Played by NCG: Appleby

Courses and Travel

Appleby Golf Club review: Dan Murphy had been tipped off about this Cumbrian gem and it was even better than he expected

Reason for a Appleby Golf Club review

Well, the truth is that we didn’t intentionally submit an Appleby Golf Club review on account of not planning to play there. On the day in question, we were on Scotland’s Top 100 Courses 2019 duty. Waking up in Ayrhsire, we were heading for Powfoot, in Annan before returning home to Leeds.

However, it had rained all night and it was still coming down when we got to Annan. It just didn’t seem fair to play the course for the first time and form an opinion of it in those conditions so we made our excuses and pledged to return another day (which I have now done).

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Where is Appleby Golf Club?

A look at the weather forecast revealed that we would soon leave the rain behind if we travelled south. Our journey home would take us down into Cumbria via the M6. From there, it’s across the A66 from Penrith to Scotch Corner. Golf Empire founder and our esteemed top 100 panellist Ed Battye had tipped me off previously about Appleby.

You can actually see the course from the A66, some 10 miles south-west of Penrith. It’s a moorland layout where at least some of the grass-cutting duties are performed by the sheep who call the course their home.

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What to expect

The cleverest thing about Appleby is that it is so natural, so minimalist, that you almost can’t see it from the road. There are a handful of bunkers, all of them greenside, but the real defences here come with the contours of the land and the ever-present breeze up on Brackenber Moor.

The greens are roped off to keep the grazing livestock away and the turf is a delight to hit from. At a fraction under 6,000 yards, Appleby is not long but with no par 5s it plays longer than you might anticipate. Factor in the wind and the frequent changes of elevation and the scorecard gives you very little idea indeed of what to expect.

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Favourite hole

It can only be the par-3 15th, which reminded me of the famous Dell – the 5th at Irish links Lahinch. In much the same way, the green is concealed from the tee, hidden in a fold between two hills. This hole, though, is much longer and there is also out of bounds to contend with.

Above is the view looking back towards the tee.

Below is what you see as you approach the green.

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As you can see, there is a stick to guide you and the smart play is to aim a little left of it, from where the contours will take your ball down on to the green.

My best bit

One of the hardest holes on the course is the 7th, where you start at the foot of the hill and must drive on to a plateau that you can’t clearly see. From there, it takes a really good iron shot to flight it up to the next level where the green is. In front of the head greenkeeper, who had been telling me all about his two-man team (including him) taking on the task of rivetting the course’s bunkers by hand, I managed to find a good drive and then the green.

What to look for

You have to embrace the minimalist nature of 1883 Open champion Willie Fernie’s design. It’s very clever and there’s way more going on than you might first think as you survey the surrounding moorland.

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When I go back

I will hit a proper shot off the 5th tee (above). I was absolutely terrified of this carry and accordingly I hit an unpleasant smother that only just cleared the little fence on the left. Like all good blind holes, once you get to see the landing area, it’s actually very generous.

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