With so many ordinary courses in the UK, serving up a full house of relatively mundane holes, Painswick should be applauded for the moments of brilliance and uniqueness that it shows during its 18.
It’s such an exciting course to play although perhaps not a great one for trying to keep a score on! At just 4,831 yards and with so many apparent birdie opportunities (on the scorecard at least) shooting a good total round here should be a doddle. This is certainly not the case and we quickly forgot about our tally and just enjoyed the course for what it is; sheer fun. The best example is perhaps the opening hole; the hardest 220 yard par four you will ever play. And, yes, that did say 220!
Admittedly, the par 67 bunkerless golf course is fairly run of the mill for some holes, however, it still manages to engage the golfer with interesting green sites and various undulations in one form or another as it plays along a narrow ridge. So cramped in fact that several holes have a shared fairway on what is essentially an ‘out & back’ layout.
There are a number of varied short par fours during the round, seven all told, and a delightful par three towards the end with a green set deep in an amphitheatre of trees. Other things such as the cavernous grassy hollow on the first, the green location at the 4th, the excellently contoured putting surface of the 13th and the unusual drive at the 16th are all highlights on the course too.
However, these are not the moments why I will remember Painswick with great fondness. The real reason is for the run of holes between the 5th and the 11th where you play up to and then on top of a beacon that this section of the course is laid out over. Here you will discover four, arguably five holes, which are nothing short of sensational. Not necessarily great holes, with the exception of one, but they present challenges to the golfer that you will not easily find elsewhere.
The fifth is only 114 yards but is played blindly up and over 70ft high hill fort ramparts that date back to the Iron Age. Upon cresting the hill you find a brilliant sunken green but it is the transformation in landscape that took my breath away the most. You are now not only confronted with magnificent panoramic views but a quick glimpse to your right, back down the 11th hole, reveals what appears to be small sand dunes and undulating linksland!
The shining moment of Painswick is undoubtedly the sixth. A true world-class par three with tumbling ground encouraging you to bring the ball in from right-to-left with all kinds of awkward stances for those who fail. The little drop-offs around the green on this 200-yard all-encompassing hole ensure you must work hard for your par all the way.
The seventh and eighth greens both have the quirk factor but it isn’t until you approach the ninth green, a snaking par five, that the course returns to its brilliant best. Then the tenth stops you dead in your tracks as you face an intimidating wall of what looks like shaggy dunes; a shot that wouldn’t be out of place on a traditional, old-fashioned links course. A small marker post, less than one hundred yards away but appearing to be twice that distance, is your only guide on a hole that measures just 120 yards and has one of the tiniest, albeit gathering, greens I have ever seen after you have once again played up and over the defensive earthworks.
The aforementioned 11th is also a beauty as it winds its way across the top of the beacon with a green that is partially hidden behind humps and mounds. This hole brings us to the end of the really good stuff at Painswick for now you descend back down the fortress and head for home.
If it wasn’t for the stretch of holes lauded above it would be difficult to make a strong case for visiting Painswick from afar. However, the £10 green-fee we paid was an absolute snip and to enjoy the delights of the fifth, sixth, ninth, tenth and eleventh holes will stay with me for a lifetime.
Waterville provides a fantastic mix of championship golf & more quirky duney fun.
Dingle Golf Links, sometimes referred to as Ceann Sibéal Golf Club, is one that is trending in the right direction.