The Surrey 3 W’s
A exceptional cluster of 3 heathland classics in the town of Woking in Surrey.
The Surrey 3 W’s
Surrey is blessed with an embarrassment of golfing riches, and the three Ws –West Hill, Woking and Worplesdon – are extremely close neighbours in the northwest of the county. Each offers sublime, traditional heathland golf and together they feature in friendly and inconclusive debates about which is the best.
West Hill is actually the youngest of the three, although the course was designed well over a century ago by its professional, Cuthbert Butchart. A native of Carnoustie, he had formerly worked as a club-maker and professional in North Berwick.
In recent times, great efforts have been made towards subtle improvements and perfecting the conditioning, especially in relation to the bunkers. What remains is largely the original design, and although it may not appear long at first glance, with five lovely par 3s it plays every inch of its yardage.
Despite the Hill in its name the walking is easy, with the Brookwood stream coming into play on a few holes, particularly at the start. Majestic specimen trees line most of the holes and are all the more visible and impressive from the renovated tees. Heather is another dominant feature, which is easy on the eye but less so on the clubface.
Heather is another dominant feature, which is easy on the eye but less so on the clubface. The course opens with a pair of attractive par 4s before the very demanding 3rd, which runs parallel with the railway and requires two long blows to get home. The 4th is the first of the handful of short holes, and it is said that to score well here, the par 3s are key. Next is the first of just two par 5s, and if the wind is from the west, there is a chance to get up in two. The back nine has perhaps even more variety, with two excellent short holes at 13 and 15 – the former a tiddler, thelatter a brute. There is also a very strong finish, with two tough par 4s sandwiching the sweeping par-5 17th.
One of the country’s leading amateur tournaments is held at West Hill each spring – the very popular Father and Son Foursomes, which attracts golfers from far and wide. On the back of the continued investment and improvements, West Hill rose six places to 79 in the latest Golf Monthly Top 100 rankings.
Next door to West Hill is Worplesdon. JF Abercrombie laid out the course in 1908 with the greens and bunkers constructed by Willie Park Junior, the former Open Champion responsible for the Old Course at Sunningdale.
Significant forestry and re-bunkering work has fully restored the original feel and been complemented by the re-establishment of heather and more natural, indigenous trees.
The first four holes loop round and back to the clubhouse, and heather and pine are an almost constant companion.
The ‘signature’ hole is the delightful 10th played over a pond, although strangely enough the hole is more Augusta than Surrey and the water is not really representative of the challenges waiting elsewhere.
Back-to-back par 5s immediately follow across the road in a particularly strong sequence of four holes that are completed by a well-bunkered par 3 and then the toughest two-shotter on the course, the 14th.
The closing four are all very pretty, and no matter how you play, it would be a cheerless person not to enjoy the fine golf on offer at Worplesdon. A welcoming club with great history and many fine holes Worplesdon is a strong strategic test where careful shot placement is required.
Woking Golf Club, an architectural classic on a fine stretch of northwest Surrey linksland is held up by many as a prime example of a course ingeniously designed to test the best, while remaining playable for all.
Indeed, golfers will be licking their lips at the prospect of a sub-280-yard opener where the landing area is a downslope that will propel your ball towards the putting surface.
But don’t get too carried away, for things don’t always pan out as planned on holes of modest length, and the course hits back hard with a 221-yard one-shotter to a difficult green with steep run-offs to the right, before a long par 4 to another tough green where straying above the hole is distinctly ill-advised.
Therein lies a considerable element of the Woking intrigue, for while the course is not especially long, it is blessed with greens whose contours will keep you on your toes throughout.
This is particularly true of the 12th, which will confound even the finest of putters should they miss in the wrong place, and Tim Lobb’s new 16th green the other side of the water, which is as gently rumpled as a green can be.
Along the way you’ll face tests both generous and less so among the heather and pines, with the devilishly hard 9th falling into the latter camp.
Even if you hit a perfect drive to the corner, or just around the dogleg, you face a testing uphill approach to a green where missing left is bad, and missing right potentially terminal, should you catch the bank and bounce away into the shrubbery.
An eclectic layout over undulating heathland. Contrasts well with the other Ws.
Thanks to Golf Monthly and Kevin Murray.
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