I’ve always been transfixed by the painting – an evocative image of a huge swathe of sand stretching as far as a drive could carry.
Those of you who have read Bernard Darwin’s seminal book The Golf Courses of the British Isles will know exactly the picture I’m talking about.
Harry Rountree’s magnificent depiction of The Pandy that enveloped the 17th and 18th at Ganton captured everything I ever believed was magical about golf: a stunning landscape, an imposing challenge, and the marvel of nature.
Even better, it was all within reach for me as this fixture of our NCG Top 100s lists is only about 45 minutes down the road. But when I first managed to visit this most historic of courses – one of only a handful to have held a Ryder, Walker, and Curtis Cup – what greeted me looked nothing like it had in the picture.
Darwin had referred to it as the “vastest and generally most gorgeous bunker that is to be found” but, in truth, it was all a bit overgrown and underwhelming.
Ganton set about putting that right in the summer of 2017, re-establishing the enormous sand waste area and revitalising the quirky closing hole.
They’ve built on that work since but, despite its imposing appearance, you didn’t really interact with it unless you were unfortunate enough to smack a duck hook into the gaping abyss.
That is until now. Course manager Simon Olver and his team, along with JWN Contracting and assisted by architect Martin Ebert, have not only extended the Pandy, and changed the carry from tee to fairway, but they’ve built a walkway that takes you through part of the massive expanse.
It really is fabulous. It winds its way around the edge of that huge crater of sand and you are immersed in it. For a moment, you feel like you’re passing through an enormous dune at an ancient links rather than an inland course that’s actually some 10 miles from the coast.
“The elevations and changes in the slopes that we had available on 18 – between the tee and fairway – meant I thought we were always going to make that into quite a spectacular looking view from The Pandy itself,” explained Ganton managing secretary Gary Pearce of the motivation behind the changes.
“When we opened it up on the 17th several years ago, it was a great feature and returned it to what it was like. But when you came to 18 itself, unless you were in The Pandy, you could probably play that hole and not see any glimpse of sand at all.
“So what we tried to do, and I think we’ve been successful, is to create a walk through sand to get to the fairway and to open up glimpses into the large original Pandy that was set up on 17. I think we’ve created that in a very natural way and I think the use of sleepers as a pathway from tee to fairway has been a real success as well.”
The Pandy isn’t the only part of Ganton where the diggers have been re-establishing the course’s sandy roots.
A stroll down the par-5 9th once saw the journey flanked by thick gorse along much of the way but that’s all been pulled away to reveal another huge sandscape. You first encounter it on the 8th but even that introduction doesn’t fully prepare you for its sheer scale.
It must be more than 200 yards in length, sweeping down the left side of the 9th and backing up behind a new 10th tee. New and improved bunkering on the other side of the fairway tightens the landing area for those looking to make this a three-shotter, while visually getting in the face of those determined to find the green in under regulation.
There’s also a further, smaller, sandy area just forward from the tee on the 14th and providing more definition to this short par-4.
“The gorse was overgrown on the 9th,” added Pearce. “There was no doubt it was a little bit too close to the fairway. You were only one yard off the fairway and you were in the gorse.
“This creates a new feel to the hole and, as you play it and get further down, we’ve built in the surrounds in the back of the 10th tee and it will follow through in front of there eventually as well. The flow from the 8th, 9th and 10th will be quite spectacular.”
Ganton is holding the Grand Final of NCG Top 100s Tour on October 10 and, with a few months to further grow in, the changes will ensure a really fantastic experience for anyone who qualifies or who otherwise visits this Yorkshire classic this year.
I know I’ll be back.
Have you played Ganton since the changes to the 9th and 18th? What do you think? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me.
More from NCG Top 100 golf courses in England
Visit the NCG Top 100s homepage for more rankings, more opinion, more arguments, pods and blogs.