I was approached by John and Sheila Newton in 1991 to design a new championship 18-hole golf course at Oakfield Farm in Brighouse, West Yorkshire. They already owned a 9-hole course and driving range which John had designed and built himself, along with his greenkeeping team.
The Willow Valley Course is in a sweeping valley in the foothills of the Pennines, which was previously predominantly cattle grazing fields, with some arable land, hedgerows, dry-stone walls and scattered mature trees. The soils were very varied: sandy and free-draining in places, on the higher ground, and then heavy clay in low areas, making the land prone to waterlogging, but ideal for creating dramatic new water features. The underlying rock is mainly sandstone, which, in places is less than a metre from the surface.
Running through the site is a swift running stream which, in the design process, helped to provide a focus for the routing of the course and, more importantly, offered lots of opportunities to create challenging and strategically positioned lakes, ponds and lagoons. The course has been described as being “Anglo-American” in terms of design – with lots of water, wide, sweeping fairways large undulating greens and big bunkers.
The brief was to create a “championship” standard golf course which was capable of holding a major regional tournament and between 2001 and 2013 the Willow Valley Course was host of the Yorkshire PGA Championship. The Willow Valley Course was also voted the #9 best new course in the British Isles by Today’s Golfer Magazine.
Photo Credit: Willow Valley Golf & Country Club