Ilkley Golf Club review: Dan Murphy went back to his roots to enjoy a game at classy Ilkley, the West Yorkshire parkland that is beautifully presented throughout the season
Reason for a Ilkley Golf Club review
Well, how this Ilkley Golf Club review came about is a story in itself. On a dank early morning, we were heading west from Leeds towards the Lancashire coast. We got as far as Ilkley when our host called to advise us that the rain was pouring down at Royal Lytham and was set for the day. After a coffee, much scratching of heads and some poring over maps, we looked no further than the ends of our noses and turned up at a deserted Ilkley Golf Club.
Where is Ilkley Golf Club?
Ilkley Golf Club is alongside the River Wharfe, at the foot of famous Ilkley Moor. Ilkley itself is an attractive, well-to-do town on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales.
Happily for us, the Lancashire rain was not due to arrive until later that afternoon.
What to expect
I can get a little misty-eyed when talking about Ilkley. I grew up down the road and a Friday afternoon visit here with my dad to take advantage of their twilight rate was one of the highlights of the season. The first seven holes are all alongside the River Wharfe – in fact the par-3 3rd is playing on an island in the middle of the river.
Throughout you can enjoy views of the Cow and Calf rocks on Ilkley Moor and down the Wharfe Valley towards Skipton and the Dales. It’s as pretty as a picture – truly bucolic.
Better still, the sand-based fairways never get soggy so this is a great course throughout the year.
Dr Alister MacKenzie and Harry Colt have both influenced its design.
With five par 3s and only two par 5s, Ilkley measures a shade under 6,300 yards and has a par of 69.
Unusually, after the 1st you don’t play another par 4 until the 7th.
Uniquely, surely, Ilkley can boast not one but two Ryder Cup captains among its membership – Colin Montgomerie and Mark James are both honorary life members.
My favourite has always been the par-4 8th. It’s a downhill dogleg on two levels, with the ideal tee shot played well to the left to a lovely piece of unspoilt fairway. From there you have a clear view to the green and just a short iron in your hand. Throughout, your only company will be the sheep in the neighbouring fields.
My best bit
The 16th at Ilkley has one of the most tempting drives I know, from an elevated tee to a generous fairway below. Watching my tee shot hang in the air took me back to my youth.
Ilkley Golf Club review: what to look for
There is some lovely memorabilia around the clubhouse and not least in the delightful wooden locker room. On the course, I always think that if you can play the short holes well, especially given that there are three in the first five holes, you are well on your way to a respectable score.
When I go back
For a start, I promise I will have the decency to ask the club’s permission in advance. As good as the course was in the early spring, I will choose a lovely summer’s evening and play the final holes in lengthening shadows – just like we used to do.
Oh – in all the years I have been coming here I don’t think I have ever hit the 1st fairway. The river to the left always scares me off. That will change next time. Possibly.