ALL of the years I’ve been trekking with either a journalist’s notepad or a pair of rugby boots to Odsal, the home stadium of the Bradford Bulls, and I never even suspected that I was a well hit mid-iron from the pristine fairways of a top quality golf club.
These days rugby lads can’t really be considered ‘noisy neighbours’ during their ongoing doldrums, although I suspect that members of South Bradford Golf Club occasionally struggled to make themselves heard on rumbustuous Sunday afternoons during the Bulls’ Super League glory years. I’m not sure if the golf club opened its doors for refreshments on the evening of Wednesday May 5 1954, when a crowd of 102,575 fans turned up to watch Halifax replay the Challenge Cup Final against Warrington next door. That would have boosted the bar takings – although all these years on, South Bradford is doing very well in that respect.
The 3rd hole at South Bradford
The rugby league club was the ‘new’ boy on the sporting block when Bradford arrived in
1934, because South Bradford and its proud history was already well established. As with so many clubs and courses, its roots were modest enough. Golf enthusiasts actually began South Bradford in 1906 laying out just two holes at Braille Wells Fields in the Little Horton area. Another two were soon added at the Little Horton Golf Course before the club was formed, and when a suitable, larger site was identified in the Odsal area, the land was rented for the princely sum of £25 per year. Originally a seven-hole layout, shoulder to shoulder alongside the Bankfoot Cricket Club premises, South Bradford Golf Club officially came into being in 1913.
The course is laid out on the hillside south of the city, on landscape that runs away towards the M62 motorway and the bustling town of Cleckheaton beyond. Tucked away almost hidden from plain sight, the world that passes golfers by on the adjacent M606 motorway, or beavers industrially away on the sprawling Euroway Trading Estate nearby, is blissfully unaware of this golfing jewel in its midst.
Despite the understandable confines of a 9-hole layout – and going once round might be enough for some golfers, because the hilly nature of the track makes it a good walk – the club has managed to fashion holes of real distinction. There is no shortage of a challenge here, from start to finish. Played from the men’s medal tees the course measures 6,076 yards played as 18 holes, with just modest changes in teeing positions on most holes for the back nine. With mature and cultivated woodland in play on every hole except the last, the premium is every bit as much on accuracy as length – although the 4th requires two very good hits to get up in regulation. The Ladies course has a different set of tees for the first and second nine holes, giving the course a different aspect the second time around. Par for the course is 70 for Men and 71 Ladies.
SOUTH Bradford might be small in acreage, but it has always played a very full part as a member of the Bradford and District Union of Golf Clubs. They were the first winners of the Bradford Union’s 9-hole team championships and have run up a laudable list of both individual and team honours over the years.
In 1953 Mr AA Plowright was South Bradford’s first union president, an honour bestowed in the club’s centenary year (and the union’s 75th anniversary) on long-serving club and committee member Ian Wilkinson. Ian explained what is at the heart of the club’s ethos. “I think we’re considered a very friendly and welcoming club,” he said. “There’s a very full social calendar which the members support really well. “Like all golf clubs we’re always looking for opportunities to maximise what we have, but certainly the clubhouse generates a lot of income for the club and there’s always something going on.
“We realise there’s competition for golf club members, but we like to think we have some exciting and innovative offers for anyone who wants to try the game at whatever level.
“We’ve long prided ourselves on the excellent condition of the course and our superb greens. Most people who come here for the first time are very pleasantly surprised.”
And South Bradford even has its own little bit of Ryder Cup history – when Golf Illustrated launched a fundraiser to support Samuel Ryder’s novel new venture in 1927 and invited Gt Britain’s 1,750 golf clubs to assist, only 216 did, including the hard toiling members of the proud little club on the slopes below Odsal Top.
SOUTH BRADFORD GC
Hole 1, 517 yards par 5
An intimidating opening drive with the houses of Low Moor tight to the right off the tee, although the target area opens up. Still, it’s tempting to err left which will leave you blocked out by a long line of mature trees. Handsomely wide at about 200 yards, it’s all downhill, but in several distinct, undulating steps, dropping off sharply to a green well below you, with steep run offs to the back and a rear right bunker.
Hole 2, 212 yards par 3
A stunning par 3 by any standards, especially off the extra-elevated competition tees which you will have climbed back up from the 1st green. You’re hitting to another downhill target, over the beck to a very big green ringed by bunkers with a dry ditch for good measure. There’s a good reason it’s stroke index 3.
Hole 3, 325 yards par 4
A short but tricky par 4, again heading downhill towards the bottom of the course with Emley Moor TV mast away in the distance. It’s a sweeping left-to-right dogleg and the brave can cut the out-of-bounds corner, because the lie of the land gathers shots into a gully below the smaller, elevated green. There are two big front bunkers protecting a sloping green with a false front.
Hole 4, 419 yards par 4
The longest of the par 4s and a tough golf hole. All the way back uphill, across the gully of the 3rd onto a broad, angled fairway which turns uphill at 45 degrees towards a sheltered, MacKenzie style green. Sand and clever mounding contribute to a very good challenge.
Hole 5, 367 yards par 4
It’s a wee trek back down to the tee, before heading back up the course on a hole where everything’s in front of you. Right off the tee is stone-cold dead, but too far left will see you blocked out by trees too. Beware the ditch about 100 yards short, as the hole narrows in towards a big green with some subtle sloping, with mounding left and a right hand greenside bunker.
Hole 6 340 yards par 4
The trees in your eyeline can be daunting as you head diagonally back and down across the course, but you should fly them easily. Beyond that it’s all about being straight, because anything wayward either side will leave you blocked out or in the hazard. Your approach is downhill to another good sized target but beware the run-offs and the steep-faced front bunker.
Hole 7, 349 yards par 4
Heading towards home now, uphill and one of the narrower fairways with straight again a premium over length. It’s another big, sloping green with a raised bunker on the left and one sitting below the surface on the right.
Hole 8, 365 yards par 4
This hole puts the ‘leg’ in dogleg. Apparently the big hitters can cut the corner and the out of bounds practice ground, but they’d be braver men than me. All uphill to the elbow, where the left side is paramount to get a sight of a green at about 90 degrees, prettily tucked away. It’s nicely shaped at the front but fly it and your ball could be dead.
Hole 9, 144 yards par 3
A nice finish in front of the clubhouse patio, a straightforward par 3 to a green with a pond left. Anything just short should run on and it’s one of the more benign greens on the course, with just a front right bunker.