What you might not know about Alwoodley
A selection of lesser-known facts about the club and course
Did you know? A selection of remarkable and lesser known facts about our historic golf club and course.
1 Alwoodley and the Ryder Cup
Alwoodley once declined to host the Ryder Cup. During the 1929 match at nearby Moortown in 1929, the American team asked and were granted permission to play and practise at Alwoodley (but only on weekdays). So impressed were the PGA of America that they approached Alwoodley’s club professional, Jack Gaudin, to consider hosting the next home match in 1933.
The minutes from the club’s next committee meeting state: “The invitation to host the 1933 Ryder Cup was declined due to lack of accommodation in the clubhouse.” In the event, the 1933 match was played at Southport & Ainsdale.
2 Alwoodley’s course record
The course record at Alwoodley has been broken twice in recent years. First came a 64 from Stiggy Hodgson during Open Qualifying at Alwoodley in 2018. The two-time Walker Cup player carded nine birdies and two bogeys. Then, at the 2019 Brabazon, Walker Cup star Harry Hall, from West Cornwall, lowered the mark by a further shot. His 63 included two eagles (at the 3rd and 10th) and five birdies with just a solitary blemish at the 15th.
3 Alwoodley’s legacy
The first course designed by Alister MacKenzie was Alwoodley in 1907. In total, there are over 100 courses that bear his name. Three of them, Augusta, Cypress Point and Royal Melbourne, are widely regarded to be among the best 10 golf courses in the world.
4 Twin courses: Alwoodley and Augusta
Dr Alister MacKenzie based his design of the famous par-5 13th at Augusta National on the 10th at Alwoodley. And to this day, the two holes have remarkable amount in common: Both holes are exciting risk-and-reward par 5s, offering a safe route from tee to green that offers the competent golfer a relatively comfortable way to make five while tempting better players to dream of a birdie four – or even a precious eagle three. Both holes feature uphill tee shots to fairways that swing sharply to the left at driving distance. Both feature second shots from hanging lies with the ball above the player’s feet. Both holes have recently been the subject of talk about being extended: Alwoodley’s 10th has been lengthened from 482 yards to 525 while Augusta have acquired an additional piece of land to add 50 yards to their 13th – which, since 2002, has measured 510 yards.
“MacKenzie based his design of the famous par-5 13th at Augusta National on the 10th at Alwoodley”
5 Alwoodley’s practice facilities
In 1992, Alwoodley sold the old practice ground and created the current one to the left of the 1st fairway. Significant funds were also invested in relaying every green on the course, work that was fully completed by 1998.
6 MacKenzie’s later years
Alister MacKenzie left Alwoodley under something of a cloud. He went to America in 1930 with his second wife, Hilda and was not made welcome at Alwoodley thereafter because his first wife, Edith, was still the ladies’ honorary secretary. It was a post she held from 1914 to 1936.
7 MacKenzie and the Masters
MacKenzie’s work designing Augusta concluded in 1933. The first Augusta National Invitation Tournament (that would become the Masters) took place in 1934. MacKenzie never witnessed the event, having died at his home in California earlier that year.
8 The MacKenzie Society
The International MacKenzie Society was formed in 1998. A team from Alwoodley, led by the club’s then chairman of green and MacKenzie historian Nick Leefe took part in a match at Pasatiempo, in California. The Society holds two matches, one for ladies and one for gentlemen, each year, rotating the venue internationally around member clubs. Alwoodley last held the gentlemen’s competition in 2018.
9 Alwoodley’s course policy
In 1992, Alwoodley adopted a policy that said: “The course should be maintained and managed as closely as possible to the original MacKenzie design concepts.” Specifically, this meant the original Plan of the Course that dated back to 1909. Accordingly, many trees have been removed to restore the original, open heathland character and wide-ranging vistas.
10 Alwoodley’s high point
Alwoodley’s highest point is the 5th tee, from where there are views of (at least part of) 13 of the 18 holes.
11 Alwoodley’s unchanged routing
The routing of the course has remained unchanged since 1907 with the exception of the 10th green, which opened for play in 1930. The change, originally suggested by MacKenzie, involved moving the green some 40 yards back. This also allowed for new tees on the short 11th, though the mound for the old tee was only removed in 2005.
12 The lengthening of Alwoodley
Alwoodley measured 6,220 yards on the original Plan of the Course. It is currently 6,336 yards from the yellow tees and 6,914 yards from the Championship tees.
13 Alwoodley’s landscape
Heather and gorse are among Alwoodley’s main defences, thriving on the acidic heathland, especially when unencumbered by tree growth. Both heather and gorse were inedible back in the days when the heath was used for grazing animals.
14 Alwoodley’s setting
Alwoodley own 257 acres of land, of which the course occupies 115 acres. The rest is land surrounding the course, including woodland, an old farm and the practice ground.
15 Alwoodley’s large greens
The biggest green at Alwoodley is the 13th at 8,019 square feet. The smallest, perhaps surprisingly, is the 8th at 4,851 square feet.
16 Alwoodley’s stroke indices
The concept of Stroke Index should not be confused with degree of difficulty at Alwoodley. Rather, the stroke indexes are evenly distributed around the course. The even-numbered holes are indexed from one to nine with the odd-numbered holes rated from 10 to 18. Each quarter of the course has one of the lowest stroke indexes: so the 4th is stroke 3, the 8th is stroke 1, the 12th is stroke 2 and the 16th is stroke 4.
17 Two Alwoodley greens that have moved
The 11th and 6th greens were both moved from their original positions within five years of the course opening in 1907. The 11th green probably had to be relaid anyway while the 6th was moved back some 35 yards.
• With thanks to Alwoodley’s club historian Nick Leefe