Many great golf courses feature water in some shape or form – the Barry and Swilken Burns at Carnoustie and St Andrews, for example – but no course is more influenced by a river than Ilkley Golf Club. River, Bridge, Island and Kingfisher are some of the names of the opening holes. The scene is set from the off – the River Wharfe is dominant for the first seven holes.
Founded in 1890, Ilkley is the third oldest golf club in Yorkshire. In those days Ilkley was a nine-hole course, located on Rombald's Moor. Harry Vardon won his first prize as a professional on this course and his brother Tom was an early professional at the club. As golf grew in popularity, the club needed 18 holes and in 1898 work started on a new course alongside the River Wharfe. Today's course is mainly a tribute to the combined architectural skills of Alister MacKenzie and Harry Colt. Ilkley comes with a very high pedigree.
“On Ilkley Moor baht 'at” is Yorkshire's unofficial anthem, which is sung to an old Methodist tune. The song tells the story of a lover courting Mary Jane on Ilkley Moor. Mary Jane wasn't wearing her hat, and as all good Yorkshire folk know, you'll catch your death of cold on Ilkley Moor without one. The reason we mention this song is that Ilkley is one of the most beautiful places in the country and if it was pretty enough setting for courting Mary Jane, it's also a perfect setting for golf.
Measuring 6,276 yards from the medal tees, Ilkley is no championship challenge, but with a lowly par of 69, it's tougher than it first appears. Colin Montgomerie learnt his trade here and holds the current course record of 64. "Although I have played golf on the finest courses in the world, Ilkley Golf Club will always have a special place in my heart," he said.
The course is blessed with many fine holes and the most memorable are the openers adjacent to the river. The 4th, called "Long", is the first of the two par fives and requires a drive over the river's tributary. From the 8th onwards, trees become the principal hazards, but the sheer scenic beauty remains until the very last putt drops.
Ilkley is a delight and a must-play course. Mark James (alongside Colin Montgomerie) is also an honorary life member here and we'll let him close: "Nestling in the shelter of the Wharfe Valley, Ilkley is one of the most enjoyable courses in the North of England." How could any serious golfer overlook Ilkley?
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Average Reviewers Score:
Ilkley is an unbelievable little gem hidden away in the valleys below Ilkley Moor. The 1st 7 holes carved along the edge of the river Wharfe are breathtaking but at the same time scary holes to play. It's not often you have a course where the Pars for the 1st 6 holes are Par 4,3,3,5,3,5. This really sets the mood for what is a beautiful little course, short but by no means easy. Small undulating greens, variety of short and long par 4s all very well bunkered with some very tight treelined tee shots. I think the course record of 64 (5 under by Monty just before his prime) shows that it is no pushover. Visually you won't get a better golf course anywhere for views of the River Wharfe and Ilkley Moor which towers above the valley, very similar to Gleneagles in that sense. Take a step back on the 7th green, 8th tee and 16th elevated tee.. The views really are breathtaking backed by a stunning yet strong finishing stretch of holes. Just shows what an amazing little course you can design on such a small piece of land and yet still make it challenging yet really enjoyable. One of the very best in Yorkshire behind the obvious "Big Guns" Alwoodley, Ganton, Moortown etc. A must play and you'll never forget the experience.
Played Ilkley twice in the past month and enjoyed myself both times. It's not a long course - but the fact that Monty's best score is 5 under tells you that it's tougher than the scorecard suggests.
First 7 holes feature the River Wharfe on the left side and the views are stunning.
Last 5 holes are also pretty great, with a fantastic elevated tee shot on the 16th, requiring a carry of over 200 yards to find the fairway.
Definitely worth a play and the sandy soil makes the £28 winter green fee look like fair value.
Definitely going to play this course again!
Added bonus - extremely friendly pro and members
I have never, without exception visited a more friendly golf club than Ilkley, from the moment we stepped out of the car we were made to feel very welcome indeed not least in the Pro shop by the professional who gave us a wealth of knowledge and tips before our round, even the current Captain saw fit to introduce himself and have a chat. The course is also excellent with some scary moments on the first few holes down the riverside and the very pretty holes of the back nine. A great course for the steady golfer as you don't need to hit monstrously long tee shots as on some of the modern courses. I will definitely be returning to Ilkley at the earliest opportunity.
Wow - played there for the first time in May as a group of 16 and what an experience, it ticks all the boxes for a great Yorkshire course. Stunning views with friendly staff, course in wonderful condition and the best comment we can make is we will be back next year and play the course twice. Slow greens but then it had rained for previous 4 weeks. Recommend it to anyone you will not be disappointed.
Good layout, great setting, with some really top holes. Unfortunately the greens were very poor for June, which really detracted from the round. Will try again later in the year. If the greens were good would give it an Eagle or possibly an Albatross !
I played this course for the first time in July 2010 and was very impressed. As previous reviewers have mentioned, a river runs alongside the first 7 holes so you have to be on your game from the off. It is very flat but certainly not boring. 6 weeks later I can recall every hole quite clearly (the sign of a decent course). Not in the top league but good nonetheless. Decent twilight rate too!
This course does everything it says on the tin!
As mentioned on the website the course is next to the river, built on sand beds along the river wharfe. Very dry and suitable for play on the competition greens all year round. I heard Peter Alliss once said if you were to retire it has to be Ilkey as it throws up a challenge each time you play it. Level course with tree lined fairways and no thik rough - why spend time looking for your ball when you can play in a few hours without too much trouble. Keep it on dry land for the first 7 then it's fun all the way to the 19th.
You will be interested in the history of the club should that be your thing....its the 3rd oldest in Yorkshire. Their Pro has served for the best part of 25 years and certainly knows a story or two!!
Great Day Out
An excellent and unbiased review. I wonder if you could tell us how much your annual membership is??
I can’t fault his course except that it can sometimes be wet in this neck of the woods. But this is one of the warmest golf clubs around and the course itself is maintained to perfection. Certainly Ilkley has customer service at the top of their list and I will certainly return here again soon. The course is as pretty as a picture and the river makes things thought provoking. I love the island hole and I’d like my ball back please when I return! A top course without doubt.
I have played this course at all times of the year and what is mentioned on their website it clear enough for me. The course is built on sand and as it is next to the river you have the pleasure of playing on a very beutiful and picturesque course, dry and lacking in rough, competition greens all year round. No wonder Monty is a good driver of the ball playing his formative years at the Club. What more can you ask for when playing there and sitting on the verandah in the summer with good food, good beer and plenty of chat about the days play. I understand Ilkley have reciprical games with other well established clubs well up the pecking order in the list of English top courses, it's not a suprise as this is a real gem nestled in the Wharfe Valley.
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