You hope for three things when you travel to play golf at a links course. You hope that you bring your golf game, that the course is in excellent condition and that you get a decent weather day. We got two of the three when we visited Silloth on Solway Golf Club, on the Cumbrian coast in England. We will leave you to decide which one was missing!!
History and Location
Unlike most golf clubs, Silloth wasn’t formed by a group of local golfers. It was formed by the North British Railway Company in 1892 as an extension to the development of the town as a port and holiday resort. The Company sought the advice of legendary Scottish Professionals Willie Fernie and Willie Park but the course was actually laid out by David Grant. Over the years renowned course designers Dr. Alister MacKenzie (of Augusta and Cypress Point fame) Wille Park Jnr and Tom MacKenzie of Mackenzie Ebert (the redesigned Ailsa at Turnberry) have contributed to the classic links you play today.
Yes, there are a number of blind shots, but in years gone by, that was the essence of classic links golf. Now many people don’t like blind shots, whether they be tee shots or approach shots but would you turn down the chance to play the number 1 course in the world, Royal County Down because of that dislike? Nah, we didn’t think so!
The course is situated about 23 miles west of Carlisle. It’s a 2-hour drive down the M74 from Glasgow and 2 and 1/2 hours from Manchester to get here but it’s well worth the trip.
Playing the Links
There are four sets of tees to play from, ranging from 5806 yards to the back tees at 6623 yards. It’s a par 72 for the Gents and a par 75 for the Ladies. We got permission from Club Secretary Alan Oliver to play from the white tees at 6392 yards. For those who like slope ratings, the white course has a slope of 133.
The opening hole
Standing on the first tee, the fairway narrows the further up it you go. At 378 yards, it’s not long although it does play uphill. With a gentle breeze into our faces, we decided to hit 3 wood and safely found the fairway. Right away we found out the nuances of playing at Silloth. Even though we were in the middle of the fairway, we had a severe uphill lie, not really what you want when playing into the wind. Oh, and we can’t see the green as your approach is blind.
We had 150 yards to go and elected to hit 6 iron, which ballooned up into the air and landed at the top of the hill so 30 yards short of the green. A bump and run down the slope and two putts later and we opened with a bogey.
The approach to the 3rd hole
The 3rd is a cracking hole. At 352 yards, the tee shot is all about position. The hole sweeps from right to left and anywhere left is dead. Our 3 wood found the fairway and left us with an 8-iron to a plateau green which sits above you. There was no chance of us taking on that left pin so we safely found the centre of the green and two putted for another par.
Don’t Go Left!
The par 5 5th hole
After hitting 3 wood off the tee at the first 4 holes, we decided to hit the driver at the 5th. It was playing 521 yards with a gentle breeze off the water. We pulled it left, which is where you don’t want to go, and were lucky to find it and hacked it out onto the fairway. We then hit a 4 hybrid onto the green and made par.
The 6th hole
The 6th hole is the first par 3. For us it was playing 180 yards, downhill but with a right-to-left breeze. We went with 5 iron and hit it slightly heavy. It landed short, just right of the left bunker and ran off the slope to the front of the green. A very fortunate par.
Our driving woes continued at the 7th where we again pulled the driver left. This time we couldn’t find it in the heather. Our first lost ball. We reverted back to our 3 wood for our tee shot at the 8th but the pulls don’t care what club you are using. A hack out of the heather then a 7 iron and another bogey followed.
Silloth’s Postage Stamp
Silloth’s Postage Stamp
The last hole on the front nine is a gorgeous hole. It definitely has the vibes of the Postage Stamp at Royal Troon. It’s the shortest par 3 on the course at 131 yards but it’s the trickiest hole to play. The green is surrounded by seven bunkers, four of which you can’t see. With the breeze coming off the Solway Firth, we hit 8 iron, which didn’t move and fortunately held the green. A foot further right we were down the slope and into the sand.
Inland Back Nine
The back nine is 350 yards longer than the front and that is reflected in the par of 37 coming home. All the holes are inland, away from the sea. As we waited for the game in front of us to move out of range, I asked my playing partner to check my alignment as the tee shots left were killing me. Apparently, my shoulders were square but my feet were open!
The approach to the 10th hole
With our alignment now sorted, we proceeded to hit our driver off the tee straight into the fairway bunker 260 yards away on the short 10th hole. Well, it was where I was aiming! We splashed out and pitched and putted to escape with a par.
The 12th hole
The 12th hole is the longest par 3 on the course at 200 yards. It’s another lovely-looking hole and was playing slightly down breeze and from left to right. We hit our 4 hybrid onto the green but not close to the hole. We did two-putt for our third par in a row since the turn.
The Hardest Hole
Your second shot at the 13th
The 13th hole is stroke index 1 and it’s a par 5. That is unusual so what makes it so difficult? Well, it’s only 466 yards off the white tees but it is uphill. After finding the fairway off the tee with our driver, we went for the green with a 3-wood. We actually hit what we thought was a really good second shot which on landing bounced a little left.
Once we walked up the hill we found out that it all fell away left, down a slope into the heather. We couldn’t find it and felt a little disappointed that 2 decent shots resulted in a lost ball. The moral of the story here is to play toward what you can see, which is the right side of the fairway!
A Birdie at Last
On the 14th green
The 14th hole is another par 5, this time of 472 yards. We hit the fairway again with our driver (I know!) but had a blind second shot. Our 4 hybrid second shot finished in the front left bunker. We hit a decent bunker shot to 8 feet and holed the putt. Our first birdie of the day, would it be the last? A par followed at the 15th, another fairway hit!
The 16th hole
The 16th is the last par 3. It played 178 yards and it made it a full set of cracking-looking par 3’s. The breeze was helping slightly so we went with 6 iron to ensure we got up the slope at the front. After hitting straight tee shots for six holes in a row, our tails were up. Over confident? perhaps! Our tee shot faded with the breeze and ended up pin high but in the second bunker on the right. We were right under the face and did well to get it out first time. Two putts later, another bogey.
We parred the par 5 17th where we hit the driver and a 3 wood just short, but then duffed our chip. Heading to the 18th, we were just happy to be getting on the fairway with the driver again.
The last green
Can I take that last sentence back? Our drive on the last hole finished in the left rough, on the top of a mound. We thought we could get to the green with a 5 iron, but that was over-ambitious. The clubhead turned over in the rough and we finished left of the green. Our pitch finished 15 feet short of the pin. We missed it and finished with a bogey.
Our Summary of Silloth
The course at Silloth on Solway Golf Club is excellent and is well deserving of all the accolades it receives. The variety of the holes, especially on the front nine, means that you are always being tested. We were fortunate to play Silloth on a calm day. It must be really tough when the wind blows.
We know it sounds obvious, but you have to find the fairways off the tee. We didn’t on the front nine and spent a lot of time hacking it out of the heather when we could find it. The greens were very, very good. They weren’t fast but not many links greens are. The ball ran true which is all you can ask for. Silloth is absolutely a course that you should play and it is well worth going out of your way to do so. You will not be disappointed!
Thank you to Club Secretary Alan Oliver for hosting us and allowing us to play off the white tees. It was an absolute pleasure to play your course. Thank you to Tom in the pro shop for your advice on how to play the course and also for recommending the chefs’ beer-battered fish and chips. It was a fitting end to a cracking day.
Our fish and chips
At a Glance:
- Located on the Cumbrian coast, 40 minutes west of Carlisle
- 18-hole traditional links course
- Practice nets and putting green next to the clubhouse
- Practice area nearby
- Well-stocked pro shop
- Welcoming members and staff
- Lovely clubhouse with fantastic fish and chips
Jim Callaghan has been a Category One Golfer for over 45 years. Recently retired from Club Management, he now walks the fairways of some of the best golf courses in the UK, Ireland and Europe and writes about the experience of playing and staying at them for worldsbestgolfdestinations.com
Now in his 60’s, he is still carrying his bag, although maybe not for much longer!
If you would like Jim to write about your venue, email him at [email protected] or call him on 0044 (0) 78522 88732