Reddish Vale Golf Club
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A long time member of several clubs in Yorkshire, Dr Alister MacKenzie was a well known golfing figure in the north of England. Having designed courses such as Alwoodley, Darlington and Southcliff between 1907 and 1911, Mackenzie was already noted as a talented architect. It should therefore not be surprising when founding members of Reddish Vale GC selected MacKenzie as the man for the job. After securing approximately 100 rather unruly acres in a deep section of the Tame Valley, the club sent MacKenzie to work and work he did. The awkward site is divided by the magnificently meandering River Tame along the floor of the valley. The largest parcel of land is located well below the clubhouse and much of it was known for yielding the finest corn in the district. The upland section of the property was characterized by boggy swamps which were drained, leaving a stream running through the 3rd fairway which was eventually filled in. The remaining depressions provide the character for the opening five holes. Not withstanding a few alterations to holes 14-16 by James Braid, the routing as conceived Dr MacKenzie remains in place today and is a testament to his skill as a designer. MacKenzie had a hand in designing many courses, but few can lay claim to be original designs and it is to the club’s credit that amendments were scarce.
HOLES TO NOTE:
#1: An unprepossessing opening tee shot is followed by a testing long approach covering a ravine. The green is deceptively large.
Because of the hilly nature of the property, the River Tame and ravines, there are a few hitches in the routing which require somewhat long or awkward walks; the first of which occurs on the 6th. At 228 yards from the daily tee this steep drop-shot par 3 is the longest short hole on the course. To the right is the 18th. To the left is a glorious view of the River Tame, somewhat buried behind trees. Indeed, the stretch from #s 4-6 could offer one of the finest outlooks in English golf. Perhaps one day the newly appointed green keeper, who has been making great strides with clearing out unnecessary debris from the wings of the course, will find a way to work with local authorities in opening up the landscape and reveal the majesty Dr MacKenizie must have experienced 100 years ago.
The excellent use of slopes, shaping and terrain on the stretch of holes from 8-13 marks the highlight of Reddish Vale. The drive on 8 steers between the river on the left and trees down the right. The trees pinch the driving zone enough so that the golfer may want to consider laying up. The arresting approach to the very Colt-like plateau green comes as surprise, shocking even.
With four one-shotters on the front nine, they must all be good to retain interest and the 9th doesn’t disappoint. It is well known that MacKenzie was a disciple (and author even!) of classic architecture and was keen to use these principles for his own designs. The 9th is an example of using ideas of North Berwick’s Redan. In some ways the 9th is more severe because anything left is likely lost and OOB lurks hard to the rear of the green. Unike the Redan, the green is very small. It will receive a kick-in off the right, but this play is protected by hidden bunker – much like the original.
Many of the bunkers at Reddish Vale are not placed with any sort of special creativity to challenge the golfer’s line. However, in the course of two holes there are three such bunkers; the pot on #9 and the two bunkers on the 10th. The fairway curves around high ground (an old railway embankment) on the left and runs past a centreline bunker at the turn of the dogleg; the terrain feeds directly towards this bunker. There is an opportunity to sneak a drive down the left, but I suspect for most, over time this is a losing proposition. The second bunker cuts in from the right and shy of the green, creating uncertainty for the big hitter. The two-tier green, said to be the first ever “MacKenzie green”, was buried in a serious landslide which took place in 1992. The recent vegetation clearance to the rear of the green is quite evident.
The final hole in this purple patch, #13, is a yet another long par 4. If one hasn’t yet looked at the card, he will be stupified to discover that when stretched to its limits, Reddish Vale fails to break the 6100 yard mark. It is now we begin to wonder when that string of bland 320-350 yard holes will appear. The quick answer is no such line of holes exists. Sure, there are some driver-wedge holes such as 10, 14 and 16, but two of these are among the finest holes on the course. This hole measures 456 yards from the medal tees, but it is the punchbowl green which plays the starring role. The goal is to drive close to the trees on the right thus opening up (as much as one can!) the approach. The second (for the brave) plays over the right edge of hill to a sunken green.
Originally, MacKenzie’s 16th hole was a long par 3 which wasn’t terribly admired. Braid added about 100 yards and moved the green to the end of the peninsula to a narrow site in the elbow of the river. While the change does compound what was already an ungainly green to tee transition, the hole had to be built. It isn’t often that such a short hole on a classic course can induce such fear in a golfer!
There can be no doubting that an additional 30 acres could have been put to good use at Reddish Vale, but despite the few long green to tee walks and odd less than perfect hole, MacKenzie, with a bit of help from Braid, achieved a towering stroke of genius from this small and very boisterous property. Amazingly, Reddish Vale has no less than than four All England candidates; #s 9, 10, 13 and 16. The many positives of the design shines clearly as this short classic course from the hand of a master designer impresses more than it seemingly should. Visit Reddish Vale and be impressed.
Within a 45 minutes drive there are three excellent courses:
Cavendish GC: Another Dr MacKenzie delight located in the beautiful Peak District
Delamere Forest GC: A superb course which ironically is more open than forested.
Prestbury GC: A rolling and classy HS Colt design in footballer country.