- Neil White
“Is this your ball?”, queried our playing partner as he fished the guilty Callaway from his ripped bag.
Five minutes earlier, carried away by the excitement of a birdie two on the previous hole, I had carved the ball from The Hallamshire’s tenth tee.
But instead of a glorious hit down the middle, I had hooked a worm-killer at the lads who were standing little more than 20 yards in front of me.
Fortunately, it missed them and hit the bag and, I believed, was deflected into nearby rough never to be seen again.
Only on the next hole, when the chap saw his bag’s tear did we realise where it was.
This was just one of the memorable moments we took away from the over-55s’ open at one of Yorkshire’s top courses.
Yep, this was the day I downed THREE birdie twos – in the only open I have played in which there was no twos competition!
One of the par-threes even yielded a nearest the pin hopeful but it transpired I was outdone by just 50 centimetres.
And should I mention the ghost on the 16th tee? Maybe later.
The welcome at the Hallamshire is super. From the email before our arrival to the pleasantries in the club shop, service in the clubhouse and even the complimentary water and chocolate on the first tee.
But what I should have remembered from Master White’s student days in Sheffield is how cold the city is, especially on its higher ground.
Thus, it was freezing and the wind was blowing as we embarked upon the toughest opening stretch of holes I can recall.
Put simply, if your driver isn’t working then the first and third will be write-offs even before the pace of the greens bamboozles.
I was hitting the ball pretty well but it took me until the 6th before I felt that I had sussed out the putting surfaces.
The 5th is where the fun/drama starts – on the face of it, the 479-yard par-five should be a relief but a cavernous bunker needs to be negotiated before finding an elevated green.
This is the beginning of the course’s most memorable section – with dips, rises and beautiful views over the Yorkshire countryside.
The 7th fairway is on such a steep incline that my tee shot flew over an intimidating valley and footbridge only to roll 40 yards back down the hill.
The aforementioned 10th is a cracking hole over a brow before descending down towards a brook and then up to the green.
Other favourites included the 13th – a 401-yard par four which ascends over water, between bunkers with trees to the right. Another very tough hole.
Hole 14 is simply known as Long (as if the previous holes hadn’t been!). At 584 yards, with the wind blowing, I have rarely played a sterner par-five.
On the 16th we were greeted by an old-timer who told us he was known as “The Snowman” and asked: “What have you done with the weather?”.
It transpired he was using the hole as his own driving range in between folk teeing off.
Or was he? One of our playing partners was convinced he was a ghost.
Anyway, something heavenly nearly happened on 17, a superb par-three known as quarry because of the rocks which surround it. My nine-iron approach kissed the hole before ending 140cm from the cup. Sadly, I was just edged in the nearest the pin comp.
Then there is the final hole – a 487-yard par-four which must be the world’s most difficult stroke index 14. My pal hammered two of the best shots I have ever seen him play with the wind behind and still couldn’t reach it.
The Hallamshire offered up one of my most eventful golf experiences of the year. It is a curious place – combining traditional and modern in its clubhouse and a mixture of beautiful, intriguing and plain brutal holes.
Its condition is certainly up there with some of those in top100golfcourses’s best in England list. I note that it is included by National Club Golfer.
I can understand why.