Alwoodley & Moortown

Lord Tyrion

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First off, a big thanks to 2Blue who pointed out the summer offer to play these two lovely courses and stay nearby. Without his post I would not have seen the offer and taken it up.

Okay, to anyone who does not know about these courses they are situated pretty much next door to each other to the north of Leeds. They are both designed by Alister Mackenzie, the great course designer who had a hand in designing parts of Augusta National. I've played 3-4 of his courses now and there is a theme to those I have played that these two followed again. Apologies to aficionados who disagree with my reading of this but based on my experiences:

You have to be able to hit a clean tee shot. He likes rough in front of the tee, an area to clear. No scuttling, no thins allowed
He likes fairway bunkers, in a line across the course. There will be a pathway through them but you need to find it, be short or very long.
He protects the greens. Boy does he do that. Bunkers surround them, lots of them, big uns.

He wants proper golfers on his courses. They are not for the faint hearted, not for occasional hackers.

So, bearing this in mind first up

Moortown

Moortown hosted the Ryder Cup in 1929. This is both good and bad. The course is fabulous, properly fabulous, but the club remained frozen in 1929, more later.

This is a tough course, a really tough course. Maybe worse because of the baked fairways, same for Alwoodley. You need decent carries off a number of tees, the tees are protected like no other course I have played. It was great though. Perfect greens, even in this weather. I am sure this must host various amateur comps, it is certainly up to it. I didn't play well here so that clouds my judgement a little but whilst this was great to play I don't think I could be a member here. It would beat me up too much. No shame in that I don't think but for a home course you need to be a serious player to play here.

Downsides. We were stuck behind a competition that was painfully slow. This didn't help us. We were held up on every shot on every hole, the golfers playing hitting the rough too often, too many provisionals, too much searching. It took some of the fun out of it, no question. We chatted to some other golfers, not playing the comp and they were beside themselves apologising. They were embarrassed. They reckoned it added around an hour to the round. Comps have priority though don't they, no matter how slow the players are. I don't get that but that is a discussion for another thread.

The Clubhouse remains in a 1929 timewarp. Some on this forum would love it, red leather chairs, dark wood at the bar, little rooms off big rooms, an air of superiority, a dress code that is enforced (don't you dare show an ankle at Moortown! I saw two old guys wearing rugby socks up to the knee, their preferred sock length. They looked ridiculous, even more so in 27°C heat. Why don't they just wear trousers asked my son? Why does it matter? I had no answer). It was a place where Peter Alliss would hold court and reel off stories to other similar aged golfers. I found it frumpy, uncomfortable. I wasn't sure which rooms we could go in, which we couldn't. Possibly all were open but the signs were from a bygone era and we just weren't sure. It was not a place to relax in. There was a more open bar but the air was the same.

All in all, great course but only play if you are in form. It was a good experience but I would not be rushing back

Alwoodley

I instantly liked Alwoodley more. Funky clubhouse, friendlier welcome, no sock police. You go past the pro shop and are faced with a perfectly groomed 1st tee, the 18th green in the background, all framed by the clubhouse terrace and clubhouse itself. I smiled instantly.

The course is tighter than Moortown, not quite as many bunkers but still enough. It is not quite as hard as Moortown, imo, but it is still a real test. Take plenty of balls with you. The greens had been lightly sanded, or fertilized, but they had no impact. They were wonderful. Hole after hole of total joy. Not a weak hole on the course, you have to think about every shot. I'm not good at remembering individual holes but I have a vague memory of 7 onwards having some real jaw droppers. After a while we stopped saying 'great hole'. I played better here but it is another course where being straight is paramount. No point blasting it here if you are off line. I imagine it is a real beast when the heathland grass is not burned back. As well as being able to afford the green fees this place could eat golf balls. Thankfully not too many for me but you could see the potential.

After the round we sat on the terrace and enjoyed the view of the 1st tee and 18th green. Food and drink were pleasant and fairly priced. The clubhouse had been revamped and rooms lightened and opened up. I spoke to the bar manager and he said this was deliberate. There were too many rooms that looked like members rooms, it was off putting to visitors he said. I smiled, hear that Moortown! It was smart, knew it was good but didn't lord it over you. I could relax there.

I really enjoyed Alwoodley and would play again like a shot. Once again, I don't know that I could be a member here, too tough for regular rounds, but to come back would be something I would really look forward to.

A few pictures for you, remember that visually it may not look as good due to my camera, perspectives and the grass looking like burnt straw. Don't blame the course for this.

This was my approach shot to a green. Spectacular shot, hitting down a steep hill to a protected green

Alwoodley.jpg

The par 3 9th. See what I mean about having to clear rough from a tee shot

Alwoodley 9th.jpg





That Mackenzie fella knew a thing or two about course design and you could do a lot worse than play these two. Just pack plenty of balls, practise your tee shots and make sure you are not stuck behind any comps, incidentally it took us 3hrs 15 for a 2 ball around Alwoodley and we didn't rush, we did look for balls.

A true test of golf and a real pleasure. Highly recommended.
 
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D

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Interesting write up. I agree with you that Moortown is a stronger test. There is trouble off both the tee and into the greens whereas Alwoodley is not so punishing for the 2nd shots.
Completely disagree about the clubhouses though. The main bar is far too small at Alwoodley considering how big the clubhouse is and the changing rooms are cramped. Moortown however is very classy and I found it very welcoming.
 

Lord Tyrion

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D4S - I mentioned in my write up that I expected some to love the clubhouse at Moortown. It was not for me, reasons given, but I fully accept that it will tick the boxes for others. The Alwoodley clubhouse was an interesting one. It is a big building but they do seem to have wasted some space that could have been better used. Corridors and a large entrance could perhaps have been used better for bar areas or extending the changing rooms. I found the quality of the changing rooms 1st class, far better than the dated Moortown for example, but they were not large. Whether that is an issue is dependent on how many use it at one go. When we were there it was quiet but that may not be the case at other times. The bar area was not deep but there was length to it. They also had an additional room with glass double doors which opened fully, extending the bar area without feeling you are in a different room. It definitely helps when the weather is good as the terrace area is so good but clearly that is weather dependent. Being there in poor weather may be a different beast.
 

Marshy77

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Played Alwoodley with the NW guys from here and absolutely loved it, the course is immaculate and an extremely good test of golf. Like you say each hole has it's own wow factor. I need to play it again.

Moortown is on the list to play, hoping to get a round in at somepoint as I know a member who keeps promising me a round lol.
 

drewster

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I loved Alwoodley when I played it with the NW guys too. I actually played alright there and the company was decent too !! It was a long time ago but I remember that it definitely had holes and undulations there that influenced his modelling of Augusta. One hole in particular. An uphill drive on a longish par 4 , that swept left and downhill to a wonderful green set behind a stream/pond. Would love to go back one day.
 

Jacko_G

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I have to laugh at these "traditional" rules with dress codes etc.

I can walk about the clubhouse at Turnberry in my spikes, I can wear my waterproofs in the clubhouse, I can sit and have lunch in my spikes and wear my cap if I so desire. However that said I would respect their dress code, I would however probably have a drink and nowt else, especially if I don't feel comfortable.

I quite fancy playing both of these courses so thanks for the review.
 

Lord Tyrion

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I have to laugh at these "traditional" rules with dress codes etc.

I can walk about the clubhouse at Turnberry in my spikes, I can wear my waterproofs in the clubhouse, I can sit and have lunch in my spikes and wear my cap if I so desire. However that said I would respect their dress code, I would however probably have a drink and nowt else, especially if I don't feel comfortable.

I quite fancy playing both of these courses so thanks for the review.

I was lucky enough to play Turnberry earlier this year. Their attitude around dress codes and the clubhouse was a breath of fresh air. They could not have made us more welcome or relaxed. For me, they were the blueprint for golf clubs in terms of how to treat golfers.
 

Fish

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I’m a fan of Moortown, they’ve done a lot of work felling trees over the last couple of years to try and get it back to its natural heathland look & feel.

Must have played it about 6 times before playing Alwoodley, which is also very nice, but there’s something about Moortown that just swings it for me. I think the 18th is a good finishing hole with a tricky green, the par 3 on the turn after the halfway hut can be a toughy if the winds up, almost vertical with good protection from well placed bunkers and then still a tricky green to navigate.

Moortown was more friendly on my visits also, but to play in their Opens for only £35 I think, what great value for a course with so much history.
 

2blue

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Interesting write up. I agree with you that Moortown is a stronger test. There is trouble off both the tee and into the greens whereas Alwoodley is not so punishing for the 2nd shots.
Completely disagree about the clubhouses though. The main bar is far too small at Alwoodley considering how big the clubhouse is and the changing rooms are cramped. Moortown however is very classy and I found it very welcoming.

Yes it used to be small & cramped but was enlarged 2 years ago & is now much improved & has a much more welcoming feel than the 'stuffyness' that pervades Moortown

Also, I can only guess that you didn't play off the Whites @ Alwoodley where you are often then hitting onto the fairways obliquely... quite a test to decide just how much heather to take on & you are then faced with longer 2nd shots in.
For me both offer similar levels of difficulty... ie. too great for week-in, week-out play for me & many other better golfers who tend to move on after a few years @ Moortown, especially which is also easier to get into than The Alwoodley…. for me, a far classier & welcoming Club though you'd only get one chance to join if invited.... but not if you ask :mmm: So, rather more exclusive than Moortown but friendlier... odd eh??…. something I experienced at Swindley Forest in the last couple of years.
Glad you enjoyed it LT.... you also had a lovely weather window.... am glad my 'heads-up' on the deal wasn't wasted.... it did appear good value.
 
D

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Yes it used to be small & cramped but was enlarged 2 years ago & is now much improved & has a much more welcoming feel than the 'stuffyness' that pervades Moortown

Also, I can only guess that you didn't play off the Whites @ Alwoodley where you are often then hitting onto the fairways obliquely..

You guessed wrong, I played both off the back tees ;)
 

Jacko_G

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I was lucky enough to play Turnberry earlier this year. Their attitude around dress codes and the clubhouse was a breath of fresh air. They could not have made us more welcome or relaxed. For me, they were the blueprint for golf clubs in terms of how to treat golfers.

Its the American way.
 

Jacko_G

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I thought that may be the case, not played in the US so was not sure. However I could see that Americans were very much a target market so made the assumption. Frankly, I'm all for it.

Totally agree and I now actually agree with the American tipping system. I was never a fan of tipping until I went to America, they have customer service and attention to detail spot on. Very rarely do you get poor service in a restaurant or front facing facility. They have nailed it.
 
D

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I’m not a fan of the US style approach in golf courses - all seems very false and fawny ( if that’s a word :D ) , prefer the good old traditional approach with a bit of common sense

Dress appropriately for the course you are playing , act in a friendly and polite manner

Some people love the picking clubs from the car etc and then no dress code but it feels false and as if it’s a chore. When last at Sunningdale you can see the Yanks there treating the caddies and pro shop staff as if they were dirt and there to service their needs.

The caddiemaster there had some great stories and they were mainly about US - where as the Japanese, total opposite , the most polite people around
 
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