The other holes aren’t bad either though (!) and many a first time visitor will be surprised at just how good the quality of golf on offer is at this Nottinghamshire great.
The first third of the course stays relatively close to the clubhouse and is the best place to make your score with a couple of shortish par fours and a reachable par five in the equation. The standout hole of the opening stretch is the second which requires you to decide on the tee just how much of the fairway you wish to bite off; superbly positioned bunkers on both the inner and outer elbow of the dog-leg is the probable fate for those who fail. Otherwise an inevitably longer approach waits for those who bail out to the left.
Much of this opening gambit at Sherwood Forest can be seen from the clubhouse but also spied by standing on tiptoes and peaking over a wall that separates the car park from the first tee. I can remember doing that for the first time a few years ago and having my breath taken away by the beauty and anticipation of it all. I have returned many times since and the course has never failed to deliver.
The remainder of the course is played over a rolling landscape through Robin Hood country with tight and firm fairways flanked on many holes by stunning woodland consisting of pine, oak and silver birch to name but a few. Patches of gorse also add to the punishment for the wayward but it is the gnarly nature of the heather that can dish out the fiercest punishment.
From the moment you stand on the seventh tee the course really starts to stand up and be counted. A new tee has improved this short and downhill par three immensely as you now play to a narrow, slithery green that falls away from you at an angle rather than straight down its throat.
Although arriving relatively early in the round the eighth hole is the final par five on the course and is a beautiful one with masses of heather to the right and dense forest beyond that. The green at this hole enjoys a high position as the fairway dips down then rises up again over the last 100 yards.
From now onwards the course really begins to show its teeth. Apart from the 10th and 15th – both slightly uphill par threes where being the top side of the hole is not advisable – the remaining holes are a series of excellent but daunting par fours. Not only are they demanding but they are beautifully sculptured over heathland and through enchanting woodland. It is on these holes that you virtually have total isolation from the outside world. Picking a favourite isn’t easy, and possibly slightly unfair, because all of them are so good but the ninth, 11th, 12th and 14th are perhaps a cut above the rest.
The homeward stretch from the 12th is particularly tough, probably because it is less open and more enclosed, and it usually plays into the prevailing wind to boot. As a true test of golf Sherwood is a prime example and not surprisingly has hosted regional qualifying for The Open. A minor criticism of Sherwood Forest is that the playing corridors are perhaps a little too narrow at times on the tougher holes, especially in keen conditions but otherwise there is much to love here.
The finishing hole is arguably the weakest of them all on the back side but if you reach this tee and are still on a score you deserve the slight breather it provides. Don’t lose your guard though because two good shots are still required to find the putting surface located just in front of the clubhouse. Interestingly a mini-tornado swept through the course in 2013 and downed over 1,000 trees. Many of these were lost to the right of the 18th fairway and this has improved the hole immeasurably from a visual perspective. As of July 2018 a new practice ground is under construction to the right of the 18th and whilst this former landfill area is currently being raised and flattened the visuals are not great but will be improved once completed.
The inevitable comparison now begins between here and Hollinwell due to their proximity and inevitable local rivalry. For me Notts is the clear winner but only because of how much I love that course rather than any negativity towards this one. A footnote should be added that I have always found Sherwood in the better condition, especially their glassy greens. The internal contours of the greens at Sherwood also have the edge; there are some top drawer surfaces with a delicious blend of borrows.
Once you also throw into the mix courses such as Lindrick and Coxmoor one starts to realise this is a real unsung area for high quality golf.
There’s a lot to admire about Sherwood Forest and in my opinion it should be rated much higher than it often is by national magazines and the like. Its northerly location, in the East Midlands close to Mansfield, may lose it some points when pitted against the Surrey heathlands and that’s a shame because it more than holds its own against its southern counterparts.
It's a long time since I've walked off a golf course and been as impressed and surprised, compared to what I was expecting, than at Newbiggin.
A family holiday brought me to Whitby Golf Club. After stuffing myself with fish & chips, losing most of my money on the penny slots and catching umpteen crabs in the harbour it was time for a round of golf!
Planning a round of golf in late October can be a dicey affair, especially in my home county of Yorkshire where the vast majority of courses are built on heavy soil or clay, so it was very refreshing to discover when venturing down south how well East Berkshire played at this time of year.