I had previously visited the course, on the west coast of Cumbria, around seven years ago and it was nice to get a refresher of this excellent layout.
Testament to the memorability of the links is that I could vividly remember each hole prior to revisiting and it felt as if it had only been a few weeks since I’d seen it last. Indeed little had changed, and that’s a good thing.
The condition of the course, on a late-October morning, was excellent and it is a course well noted for how well it plays throughout the winter months. The sandy fairways were bone dry and the greens ran smoothly and had a surprisingly nice pace to them.
Founded in 1893, Seascale was designed by Willie Campbell and George Lowe. As recently as 2012 it co-hosted the English Amateur with nearby Silloth on Solway and whilst I would in no way class this 6,450-yard track as a true ‘championship’ course I believe it stood up well to the amateur elite.
The first couple of holes are quick getaway ones and do offer the chance of a birdie. The steep, uphill opener is arguably the worst hole on the course so it is nice to get it out of the way early but the 2nd, like much of the course, is particularly strategic with a drive close to the out-of-bounds down the right opening up the green thanks to a craftily placed bunker towards the front left. I don’t intend to give a blow by blow account of each hole but the use of internal out-of-bounds is used particularly well at the L-shaped third before we head into the heart of the par 71 links.
There are three par fives on the course and all are excellent. The green at the sixth and the fairway at the 14th are special highlights.
The short holes don’t quite hit the heights, for my personal eye at least, but they are tough nuts to crack with water in play at two of them and deep pits protecting the other.
The ninth is one of several individualistic holes at Seascale with a bailout fairway to the left and a tumbling one down the right before we aim for a green protected by a stream. Seascale doesn’t do orthodox, and that’s another good thing.
Industry looms large over the links at Seascale in the form of the Sellafield Nuclear Power Station. In a similar manner to the links at Cleveland and Seaton Carew on the East Coast of England it can at times dominate the landscape but I have no problem with these unlikely neighbouring bedfellows and for me they do not detract from the links. One can easily turn their head for glorious inland views of the Cumbrian hills or out to sea and a glimpse of the Isle of Man on a good day if external vistas are important to you. It perhaps doesn’t help that the hole which takes us towards the power plant boundary is played over heavier soil but we soon turn our backs on it and head for better terrain.
Indeed, Seascale is at its very best over the final five holes as we touch the coast with only a train-line splitting the links from the beach. It’s a grand spot and the run for home is wonderful, mostly because we enjoy five unique golf holes played over the best of the linksland.
The 16th is a personal favourite, a 471-yard par-four played along the foot of a dune ridge to a heaving fairway before a blind approach to a sunken green. It’s one that many may call a ‘bogey five’ hole.
I also want to touch on the 18th which is not a classic finishing hole in the traditional sense and is an awkward piece of work. And that is what makes it so brilliant. It is a hole that ensures you feel uncomfortable on the tee – housing is in proximity down the right – and also as you play your shot into the large, knobbly, raised, fallaway green complex with a deadly bunker guarding the front and the club car park and clubhouse worryingly close on the right. It’s a unique finishing hole, one I am particular fond off and is a fine way to cap off a round at a venerable links that does things its own way.
Seascale offers excellent value, particularly in their numerous annual open competitions, and is a course that should be well and truly on your golfing radar.
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.