Host to many county championships local golfers will no doubt be aware of the delights of this fine old links on Walney Island, off the Furness peninsula, but most players from outside the area are unlikely to be able to name more than two links courses in Cumbria at best, and this will not be one of them.
The Club’s cause was not helped when George Peper & Malcolm Campbell erroneously omitted it from their “True Links” book which claimed to name the 246 genuine links courses in the World.
In that respect it fell victim to the same fate as Dunstanburgh Castle, Dawlish Warren, Anglesey and Alnmouth Village to name just four. All clubs which would surely have welcomed the additional visitor green-fees and been proud to show off their links.
Not only can Furness undeniably be classed as the truest form of the game it lays claim to being the 3rd oldest links and 6th oldest golf club in England.
Indeed its roots trace back to 1872 and in a booming industrial time for the region, coupled with the game of golf prospering, the course soon expanded from its original six holes to the 18 we play today, many of them along the Irish Sea.
The first five holes work their way out to the farthest point of the links. The highlight of this opening sequence is undoubtedly the tumbling third; a sub-300 yard par-four with a boisterous fairway and a green complex which simply screams of quality.
A road and housing trace the length of these holes down the right, along the inland side of the property, but the view out to sea across the links is lovely, expansive and we know we are only going to get closer to it. The ground, which for the most part is firm, is a little heavier in a couple of spots early on in the round but considering the amount of rainfall just prior to my visit in late October the course stood up well.
The short sixth plays at right angles to all the other holes and takes us tight to the stunning beach and from here we play six holes directly along the coastline. It’s quite possible to lose a ball to the sea on five of these.
The one you can’t is the signature hole of the course, the tenth; the third and last short hole on the 6,226-yard, par 71 layout which closes with eight consecutive two-shotters. And what a beauty the tenth is. Played from an exposed, elevated tee to a green tucked at the foot of a dune ridge it is an invigorating shot.
The next two holes; “Pebble Beach” and “Sandy Gap” are two stellar par fours each with excellent green locations, the latter of which is volcanic in nature.
I must admit to viewing an aerial photograph of the course before my round and not expecting much from the last six holes which play ‘up and down’ as they edge their way inland. However, I was more than pleasantly surprised with this final third of the round, especially 13 to 16. The turf remains good and the shots you are asked to play are of a high quality; a huge hollow adds bite to the approach into 13, broken ground short of the 14th must be contended with and the 266-yard 16th is a fine example of a short par-four. In fact I was rather touched by the quality of this ‘tempter’ despite having internal out-of-bounds down the left. It is well protected by strategically placed bunkers and enjoys an entertaining putting surface.
The greens are worthy of mention because the contours are very good throughout and there are some beautifully natural and subtle green sites which work extremely well.
There are of course some more pedestrian moments within the round but there is enough here, especially for lovers of links golf, to warrant a visit.
Furness doesn’t match the exceptionally high quality of Silloth, nor quite that of Seascale, further up the west coast but for anybody seeking an extended period of golf in the Lake District then Furness should be the next stop for good quality links golf.
And if it is winter play one is seeking then I suspect this old-fashioned links will remain more than playable whilst others either close their doors altogether or introduce temporary greens during wet periods.
Copt Heath is a very fine parkland golf course that requires precision, plotting and a deft touch around the slick greens.
The Blue is a mix of American-style design and traditional English parkland. It's an unusual combination which makes the most of the terrain available. It was designed by Simon Gidman and opened in 1994.