Very close to the Welsh border, Kington is the highest 18-hole course in England. The key number is 1,284 – that’s how many feet Kington is above sea level. The homely clubhouse is like a cafe you might find halfway up the Swiss alps on a skiing trip. As we munched through a bowl of quite outstanding chips, chairman David and head greenkeeper Ian (we’ll come back to him later) explained how life at Kington works.
It turns out the biggest challenge is keeping the course irrigated. They don’t get much rain and what they do get pours down off the course in next to no time. The land here is pretty much a thin layer of turf and then rock, so Ian has to throw plenty of water on it.
There are no sand bunkers at Kington – but plenty of grass ones, like on the short 12th. They are brilliant hazards, forever creating tricky recoveries and awkward stances and asking you to use any number of clubs in your bag, from straight-faced irons to your lob wedge. Do you thump it into the bank or slide under it? The choice is yours, and there is not necessarily one correct answer.
It’s under 6,000 yards from the back tees at Kington but with a par of 69 you shouldn’t expect a collection of birdie chances. Needless to say, the uphill holes at this moorland course play longer than their yardage, while elsewhere the greens are well-defended, sneakily slopey, and outstandingly quick. They are the best we’ve putted on to date – hands-down.
And then there are the views. They are on all sides, including a magical panorama towards Wales and the Brecon Beacons from the ninth tee at the furthest expanse of the course.
Afterwards, we have a chat with Kington’s friendly pro, Sarah Walton, who is originally from Accrington and retains the accent to prove it. She embodies the community feel of this club and the fact she is there to welcome us off the course at 7pm on a Saturday evening speaks volumes.
Huge credit must also go to Ian for the quality of the turf and greens. A black mark against him, I am sorry to report, was the pin position on the very nose of the raised 16th green behind a steeply faced grass bunker. That was mean of you, Ian.