Rescheduled from 2020 to 2022: Two unique courses, Seascale and Silloth on Solway
Seascale Golf Club, five miles south of Whitehaven, fits neatly into a small area, overlooked by the Sellafield Power Station. The course provides views of the Isle of Man and the Lakeland Hills in keeping with the popular perception of the beautiful county that is Cumbria on the North West Coast of England.
Founded in 1893, the course covers less than a hundred acres without giving the impression of one hole encroaching on another.
The links are the design of Willie Campbell and George Lowe. Whilst not long by modern standards, Seascale encompasses a varied terrain at different levels without testing the golfer’s fitness. It rises on the 1st and continues down the inland side of the course. The 3rd provides the first panoramic view from a high tee, as the course continues northwards until the par-five 7th turns in the opposite direction. The 8th is a long par three followed by the 9th, the only hole played directly towards the sea. Driving from a high tee, the line is straight at the Isle of Man.
The more memorable holes are on the back nine, starting with the short par three 10th, where a stream provides a hazard, as it does again on the 13th.
In between are two par fours, one measuring 468 yards then a shorter two-shotter in the opposite direction. However, the real test is to come. The par four 16th measures 471 yards and has more defences than its mere length. The 17th tee overlooks the beach and the drive over a high hill requires accuracy for the ideal position for the long second shot into the green.
The 18th is ten yards shorter than the penultimate hole at 334 yards and the main challenge here is the enormous, L-shaped green, where several pin positions can give the golfer one final problem – how do I get from the front, round a corner to the hole?
The lasting impression is of having played eighteen holes of interest and variety.
At last, Silloth on Solway Golf Club’s reputation is becoming recognized more widely, thoroughly deserving its position in the GB&I Top 100 as one of England’s best links courses.
Founded in 1892, with the help of Railway Company money, it was originally designed by Davy Grant (with a little help from Willie Park Junior). Silloth is famous for its affiliation with ladies’ golf and the famous Leitch sisters learnt to play golf on the links. Charlotte Cecilia Pitcairn Leitch (or Cecil as she became known), went on to be the best lady golfer in the world, winning a record four British, five French, two English and one Canadian titles. In 1910, Cecil played a match against Harold Hilton (one of the greatest male golfers of the time) over 72 holes, 36 at Walton Heath and 36 at Sunningdale. Sportingly, Hilton gave Cecil nine shots per 18 holes and found himself five holes up in the last round, with the last 15 holes to play. Cecil, showing true grit, fought her way back and ended up winning on the 71st green 2 up and 1 to play.
The club has parliamentary connections too. Viscount Willie Whitelaw was the President of the club until his death in 1999.
You have to make an extra special effort to get to Silloth because it is located in one of the most remote and isolated places in England, at the mouth of the Solway Firth. When you arrive, it’s a surprise to see the nearby industry that slightly blots an otherwise perfect landscape. With heather and gorse adding brilliant splashes of seasonal colour, this is a cracking links golf course. When the wind blows, it’s unlikely that you will play to your handicap. Even on a calm day, you’ll find it tough. “It is also the home of the winds,” wrote Darwin, “when I was there the wind did not blow really hard, but hard enough to make a fool of me.” Finding the tight greens is no mean feat and when you do, they are tough to read with their subtle borrows.
The playing conditions are usually world-class, the change in elevation offers glorious vistas, birdie chances are plentiful and the hospitality alone is worth the long drive to get there. After experiencing the best holes here it is hard to believe that this charming golf club still manages to exist in relative anonymity.