Played by NCG: Lilleshall HallJuly 16, 2017 Courses and Travel
George Oldham visits an unsung Harry Colt gem
Where is Lilleshall Hall?
In Shropshire. Just off the A41, some 14 miles north of Wolverhampton and about two south of Newport, it is well signposted as it is adjacent to the National Sports Centre at Lilleshall.
Perhaps not quite so well known a Harry Colt masterpiece as Wentworth or Sunningdale, it is still the genuine article, set in a quiet and picturesque area of rolling Shropshire countryside untroubled by traffic noise or development.
Relatively flat and not too long at 6,253 yards, it provides easy walking golf in a lovely environment whilst demanding accurate shot-making.
What to expect?
First and foremost, a test of course management. With one exception, (of which more later), none of the holes are intimidating, but all are testing, with well-placed water hazards and bunkers requiring thoughtful golf.
Typical of a Colt course, there are plenty of doglegs with strategically-positioned bunkers requiring well-placed tee shots.
How you approach the green is important because the greenside sand awaits the loose shot. The good news is that the bunkers are well designed and constructed, allowing good recovery shots.
The typically small greens run true and contours are subtle, there are no buried “dead elephants” and if your putter is warm, you should score well.
From the 1st tee, the nature of the first loop of the course is apparent – a centre fairway bunker must be negotiated, and then it is only a short iron to a well-protected green.
Holes and fairways are well defined by individual trees and light rough, so although there might be some penalty for the loose ball, it will not be lost.
Characteristically, the first nine is open parkland defined by fine specimen trees and manicured fairways, occasionally challenging but never too daunting, and with sufficient short holes to allow the greens to be attacked.
As the 9th brings you back to the clubhouse the phrase “walk in the park” springs to mind.
On the 10th tee a rather different prospect awaits, for the back nine is carved out of dense woodland; here the fairways are lined with impenetrable walls of forest.
However, this is not unnerving or threatening as the fairways are generous. On the contrary, the woodland setting and the containment of each hole, creates a sense of peace.
Certainly there are parallels with Wentworth, not the least in that every hole presents a unique challenge.
Notionally, the more difficult half, I actually scored better, with one exception, (as before mentioned). The 14th is the one hole where the fairway narrows at about 200 yards from the tee with centre fairway bunkers adding to the terrifying challenge.
Of course, I tried to bomb the ball over and finished deep in the woods, spoiling a promising card.
There was no chance of getting shots back on the tough finishing holes, although on the 18th, I had the satisfaction of clearing the large pond in front of the tee with the drive of the day, followed by a confident mid-iron to the green, and to the applause of those on the clubhouse balcony.
My best bit:
Walking off the 18th green, remembering every hole and seriously considering going straight out again.
What to look out for:
The subtleties of Colt’s challenges. This is a course regularly played in their heyday by Shropshire’s Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam and Peter Baker, and never once brought to its knees.
Never threatening and always pleasurable, it demands good course management to make a good score.
When I go back:
I shall NOT take on the fairway bunkers on the 14th, but I SHALL try to time my visit again for a Friday morning and after the round, enjoy again the “Friday Fish”, fresh cod in beer batter with handcut chips and bread and butter, all for £6.
Pictures by Geoff Sellars