The NCG team discuss, among other things, their favourite holes and which English course they would like the Top 100s panel to consider

Between lockdowns and other Covid restrictions I hope you were able to get out and play plenty of golf in 2020. I’m joined by Steve Carroll, Alex Perry and Hannah Holden to ask them about them about the NCG Top 100s – but first…

Give me one hole that you played in 2020 that you would love to play again in 2021.

Dan: I didn’t play anything like as many holes in 2020 as I would have liked. I did manage to have two goes (on the same day) at the short 5th at Royal Worlington & Newmarket. I came close to finding the green on the second time around and at least missed in the best spot – which is short. It might just be the best short hole in England, surely the best without a bunker.

Steve: Quality, rather than quantity, was the theme for 2020 and though my trips were limited this year they did include The Machrie, Burnham & Berrow and Dumbarnie Links. Hard to pick out just one hole but, having waited so long to step on to the hallowed turf at St Andrews, playing the 9th hole of the New course – with the Eden estuary in glorious sunshine lining a tough par 3 – was a feeling I’d happily experience over and over again.

Hannah: I have barely played anywhere this year other than at my home club Huddersfield. Although I did enjoy an outing to Ganton with the Yorkshire Team and would happily play the par 3 5th hole again.

Alex: Two holes I played for the first time this year that spring to mind are the 10th at both West Cornwall and Mullion. At the former it’s a wonderful drive with a railway line that runs along the entirety of the hole, forcing you to cut the corner over the 9th green and 12th tee (they had to put a net up) while the walk down to the green, and it’s numerous pot bunkers, is magnificent. As for Mullion it’s a sweeping downhill par-4 that ends up right next to the beach. It’s not often I play a golf hole and want to walk straight back to the tee and play it again. These were two in as many days.

What is your least favourite type of hole and why?

Dan: The dramatically downhill par 3. Especially on a links course. Great for photographs. Frustrating when it comes to demonstrating skill and judgment. And they are invariably described as signature holes, which says it all really. Harry Colt had the right idea when it came to designing par 3s – the tee on one high point, the green on another, some kind of valley in between. Just as spectacular. Much more rewarding.  

Hannah: Those holes where no one has thought about where they’ve put the ladies tee. You usually end up hitting an iron off the tee to a dog leg or to lay up to a water hazard and then end up with a hybrid or a 3-wood into the green. What is the logic behind this??

Alex: Long par 3s. I play golf to relax, not to feel like I’m getting beaten up. If I had my way, par 3s would all be sub-150.

Steve: Similar but long par 4s that even when you hit a nice drive still require another wooden club to even think about hitting the green. They’re the type where you can play perfectly – according to your ability – and still never threaten par. If I had a pound for every double bogey…

2021 will see us updating our ranking of England’s top 100 courses. In England, give me your:

1. Favourite links;
2. Best course under 6,000 yards;
3. Course you’d most like to play next year;
4. Course for the panel to consider.

Dan: 1. Royal St George’s is the best links in the land – cock a snoot at anyone who tells you it’s too quirky, that’s the whole point; 2. You’d go a long way to beat Kington – quite literally as it is very nearly in Wales; 3. It’s way too long since I was last at Rye so maybe I can sneak down there while having a look at the refurbished Shore and Dunes nines at Prince’s; 4. We have a couple of new entries to consider – like JCB and Royal Norwich – and I still cringe that we failed to consider Formby Ladies last time around.

Alex: 1. How can I choose between that run down the Atlantic that takes in the likes of Royal North Devon, St Enodoc, Saunton and Perranporth? But I’ll say Bude & North Cornwall – my home and happy place; 2. I played West Cornwall for the first time and felt pretty pleased when I saw it was 5,850 yards – especially as we teed off at just after 6am – but, as links often does, that only lulls you into a false sense of security; 3. Sticking with the South West theme I’ve played Saunton’s incredible East course, but not West. I’ll be there in 2021; 4. As Dan has said Formby Ladies and Steve will say Cleveland – both worthy contenders – I’ll complete my homeland full house and ask the panel to consider Mullion. Love at first sight.

Steve: 1. Very close for my favourite links but, on present fads, I’d say Royal Birkdale just sneaks it. I still can’t think of a better feeling than smacking an approach into the green in front of that clubhouse; 2. If we’re discounting courses with blue tees that no one but plus golfers ever play then Swinley Forest – at 5,838 yards off the whites – is impossible to touch. 3. On a similar theme, if someone was to get me on Sunningdale Old in 2021 I really would be most grateful. 4. And, though I’m biased because I’ve played it a lot, I think Cleveland is a very under-rated links and deserves a few of the Top 100 panelists finding out what I’ve been shouting about for a couple of years. 

Hannah: 1. Birkdale. The best course I have ever played never mind the best links. 2. Formby Ladies stands at just 5,356 yards but don’t let this fool you into thinking it is a walk in the park. The par 3s here are particularly tricky and the serious amount of heather can make anyone rack up a score pretty quickly. 3. Can I really only name one? In England, Hillside and JCB are all on my must visit soon list. 4. I have to say my home club of Huddersfield Golf Club don’t I?

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