Long before the Race to Dubai was conceived, when the European Tour really was a ‘European tour’ and the game seemed to have a little more romance about it, Fulford was home to one of the most popular events on the professional calendar. The folk of Yorkshire were privileged enough to watch legends of the game here over a period of 20 years as the Benson & Hedges called Fulford its home between 1971 and 1989, and then the Murphy’s Cup in the early 1990s.
But this York course is also famous for an altogether more remarkable reason and its 17th hole is part of golfing folklore. The image of a young Bernhard Langer perched precariously in the ash tree at the side of the 17th green, after his approach became lodged in its branches, is one that has been seen by many eyes around the world.
But Fulford’s notoriety should not be limited solely to this snapshot in history.
Should you ever pay a visit here, allow yourself the luxury of arriving early and make your way to the bar. While you are there, pay a cursory glance to your left at the honours board that adorns the wall at the end of the bar and you will need little more motivation to get out onto the course.
On this list of champions you will find the names of Tony Jacklin (1971), Lee Trevino (1978), Tom Weiskopf (1981), Greg Norman (1982) and Sandy Lyle (1985). Fellow Major winners such as Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal have also walked the fairways here that, at times, have proved to be too tough for even the greatest of names – Johnny Miller missed the cut in 1981 with a pair of 75s.
With this in mind the short walk to the 1st tee will be infinitely more exciting and while the opening hole will not put you under too much early distress, out of bounds lurks on the left.
The first five holes here run in a straight line away from the clubhouse and all give plenty of opportunity to ease yourself into the round with two long par 4s that will warm up your driver and long irons, while the two par 3s will hone your short game. Play this stretch without a double bogey, regardless of handicap, and you will be playing good golf.
To reach the 6th hole you must cross a bridge that traverses the A64, and it is on the other side of this dual carriageway where you will find a great loop of eight holes.
The dense population of trees around this heathland course, that was designed by Major Charles Mackenzie, means the noise of the traffic never reaches your ears, except on the 8th tee, but it also shapes the fairways that are guarded by timber at almost every turn.
Fulford’s greatest claim to fame came when a young Bernhard Langer shinned his way up an ash tree at the side of the 17th green to play one of the most famous recovery shots in golf.
The 6th is the first par 5 on the card and requires you to be both accurate and long as three bunkers are waiting to collect any wayward shots landing between the 200-260 mark. And all but the biggest of hitters will need three good shots to reach the long narrow green.
Two good par 4s follow but it is the par 5 9th that rounds off the front nine with a bang. Eminently reachable in two blows, care must be taken with the drive as the fairway is cut in half by a bank of rough, gorse and bunkers. Avoid these as well as the large bunkers that guard both sides of the green and a birdie is possible.
Holes 10, 11 and 12 also offer chances to pull some shots back before you come to one of the toughest and tightest par 4s, not just at Fulford but in all of Yorkshire.
From the 13th you are likely to be playing into a breeze but this combination did not prevent Weiskopf from holing his second shot for a crucial eagle on his way to victory in 1981.
Back over the road and you really begin the run for home, and the chance to get a close look at that most famous of Fulford landmarks. The 17th in itself is not a particularly difficult hole and ranks as No 14 on the stroke index.
Anything from a long iron to a fairway wood will set up a short pitch that must avoid the ‘Langer Tree’ that has grown in stature considerably since the German shinned his way up it more than 27 years ago.
A plaque commemorates this infamous moment and you will quickly realise that it is a shot that will never be repeated.
The closing hole is perfectly set up to end the day on a high and should you leave your tee shot in the right area, the green is reachable in two with only one large bunker protecting the right of the green.
While Fulford’s 6,900 yards off the backs is still plenty long enough for those of us that consider golf to be a hobby, the length of the course eventually led to Fulford’s retirement from the tour.
However, it gave the golfing public a greater chance to indulge their romantic side and if proof be needed all its holes are named after past champions. Should you be the sort of person that cares to take a stroll down the fairways of modern history as well as great golf holes, Fulford is a place where you will find both in abundance.
10th James, 163 yards, par 3
This cracking heathland par 3 requires you to hit a high shot, since there is no refuge en route, thus avoiding a new bunker that protects the front of the green as well as two deep bunkers on either side of a tricky well-sloped green.
11th Bland, 534 yards, par 5
As one of the most picturesque holes on the course, the 11th is a strategic par 5. The tee is set below a heather-covered incline and usually faces into the prevailing wind. Avoiding a large cross bunker from the tee is easier said than done, as is leaving your third shot pin-high, as a valley across the front of a flat green has a foreshortening effect.
13th Weiskopf, 486 yards, par 4
As the most difficult hole on the course, the 13th features out of bounds tight along the left, gorse, trees, five bunkers and is often played into a headwind. This is one of the toughest par fours you will ever play.