It’s early on another stunning summer morning.
I’ve just finished a hotel breakfast overlooking the pitch at MK Dons, surrounded by mechanics from Ferrari, in town for the British Grand Prix along the road at Silverstone. It’s fair to say the day has begun in the sportiest of ways. Surely a good omen for a trip to one of the UK’s great golf venues?
“There are so many memorable holes on the Marquess”
Woburn is a name that instantly resonates with all golfers of a certain age. In my formative years it was the annual venue for the British Masters, which at the age of 7 I thought was the fourth major. British Open, US Open. US Masters, British … it kind of made sense. Anyway, these days Woburn may not regularly feature on the European Tour but it does boast three beautiful golf courses and two world famous ambassadors in Ian Poulter and Charley Hull, who add a dash of star dust.
As soon as you enter the forest that engulfs this estate, you get the sense you are in for something special. The clubhouse is modern and bright. The welcome is warm and my bag was taken away as a pulled up and all I had to do was walk in and enjoy a hearty bacon sandwich.
The layout at Woburn is excellent. The practice putting green and extensive chipping area is a bump and run from the pro shop and breakfast area. The range is vast and gives you the option of hitting from mats or turf. There is an even bigger practice area across the small road that runs between the clubhouse and 1st tee should you so wish. But the bottom line is that there are no excuses.
The Dukes and Duchess courses may have the history but the newest of the three, the Marquess is now widely regarded as the sternest test at Woburn, having hosted the British Masters in 2015, not long after opening. Since then it has become a regular Open Final Qualifying venue.
And so to the course. And what a course. What a thing of beauty. The 1st hole is as gentle as the Marquess gets. A drive and a wedge to a flattish green. Things soon pick up, however. And it soon becomes clear that this is a course that rewards the golfer who plots and thinks his way around. Rather than one who simply hits and hopes. The other defining feature of this course is the vast and undulating greens. Which ran as true and fast as any I have ever played in the UK. Granted, Open Qualifying was to be held the next day, but at the time I visited they were running 12 on the stimp metre. My grampa would have said it was like putting on glass. And it was.
There are so many memorable holes on the Marquess. The 2nd is short a dogleg par 5 that vaguely reminds you of the 13th at Augusta. The 7th with its split fairway is a brilliant risk/reward hole. The short par 4, 12th with its island fairway. The long par 3 with a wicked three tier green. The fantastic par 5, 15th and the 18th with a fairway bunker that demands a long straight drive. I could go on. I genuinely loved this course and would recommend it highly. It does have an unmistakeable whiff of Augusta about it. More than enough to make it feel special and to draw me back time and again.
Here’s all you need to know.
- Best hole: The 9th – 441yd Par 4. This is another beautiful hole to look at it. A long straight drive will leave you around 160yds to the flag but take more club than you think you will need, to find a green that sits atop a ravine and guarded by two bunkers that gobble up anything short and right. Long and left will leave a tricky chip back down the hill. Par is a very good score.
- Hardest hole: The 14th – 230yd Par 3. Further than it looks and harder than its par. The 14th is a brute of a par 3 and requires a long iron or wood to get you anywhere near. Clever bunkering captures plenty of balls and if you manage to evade those, you will have a very tricky putt from a three tier green. Good luck.
- Longest hole: The 15th – 558yd Par 5. A really brilliant par 5 that rewards the golfer who plots his way down the hole. From the elevated tee, you can see the many bunkers that challenge your drive. The second shot must be guided carefully down the fairway to avoid more bunkers and should leave you with a wedge or a short iron in to a shallow green that slopes wickedly.
Phone Number: (01908) 370756
Designers: Peter Alliss, Clive Clark and Alex Hay.
Where it ranks: Ranked 37th in England by Top 100 courses.
Length: 7,214 yards from the back tees. Par 72.