Ashton & Lea
It's a course similar to many others in North Lancashire but this one has a little bit more going for it and poses a real challenge if the wind blows.
It's a course where plotting your way around is required.
The first nine holes work anti-clockwise in a circle around the remainder of the course which is enclosed in the centre and has a more up and down feel to it.
The result is two-fold on the front nine. Firstly, there is trouble on the right hand side on every hole. This is usually in the form of out-of-bounds but before you reach that on some of the holes you will encounter trees, water and thick rough. It also means that the wind direction changes slightly from one hole to the next.
After a gentle downhill opener you face a series of demanding holes, none-more-so than the third and fourth, both par fours that tally over 850 yards between them. They play slightly uphill and were each into the wind on my first visit to Ashton & Lea making them very difficult holes.
After the interesting fifth hole that houses an S-shaped fairway, with the choice of taking a more direct route to the angled green or laying up short, there is a strong downhill par three with out-of-bounds perilously close to the side of the green.
The seventh is a dog-leg par-four with a raised and narrow green guarded by an imposing grass bunker. The next is a driveable par four but a lay-up and pitch to the very long, narrow and side-shelf green may give you the best chance of making birdie. And you come full circle back to the clubhouse via the best birdie chance on the course in the form of the par five ninth.
The back nine is enclosed within the front nine and therefore the threat of out-of-bounds in now gone. However, some of the water hazards that feature on the front nine (mostly narrow ditches and small pods) are still present on the inward half, maybe more so.
The 10th is a powerful par four measuring 440 yards but is wide enough to allow you to open your shoulders. The 11th requires a delicate pitch to a small green with three bunkers protecting the front portion of the green. Holes 12 and 13 run parallel to one another with a small stream running across both fairways. The 13th green is set in a deep bowl which will gather your ball from all sides but you are much better with a putt from the back of the green due to the slope of the putting surface.
Holes 14 and 15 play slightly downhill and both feature ponds down the fairway whilst the 16th and 17th, run back up in the opposite direction before you turn again for the 18th. The par five 16th is probably the best hole on the course with a water hazard perfectly positioned 30 yards short of the green.
Ashton & Lea isn't a long course - although there are three very demanding par fours - but positioning off the tee is important on a number of holes. There are several streams and ponds that must be avoided, more-so on the tee-shots than the approaches into the greens. As far as relatively flat parkland courses go this one is OK. It is also home to the Lancashire Union of Golf Clubs who have their offices based at the club.