As a regular host to the Yorkshire County Championship, former venue of a European Seniors Tour event and lauded by locals it is well respected within the White Rose County of Yorkshire. But ask golfers further afield and the majority don't know about 'Fixby'.
The club has teetered on the edge of the various English 'top 100' golf course rankings in the past but has never managed to establish a foothold within them. It's a shame because this course is well worthy of inclusion and certainly the effort to pay a visit.
It has an excellent location in terms of access; close to the M62 and just over t'hill from Lancashire but it lacks support in numbers from other quality clubs around it that other venues, in say North Leeds, may benefit from. The course also has a beautiful setting, glorious grounds and a magnificent clubhouse located in the centre of the large estate which is reached thanks to an enticing drive through part of the course. From a playing perspective this can however disrupt play at the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth holes!
The fast-running and well-draining moorland-esque course draped over a big property will test every element of your game and a good score here is always well deserved. At times, when the rough is thick and the wind is up, it can perhaps become a bit too difficult but it always remains fair.
The excellent 475-yard par four opener doesn't usually play its length but the approach to the green requires precise shot-making, usually from an uneven lie, to set up a birdie chance. Pleasingly uneven lies and working the ball into the greens is something you will need to get used to here. The second is also a fine par four - a fine drive followed by a delicious uphill second shot - coming just before the reachable par five third where a running approach is favourable but requires the correct ball flight and path along with a healthy dose of luck to find the green.
All five of the short holes are well crafted and are key to a good score. The only criticism is that four of them (holes 4, 8, 11 and 17) are all similar lengths and play in the same direction. Depending on tee and hole location it is not unusual to hit the same club into all of these holes with a similar wind direction to contend with. The exception comes at the longer 13th where you play to an angled green across a ravine. The pick of the bunch is perhaps the eighth, the shortest of the collection, with a fantastic green and superb bunkering.
What the first par-five gives you at the third hole the second one at the firth certainly takes away. This hole is uphill and dog-legs sharply after approximately 200 yards. Bigger hitters may fancy their chances of reaching in two if they cut the corner but for most this is most definitely three-shots to the two-tiered green with a row of fairway bunkers to traverse with the second.
The sixth and seventh are two beautifully sculpted medium length par fours that dog-leg in different directions, the former legs to the right whilst the latter bends to the left severely. Both have cunning greens which will often fool the first time visitor. The impressive front nine loops back to the clubhouse and the ninth itself is a strong hole with fairway bunkers waiting for those who fade the ball and more swales and hollows to contend with closer to the green. This hole crosses the first fairway and it can get a bit congested on a busy day.
The back-nine traverses more energetic terrain and whilst the shortish rising tenth, just about driveable for bigger hitters in favourable conditions, isn't a weak hole it's not one of the best on the course. And having played the 12th many times I'm still undecided on the merits of this hole. It certainly requires two well executed shots to hit the green but there's just something that doesn't quite sit right about it as it curves around the sharply sloping hillside.
The 14th is a great hole though. A par five that dog-legs right to left but has a fairway that slopes from left to right! Meanwhile the 15th is a hole that has had many different tee locations over the years and at last I think they've found the right one, albeit a long walk from the previous green (not for the first time at Fixby). A good driving hole with bunkers left and gorse right but an even better approach shot with a raised green sitting in an elevated position housing bunkers short, left and right. Hole 16 is another fine hole and with its downhill drive from a high tee can play totally differently depending upon where the wind is coming from.
The final hole is what many will remember Fixby for. It is an up and over par-five where should you reach the 'over' you will benefit from at least 80 yards of additional roll. This hole is often criticised but I think it makes for a good finishing hole, especially when playing matchplay, because anything from an eagle to a triple bogey or worse is easily possible. I've literally chipped my second shot into this hole but have also tangled in the trouble to the right and run up a double figure score!
The greens, re-laid at the turn of the millennium, have improved the putting surfaces and surrounds immensely. If you miss a green there is always a number of ways in which you can play your recovery shot and the condition of them in the winter months is usually exceptional.
A similar restoration of the bunkering, which is becoming outdated and tired, would breed new life into this course and elevate it to one of the country's best.
Huddersfield is definitely a thinking course and one that requires a number of rounds before you truly understand how to score well around it.
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.