- Neil White
What makes a course worthy of a place in England’s top 100? Clearly links and heathland are considered to have the edge over parkland.
Some might also dare to say that being in a favoured location might help – the south-east and the north-west have a plethora of high-rated clubs and the south, south-west and East Anglia are highly represented.
By comparison, the Midlands has fewer representatives and Derbyshire doesn’t feature at all.
I would like to wave a flag for my adopted county, having always been impressed by Cavendish and being blown away today by the condition of Kedleston Park in gorgeous October sunshine.
After digesting salmon and scrambled eggs in a clubhouse where food never fails to impress, we headed for a course with the stunning backdrop of Kedleston Hall, the National Trust property the former ancestral home of the Curzon family.
The fun begins on the first a downhill par-five with trees, bunkers and a small brook which hints at the trickier water hazards to come.
Before the most picturesque holes, there are two long bending tree-lined par-fours which demand both accurate drives and approaches.
The fifth is one of my favourites – a par-five left dogleg with bunkers which entice drives, trees which lure second shots, before a deceptive approach to a green at the bottom of a dip.
This is the first time that the glorious Derbyshire scenery comes truly into its own.
The seventh is a picture par-three over a lake. It is only 150 yards and I struggle to explain why I have found the water as often as I have.
The eighth is a curiosity – a short par-four which has an almost 90-degree bend, tempting big hitters to cut a corner protected by trees. The over-ambitious may kick themselves for not treating it with respect.
The back nine opens with arguably Kedleston Park’s most attractive hole with a tee-shot down to a now-familiar dogleg and an approach to a target defended to the left by water, to the right by bunkers and to the rear by thick rough. I evaded all of the above and then three-putted!
Indeed, my clumsy play around the greens cost me again on the long par-three second and the par-four 12th which requires two lengthy hits before reaching a raised green.
The closing stretch will live long in the memory as my pals and I battled it out over the high-rollers’ five pound note.
The 17th is a par-five which can yield results if a drive reaches the top of the hill because it then filters down to an accessible green with bunkers either side. I hit a six-iron to ten feet but sadly missed my birdie.
Indeed, it looked as if the money was out of my grasp as we headed into the long par-four finish in front of the clubhouse. I set up to play this curving 420-yarder as a five but, thankfully, needed only three because I chipped in from 86 yards.
Sadly, I didn’t witness the glorious finale because the target was out of sight but watching my partner fish my ball from the hole and metaphorically wrap it with cash was satisfaction enough.
It was a great end to a day when we found Kedleston Park at its best.
Apparently, the arrival of a new head greenkeeper has pushed it up a notch. It already attracts Open qualifiers and, noting how well manicured the course is with lush fairways and true but intriguing green complexes, I wonder now about top 100 recognition.