The History of Reddish Vale Golf Club
Frank William Reed was a wealthy local industrialist, and one day he and his good friend JW Dudley were amusing themselves by hitting golf balls on a piece of land known as Wilcock Eye, down by the river. So taken were Reed and Dudley with their surroundings, that they devised a plan to turn the beautiful vale into the area’s premier golf course.
By early 1912, the purchase of South Cliffe, an imposing manor house overlooking the vale and the lease of over 100 acres of prime farm land to be the course, made the dream possible. By April 1912, Reddish Vale Golf Club was formed. In an inspired move, it was decided to ask the then Captain of Alwoodley Golf Club in Leeds, Dr Alister MacKenzie to inspect the land and to advise on the design of the proposed course...
Alister MacKenzie Design
Dr Alister MacKenzie was a Yorkshireman of Scottish descent, who attended Cambridge University where he trained as a medical doctor, and then surgeon. During his wartime service in The Boer War, MacKenzie became interested in camouflage. As a result, during World War I, when he once again served in the military, he worked not as a surgeon but as a camoufleur. MacKenzie had learnt how things blend most easily into their natural surroundings such as the landscape, the art of deception, and attributed the brilliant successes of The Boers to this skill alone. MacKenzie also had a great love for the game of golf, and after WW1 left medicine entirely to concentrate on another passion in his life, golf course design.
MacKenzie would go on to be arguably the most celebrated golf course architect of all time, and some of his best known works in the UK are Moortown and Alwoodley in his native Leeds. Others include Augusta National (home of The US Masters), Cypress Point and Crystal Downs in the United States. He even got as far as Australia to design Royal Melbourne, and then back to re-design Lahinch in Ireland in 1927.
MacKenzie not only had an eye for the land, but also a theory for how the strategy of each hole should play. In a nutshell, MacKenzie is admired for producing holes that offer an ideal balance of risk and reward options, and for designing golf courses that challenge yet also accommodate players with a range of skills.
After his first visit to Reddish Vale, MacKenzie wrote expressing his great optimism for what he saw as the ideal basis for a course. He wrote ‘I visited the ground during the wettest part of the winter months, and the whole ground appeared to be exceptionally dry. The ground is agreeably undulating without being too hilly. The proposed Club House is in an ideal situation.’
Reddish Vale is the combination of MacKenzie’s magical eye, and 100 acres that are rich in feature and beauty. The course created requires thought and shot placement. While punishing a bad shot or a bad decision, the course gives you a chance and is quirky and fun. MacKenzie can only be considered a genius for how he has used the contours to create a course that feels totally natural in flow and shape, while rich in variety.
The test of time is the biggest test of any golf course. With all the changes in equipment technology over the past 100 years, and with all the ‘expert golf architects’ on the various club committees that have been and gone, the golf course a century on is almost identical. Only the 16th hole has been changed, being extended from par 3 to par 4 in the late 1930’s, and what a hole it is...
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