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Powfoot

Yardage
6255
Par
71
SSS
71
Built
1903
Architect(s)
Sandy Herd, James Braid
Nature:
Compact holiday seaside course with fine turf and gorse, with an open parkland finnish
Location/Address:
North east side of Solway Firth, South Scotland.
http://www.powfootgolfclub.com
Secretary
Stephen Gardiner
Telephone
01461 204100
Professional
-
Green Keeper
Neil Hamilton
Access Policy:
visitors welcome
Dog Policy:
welcome on a lead
Open Meetings:
Open week July
Fees in 1960s
20p
Fees today
£39

Review

The Powfoot Golf Club owes a gratitude to both the local railway and the Brooks family of Kinmount for the creation and early success of their club founded in 1903.

Charles Brooks’s vision was to create another Blackpool on the Northern shores of the Solway Firth and he invited Sandy Herd from St Andrews, who was the professional at Huddersfield GC, to design a nine-hole course as a key attraction in a golf-thirsty Edwardian era.

Sandy won The Open Championship at Hoylake in 1902, and was the first professional to change to playing the new Haskell rubber-cored ball.

The clubhouse

In the exhibition match to open the course across 36 holes, Sandy took 161 strokes to Tom Fernie’s 164 and won three and one. Tom Fernie went on to be professional at Turnberry and Royal Lytham St Anne’s.

The Blackpool on the Solway Firth never took off but, because Powfoot was able to attract golfers from Carlisle, the railway facilities being more convenient than those serving Silloth, the Club survived and was later re-designed and extended to eighteen holes by James Braid.

The Carlisle golfers were looking for golf on a dry, tight-turfed links and Powfoot, on sandy ground, gently sloping to the Firth from which the Cumberland hills are picturesquely viewed (indeed the line at the second hole on a bright day is centred on the heights of Skiddaw), was able to provide this.

Leonard Crawley, the great golf journalist, attended school nearby and was a member here, inviting Walker Cup golfers like Cyril Tolley and Francis Ouimet from America to play. The best local golfer was Dick Smith who, in 1959, had the misfortune to draw a rampant, unknown, young Jack Nicklaus in the Walker Cup at Muirfield and, though his round was the second lowest of that week, he was still beaten 4 and 3!

 

The first thirteen holes at Powfoot give wonderful running golf. Unfortunately the last five holes were dug up for farmland in the Second World War and, following reinstatement in 1949 (soon after it became a members-owned club) are now more  open parkland in character. These holes are dominated by meadow grass (poa annua) and though not badly designed are a bit of a sloggy disappointment after the earlier stimulating fine turf challenge.

As long as you are not a hefty slicer, the first four holes, each with OOB down the right as you hug three outer sides of the course, give a straightforward start.

The 3rd hole

The third (442 yards) runs along the Firth with a raised path across the fairway 260 yards from the back tee which should give the big hitter some pause for thought.

The range of the tide is prodigious at Solway and, when out, acres of mud flats are exposed, while the grey mass of Criffell dominates the view to the West and is said to act as a sentinel guarding the floodgates.

The Solway, whether it is ebbing or flowing, always seems to be in a hurry and those of a poetic mind may gain the impression that it is held back by a gigantic gate, which has been tardily opened and the waters are rushing in their haste to accomplish in three hours a task to which nature has ordinarily allotted six.

Sir Walter Scott recalls the vehemence of the Solway tide in the well-known lines of “young Lochinvar”: “Love flows like the Solway, And ebbs like its tide”.

The wind often turns on the tide at seaside courses and perhaps Powfoot, like its now more famous neighbour, Southerness, gains an extra dimension from this phenomenon.

Criffel behind The 6th hole

The fifth hole (272 yards), with a mound across the fairway 40 yards short, requires a delicate pitch to a green sloping front to back, afterwhich we are in among the extensive whins that give this course its defining character.

In the spring it is said the whins of Powfoot can be as spectacular as the azaleas of Augusta!

Roger, Peter & Jonathan at the 7th

The short seventh (154 yards) is completely surrounded by sand and, whatever the direction of the wind, remains a challenge. I discovered the perfect shot – a slicing top – to find the green and I was able to walk off jauntily with somewhat disgruntled partners!

The eighth, with a blind drive, is rather formidable to a stranger and, along with the eleventh, both in the heart of the whins, is a veritable eater of golf balls.

Nine (402 yards) and ten (428 yards) are out in open country again, facing in opposite directions and are fine holes and an attractive introduction to the then best two holes.

Picturesque Criffel dominates the 11th

The eleventh (Sahara) is only 313 yards with a high laddered platform from which to view your partner’s attempt to find an undulating fairway across a carry of coarse bents, while the green is “nicely cupped and coaxes the ball into the fold”, to quote a 1922 description of the hole.

The 156 yard twelfth is played to a sloped, raised green, open at the front but with strong bunkering left and right; this is not a hole to approach carelessly.

The thirteenth (339 yards) is tight and the more difficult to judge the distance, due to a dip near the hole, while the fourteenth (498 yards) – out in the open again – requires long, straight hitting, with a green hidden from view by a hillock.

The tight 13th

A 1975 article in Golf World is quoted in the Powfoot Centenary souvenir booklet, which notes the oddity of there being no fewer than eleven members favouring the ‘Sewgolum’ grip (left hand placed below their right hand on the club shaft).

“Papwa” Sewgolum, a coloured tournament professional from Natal, was the first notable user of this arrangement, so the grip has adopted his name. Only one other man has given his name to a grip and that was Harry Vardon. A simple overlap is one thing but ‘Sewgolums’ bring to golf a touch of freakishness. As the article says, from time to time we have all known these rum birds: it was seeing so many together that had him rubbing his eyes!

Although this Club retains a certain shyness and is not well known at any rate in England, thousands of Northern players are eternally grateful for its golf and for one thing in particular: Powfoot I have read was the first club north of the border in 1914 to allow visitor’s Sunday golf. (there may be some confusion about this and I look forward to other more knowledgeable historians making a comment)

A warm welcome awaits all those who have the foresight to take a slight detour off the M6 motorway when hot-footing it to the fine Ayrshire courses and pay a visit to both Powfoot (6255 yards, Par 71, SSS 71) and Mackenzie Ross’s Southerness course (that Jim Arthur once described as possessing the essence of links golf). Together they make for a great weekend with much ‘joy to be alive’.

Reviewed by Lorne Smith 2011

Reader Comments

On December 3rd, 2014 EDDIE BOWIE said:

I’M PLAYING POWFOOT ON THE 14TH OF DECEMBER. PLAYING PARTNER/S GREATFULLY RECEIVED. LOOKING FORWARD TO IT.

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