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Ben Stephens

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Dear GCA,


Andrew Slane and myself had the opportunity to play with James Boon at Hollinwell last weekend.


Upon arriving down the driveway we saw a Lone Ranger walking down the 18th fairway with a nice leather bag and a few old clubs lo and behold it was actually James playing with hickories prior to our round with 'standard 21st C clubs'


Having not played Hollinwell for around 5 years - the place always astounds me with its space, variety and its nature. The course is long and very strong there is so much variety of holes not one is similar to the other. The bunkers have been given a refreshing new natural craggy outline look which I think has improved the appearance of the course and tree removal in places has enhanced the course.


For me it is the best inland all round course in England - that begs the question why isn't it higher up in the rankings (having seen some old ones it was certainly higher that it is now)


Compared with others higher up in the rankings like Sunningdale Old, Woodhall Spa, Ganton and Alwoodley which I have played. I can't get it why they are higher


Is it the location?


Do the other courses have a better group of par 3's


Do people think Hollinwell is too long a slog fest?


Are the greens not the same level as the others?


I asked James the question do you think 5 and 9 should be improved - you can imagine his response  ;D  they are both understated par 3's not ones that are really memorable compared with the other courses I have mentioned.


Hollinwell for me has better par 4's and par 5's than the other courses. The ebb and flow all the way round is great - I feel that both Woodhall and Ganton loses it a bit in the middle of the round. Sunningdale can be a bit awkward in places.


Hollinwell remains in my top 10 of courses that I have played. 

Richard Fisher

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Why isn't HOLLINWELL not higher up in the golf course rankings
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2023, 06:37:15 AM »
I absolutely love Hollinwell (and Ran does give it a special piece in the Confidential Guide) but whether it is 'better' than e.g. Alwoodley (which I also absolutely love) or Walton Old or any of the others you cite is perhaps more questionable. It's certainly in the top ten of British inland courses. I completely agree that any listing which posits e.g Hankley or even lovely Pulborough above either Hollinwell or Alwoodley is a bit bonkers...

Ben Stephens

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Why isn't HOLLINWELL not higher up in the golf course rankings
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2023, 06:49:04 AM »
I absolutely love Hollinwell (and Ran does give it a special piece in the Confidential Guide) but whether it is 'better' than e.g. Alwoodley (which I also absolutely love) or Walton Old or any of the others you cite is perhaps more questionable. It's certainly in the top ten of British inland courses. I completely agree that any listing which posits e.g Hankley or even lovely Pulborough above either Hollinwell or Alwoodley is a bit bonkers...


Alwoodley is probably more suited for a friendly/social game whereas Hollinwell is a proper Championship course it's one of the very few where I am hitting a lot more mid or long irons to greens even off the yellow tees than most courses.


Alwoodley shaping wise is probably better aesthestically than Hollinwell which is more rugged and natural.


Different people have different parameters in judging what is better than others. Mine is more to do with the challenge and design of the course more than aesthetics. I would have Hollinwell 7-3 over Alwoodley if had the choice of 10 rounds.   


Hollinwell is one of those courses that I am more comfortable playing than Woodhall Spa or Ganton as it probably suits my game better than the other two.


If it was purely conditioning it would be Sunningdale hands down. 
« Last Edit: May 09, 2023, 06:51:09 AM by Ben Stephens »

Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +1/-1
Re: Why isn't HOLLINWELL not higher up in the golf course rankings
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2023, 11:09:57 PM »
I absolutely love Hollinwell (and Ran does give it a special piece in the Confidential Guide) but whether it is 'better' than e.g. Alwoodley (which I also absolutely love) or Walton Old or any of the others you cite is perhaps more questionable. It's certainly in the top ten of British inland courses. I completely agree that any listing which posits e.g Hankley or even lovely Pulborough above either Hollinwell or Alwoodley is a bit bonkers...


Hollinwell was also in the Gourmet's Choice in the first edition of The Confidential Guide.  I just let Ran write it up for the new one, instead of doing it myself.


Why is it not more highly ranked?  [Many courses ask the same question.]  I would say it is just as good as any of the other four courses Ben named, well maybe not Sunningdale.  I wouldn't say it is better than the others.


Honestly, part of the reason is that it has never had any cachet to it.  When I first visited forty years ago it was the same -- highly respected, but not promoted, and not loved by anyone influential.  [The person who turned me onto it was Walter Woods, who was greenkeeper there before moving to St. Andrews.]  They don't host big tournaments of note, like Sunningdale or Woodhall Spa, or Ganton which does it less regularly.


Alwoodley and Sunningdale and Woodhall Spa are primary to the stories of Mackenzie and Colt and Hotchkin, respectively.  Ganton has always been highly respected in all of the old books - Dickinson, Sir Peter Allen, The World Atlas of Golf.  Hollinwell doesn't play up its pedigree as well.


The other reason for it being relatively underrated is that it's a harder course than Sunningdale or Alwoodley, though not any harder than Ganton or Woodhall Spa.  And the world rankings are decided by a bunch of guys who aren't 2-handicap players.  If GOLF DIGEST did a decent job of its world list -- which they do not -- by their criteria and their panelists' viewpoint, I suspect Hollinwell would be ranked more to Ben's tastes.

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Why isn't HOLLINWELL not higher up in the golf course rankings
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2023, 03:35:44 AM »
Call me bonkers. I think Pulborough is superior to Alwoodley and Notts. Alwoodley to me is generally over rated, as is Woodhall.

The best thing about Notts is the dynamic property. The routing explores the property extremely well.  As Tom wrote, it doesn't have the same high profile story as the others. Although, the Tom Williamson story is very cool.

There is something which has held me back with rating Notts very highly despite its much better property than practically any inland British course. I think one reason is the bunkering. It isn't bad, but often doesn't add much to the design or it could have added more when it does matter. The greens aren't a high point either, but that is true of many British courses. I always felt it was too long for me as well. I would like to see the course from forward tees sometime.

I have always liked and respected Notts, but never fell hard for the place. Maybe one day the penny will drop.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2024: Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Blackmoor, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend & Alnmouth

Richard Fisher

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Why isn't HOLLINWELL not higher up in the golf course rankings
« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2023, 05:22:16 AM »
Bonkers Sean? No more than any of the rest of us. :)
On 'profile' here is two hours of BBC coverage of the old Haig tournament at Hollinwell in 1982, reminding us all of what a different world professional golf in the UK was forty years ago
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvET32AR8o4&t=6402s


Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +1/-1
Re: Why isn't HOLLINWELL not higher up in the golf course rankings
« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2023, 08:39:08 AM »
On 'profile' here is two hours of BBC coverage of the old Haig tournament at Hollinwell in 1982, reminding us all of what a different world professional golf in the UK was forty years ago


As another example of that, when I visited Notts GC in the fall of 1982, there in the shop to greet me was club professional Brian Waites, who was on the European Ryder Cup team the next year while still working at his club job.

Ben Stephens

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Re: Why isn't HOLLINWELL not higher up in the golf course rankings
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2023, 08:48:45 AM »
Call me bonkers. I think Pulborough is superior to Alwoodley and Notts. Alwoodley to me is generally over rated, as is Woodhall.

The best thing about Notts is the dynamic property. The routing explores the property extremely well.  As Tom wrote, it doesn't have the same high profile story as the others. Although, the Tom Williamson story is very cool.

There is something which has held me back with rating Notts very highly despite its much better property than practically any inland British course. I think one reason is the bunkering. It isn't bad, but often doesn't add much to the design or it could have added more when it does matter. The greens aren't a high point either, but that is true of many British courses. I always felt it was too long for me as well. I would like to see the course from forward tees sometime.



I have always liked and respected Notts, but never fell hard for the place. Maybe one day the penny will drop.

Ciao


Hi Sean,




They have improved the bunkering with one or two new ones and one moved slightly on the 1st. Maybe Boony will chip in when he has time. They have recently flattened the left portion of the 16th green to enable for more pins is it better? - I am not sure.


Will need to go to Pulborough one day (Tom Mackenzie is a member there he did 100 holes in a day to raise money for cancer before flying to Iceland last year)


Notts is far stronger than many of the other courses mentioned on this thread from tee to green. It may be lacking a proper short driveable par 4 no course is perfect however each course has their strengths and weaknesses. I would prefer to play Notts than Woodhall or Ganton if had the choice of the 3.


From the forward (yellow) tees its just over 6600 yards! and has the highest proportion of category 1 players of any club that I know.


Cheers
Ben
« Last Edit: May 11, 2023, 08:50:30 AM by Ben Stephens »

Ben Stephens

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Why isn't HOLLINWELL not higher up in the golf course rankings
« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2023, 08:57:59 AM »
I absolutely love Hollinwell (and Ran does give it a special piece in the Confidential Guide) but whether it is 'better' than e.g. Alwoodley (which I also absolutely love) or Walton Old or any of the others you cite is perhaps more questionable. It's certainly in the top ten of British inland courses. I completely agree that any listing which posits e.g Hankley or even lovely Pulborough above either Hollinwell or Alwoodley is a bit bonkers...


Hollinwell was also in the Gourmet's Choice in the first edition of The Confidential Guide.  I just let Ran write it up for the new one, instead of doing it myself.


Why is it not more highly ranked?  [Many courses ask the same question.]  I would say it is just as good as any of the other four courses Ben named, well maybe not Sunningdale.  I wouldn't say it is better than the others.


Honestly, part of the reason is that it has never had any cachet to it.  When I first visited forty years ago it was the same -- highly respected, but not promoted, and not loved by anyone influential.  [The person who turned me onto it was Walter Woods, who was greenkeeper there before moving to St. Andrews.]  They don't host big tournaments of note, like Sunningdale or Woodhall Spa, or Ganton which does it less regularly.


Alwoodley and Sunningdale and Woodhall Spa are primary to the stories of Mackenzie and Colt and Hotchkin, respectively.  Ganton has always been highly respected in all of the old books - Dickinson, Sir Peter Allen, The World Atlas of Golf.  Hollinwell doesn't play up its pedigree as well.


The other reason for it being relatively underrated is that it's a harder course than Sunningdale or Alwoodley, though not any harder than Ganton or Woodhall Spa.  And the world rankings are decided by a bunch of guys who aren't 2-handicap players.  If GOLF DIGEST did a decent job of its world list -- which they do not -- by their criteria and their panelists' viewpoint, I suspect Hollinwell would be ranked more to Ben's tastes.


Everyone has different tastes  ;D


Sunningdale is one of the best conditioned courses and their greens the most interesting of the courses mentioned on this thread. There are some holes which are awkward like 6, 7 and 11 also other holes like 13 that does not fit to the eye that well as the green shape looks odd in relation to the landscape. There are some stunning holes like 12. The greens are like billard tables - so smooth.


I dont judge courses too much towards their condition more or less towards the design overall which makes the course more interesting.


Hollinwell - personally I would prefer more interesting greens shaping wise and give the bunkers more variation and different shapes rather than too many similar sized and shaped bunkers. 

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Why isn't HOLLINWELL not higher up in the golf course rankings
« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2023, 09:03:16 AM »
Ben

I am happy to be a guest at Notts, Woodhall and Ganton. They are all good. It's worthwhile keeping all these discussions in perspective.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2024: Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Blackmoor, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend & Alnmouth

Ben Stephens

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Why isn't HOLLINWELL not higher up in the golf course rankings
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2023, 11:52:29 AM »
Ben

I am happy to be a guest at Notts, Woodhall and Ganton. They are all good. It's worthwhile keeping all these discussions in perspective.

Ciao


Absolutely agree and we are lucky to be able to get to these courses from where we are and get home the same day :)


They are all courses of a high standard that a number of countries would love to have. Eager to get back to Ganton as they have thinned out the gorse and created large sandy areas which has opened up the course.


Woodhall and Ganton are quite flat and on my phone walking app whilst playing Hollinwell it says that I have gone up at least 6 levels in height  :o  whereas Woodhall/Ganton would be 1 or 2 levels

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: Why isn't HOLLINWELL not higher up in the golf course rankings
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2023, 04:53:12 AM »
Had the pleasure of playing Hollinwell for the first time with James and Robin a couple of weeks ago. Been thinking a fair bit about it and the more that time passes, the more I think about it… which must be a good thing?


Two things are for sure: The property, its vastness, scale, beauty and the wonderful topography is second to none…. and the course has that big, championship feel to it.


Those things alone means it has to be up there in any discussion of best inland courses. Add that the hole routing uses the topo perfectly and you really have a top-class course.


I do understand where Sean is coming from though. The greens are perfectly wonderful without being overly exciting (of other courses mentioned on this thread, Ganton clearly has a better set)… and I wasn’t blown away by the bunker scheme although it’s almost certain that repeat rounds would bring out the strategy and importance of where they are (I will use this again to reiterate that an architect needs to spend a LOT of time getting to know a course before recommending bunker scheme changes).


Whilst I remain a reasonably low handicapper, Hollinwell seems to me to be the almost perfect inland club / course to be a member of, the type of place that beats you up but pulls you back every day to compete against your memories. It is the heathland equivalent of an Open Championship course; big, brawny and undeniably top tier. Just with added beauty.

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