NCG Top 100s panellist Tom Irwin returns to Silloth Golf Club, in Cumbria, and finds everything just as he remembered it
September 11th, 2001. We were at Silloth. Playing 36. We didn’t stop for lunch as we just kept going for another lap of a links we were in love with. As the world stopped and changed forever, we played golf. Protected, isolated by distance and occupation. When we walked off the 18th approaching dusk that September evening, we must have been among the last people on earth to know.
Silloth is always the last to know. It is remote. A trip back in time. Forty miles if not 40 years from the M6. Crawling through towns with shops with wonky signs, and family names. It is an end-of-the-pier town, that has never been washed away.
Ground zero. The clubhouse is packed, glued to the TV watching the news. In shock, silent, unable to understand.
The links is resplendent. Even in this dry, cold, spring the course is pristine. Life is renewed. Covid is clearing, My fourball shares a car, we are travelling again. The sun is shining, the warmth of spring is in the air. Unspoken, we are playing off stick end. Proper golf. Proper life at last.
Life was at a crossroads for me and my friends. Back from travelling. Finding jobs. Finding our feet. A golf trip to bookmark the start of a new chapter. A seminal week for our friendship. For the world, too.
You remember every hole at Silloth. No fillers, as they say. Maybe the 7th. Golfing memorabilia is scattered everywhere. The 2nd at Silloth, the 2nd at Skibo. The 3rd at Silloth, the 4th at Wallasey. The 17th could be at Lundin. The 9th in the Highlands. Par 3s that anyone would borrow. Those back-to-back fives on the back nine. Better links in England, there are few.
The drive back to London is one of the worst. The dispiriting departure. A comedown. An alcohol-depressed brain trying to process the planes, the towers, and the horror, and humanity. Rueing the end of youth, heading to London for work proper. I phone my best friend, now my wife. We are both in floods of tears. It is her birthday. I want to see her.
Jack and his friend Levi are the same age as I was in 2001. They are energetic, and fun. They love it here. They get it. They have joined as country members, driving two hours every couple of weeks to get their fix of links golf. They beat us with endless good golf out in the country.
My friends from that September trip. One now my business partner, one estranged. Silloth just the same. Terrorism didn’t come here. I suspect Covid barely did. It is a place unaffected. So much changes, life comes so fast. Not at Silloth – and long may it last.
NCG Top 100s: The best golf courses in England
- THE RANKING: View our current England Top 100 list
- METHODOLOGY: How the NCG Top 100s lists are decided
- CLOSE CALLS: The English courses that just missed out in 2018
Visit the NCG Top 100s homepage for all this and much, much more.