It will surprise many to know that the former host course of the lucrative British PGA Matchplay Championship shares its history with Robin Hood.
It’s the same course that has twice hosted golfing competitions with the biggest global prize money at the that time, and one built on the hunting grounds of the historic outlaw. But there is no class warfare at Notts (Hollinwell), where some of the best and brightest golfers have graced the hallowed turf for well over a century.
Instead, anyone playing from scratch will have the opportunity to take on the challenging course in Final Qualifying for The 148th Open at Royal Portrush.
Opened in 1901, the 7250-yard course provides testing holes as well as historic intrigue with every shot. And according to green chairman Nick Jones, magic runs through the course’s past and present.
“Tom Williamson was one of our first professionals - he played every Open for over 50 years and came in the top 10 on six occasions,” he said. “Even during World War 1 - when he was a munitions engineer - he found time to stop by and play on Thursdays and Saturdays.
“It’s stories like his that make the course so special.”
The course’s name is an abbreviation of ‘Holy Leen Well’ and highlights the club’s association with ancient monks during the time of Henry II. The holy well - which acts as the spring of the River Leen - exists around the tee of the eighth hole.
Perhaps even more of an attraction for the 2000 or so tourists who visit each year, however, is the rock that sits to the left of the second hole.
“It’s known as Robin Hood’s chair - where he used to sit and scope out the entirety of Nottingham,” Jones said. “It’s the highest point of Nottinghamshire.”
As for the golf itself, competitors can look forward to some wonderful holes on the 440-acre masterpiece. Speaking enthusiastically about the 13th hole, Jones said: “It’s a thrill to anyone who plays it. It’s consistently listed in the top 100 holes in the world.
“It’s an interesting one because it’s a 234 yarder - a par 3 - but it’s downhill, with a steep drop to the green. As well as being a tough one, it has spectacular views at the top - it’s the hole that anyone who visits should make sure to play.”
Of course, the club’s grandeur and history have attracted some brilliant players in times gone by.
While more recent advocates such as Paul Casey and Ken Brown have publicly held the course in high regard, it’s been lauded since its existence.
“The Great Triumvirate - the likes of James Braid, JH Taylor and Harry Vardon - liked to play here in the 20th century,” Jones added.
“Charles Darwin’s grandson Bernard - a golf writer - always talked about the beauty of our course in his books. Last century - when the air was polluted in the industrial era - he wrote that the ball would start off white and finish off soot-covered when it landed on the green.”
There’s also plenty of evidence to suggest the very existence of Hollinwell would not have come about without the club’s reputation. While the course is majestic in its own right, the remote location meant many were unable to access it, especially during the last century.
As such, the club’s owners - with the promise of selling at least £200 worth of tickets a year - engineered the assembly of a train station at the turn of the 20th century. With the scenic course now in reach for the thousands who visit and play, it’s no wonder Nick Jones and the Notts (Holinwell) team treasure the grandiose of the course.