Go as far north and west as it is possible to do without leaving England and you will find yourself very close to Silloth on Solway, which is not only one of the country’s most remote golfing outposts but also among its very best courses. And while the journey to and beyond the Lake District is a long one for almost all of us, you will know from the moment you catch a glimpse of the 1st and 18th fairways stretching away into the sandhills that every last mile was worth it.
What is more, with a day’s golf here costing just £52, it is hard to imagine anywhere else in Britain offering more for less money. Utterly without pretension, Silloth is one of the delightful and rare band of clubs where the locals seem not to realise just what a wonderful course it is their privilege to tackle on a weekly or even daily basis.
A regional Open qualifying venue, Silloth is at once tough yet also manageable, providing you play within your limitations. And apart from the firm, springy turf that is very much the real deal for fans of genuine seaside golf, that aforementioned distant location comes with the added reward of some fabulous vistas in all four directions.
Chief among them is the view across the Solway Firth towards Southerness, just a few miles away as the crow flies yet the thick end of a two-hour drive via Carlisle and Dumfries. Looking further round, the Cumbrian mountains come into view while the northernmost peaks of the Lake District are also a feature.
It has firm, springy turf that is very much the real deal for fans of genuine seaside golf.
It is both invigorating and inspiring, as is an opening hole that offers a generous, flat fairway from which to approach the unusual sunken green.
A taste of what is to come is provided on the second – an inviting fairway but heavy punishment if it is missed. The size of the green reflects the length of this tactical short par four.
The 5th is a particularly attractive par five that plays parallel to the beach while the 7th is a longer, harder and more dramatic version of the 1st, with a green that is large enough but invisible from the fairway and surrounded by unpleasant bramble-ridden rough.
The outward half ends on a classic links par three. Just 120 yards, more often than not the wind howls across the direction of play meaning that a short iron struck with a high trajectory will float away from the green. Ticklish indeed.
The toughest stretch of the course comes – depending on the wind of course – at the start of the back nine. The tee shot on 11 is both blind and intimidating while the next is a long par three. Then comes the 13th, a hole that looks straightforward on the card but features a hog’s-back fairway that makes its second half highly awkward.
Respite comes in the form of a second successive par five, this one downwind and downhill at the end, but normal service is resumed at the 15th, which features a rumpled, uneven fairway that must be played in fading sunlight to be seen in its full glory.
Another birdie chance is offered at the 17th, where the green is often in range in two but is difficult to find before a closing hole that is more difficult than its yardage would suggest. The drive must be straight to avoid gorse bushes and bunkers on either side of the fairway.
Founded by the North British Railway Company in 1892 and with the likes of Willie Fernie and Willie Park offering their advice, Silloth was originally laid out by Davy Grant.
Now stretching to over 6,600 yards it is fact that, located elsewhere, it would have hosted countless national tournaments. As it is, Silloth remains nothing less than a delight to those intrepid golfers prepared to venture beyond the beaten track.