|Members of Ashburnham have always been very proud of the golf course and of the Club’s history.The course was designed in 1894 by J H Taylor, five times Open Champion. Harry Vardon, who won the Open Championship six times between 1896 and 1914, still the record, called Ashburnham his favourite Welsh course.
Ashburnham has hosted many amateur and professional events, for example players such as Padraig Harrington and David Howell represented their countries at Ashburnham in the Amateur Home Internationals.
The three British and European Tour events held at Ashburnham were each won by winning Ryder Cup captains, Dai Rees, Bernard Gallacher and Sam Torrance.
This “100% record” makes Ashburnham unique in world golf.
Our Ryder Cup connection was highlighted again in 2014 when Jamie Donaldson struck the winning shot at Gleneagles. Jamie won the 2000 Welsh Amateur Stroke Play Championship at Ashburnham.
Naturally, a visitor to Ashburnham is most keen to know about the course itself. Ashburnham is a course in the true links tradition and one of its most interesting challenges is that those holes which, in the links way, appear to be “out” and “back” in fact subtly vary in direction. This means that golfers must keep their wits about them in working out the exact wind direction on each one, for example the 14th and 15th holes at first sight seem to be both downwind on the back nine. However, sometimes the wind can be “helping” on the 14th and “against” on the 15th.
Like Royal Lytham, the course unusually starts with a par three, giving players an immediate tactical decision to make. Do they play short of the bunkers in front of the green, leaving what looks like a straightforward chip and putt for par or do they go for the green, bringing out of bounds close on the right into play along with greenside bunkers and more trouble on the left?
The 2nd is a long par four running in almost the opposite direction to the 1st, requiring two perfectly struck shots to find the green.
As the round is drawing to a close, the 17th, running parallel to the 2nd but in the opposite direction, is a ferocious challenge when the pressure is on and the trophy seems in sight, with a water hazard running down the right and all kinds of problems on the left, though as is the way with links golf, two straight, running shots will find the green.
The holes from the 3rd to the 8th go “out” as mentioned earlier, with each providing its own special challenge, for example the short par four 3rd is a “risk-reward” hole, enabling long hitters to try to avoid the thick rough and get on or close to the green with a driver, whilst shorter hitting or more conservative players can use tactics to give themselves a good birdie chance.
The 5th is a par five with out of bounds on the right, playable either as a tactical three-shotter or, depending on the wind and the power of the player, reachable in two by those willing to risk the bunkers, the out of bounds and a water hazard short and right of the green.
Dai Rees, the great Welsh player and Ryder Cup Captain, called the 6th the most challenging par three in Britain and only a perfect shot can avoid the steep bank on the right and a bunker on the left to find the elevated green.
After the 8th the course turns, with the holes from the 9th to the 15th presenting equally subtle challenges with their different architectures and slightly different directions. The 9th is stroke index 1 for men and ladies and golfers will soon see why, with the line of bunkers down the left and the entrance to the green as narrow as the Road Hole at St Andrews.
The 13th is a glorious short par three played back in the opposite direction, with a shortish iron in theory providing a great birdie chance but major problems awaiting a poor shot.
The 14th is a “risk-reward” par five designed so beautifully that it provides a majestic challenge despite having only one bunker and the 15th goes one better; what many regard as Ashburnham’s best and most demanding hole, a long par four with a sloping green, has no bunkers at all!
The 18th provides, as a final test, the requirement for a lofted approach shot to carry a bank to reach the elevated green and we trust that golfers as they leave this green will, even if Ashburnham’s challenge has given them a last minute disaster, reflect on the overall quality of the course and the beautifully true manicured greens.
Fescue Based Greens