Its days of staging 23 consecutive European Tour events in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s firmly put Fulford on the global golfing map before modern day professional golf ran riot with many of the country’s classic courses.
The list of winners at Fulford is impressive and includes an array of Ryder Cup players and many Major winners. And who can forget one of the most famous shots in golf history, when during the Benson and Hedges tournament in 1981, Bernhard Langer played his third shot from the ash tree by the green on the 17th hole. A fitting touch is that each hole is now named after a former champion.
The course, located close to the city centre of York on flat land, begins as a fast-running parkland course as it heads away from the clubhouse towards the busy A64 that dissects the course into two distinct parts. Cross the road and you enter a more wooded setting with a touch of heathland about it before re-crossing the road and playing the final five holes parallel to the opening stretch.
After a very solid start, which includes the excellent par-three third, the eight holes across the bridge showcase the best of Fulford. There are three superb par fives amongst this stretch of holes, that change direction often, as well as a number of excellent par fours (the tough 13th is undoubtedly the most note worthy) and a fine one-shotter at the tenth.
As at most of the holes at Fulford being in play from the tee is paramount, however, your task is not an easy one because there are several very well placed bunkers at various lengths from the tee. Quite often the fairways narrow at the ideal driving distance as bunkers pinch the fairway and necessitate accurate driving. Many of the holes are also lined by trees and/or gorse and this makes the course play even narrower. At the 17th you can even be on the fairway and not have a shot at the green because you are blocked out by a large oak.
Find the large greens with your approaches and you will find relatively flat putting surfaces, although a few slope significantly from back to front, that have always been receptive and in excellent condition whenever I’ve played. None more so than in August 2015 when The Club hosted the Yorkshire Amateur Championship. Some of them do have a little bit more movement than others but very rarely are you starting your ball more than a few inches outside the hole. The main challenge is club selection because many of the greens are particularly long with subtle run-offs to the sides.
The closing four holes at Fulford can be either a formidable task or a walk in the park; the direction of the wind the major factor. Into a stiff breeze this closing stretch, which feels a lot narrower than the rest of the course, can play very difficult but with a wind at your back they are reduced to long irons followed by short irons into the greens, straight hitting is still required.
I always enjoy an annual visit to Fulford for their 36 hole scratch event, the MacKenzie Salver named after the designer Major Charles MacKenzie (brother of the more famous Alister), held in September each year. The Club hold many other opens during the season and I would strongly advise a play here.
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.