This article is for my thoughts on the MacKenzie course itself, rather than the club and my rounds played. There are followups (links at bottom) about my joining RVGC as an associate member and about my experiences there playing with various groups and even a round by myself.
The outstanding review, with photos, by Ran Morrisset on GolfClubAtlas.com is the definitive summary of the course. I wouldn’t try to cover nearly as much detail and I also as usual did not take any decent quality pictures of the course. So I’m going to stick purely to mentioning a few of the holes that I found particularly memorable, challenging or otherwise interesting. But I do want to agree and amplify one of Ran’s themes…it took me until my solo round on my final evening in England to realize that, whatever the obvious merits of the golf holes per se, Reddish Vale for me is all about the River. I’m not going to wax philosophical or poetic about just what I mean by that but the river makes the course and course is a fine way to experience the river.
Now back to the golf. The first two holes at Reddish Vale are a great introduction to the sorts of challenges you’ll face. They are a 400-yard Par 4 and a 180-yard Par 3 playing in opposite directions and on both long approach shots you have to contend with “The Dip”, a 20-30 foot deep chasm. The portion of the gully which forms part of the 1st fairway is not really a problem as long as you don’t stray too far left (bushes and deep rough) or right (fall off the edge of the world) but it continues across as a penalty for the topped shot on the 2nd hole. In both cases, though, there is plenty of dead ground 20, 30, 40 yards short of the greens so that a merely insufficient or slightly mishit ball will leave a straightforward chip. Just don’t hit it in the thickest of the waist-high native vegetation covering the slopes of the chasm!
The 4th is a slightly uphill Par 3 with OB quite close on the left and a tendency for the ball to kick in from the right IF it doesn’t go in the right-side bunker. I thought when playing there this year that the hole seemed more playable than I recalled from 2012. It turns out the club have cut down the embankment on the right and repositioned the bunker so my impression is probably correct.
The 6th hole is the oft-photographed way, way, way downhill Par 3 of 200+ yards. Even given the elevation it is a driver hole for me although I’d say if I were to totally 100% hit my best driver shot going past the green is definitely in play. Given the river and OB stakes on the left I tend to just aim at the right-side bunkers and either A) slice the ball back onto the green, B) end up in a bunker or C) pull the ball slightly into the flat area right of the bunkers and in the 18th fairway. Let me mention than in five times playing this hole so far outcome A is still purely theoretical.
I really don’t need to keep going hole by hole so I’ll skip to the 9th and 10th. In the space of 15 minutes you play from the ridiculous to the sublime. I don’t know if anyone claims to actually LOVE that little uphill Par 3 but as the saying goes “it’s all right there in front of you”. The ball will generally kick in from the right side and the green is deep enough to allow a safe club choice to reach the green without bringing OB-long into play. But also obvious are the things you must not do. Left, long, too far short or a topped shot will mean a certain zero-point outcome and will wreck a medal card. Just pick the right club, hit it well and aim right of the green and all will be well. Oh, and don’t 3-putt if the hole is on the back of the green!
From what is may be the consensus “worst” hole at Reddish Vale (not actually a poor hole, just unforgiving and demanding) to what’s for my money the best. The tee shot has a spectacular view as well as a modicum of strategic choice. That bunker short of the green is brilliant and trying to get your ball onto the back ledge is made into a thrilling risk/reward endeavor by the hillside covered in ferns and brambles immediately behind. It is not short enough to be a stereotypical “short Par 4” (ie, drivable for big hitters) but rather a hole that’s not so long as to be un-strategic for those of us with middling distance. Just perfect in every way.
One day I’d like to see my second shot on the 13th take a couple of final hops and tumble onto the green. But that is going to require a day when I am hitting the ball very solidly and when the course is running hard and fast. So far it’s been a sort of 2-1/2 shotter for me and given how hard it is to keep that little chip shot from working its way too far right, maybe tumbling over the lip on the second shot will prove to be more trouble than benefit!
The 14th is a great hole but taking ones trolley down the steps from tee to fairway makes me nervous. Another thing that makes me uncomfortable is the tendency (pointed out to me by Duncan Cheslett) to resist aiming on the proper line to the left. Something about having a bloody huge river over there, combined with the trick of perspective caused by the situation of the tee markers results in one drive after another being launched toward those fairway bunker. And even if one misses or carries the bunkers the angle of the shot to the green is rubbish.
On the 16th tee I can not make my lying eyes believe that a driver aimed well out to the left has plenty of room before going through the fairway and into the trees. I only drive the ball maybe 210 yards at the very most and can’t come within 30 yards of hitting it into trouble on that line. But I’ll swear after four plays it looks like a 3-iron would be too much (in fact my 3-iron is best suited for being played farther right so as to come up five yards short of clearing the river bank).
The tee shot on the 17th features that darned river, again. As a lefty slicer it’s the most daunting drive on the course. I eventually found the best strategy to be aiming for the steep bank rising up from the right side of the fairway, letting my natural push/slice/fade/cut shot drift back toward the short grass (possibly helped by the slope if I hit it almost straight). But that does bring risk into play if instead I double-cross myself and hit a pull. In fact, my second ball during Sunday’s round nearly scored an ace on the 15th green. Hopefully the members playing there found it slightly amusing as well as scary hearing cries of FORE!!! coming from the other side of the small copse of trees separating the holes.
The 18th hole, not much to say that isn’t obvious. It’s way uphill. The rest is just details!