Along with Royal Birkdale and The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (Muirfield) these are the only clubs to have staged the Ryder Cup, Walker Cup and Curtis Cup.
Its reputation as a top championship golf course cannot be disputed.
Defining Ganton is not an easy task for it doesn’t fit into a typical category that many people like to box courses into nowadays. It’s not a heathland course as such, there is a little bit of a moorland feel at times and although it does play ‘linksy’ to a certain extent it’s almost ten miles from the East Coast. In truth it doesn’t really matter what type of course it is because it’s fantastic regardless.
At Ganton you will face a series of demanding par fours, most of them topping the 400 yard mark and many of them much more than that, with the longest, the prodigious 15th hole, stretching to a whopping 493 yards from the blue tees.
Indeed it is the two-shotters that really make Ganton what it is and coupled with the extremely deep bunkering, vast at times and often requiring steps to descend into the hazards, you come away feeling that you really have to be on top of your game if you wish to conquer it. And few rarely do for it’s certainly a tough assignment.
There are a number of patches of gorse throughout the round that also add to the difficulty plus the open and exposed nature of the site is prone to fierce winds. Add into the mix that the exceptional routing continually twists you in one direction and then the other making judging even the slightest breeze more taxing than usual.
At times a lot of the severest bunkers, which must be avoided at all costs, are slightly peripheral to the fairways and although punishing of a wayward shot they are not always key to the strategy of the hole. Straight down the middle and long is essential at Ganton on most of the sterner holes and this is perhaps suitable for elite competition, however, I can imagine everyday play for amateur golfers is unrelenting.
I always find the most interesting holes are a couple of the short par fours where the hazards intervene on the line of play more and give the golfer multiple options and choices. The third is a good example of this with a long diagonal bunker tempting bigger hitters to try and carry it whilst the savvier player may not even entertain that notion and play well to the right for a much better angle into the green. Meanwhile, the 14th is one of the best examples of a driveable par four you will find thanks to the bunkers, green complex and banks of gorse that all dictate the choice of play.
The longer holes are not without merit either though. The fourth has a lovely kink in the fairway that turns the hole from left to right with a prominent green and wonderful backdrop. The sixth is my favourite of the tougher holes with exceptional bunkering throughout its 467 yards but this is pushed close by the excellent 11th and 16th. And the seventh is also worthy of a special mention with a heroic drive before playing slightly uphill to a cunning green.
Indeed after numerous plays at Ganton the internal contours of the large greens, which are nearly always accepting of a long iron, are quite fascinating and whilst not overly pronounced there is endless interest.
The ninth and 13th are both solid par fives and whilst they do offer the chance of a birdie you must again be long and central to the fairway in order to set up the opportunity. I preferred the former with formidable bunkers on both sides of the fairway approximately 60 yards short of the narrow green.
There are only two true par three’s on the course and both have lovely putting surfaces and green surrounds but compared to some other real top draw inland courses Ganton fares poorly in this regard. Perhaps the relative flatness of the land doesn’t allow for a jaw-dropping short hole like you will find at a Swinley Forest, Sunningdale, Hollinwell or The Berkshire to name just a few. Neither plays more than 170 yards at their maximum either which was a little surprising to discover when re-reading the scorecard. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing!
However, the 17th can also play as a long par three, 251 yards at its longest, but in truth this hole doesn’t really know if it’s a short par four or a long par three. As a result it doesn’t play particularly well as either and in my opinion would be a much better shorter par-three played from the green side of the 'out-of-bounds' entrance road which it currently plays over.
The final hole is also a of an oddity and not quite in keeping with the rest of the round. The hole itself requires a blind tee-shot before playing back over the entrance road again. One can often be blocked out by trees and although two good shots are required to find the green it’s not a classic finishing hole like Yorkshire rivals Moortown and Alwoodley can boast.
For 16 holes Ganton is extremely good golf and doesn’t really put a foot wrong. There are a number of strong and demanding holes and they are mixed with enough thought provoking holes to ensure the round doesn’t feel like a slog for the average golfer. Indeed it is highly enjoyable and a brilliant test of golf played over lovely firm and sandy turf.
However in my own opinion, one that’s not necessarily shared by others, the course ends on ever so slightly low note with the final two holes not quite living up to the very high standard it sets for the majority of the round.
Following a 4:00am alarm call we’d already driven for more than six hours and covered over 350 road miles before boarding a ferry at Oban sailing to Lochboisdale.
The Halifax Golf Club, often better known as Ogden, is a course that divides opinion.