Carrying the mantle of the oldest club in the City of Leeds comes with a certain level of expectation, but Headingley Golf Club does not disappoint.
The club has come a long way since 1892 when members first put club to ball at a nine-hole course in Spen Lane, which is now Beckett’s Park, and in July 2021 will jointly host the English Men’s and Ladies Amateur Championships with near neighbours Moortown.
It is a fitting accolade for this progressive club, but it will not be the first time that top players have graced the current home, which sits alongside the picturesque Norman church in the suburb of Adel. It’s over a century since the club moved here, but the course is still in a completely rural setting with wonderful views and boasts many memorable holes which make full use of the varied and dramatic terrain.
Following Dr Alister MacKenzie’s re-modelling in 1913 and Harry Colt’s collaboration on the bunkering, Headingley quickly gained a reputation as one of the premier golf clubs in Yorkshire and its stature grew so rapidly that many of the world’s golfing greats, including Harry Vardon, James Braid and Henry Cotton, competed here in professional events. Open Champion Cotton was so impressed by the par 3 seventeenth hole he was moved to describe it as one of the best short holes he had ever played.
It is hard to define the character of Headingley as this traditional out-and-back layout stretches to Alwoodley with views of Eccup Reservoir on such varied topography. Moorland and parkland give way to heathland at the top end of the course to deliver a distinctive challenge, but with 4 sets of tees it is a layout that can be enjoyed by all levels of golfer.
Standout holes include the downhill opener which features an approach invariably from an elevated fairway and played over a stream to an inviting green.
The seventh, the first of back-to-back par fives, is also an excellent hole where the player who can drive it long and straight has a chance to reach this 556 yarder that has a superbly designed angled green with a multi-tier putting surface.
There’s also a really good stretch of holes that will live long in the memory between the demanding 456-yard par-four 12th and the short but tricky 17th. Creativity is key to good scoring on this six-hole run but it is the green locations of the 13th, 16th and 17th that really set the tone.
Although natural in appearance at first sight, they are beset with significant contours and will test even the sharpest of short games in trying to recover par.
Many of the holes at Headingley also feature tree-lined sloping and firm running fairways, putting a premium on position with the tee shot.
Leaving yourself under the hole is also important at Headingley, since many of the greens have significant slopes making downhill and sidehill putts very testing when the surfaces are at their slickest.
Head Greenkeeper Andy Stanger is a graduate of arguably MacKenzie’s finest creation, Augusta National, and the 2010 Toro Greenkeeper of the Year oversees a course improvement plan designed to ensure Headingley remains a favourite choice for discerning golfers.
The most recent recruit is leading coach Mark Pearson who has established the PMG Headingley Golf Performance Academy, making sure students can take their ‘A’ game to one of the most rewarding golf experiences in Yorkshire.