Strolling through the traditional wood-panelled hallway of the clubhouse and out onto the veranda that affords views across the opening holes at Worplesdon is a delightful introduction to this lovely Surrey club. First impressions count, and all that. From inside, the bars and dining room share the same views as the terrace and on days when the sun is streaming through the windows you’d be hard pushed to think of a more agreeable setting. It can sound trite using words like charming and characterful but as adjectives go, they’re as good as any in this instance.
The course itself is one of Surrey’s best. Laid out in 1908 by J.F.Abercromby and Willie Park Junior, this is a true heathland classic – the ever-present heather, the bracken, pines, and rugged bunkers influencing the character and dictating the challenge of every hole.
Worplesdon is renowned for the quality of its par threes, but there really isn’t a weak hole on the golf course. It’s a comparatively gentle start, and the opening few holes perhaps don’t wow you, but most golfers will welcome having the chance to get in to their stride. By the time you reach the fifth hole, though, you will need to have found your swing. And before that, you’ll want to have played the par three 4th hole well, climbing as it does to a green overlooked by the clubhouse terrace. A chance for some early glory.
Once you’re in to the round, you can look forward to the kind of variety that marks a top class course apart. Hole lengths, directions, shapes, and challenges are brilliantly blended to create a very complete golfing examination.
Below, we’ve picked out our personal highlights, but it was a struggle not to name the majority of the holes on the course. Of the ones we’ve left out, enjoy the narrow and sweeping par four 9th, which is particularly attractive, as is the gently descending par five 15th. Beware the significant tiers and steps in the greens at the 8th and 17th, where the uninitiated can be caught out by some fearsome putts!
The club is situated just off the A322 between Guildford and Woking. Considering how heavily populated this corner of the South East has become, it’s hard to believe such a genteel and bucolic slice of golfing heaven remains. But it does, thankfully, and for those seeking an escape from the city, knowing it’s a mere 25 minutes from Woking to London Waterloo will surely tempt. Traffic permitting, the journey by road is simple enough too.
The first time the course really threads between the pines, the par four fifth is a beautifully designed dog-leg right. A bunker pinches in the fairway at the optimum landing point for a drive, so the choice is either to lay back almost too safely, or take on the narrowing section and the accompanying heather. Just shy of the green are a pair of small ridges that hamper attempts to run up your approach, emphasising the need to favour an aggressive tee shot.
Hole No.11 – No.14
Viewed as the signature hole at Worplesdon, the short tenth over Bridley Pond is unquestionably eye-catching, but it’s the sequence of holes that follows that provides the most impressive golfing of the round. Having crossed the road that bisects the course, the 11th tee gives you a slightly elevated look of the first of two back-to-back par fives that both present chances to improve your score.
Standing on the tee, the drive is an appealing one. The hole is laid out straight in front of you and recent clearing has resulted in a more open feel that encourages a free swing of the driver. Not that the hole is a push over, far from it. While straight, the fairway is marked by notable undulations and the fairway bunkering commands your full attention.
The 12th plays back in the opposite direction with a slight dog-leg right. Navigating your way around the corner and the smattering of bunkers that protect the shortest line, the approach shot is played to a green that sits atop a cross bunker that will certainly gobble up more than its share of approaches.
Arguably the pick of the par threes comes next, a mid-length hole with an awkwardly narrow target that is made something of a plateau by the surrounding greenside bunkering. It’s a glorious heathland scene, especially if the heather is in bloom or in the autumn as the gold and auburn hues of the deciduous trees contrast so wonderfully with the evergreen pines. This is a hole to enjoy as much for its prettiness as for its golfing merit – not that it’s short on that either.
The toughest challenge of the quartet, and indeed the course, comes at the long par four fourteenth. A tough drive to a fairway leaning gently left has to avoid bunkers on either side, with the best line being tight left to the trees. However well played your tee shot, you’ll still be faced by a formidable second shot that’s as demanding as any you’ll face all day.
Hole No. 18
Top class courses always warrant a great finishing hole and it’s a great disappointment when they don’t have an 18th hole that’s up to the mark. Thankfully, the last at Worplesdon is a very satisfactory conclusion to a delightful round of golf. From the tee, the full width of the fairway isn’t really in view, but you can take you aim on the clubhouse flag post. The final approach is one of the best, with an angled strip of bunkers punishing any shot that drifts right, and out of bounds very much in play beyond the lengthy green. No doubt, pars here are cherished.
Worplesdon has become a great example of how a traditional club can have a progressive attitude without compromising its heritage or standards. Much attention has been paid to developing the course and facilities, as well as recognising the changing lifestyles and requirements of today’s golfers. As a result, the club is enjoying a deserved reputation as one of the best around at the moment.
The golf course itself is superb, and one of the wonderful trio of famous W’s in this corner of Surrey, the others being West Hill and Woking. It’s a sensible length, very scenic, and presents a delightful variety of heathland holes, with all the subtleties and nuances of a classic. There’s no doubting that you’re spoiled for choice in this part of the golfing world, but this as a good a members’ club as any, and a fine destination for very welcome visitors.