NOTTINGHAMSHIRE, England - In July of 1891, the first meeting of the committee of what is now Lindrick Golf Club met to consider the formation of the Sheffield and District Golf Club. Later that month it was agreed the course should be sited 15 miles away on Lindrick Common, and within three months the course was open.
It is of interest to note the course layout prior to 1932 involved two holes that were played across the main A57 Liverpool to Skegness trunk road. The major road still divides holes 13 to 17 from the clubhouse and the rest of the course. Traffic was a hazard not imagined by the pioneers of golf in south Yorkshire who would find it hardly credible that some drivers now amuse themselves by sounding their horns during a player's backswing.
With junction 31 of the M1 motorway just five miles away, it is an amazing thought that over half the population of England live within range of a day trip to Lindrick. It wasn't always so.
The founder members of the Sheffield and District Golf Club, since 1934 officially renamed Lindrick Golf Club (Sheffield and District), faced two train journeys and a lengthy tramp across fields in order to reach the farmhouse overlooking the first tee.
Most inland courses lack space, often forcing holes to be built on land that is agricultural, featureless or hilly. At Lindrick that was never the case.
Lindrick Common is a distinctive piece of land, relatively level with minor escarpments. Covering 200 acres it is large enough to accommodate both St. Andrews' Old and New Courses comfortably. The comment "providence evidently intended this for a golf links" is wholly applicable to the tract of heathland under which magnesian limestone provides excellent drainage.
The whole area has a natural rolling nature with humps and hollows. In the spring when the gorse is in bloom, a plethora of wild flowers - some very rare - bloom, resulting in the course being a designated site of Special Scientific Interest. Managed in accordance with English Nature's Wildlife Enhancement Scheme, Lindrick's environmental efforts were recognised with an award in 1998. Since the 1930s trees and bushes have grown, lending more of a parkland appearance. It is a course for all seasons as, generally, only snow and frost will cause closure of Lindrick's 18 holes.
From its earliest days, Lindrick was recognised as a championship course but it was not until 1957 that the club achieved international recognition. In that year, Lindrick played host to the Ryder Cup, when the Great Britain & Ireland team famously turned a deficit of 3 points to 1 into a win of 7½ points to 4½ on the final day. This was the first time the British team had won since 1929, and it was the last ever victory for GB & I under the original terms of reference laid down for the intercontinental contest by Samuel Ryder.
Lindrick had been chosen to stage that year's matches thanks to Sir Stuart Goodwin, a steel baron and long-time member, who offered the £10,000 required to underwrite the event. The match was a bad-tempered affair. From bitter experience, the GB & I team had learned how to be gentlemanly in defeat, but the Americans had not lost often enough to become good losers.
Three of the US team excused themselves when the cup was presented to Dai Rees, the British captain. Rees had previously paired the supremely competitive Eric 'Bomber' Brown against the feisty Tommy Bolt knowing a fiery match was inevitable.
After losing 4 & 3, Bolt said to Brown: "You may have won, but I did not enjoy that one bit." Brown retorted: "After the whipping I gave you, I wouldn't have enjoyed it either." Bolt broke a club before accusing the vast Yorkshire crowds of being "the worst in the world".
Dow Finsterwold also refused to shake hands with Christy O'Connor Snr after losing 7 & 6. Such was the furor that the Daily Telegraph's golf correspondent was moved to defend the spectators. He wrote: "I thought the Yorkshire people, with their natural intelligence and understanding of games, behaved splendidly."
A further link to the Ryder Cup is provided by John Jacobs, who, in 1979, became the first man to captain a European Ryder Cup team. John, still known by Lindrick members by his proper name of Maurice, grew up in the clubhouse where the Jacobs family covered the roles of professional, caddy master, stewardess and assistant professional.
His record as a player included the 1955 series at Palm Springs in which he won both his matches. The rare 100 per cent record is more admirable for having been achieved on American soil - particularly as he defeated the reigning US Masters champion, Dr. Cary Middlecoff. Unfortunately, the rigid rules of the PGA selection process cruelly denied Jacobs a place on the 1957 team over the inland links he knew so well.
Victory by the British and Irish made Lindrick a well-known golfing name and brought many visitors from far afield who spread still further the reputation of its fairways and greens. Indeed, Bing Crosby made the effort to play there on his way to Scotland the following year.
There is no doubt Lindrick is an excellent test for golfers of all standards. However, Alister Mackenzie's 1928 categorisation of the layout as penal, rather than strategic, still rings true.
At 6,612 yards Lindrick is definitely on the short side by modern standards of professional play but, despite its lack of length, the course is well able to hold its own against the best players ever likely to set foot on it.
With its narrow, gorse-lined fairways it is a test of nerves and skill, especially when a stiffish breeze rises to compensate for any perceived lack of yardage. Skillful positioning of back tees can create an illusion that the fairways are being viewed through the wrong end of a telescope, defying all but the very brave to reach for the driver.
Low handicappers may be heard to complain that the lushness of Lindrick's fairways prevents a maximum application of backspin, considering this a disadvantage should they have driven to the wrong side of the fairway. Conversely, the mid to high handicapper doesn't give two hoots about the difficulty of imparting backspin, but rather appreciates the lack of unfriendly lies suffered during a round.
Before the Ryder Cup match in 1957 it was feared Lindrick's perfect greens would be advantageous to the American team. "The most wonderful greens imaginable," is the gushing description of John Boddy, a past captain and a former sheriff of Nottingham. For good measure he added: "And the rest of the course is always in wonderful order."
The par-5, 4th, with a sunken green and a stream behind, was described by Bernard Darwin as one of the worst he had ever seen - rather contrarily he added: "Under no circumstances should it ever be changed."
That successive committees have heeded the advice of this respected golf writer may be due to the numerous legends attached to the natural ampitheatre surrounding the 4th green. While the validity of some can be questioned, there is little doubt that it was, for centuries, a place for prizefighting, cockfighting and other illegal pursuits necessitating speedy dispersal of spectators. To this day, trials by torture regularly take place there - but of the golfing kind.
If the 4th hole is the 'worst', then the 13th across the road is arguably the best of the lot - a par-4 that demands nerves of steel to fly tremendous bunkers in order to gain the best position for an approach to an elevated green.
The course is unusual in that it finishes with a par 3, rated by John King, Lindrick's experienced resident PGA professional, as one of the best finishing holes in golf, particularly in the matchplay format.
The tilted green requires you to seek a position below the pin - if you fail and need a par to take your partner's money, your nerves better have been forged in the world famous foundries just 15 miles from Lindrick Common.
The Lion Hotel (AA 3-star) on Worksop's main street is popular with golfers. The recently refurbished Best Western Hotel employs the affable Julia Bell as manager of golf reservations. She will happily pre-book tee times at Lindrick as well as other local courses such as Worksop, Kilton Forest, College Pines, Rufford Park and Bondhay Golf & Fishing Club.
If you're lucky, your visit may well coincide with that of Sean Bean as the Hollywood actor often spends time between assignments in his native Sheffield.
The Lion Hotel
112 Bridge Street, Worksop,
Nottinghamshire, S80 1HT.
Tel: 01909 477925
During World War II the clubhouse was requisitioned as a maternity home - and 1,021 babies were born at Lindrick.
November 7, 2004
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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