It was originally designed by five times Open Champion James Braid and if you catch it on a glorious day, as we were fortunate enough to do so on a sunny March morning, it is a spectacular setting for a round of golf.
There is a real ruggedness to the layout that has a beautiful natural feel to it. The exposed location means that the wind will usually dictate how the course plays but even on the benign day we experienced it presented a fine and varied challenge.
The signature second hole, a par three played over a quarry to a table top green sat proud on a plateau, is quite magnificent and must be a real terror in a cross wind. Yet, this fine one-shotter is arguably not even the best hole on the golf course! The stellar third, a sweeping par four with an option to bite off as much as you dare on the drive is my choice although there are number of other worthy contenders.
In fact, there are more than a handful of extremely fine holes at this unheralded gem that works its way around the hillside quite superbly. The eighth is another strong hole of note, with a fantastic drive that pinches in just where you want to land, whilst the 11th has both a wonderful blind tee shot and a teasing falling approach to a green that is both angled and slopes sharply away from you.
I was a big fan of the ninth and 12th too whilst the driveable par-four 13th is a real risk-reward hole with a small ditch to negotiate about 250 yards from the tee and just 30 paces shy of the green. Again the hole moves from right-to-left with a carry other heather and marshy land if you are to successfully give yourself an eagle putt.
There’s some big hitting required in the final four holes with a sterling long par four at the 15th – another superb two-shotter with an inviting drive and semi-blind approach that will feed in from the right – and two par fives at 17 and 18. The former is the best with a particularly well-located green whilst the last will play as a true three-shotter for most golfers at almost 550 yards.
The holes that fill the gaps are not poor ones by any stretch of the imagination either. The other short holes are all interesting whilst par fours such as the first, fourth, fifth and 14th just go about their business effectively; the fifth and 14th in particular help negotiate the hill that most of the course is played around and across in just two significant climbs.
Baildon asks many questions from the tee; on a number of holes it made me consider hitting driver, 3-wood or a long iron for the best position or the correct percentage play. The majority of drives are reasonably generous, but if you do miss your shot you are likely to be in the heather or clumpy grass that the fairways are carved through. You certainly won’t be bored from the tee and with several delightfully located greens the approaches are exciting as well as exacting.
The course has a similar feel to Halifax (Ogden) which is not too far away and is a personal favourite of mine. If you’re looking to play a moorland double-header these would both make an excellent option.
You are likely to share the course with sheep, ramblers, dog walkers, horse riders, cyclists and joggers but this only adds to the natural feel. We even watched a paraglider attempt to take-off down the 15th fairway!
The green-fee I paid in mid-March, when the course played off grass tees and to normal greens, was just £12.50 and I believe that was for a day ticket too. You certainly can’t argue with that and whilst it may go against popular opinion I would argue that Baildon is possibly the best course in the Bradford & District Union of Golf Clubs.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect to Baildon, for us at least, was missing the Ice Cream van that parked up by the side of the second tee shortly after we had played the hole.
There is something about Elie that puts you under a spell. It is a truly magical links that, after just one round, has won a place in my heart and mind forever.
There’s very little that hasn’t been written about the golfing mecca that is St. Andrews.