I can get a little misty-eyed when talking about Ilkley. I grew up down the road and a Friday afternoon visit here with my dad to take advantage of their twilight rate was one of the highlights of the season. Throughout you can enjoy views of the Cow and Calf rocks on Ilkley Moor and down the Wharfe Valley towards Skipton and the Dales. It’s as pretty as a picture – truly bucolic – and one of the most picturesque golf clubs in the country. Better still, the sand-based fairways never get soggy so this is a great course throughout the year.
However golfers must not be fooled by its beauty, as the River Wharfe is an ever-present threat for the first seven holes of this tree-lined course. If you are playing golf in Yorkshire then a visit to Ilkley is a must, as both Dr Alister MacKenzie and Harry Colt have influenced its design.
With five par 3s and only two par 5s, Ilkley measures a shade under 6,300 yards and has a par of 69. Unusually, after the 1st you don’t play another par 4 until the 7th.
Uniquely, surely, Ilkley can boast not one but two Ryder Cup captains among its membership – Colin Montgomerie and Mark James are both honorary life members.
My favourite hole has always been the par-4 8th. It’s a downhill dogleg on two levels, with the ideal tee shot played well to the left to a lovely piece of unspoilt fairway. From there you have a clear view to the green and just a short iron in your hand. Throughout, your only company will be the sheep in the neighbouring fields.
The 16th at Ilkley has one of the most tempting drives I know, from an elevated tee to a generous fairway below. Watching my tee shot hang in the air took me back to my youth.
There is some lovely memorabilia around the clubhouse and not least in the delightful wooden locker room. On the course, I always think that if you can play the short holes well, especially given that there are three in the first five holes, you are well on your way to a respectable score.
For a start, I promise I will have the decency to ask the club’s permission in advance. As good as the course was in the early spring, I will choose a lovely summer’s evening and play the final holes in lengthening shadows – just like we used to do.
Oh – in all the years I have been coming here I don’t think I have ever hit the 1st fairway. The river to the left always scares me off. That will change next time. Possibly.