You would not necessarily head for the Peak District in search of excellent and distinctive golf but Dr Alister MacKenzie’s Cavendish has been surprising and delighting visitors for almost a century. In fact, this moorland course provides a canvas for MacKenzie to show his genius – the greens in particular are draped over the landscape with such sympathy yet are also the course’s primary line of defence. The land was owned by the Duke of Devonshire, just outside the holiday town of Buxton. At first glance it isn’t obviously ideal for golf and yet MacKenzie emphatically proves otherwise.
Measuring well under 6,000 yards, yet at the mercy of the vicissitudes of Mother Nature in this unforgiving landscape, Cavendish may start modestly with a pair of short back-and-forth par 4s but very quickly gathers pace.
By as early as the 4th, a dramatic short hole played downhill and over water, there is the sense of something special, and the 5th green, standing proudly above the fairway, is further proof.
Thereafter come any number of MacKenzie’s trademark design twirls and you can only admire the maestro’s knack for combining generous fairways with incredibly demanding angles of approach should you not pay due attention – or possess the requisite expertise – to the tee shot.
Perhaps the 10th leaves the strongest memory – a long par 4 that swings gracefully to the left and then calls for a challenging approach over rocky territory to the green. The trick here is to drive long and left – further left than you might but assuredly not with a flat hook – to bring the green within some kind of range.
Then again, Cavendish’s closing hole is pretty special too. Again, the angles are not obvious with an outrageously uneven fairway distracting from the real challenge of playing right off the tee – but not too far right – to give yourself a realistic chance of attacking the green.
Cavendish may be unassuming but the quality is as genuine as the warmth of the Derbyshire welcome. It’s a special place to play.