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  • Neil White


Surely, there can be no better value in golf than the twilight visitor rate at Cavendish - the home of the Alister MacKenzie Golf Society.

Yes, it cost just £25 to play this picturesque Peak District course which recently found its way into England's top 100.

And it must also be the toughest par 68 anywhere.

Cavendish is in Buxton, renowned for being the only place where play in a professional cricket match was halted in June because of snow.

Therefore, expect the conditions to be challenging. A couple of years ago, I stood on the elevated sixth tee and burst out laughing because the wind was so strong.

Even on a balmy May evening when there wasn't a breath back at home, 45 miles away, there was a chill in the air and more than a bit of a breeze at Cavendish.

This is a course which demands precision around the greens and my past experience and the lightning-fast practice area had sewn the seeds of doubt.

The first sets the tone - a blind tee shot to a fairway with right-to-left undulations and a putting surface with fiendish MacKenzie borrows.

This is followed by one of Cavendish's most memorable holes - a short par-four into a target with a wall at its rear. The slope from back to front is so extreme that a slightly mistimed putt will see the ball slide 15 yards off the green.

Almost every hole at Cavendish is an unexpected adventure and the theme continues on the third - a par-four which can be reached by decent hitters but even they will find it tricky to keep the ball on the green.

The five par-threes are all very different and are far more testing than may first appear. This is especially the case with the downhill fourth with water in front and on the left and a steep grassy slope to the right. It is short and devilish.

The fifth is the first of the longer holes - with a copse and brook to the right which shouldn't be in play but always seem to be.

The 10th is arguably the most mind-blowing among Cavendish's holes. A long par-four with grassed crater to the left off the tee and out-of-bounds on the right.

Then comes a big decision of whether to take on a green with is high above a chasm with a stream running through it. I tend to try to play it like a par-five but, in truth, there is no easy route.

Ditto the dramatic 11th which drops down to a stream in front of the green which may either grab long drives or short approaches.

The 13th is the most intimidating of the par-threes, cut on the side of a hill and demanding a curling shot in from the right.

It comes before another signature hole - the par-five 14th which has walled out of bounds and loud sheep in the farm to the left, hiding a raised green with a steep false front.

Wildlife is a big part of Cavendish and we witnessed a pheasant fight as we were putted out.

Meanwhile, a pony peered across from behind the wall as we were making our assault on the par-three 15th from its elevated tee.

And then there was a very large hare moving fast across the 18th tee as we took on the tough final hole.

Before then, I had succumbed pathetically meekly to a 2 & 1 defeat in my society matchplay with a wretched six on the short 17th.

Fortunately, having watched others make a mess of it while we were having a drink on the clubhouse's stone balcony, I knew the way into the bending 18th.

This is just as well because I don't think I have seen as many hillocks and swales in all of my travels.

And then we returned to our spot on the patio as the sun came down and we mused over how the management team have created such a top track and yet charge players so little by comparison to its peers.

Ok, Cavendish is a tad isolated but Buxton is a beautiful town and a round here is worth a stopover.

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