Pannal Golf Club lies south of Harrogate in the midst of glorious countryside with views on a clear day to Wharfedale in the west and even as far as York Minster to the east. A creation of Sandy Herd in 1906, with adjustments by Major Charles Mackenzie in 1935, it is a typical example of a Yorkshire moorland course, exposed to wind, but protected from that element by plentiful trees.
Things were much more open in Bernard Darwin’s day. In The Golf Courses of Great Britain, he wrote: “It stands high up on a breezy down, where there are some steep slopes and big valleys, and pretty clumps of gorse, and the wind, I should suspect, always blows keenly. At least it did so when I was there, and I can still feel myself walking against it with bowed head, and then being blown along by it as if I were a feather.”
Pannal hosted the English Women's Championship as long ago as 1927, and among other prestigious events, held the inaugural PGA Matchplay Championship in 1955, the PGA Seniors Championship in 1985 and the Ladies British Amateur Championship in 1991.
The course begins strongly, the 1st, a 438-yard par four. A second long four follows, before a par three and a change of direction. The 5th in parallel to the 4th continues a very gradual climb preceding the 6th, blind from the tee, where the course changes in character from what has been essentially woodland to the moorland section of heather, pine and deciduous, and tremendous views.
The midpoint demands accuracy rather than length, 7th to the turn being tree-lined, before a tricky short 10th that seems to play longer than its 142-yard length.
A short par five, the 11th, asks for position before the long par four 12th, 459 yards, requires a long second after a straight drive. The formula remains the same, position being essential, until the 17th, 198 yards over a valley. The 18th goes back down to the clubhouse level, a drive from a height and short second to a green down below.
Pannal is certainly a challenging course – especially when the wind blows – and it plays across interesting, but not tiring terrain, where accurate drives, and careful course planning will bring its reward.