This brief respite, coming as it does six holes into as demanding an opening to a golf course as you might find, is a chance to catch a breath and enjoy the sights of the rolling hills beyond.
“It’s the best view in all of Leeds golf,” booms Jon Hall Headingley’s secretary/manager just seconds before he tees up his ball and smacks one down the middle of the par-five seventh.
“We’ve lengthened this hole,” he goes on. “The green used to be there (pointing to a hollow on the adjacent eighth), but we made it a par five.”
Twenty minutes later, coming back up the eighth – another par five – Hall strides up to me after I’d just hooked an approach shot into the rough by the side of ninth fairway. “Don’t worry,” he laughs, “you’ll find it. The rough hasn’t grown yet. But it will.”
Just in time, Hall hopes, to make this challenging course even more of a test for the best amateur golfers in England.
For at the end of July, Headingley Golf Club will co-host the English Men’s and Women’s Amateur Championships with neighbouring Moortown Golf Club. For Moortown, host of the first Ryder Cup on these shores in 1929 and a regular venue of European Tour events in the second half of the 20th century, it is yet another feather in the cap for a famous old club.
For Headingley, it represents so much more.
Headingley might be the oldest club in Leeds, but within about five miles in an easterly direction it has Sand Moor, Moortown and Alwoodley for company, and competition for membership; three courses designed by famous golf architect Dr Alister MacKenzie – who also designed some of Headingley’s holes – and familiar with hosting big events.
Indeed, in the week prior to Headingley and Moortown’s co-hosting of the English Men’s and Women’s Amateur, Alwoodley stages the European Ladies Amateur (July 21-24).
Quite the accolade as north Leeds becomes the centre of the amateur golfing world for two weeks in high summer.
Headingley are just chuffed to be playing their part.
The club situated on Back Church Lane in Adel will host two practice rounds on July 25 and 26, and two rounds of men’s and women’s strokeplay competition on July 27 and 28 before the event moves to Moortown for the final four days of match play.
“We haven’t had an eminent amateur event at Headingley for many a year,” says Hall, proudly. “It’s food and drink for Moortown but it’s a really big deal for us.”
The alliance with Moortown is strong. Headingley is considered the ‘junior club’ in the arrangement and that’s fine by them. Hall says they wrote to England Golf in 2015 trying to get a tournament for their 125th anniversary in 2017.
When they were told that was too late they thought their chance had gone. “England Golf said they’d keep us in mind, so when a couple of years later this news of the English Amateur pitched up in our inbox, that was great,” beams Hall.
“It had been well worth asking to put us on their radar. We’re putting a lot of effort in.
“We don’t actually have to do much, they just say get your course ready as normal, no need to fancy it up. We’re not going to do anything silly but we do want to make it special.”
It shouldn’t need much of a transformation, on the inspection of 18 holes on a blustery Spring morning.
The fescue rough when it grows will snare many an errant tee shot, and the greens are cunningly sloped but the ball rolls true.
Nevertheless their head greenkeeper, Andrew Stanger – who has worked at Augusta and Liberty National in America – is preparing the course in readiness to give the best amateurs in England an introduction to what members have known for years, that Headingley is a little gem.
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