the original 9th was a 450yard uphill brute. The former was replaced with a par 3 earlier in the round (now played as the last 150yds or so of the current 6th) while the later was shortened in length and another hole across the top, of which little archaeological evidence could be found, was also eliminated. Lastly, the original 15th and 16th ran across the top of a steep ridge, which they were very much clinging to the top of with the gap between the ridge and the northern boundary of the course being very tight in places. There is also evidence in the clubs minutes that these greens struggled due to any natural irrigation from above running away so swiftly, another factor in their elimination.
 

Sketch plan by Nick Jones of the “Original” layout form 1901 to circa 1905.
 

Sketch plan of the “Old” layout, circa 1906 to 1912.
 

Sketch plan of the “New” layout, from 1912 till present, the main changes since it was laid out being to lengthen the holes.
 
Other Gems from the Archive
 
But it wasn’t just the history of the layout that had been revealed by Nick going through the archive. Plenty of new information came to light, including the history of many of the trees on the course. Since 2000 the club has been working hard to restore the heathland setting and this has meant removing many of the trees on the course, while still retaining some on the periphery and in select spots as part of the heathland mosaic. It was discovered that in 1938 the Duke of Sutherland had gifted the Duke of Portland, a member at NGC, 1,100 trees to be planted on the course, from his estate at Dunrobin (which many of you will know from Dunrobin Castle, near Golspie, north of Dornoch). There are a good number of broad leafed trees across the course that have always thought to be self set, but it would now appear were deliberately planted, though there is no evidence of Tom Williamson suggesting this.
 
It also became clear how often both the course and the club (all be incorrectly in the case of the club) were referred to predominantly as Hollinwell in many of the historic articles in the early part of the 20th Century. In addition, the history of the name of the club and the development of its logo became much clearer. The club started as the Nottingham Golf Club then became the Nottinghamshire Golf Club before Notts. Golf Club in 1893. The name Hollinwell relates to the course that the club moved to in 1901, based on the Holy Well now a charming feature on the 8th hole of a natural spring from which to take a refreshing drink, but before this in December 1900 the Notts. Golf Club was incorporated as a limited company and no logo was used on notepaper, leaflets, or literature until 1986.
 
In 1933 a logo was devised for a club tie with Robin Hood holding a bow and arrow in red on a background of Lincoln green. In 1983 when the stock of Robin Hood club ties ran out that it was decided to redesign the tie. It was then that two historic medals were found originating from 1893.


1893 Medal for the 'Nottinghamshire Golf Club'.


This emblem is derived from the City of Nottingham shield with its colours reversed and so this was developed to place Notts. G.C. Hollinwell underneath instead of the latin and from 1986 has been used as the clubs logo. The connection with the club to the Nottingham shield while understandable isn’t the strong clear connection of many traditional appearing logos.

Hollinwell and Tom Williamson
 
As mentioned above, Nick has pulled all of these findings from the archive and his further research into the club and its wider context, into a wonderful eBook titled “The History of HOLLINWELL and Notts Golf Club” that can be downloaded from the below website:http://hollinwellhistory.co.uk/


From here you can also download “Tom Williamson, Father of Midlands Golf” which looks at the life and works of the clubs long standing professional and course architect. Tom’s career is a subject that could be a separate post in itself!
 
Identity of the Club?
 
What has all this got to do with the clubs identity? For some years the possibility of changing from Notts Golf Club to just Hollinwell had been muted, especially after another course in the county at Cotgrave, rebranded to become The Nottinghamshire Golf and Country Club. While you would never mistake the 2 courses, a simple internet search in this modern world could easily lead to confusion, with Notts being the recognised shortening of Nottinghamshire. Nick’s findings of the regular use of Hollinwell in the past and also the logo being less historically significant than it might at first appear, only strengthened the case for a change in this modern age.
 
A combination of this golfing heritage, future ambition and excellent heathland management credentials have all spurred the club on to adopt this bold new identity concentrated around the name HOLLINWELL with transformed branding of a new logo of a stylised wisp of heather above the Hollinwell name. You can see the new logo on the website below or probably the next time you see me playing on one of my polo shirts:
https://www.hollinwell.co.uk/
We feel the logo better connects the historic name to the natural beauty of the heathland golf course, where players and wildlife are now benefittingfrom considerable investment in the Heathland Restoration project over the last 20 years. Some of you may be aware that this work has been rewarded with the coveted GEO Certification for high standards of nature conservation and environmental sustainability and the Course Manager Phil Stain, awarded “UK Conservation Greenkeeper of The Year”.
 
Lastly, I mentioned the course appearing in Tom Doak’s Gourmet Choice in the recent vol 1 of his Confidential Guide. The Doak scale gives us plenty to discuss and while some will agree with his scores, others wont. However, one thing Tom (and Ran) got spot on is where we appear in this list. Don’t look under ‘N’ for Notts, the course is listed under ‘H’ for HOLLINWELL.
 
Cheers,
 
 
James


ps Yes I know my avatar is the old club badge but I've only just managed to post pictures again so one thing at a time!
 
« Last Edit: June 01, 2020, 04:07:02 AM by James Boon »
2023 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Aberdovey, Royal St Davids, Woodhall Spa, Broadstone, Parkstone, Cleeve, Painswick, Minchinhampton, Hoylake

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

James Bennett

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I would love to do a walk of the old course one day James.I suspect Tony Muldoon would be in his element on such a journey if it was held.Great work.
James B
Bob; its impossible to explain some of the clutter that gets recalled from the attic between my ears. .  (SL Solow)

Ben Stephens

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Need to get back to Hollinwell asap as soon as the lockdown rules go! Not been there for a while. Great thread Boony!

Clyde Johnson

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Thanks for this thread and the link to the two documents James...it's been too long since our game at Hollinwell!


I knew Tom Williamson had been busy in the East Midlands, but not that busy. One of the articles included in one of the documents mentions the course alongside Radcliffe, Ruschliffe and Woolaton Park. Are any of these worth a visit?

Niall C

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Yes very good James, but who won the club championship in 1948 ?


Seriously though, a fantastic achievement, very well done to you and Nick. Hopefully Ran will save your post as an "In My Opinion" contribution.


How do you know classify the course, is it still thought of within the club as a WPJ course ?


Niall

Thomas Dai

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Nice work James. Dusty boxes in cupboards. Your Club is fortunate to have what you have, so many Clubs have lost details in for example Clubhouse fires not to mention stuff simply chucked-out over time. Worth checking any records in boxes or files or desk drawers ‘down the sheds’ too. I did this when doing a similar project at my Club and found a few goodies that weren’t in the main Clubhouse archive cupboard. Photograph everything. ‘Then’ and ‘now’ photo comparisons can be interesting and useful too.
Atb

Ben Stephens

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Thanks for this thread and the link to the two documents James...it's been too long since our game at Hollinwell!


I knew Tom Williamson had been busy in the East Midlands, but not that busy. One of the articles included in one of the documents mentions the course alongside Radcliffe, Ruschliffe and Woolaton Park. Are any of these worth a visit?


Clyde I have played all the other courses you mention all of them are worth playing. I would put them in this order


1.Rushcliffe
2. Wollaton Park
3.Ratcliffe on Trent (so many rig and furrows on the fairways)


Cheers
Ben

Lou_Duran

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Seriously though, a fantastic achievement, very well done to you and Nick. Hopefully Ran will save your post as an "In My Opinion" contribution.

Niall


Second that.  Also add Bryan's work on Turnberry.


James,


It seems that with the help of Mr. Jones, you are now a scratch researcher, writer, historian.  Well done!


I usually confine myself to links courses when visiting the UK, but Notts is a course I would return to in a NY minute.  And it is not because I played it well, I didn't, but I had very high expectations coming in and they were surpassed.  From the aesthetics to how the course kept me on my toes, its variety and pleasant elevation changes, all worked so well together.  I don't know how you take the time to research and write away from playing the course.  I couldn't do i.  Thanks!

James Boon

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Thanks all,

Nice work James. Dusty boxes in cupboards. Your Club is fortunate to have what you have, so many Clubs have lost details in for example Clubhouse fires not to mention stuff simply chucked-out over time. Worth checking any records in boxes or files or desk drawers ‘down the sheds’ too. I did this when doing a similar project at my Club and found a few goodies that weren’t in the main Clubhouse archive cupboard. Photograph everything. ‘Then’ and ‘now’ photo comparisons can be interesting and useful too.
Atb

Thomas,

I think Nick has turned every stone possible in trying to find history on the club. Its really been his hard work that has lead to much of this, I only added the geek element when it came to the history of the course.

We are fortunate to have so much, but actually much of what we know about the early years at Hollinwell comes from local newspaper articles and the like. I suspect much was lost in the clubhouse fire of 1924, bute we do have a full set of minutes of the clubs committee meetings so its possible these were kept away from the club? I know the AGM was often held at large hotels in Nottingham and that Committee Meetings were often held away from the club* as well, so its possible records were also kept away from the club.

* Many Committee Meetings in the 1930s were held at The Black Boy in Nottingham which was a well known pub in a building designed by the renowned local architect Fothergill Watson, though it was demolished in the 1970s. My side interest in this is that it reminded me that I’d read of Guy Gibson and 617 Squadron of Dambusters fame often drinking there during the war while they were based out near Lincoln. That must have been quite a night out in those days!


It seems that with the help of Mr. Jones, you are now a scratch researcher, writer, historian.  Well done!

I usually confine myself to links courses when visiting the UK, but Notts is a course I would return to in a NY minute.  And it is not because I played it well, I didn't, but I had very high expectations coming in and they were surpassed.  From the aesthetics to how the course kept me on my toes, its variety and pleasant elevation changes, all worked so well together.  I don't know how you take the time to research and write away from playing the course.  I couldn't do it.  Thanks!

Thanks Lou,

As I say Nick is the scratch handicap when it comes to historic research. I’m just a mid handicap capable of the occasional birdie!

While I enjoy being on the committee I have noticed how often I visit the club without having time to actually play golf which seems ridiculous to be honest! But thankfully when work allows I can still get out into the heathland and the research is often done in the evening.

How do you know classify the course, is it still thought of within the club as a WPJ course ?


Niall

Niall,

Its difficult to say how we classify it, other than we credit both WPjnr and Tom Williamson where possible. The course certainly wouldn’t be what it is today without WPjnr’s original layout. You could probably say the general playing corridors of 11 of his holes are still used today and so he has to have some credit! However its clear that the current course is very much Tom Williamson as while there might have been minor tinkering in the last 70 years or so, its still pretty similar to how he left it after all his years of service.

I knew Tom Williamson had been busy in the East Midlands, but not that busy. One of the articles included in one of the documents mentions the course alongside Radcliffe, Ruschliffe and Woolaton Park. Are any of these worth a visit?

Clyde,

Williamson certainly was busy in the East Midlands. I seem to recall reading that he was a good friend of James Braid and so Braid didn’t take many (if any) commissions in the East Midlands and likewise TW didn’t travel too often.

Of the course you mention, Ben about has the list right. I don’t know the full history of Radcliffe on Trent but I believe its changed quite a bit since TW design. I probably prefer Rushcliffe to Wollaton, but mainly because its more interesting use of land and a bit quirky, but suspect Wollaton Park would be the more solid course in most peoples eyes.

As another aside, while the club was still based at Bulwell they originally made enquiries about a course at Wollaton Park in early 1900 as an alternative to Hollinwell but were refused. 25 years later Lord Middleton had sold Wollaton Hall to the city council and Tom Williamson designs a golf course in the grounds. And who would want to play a game within the grounds of Wayne Manor, as seen in The Dark Knight Rises (A further aside is that Wayne Manor in Batman Begins was filmed at Mentmore Towers, which was based on Wollaton Hall)

Back to golf, and as I say, Tom Williamson deserves his own thread! Not just for his courses, but he served the club for what we have always believed is a World Record 54 years and also played in what we believe is another World Record of 50 consecutive Open Golf Championships.

I would love to do a walk of the old course one day James.I suspect Tony Muldoon would be in his element on such a journey if it was held.Great work.
James B

The Other James B,

I often have often wondered about trying to recreate the old layout for a game, all be it of cross country golf, and can also imagine Tony be keen on that! However for the now discovered original layout that would be tricky. The run of holes from 15 to 17 which run along the ridge on the north boundary of the course, are all covered in pine trees planted in after the various layout changes. I will have to wait until they have been felled before golf of any sort would be possible across that land.

Cheers,

James

2023 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Aberdovey, Royal St Davids, Woodhall Spa, Broadstone, Parkstone, Cleeve, Painswick, Minchinhampton, Hoylake

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

Niall C

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James


With regards to club minutes and the like I recall being granted access to the committee minute books of a course that MacKenzie had consulted on. MacKenzie in his usual fashion had tried to turn a simple makeover into something larger, namely a project consisting of redesigning the existing 18 hole course and building a second 18 course. The committee minutes report on an EGM that was called to discuss the plans. In the minutes it simply says proposal was not approved however the secretary had attached a newspaper cutting of the meeting that gave a blow by blow account of the "discussions" with the meeting ending in a near riot.


A lot of the time committee minutes can be very dry affairs that confirm decisions but don't often detail what has been confirmed. Newspapers are a great way to add context and detail. If anyone is doing research on a UK club I'd highly recommend www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk. It's a subscription service but well worth it. Of course it doesn't have every newspaper and sometimes you have to resort to looking at microfiche in the local library but it's a great start.


Niall 

Ben Stephens

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Clyde,


Knowing that you are currently working at Seacroft - didn't Tom Williamson have some form of involvement through the History line of design works there?


Boony,


You should write a book on Tom Williamson  ;D  Knowing you it would be a good one and it would be meticulously researched/detailed and I for one happy to draw the holes for this book




I for one have never played a bad Willie Park jr course maybe he is alongside Old Tom Morris is the father of golf course architecture
« Last Edit: June 02, 2020, 02:22:11 AM by Ben Stephens »

Bryan Izatt

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James,

I'm sure you're aware of Bernard Darwin's 1910 book that has his description of Hollinwell. I thought I'd post the commentary here for those who might be interested.  I still have a reasonably good memory of most of the holes from BUDA, but I have trouble lining up the commentary with my sometimes faulty memory of the holes that should be similar to today's.


"Continuing our journey of discovery in a southerly direction, we next took the train to Nottingham, and thence some few miles out to Hollinwell, passing on the way Bulwell Forest, formerly the home of the Notts Golf Club, but now converted into a very popular municipal course. Though Hollinwell is some miles out of Nottingham, the factory chimneys are not so far away, but that the ball, which starts its career on the first tee a snowy white soon passes through a series of varying greys till it is coal black, unless its complexion is renewed by the use of the sponge. The southern caddie’s simple and natural method of cleaning a ball is not here to be recommended.

Hollinwell is a wonderfully sandy course, and when there is a strong wind one may see great clouds of sand blowing down the course after the most approved seaside fashion. The course is rather curiously shaped, since nearly all the holes lie in a long, wide valley. Sometimes we play down the valley, and sometimes we play across it, tacking this way and that, so that we are never hitting monotonously either with or against the wind. Sometimes also we scale the side of the valley and play along the top of the slope, and herein lies a certain weakness of the course, for these upland holes are not quite worthy of the rest. They are of the downland order, with blind shots, big perplexing slopes, and greens cut out of the sides of hills. Luckily there are but few of them, for they are but poor golf, whereas most of the holes in the valley are very good indeed.

I never saw a course that began with fairer promise, for the first hole looks and is delightful—a good long hole of well over 400 yards in length. To the right stretches a line of bracken, while on the left is a small clump of firs, just near enough to the line to induce a slice into the ferns. This first hole is so good that the other holes have a high standard to live up to, and in one important respect they perhaps do not quite succeed. That wilderness of bracken to the right holds out a promise which is not quite fulfilled, because that which Hollinwell lacks is rough ground severe enough to punish the erratic driver. I have no doubt that I was lucky, but I remember several of the most perfect lies for a brassey which were meted out to me, when in common justice I should have been plying my niblick. The rough’s bark is much worse than its bite, and one may often hit very crooked and not be one penny the worse. More bunkers—many more bunkers—at the sides of the course, and perhaps not quite so many in the middle would be no bad prescription for Hollinwell.

If, however, the course has some faults, it also has many merits, and the most attractive, because the most characteristic holes, are those in which the peculiar character of the ground comes into play. Thus at both the seventh and ninth we play across the breadth of the valley into little gullies that run some way in between the spurs of the hill. If we are perfectly straight, the gully receives us with open arms, but to be at all seriously crooked is to be perched on a hillside among thick grass and red sandstone. These are both holes of a fine length, and though with hitting an arrow-like straightness we may hope for fours, we need not make undue lamentations over fives. The eleventh, again, is a charming hole, where the way to the hole follows the contour of a subsidiary valley that wanders away from the main valley on some little expedition of its own; nor, to retrace our steps, must the second be left out, with its pretty background of trees and water.

After the eleventh the golf degenerates for a while, when we leave the lowlands for the highlands; but, just as we are feeling a little sad, comes a marked improvement at the fifteenth, and we end with two really good holes, one short and one long. To justify its existence as a seventeenth hole, a short hole must needs be a very good short hole, and this is an excellent one, save that the inordinately long approach with the wooden putter should be prevented by a bunker on the left. The eighteenth, except that it is a good deal longer, is almost the converse of the first, and the clump of firs that made us slice at the first tee will certainly trap us if we pull our second shot. This last hole lives in my memory from the fact that it gave to my companion a temporarily undeserved reputation among the golfers of Nottingham. Having played a round of almost unbroken sixes, he placed the ball close to the hole with a long iron shot for his third, and holed the putt before an awestruck assembly in the club-house window with an air and manner suggesting that four was the highest rather than the lowest score that he had accomplished during the round. What is more, he only just failed to do the same thing in the afternoon, although the hole is 555 yards long. Such is the inveterate habit that some people have of playing to the gallery.
"


Sean_A

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James,

I'm sure you're aware of Bernard Darwin's 1910 book that has his description of Hollinwell. I thought I'd post the commentary here for those who might be interested.  I still have a reasonably good memory of most of the holes from BUDA, but I have trouble lining up the commentary with my sometimes faulty memory of the holes that should be similar to today's.


"Continuing our journey of discovery in a southerly direction, we next took the train to Nottingham, and thence some few miles out to Hollinwell, passing on the way Bulwell Forest, formerly the home of the Notts Golf Club, but now converted into a very popular municipal course. Though Hollinwell is some miles out of Nottingham, the factory chimneys are not so far away, but that the ball, which starts its career on the first tee a snowy white soon passes through a series of varying greys till it is coal black, unless its complexion is renewed by the use of the sponge. The southern caddie’s simple and natural method of cleaning a ball is not here to be recommended.

Hollinwell is a wonderfully sandy course, and when there is a strong wind one may see great clouds of sand blowing down the course after the most approved seaside fashion. The course is rather curiously shaped, since nearly all the holes lie in a long, wide valley. Sometimes we play down the valley, and sometimes we play across it, tacking this way and that, so that we are never hitting monotonously either with or against the wind. Sometimes also we scale the side of the valley and play along the top of the slope, and herein lies a certain weakness of the course, for these upland holes are not quite worthy of the rest. They are of the downland order, with blind shots, big perplexing slopes, and greens cut out of the sides of hills. Luckily there are but few of them, for they are but poor golf, whereas most of the holes in the valley are very good indeed.

I never saw a course that began with fairer promise, for the first hole looks and is delightful—a good long hole of well over 400 yards in length. To the right stretches a line of bracken, while on the left is a small clump of firs, just near enough to the line to induce a slice into the ferns. This first hole is so good that the other holes have a high standard to live up to, and in one important respect they perhaps do not quite succeed. That wilderness of bracken to the right holds out a promise which is not quite fulfilled, because that which Hollinwell lacks is rough ground severe enough to punish the erratic driver. I have no doubt that I was lucky, but I remember several of the most perfect lies for a brassey which were meted out to me, when in common justice I should have been plying my niblick. The rough’s bark is much worse than its bite, and one may often hit very crooked and not be one penny the worse. More bunkers—many more bunkers—at the sides of the course, and perhaps not quite so many in the middle would be no bad prescription for Hollinwell.

If, however, the course has some faults, it also has many merits, and the most attractive, because the most characteristic holes, are those in which the peculiar character of the ground comes into play. Thus at both the seventh and ninth we play across the breadth of the valley into little gullies that run some way in between the spurs of the hill. If we are perfectly straight, the gully receives us with open arms, but to be at all seriously crooked is to be perched on a hillside among thick grass and red sandstone. These are both holes of a fine length, and though with hitting an arrow-like straightness we may hope for fours, we need not make undue lamentations over fives. The eleventh, again, is a charming hole, where the way to the hole follows the contour of a subsidiary valley that wanders away from the main valley on some little expedition of its own; nor, to retrace our steps, must the second be left out, with its pretty background of trees and water.

After the eleventh the golf degenerates for a while, when we leave the lowlands for the highlands; but, just as we are feeling a little sad, comes a marked improvement at the fifteenth, and we end with two really good holes, one short and one long. To justify its existence as a seventeenth hole, a short hole must needs be a very good short hole, and this is an excellent one, save that the inordinately long approach with the wooden putter should be prevented by a bunker on the left. The eighteenth, except that it is a good deal longer, is almost the converse of the first, and the clump of firs that made us slice at the first tee will certainly trap us if we pull our second shot. This last hole lives in my memory from the fact that it gave to my companion a temporarily undeserved reputation among the golfers of Nottingham. Having played a round of almost unbroken sixes, he placed the ball close to the hole with a long iron shot for his third, and holed the putt before an awestruck assembly in the club-house window with an air and manner suggesting that four was the highest rather than the lowest score that he had accomplished during the round. What is more, he only just failed to do the same thing in the afternoon, although the hole is 555 yards long. Such is the inveterate habit that some people have of playing to the gallery.
"

Bryan

Its not your memory.  Quite a few holes didn't exist or were radically altered when BD wrote his bit  8).

Ciao
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend, Alnmouth & Cruden Bay St Olaf

Clyde Johnson

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Clyde,


Knowing that you are currently working at Seacroft - didn't Tom Williamson have some form of involvement through the History line of design works there?



Yes, he consulted there in Jan 1926...almost four year after MacKenzie. The club weren't happy that Mac had ignored their desires to better use the property between the current 11th and 12th.

James Boon

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Boony,
You should write a book on Tom Williamson  ;D  Knowing you it would be a good one and it would be meticulously researched/detailed and I for one happy to draw the holes for this book


Thanks Ben, but there is enough out there about him already if you look, and Nick Jones' eBook on the www.hollinwellhistory.co.uk site certainly does a good job of pulling a lot of this together.
Cheers,
James
2023 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Aberdovey, Royal St Davids, Woodhall Spa, Broadstone, Parkstone, Cleeve, Painswick, Minchinhampton, Hoylake

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

James Boon

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Bryan,
Yes I love the Darwin piece, especially the reference to the coal dust getting onto the balls, as the course wasnt as picturesque back then being surrounded by collieries. I've highlighted in red below the current holes based on Darwin's description. See also the plan above of the "old" layout.
Cheers,
James


James,

I'm sure you're aware of Bernard Darwin's 1910 book that has his description of Hollinwell. I thought I'd post the commentary here for those who might be interested.  I still have a reasonably good memory of most of the holes from BUDA, but I have trouble lining up the commentary with my sometimes faulty memory of the holes that should be similar to today's.


"Continuing our journey of discovery in a southerly direction, we next took the train to Nottingham, and thence some few miles out to Hollinwell, passing on the way Bulwell Forest, formerly the home of the Notts Golf Club, but now converted into a very popular municipal course. Though Hollinwell is some miles out of Nottingham, the factory chimneys are not so far away, but that the ball, which starts its career on the first tee a snowy white soon passes through a series of varying greys till it is coal black, unless its complexion is renewed by the use of the sponge. The southern caddie’s simple and natural method of cleaning a ball is not here to be recommended.

Hollinwell is a wonderfully sandy course, and when there is a strong wind one may see great clouds of sand blowing down the course after the most approved seaside fashion. The course is rather curiously shaped, since nearly all the holes lie in a long, wide valley. Sometimes we play down the valley, and sometimes we play across it, tacking this way and that, so that we are never hitting monotonously either with or against the wind. Sometimes also we scale the side of the valley and play along the top of the slope, and herein lies a certain weakness of the course, for these upland holes are not quite worthy of the rest. They are of the downland order, with blind shots, big perplexing slopes, and greens cut out of the sides of hills. Luckily there are but few of them, for they are but poor golf, whereas most of the holes in the valley are very good indeed.

I never saw a course that began with fairer promise, for the first hole (current 4th) looks and is delightful—a good long hole of well over 400 yards in length. To the right stretches a line of bracken, while on the left is a small clump of firs, just near enough to the line to induce a slice into the ferns. This first hole is so good that the other holes have a high standard to live up to, and in one important respect they perhaps do not quite succeed. That wilderness of bracken to the right holds out a promise which is not quite fulfilled, because that which Hollinwell lacks is rough ground severe enough to punish the erratic driver. I have no doubt that I was lucky, but I remember several of the most perfect lies for a brassey which were meted out to me, when in common justice I should have been plying my niblick. The rough’s bark is much worse than its bite, and one may often hit very crooked and not be one penny the worse. More bunkers—many more bunkers—at the sides of the course, and perhaps not quite so many in the middle would be no bad prescription for Hollinwell.

If, however, the course has some faults, it also has many merits, and the most attractive, because the most characteristic holes, are those in which the peculiar character of the ground comes into play. Thus at both the seventh (current 15th) and ninth (NLE, approx current 9th tee to current 13th green) we play across the breadth of the valley into little gullies that run some way in between the spurs of the hill. If we are perfectly straight, the gully receives us with open arms, but to be at all seriously crooked is to be perched on a hillside among thick grass and red sandstone. These are both holes of a fine length, and though with hitting an arrow-like straightness we may hope for fours, we need not make undue lamentations over fives. The eleventh (current 10th) , again, is a charming hole, where the way to the hole follows the contour of a subsidiary valley that wanders away from the main valley on some little expedition of its own; nor, to retrace our steps, must the second be left out, with its pretty background of trees and water.

After the eleventh the golf degenerates for a while, when we leave the lowlands for the highlands; but, just as we are feeling a little sad, comes a marked improvement at the fifteenth (approx current 16th), and we end with two really good holes, one short and one long. To justify its existence as a seventeenth hole (approx the last part of the current 17th), a short hole must needs be a very good short hole, and this is an excellent one, save that the inordinately long approach with the wooden putter should be prevented by a bunker on the left. The eighteenth (yes actually the current 18th, but played from a tee well back, to the right of the current 17th green), except that it is a good deal longer, is almost the converse of the first, and the clump of firs that made us slice at the first tee will certainly trap us if we pull our second shot. This last hole lives in my memory from the fact that it gave to my companion a temporarily undeserved reputation among the golfers of Nottingham. Having played a round of almost unbroken sixes, he placed the ball close to the hole with a long iron shot for his third, and holed the putt before an awestruck assembly in the club-house window with an air and manner suggesting that four was the highest rather than the lowest score that he had accomplished during the round. What is more, he only just failed to do the same thing in the afternoon, although the hole is 555 yards long. Such is the inveterate habit that some people have of playing to the gallery.
"

Bryan

Its not your memory.  Quite a few holes didn't exist or were radically altered when BD wrote his bit  8) .

Ciao
2023 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Aberdovey, Royal St Davids, Woodhall Spa, Broadstone, Parkstone, Cleeve, Painswick, Minchinhampton, Hoylake

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

John Mayhugh

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James,
Thanks for sharing the work that you and Nick did. Stuff like this shows true club pride and ownership. I have a LOT of reading to do.

Hope my return to Hollinwell comes soon.

Tom Kelly

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Clyde,


Regarding Radcliffe, Rushcliffe and Wollaton....they are decent courses but nothing on the courses in the north of the county; Hollinwell, Coxmoor, Sherwood, Worksop etc. with the main issue being the land.


I'd put them in order;


1. Wollaton
2. Radcliffe
3. Rushcliffe


Wollaton is on the best sandy land and as far as I am aware, close to the original layout. A few good holes but most of the front nine is quite cramped and the land on the clubhouse side of the park's drive doesn't seem to make the best use of some quite good land. But saying that it is a very solid course with some good holes. Ken Moodie is currently doing some bunker work there. If you want a game, I know a few members I could probably put you in touch with.


The current Radcliffe course is basically a Fred Hawtree/Frank Pennick hybrid built on pretty horrible heavy clay old agricultural land. Despite the land it does have some redeeming features and is a solid if unspectacular course. Hawtree re-routed the original course post WWII after the land was used by the army for an anti-aircraft gun emplacement and farming. Pennick then changed it again adding 1-3 & 16-18 when the clubhouse moved as the land that the original Williamson course is on further down the hill towards the town was compulsory purchased by the council to re-route a road that then never happened. You can see a few features and hole corridors still in the land today. The club used a few of the original greens to build a little par 3 course which was under utilised and has since been abandoned when they relocated the range due to perceived safety issues with the old one (the new one has it's own H&S issues....). I believe there is only one original Willamson green left which is the 12th and probably the best on the course though nothing to really write home about. Again it's a solid course but nothing special, too many trees have been planted over the years, constricting the space and it suffers from a number of poorly thought-out and executed in-house projects in an attempt to save money. This is the course I grew up playing (hence the random knowledge!) and my dad is still a member so I have a soft spot for it, but am frustrated to see it today as with most courses, it could be a whole lot better.


The main reason some in England may have heard of Radcliffe is that 'The MacGregor Trophy' started there which is now the England U16's championship. I have great memories of walking around with the likes of Nick Doughtery and Oliver Wilson and seeing Justin Rose, Edoardo Molinari and Paul Waring all win the trophy at Radcliffe.


Rushcliffe has a few little quirky interesting bits but is quite the slog up and down hills and has a pretty terrible finish with 18 playing straight up a very steep hill to a nothing green, the epitome of a 'heart attack hill' 18th. Haven't been back there for a number of years so they may have made some improvements but can't say I'm all that desperate to get back there. Again another solid members course but nothing really worth travelling for.


Although I have fond memories of all of them, if you're visiting Nottingham and want to play golf, probably best to head north...

Clyde Johnson

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Clyde,

Regarding Radcliffe, Rushcliffe and Wollaton....they are decent courses but nothing on the courses in the north of the county; Hollinwell, Coxmoor, Sherwood, Worksop etc. with the main issue being the land.



Thanks for the insight Tom. Not a part of the country I find myself in too often. I'll try and take a look at Worksop and Wollaton if I'm ever passing.

James Reader

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I also grew up playing golf in Nottinghamshire (I bet my parents have still got my salver for “Best 3rd Round” at the 198x McGregor Trophy somewhere, Tom) and would agree with Tom’s views on the courses mentioned.  The three courses near Mansfield, and Worksop are far and away the pick of the bunch. 


The other one that I’d put in the Wollaton bracket would be Newark, which is another Williamson design I believe. It’s got to be 30 years since I played there and I can remember very little of the detail but it was always a course at which we were quite happy to play a match or county event - unlike a few others I could mention!

Tom Kelly

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I also grew up playing golf in Nottinghamshire (I bet my parents have still got my salver for “Best 3rd Round” at the 198x McGregor Trophy somewhere, Tom) and would agree with Tom’s views on the courses mentioned.  The three courses near Mansfield, and Worksop are far and away the pick of the bunch. 


The other one that I’d put in the Wollaton bracket would be Newark, which is another Williamson design I believe. It’s got to be 30 years since I played there and I can remember very little of the detail but it was always a course at which we were quite happy to play a match or county event - unlike a few others I could mention!


Nice to hear, I'm sure my junior trophies are somewhere buried in boxes in parents loft too, though I never managed to get into the MacGregor as my parents decided a holiday that week would be a better option and they were probably right!!


Yes Newark is again decent, over very flat land and with an awkward 90 degree dogleg 18th and one of the hardest (narrowest) first tee shots I've seen, especially given it's a long par 4 and probably the hardest hole on the course. I'd probably put Stanton and Beeston (must have serious H&S issues these days?) into the mix with Rushcliffe and Radcliffe too, but I think Wollaton and Radcliffe are probably the best in the southern half of the county or at least should be with bit of tlc in Radcliffe's case.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2020, 08:44:27 AM by Tom Kelly »

Ben Stephens

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I also grew up playing golf in Nottinghamshire (I bet my parents have still got my salver for “Best 3rd Round” at the 198x McGregor Trophy somewhere, Tom) and would agree with Tom’s views on the courses mentioned.  The three courses near Mansfield, and Worksop are far and away the pick of the bunch. 


The other one that I’d put in the Wollaton bracket would be Newark, which is another Williamson design I believe. It’s got to be 30 years since I played there and I can remember very little of the detail but it was always a course at which we were quite happy to play a match or county event - unlike a few others I could mention!


Nice to hear, I'm sure my junior trophies are somewhere buried in boxes in parents loft too, though I never managed to get into the MacGregor as my parents decided a holiday that week would be a better option and they were probably right!!


Yes Newark is again decent, over very flat land and with an awkward 90 degree dogleg 18th and one of the hardest (narrowest) first tee shots I've seen, especially given it's a long par 4 and probably the hardest hole on the course. I'd probably put Stanton and Beeston (must have serious H&S issues these days?) into the mix with Rushcliffe and Radcliffe too, but I think Wollaton and Radcliffe are probably the best in the southern half of the county or at least should be with bit of tlc in Radcliffe's case.


Seems like we are the opposite end of the spectrums regarding Rushcliffe and Ratcliffe - I played golf for Nottingham University Golf team in the early 2000's and we played most of our events/home matches at Ratcliffe I did not think much of the course and now seeing it is mostly Pennick which I don't really enjoy most of his courses plus the rig and furrow there is a lot.

Rushcliffe for me is more exciting than Ratcliffe as it has a combination of short par 4s and 5's plus huge downhill shots on a long par 3. I don't mind the heart attack hill on 18 it gives it character. I just find Ratcliffe soulless. Whilst at university I also played Wollaton which I like and Beeston Fields (there are some good holes there and other odd ones it feels like a course of two halves) played Stanton on the Wolds a few times and like Ratcliffe has lots of rigs and furrows.

Newark is interesting there is also Coxmoor, Lindrick as well as Worksop. I am more familiar with the courses of Leics and Rutland where I live and played lot of county events and scratch league matches.




Tom Kelly

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Never understood why Nottingham Uni didn't play at Wollaton given the location, especially as winter golf at Radcliffe gets so wet. I guess Wollaton didn't want students there. As with my experience of uni golf at Edgbaston I can imagine the winter conditions may have had a bearing on your thoughts of the course? Edgbaston was generally a bog during term time. Though I am by no means suggesting Radcliffe is great during the summer either! I remember playing against Nottingham for Birmingham and the lad I was playing not being too pleased when he realised I was a member at Radcliffe, I think I was the only for Brum who won that day! I actually think 5 of Pennick's 6 holes (the 3rd is terrible) are pretty good, but all have had poor recent changes made to them.


Maybe I am doing Rushcliffe a disservice but after a few decent holes to start, once down the hill I can only remember bland holes, slogs back up the slope, a par 3 playing over trees and a poor 16, 17, 18. I also remember it being virtually impossible to hold balls on the cross slopes of a number of fairways during the summer months. Have I forgotten any decent holes once down the hill?

Michael Graham

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Tom,


Interesting to read your thoughts about Radcliffe. I had never heard of it until recently - my home club in Edinburgh, Mortonhall appointed as GM Karl Adams who before moving north held the same position at Radcliffe. I’ve not met him yet but seems like other staff members are impressed with his ideas for moving the club forwards.

Ben Stephens

  • Karma: +0/-0
Never understood why Nottingham Uni didn't play at Wollaton given the location, especially as winter golf at Radcliffe gets so wet. I guess Wollaton didn't want students there. As with my experience of uni golf at Edgbaston I can imagine the winter conditions may have had a bearing on your thoughts of the course? Edgbaston was generally a bog during term time. Though I am by no means suggesting Radcliffe is great during the summer either! I remember playing against Nottingham for Birmingham and the lad I was playing not being too pleased when he realised I was a member at Radcliffe, I think I was the only for Brum who won that day! I actually think 5 of Pennick's 6 holes (the 3rd is terrible) are pretty good, but all have had poor recent changes made to them.


Maybe I am doing Rushcliffe a disservice but after a few decent holes to start, once down the hill I can only remember bland holes, slogs back up the slope, a par 3 playing over trees and a poor 16, 17, 18. I also remember it being virtually impossible to hold balls on the cross slopes of a number of fairways during the summer months. Have I forgotten any decent holes once down the hill?


Tom

My thoughts exactly re Wollaston and you are probably right  ;D - The School of Architecture at Nottingham Uni was on the other side of the A52.

I am surprised generally that lots of clubs in the UK who has rig and furrow fairways have not considered to use inert fill to cover them. Personally I am not a fan of rig and furrow and they are terrible for walking with a trolley and even worse when in a buggy. There is too much of it at Radcliffe, Stanton and even the Leicestershire

Some may like it because to them it add character. 

Going back to Radcliffe it was one of my memorable British Unis league match vs Lincoln I played against a first year student who had a very low handicap and was 5 down early on and I managed to win the match on the last hole despite duck hooking my drive in the trees!.

Cheers
Ben

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