"The Royal Wimbledon Club was founded some two hundred and sixty years after the Royal Blackheath," wrote Bernard Darwin in his 1910 book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, "and yet golf is still so young a game in England that the two appear of almost equally hoary antiquity. There is an old-fashioned air about the golf at Wimbledon – an atmosphere of red coats and friendly foursomes made up at luncheon, which is exceedingly pleasant."
"A wonderful place is this new Wimbledon course," wrote Darwin, "for as soon as we are on it all signs of men, houses and omnibuses, and other symptoms of a busy suburb disappear as if by magic, and a prospect of glorious solitary woods stretches away into the distance in every direction." Even today, visitors will experience a delightful peaceful atmosphere. But the course we play today is very much the work of one of Royal Wimbledon's many famous members – Harry Colt. Some other well-known members include Roger Wethered and Lord Rothschild.
Royal Wimbledon is a tough test with narrow undulating tree-lined fairways. Accuracy is all-important on this 6,348-yard par 70 course. One of the best holes is the 12th, a long semi-doglegging par four, measuring 452 yards from the medal tees. After a solid drive you'll be left with a tough approach shot to a plateau green.
One of the easiest holes at Royal Wimbledon is the short par four 6th. But we bet you can't match the remarkable feat of the former Royal Wimbledon Captain, Edward VIII. When he was Prince of Wales he holed out in one on this 265-yard par four.
Royal Wimbledon's inconspicuousness in the echelons of the golf rankings is a classic case of old school, a sign of a club not welcoming commercial partnerships and general outsiders. The facilities all-round are extremely good, David Jones of tour-fame has done a great job in establishing a shop brimming with quality clothing and equipment, plus very welcoming team of teaching staff. The old dining room and the long veranda room intertwine to offer one of the most majestic entertainment areas in SW golf if not the country. There is a long driving range where you can hit off the turf and a new short-game area in construction.
An original Harry Colt heathland course, it is also one of the most savage, unrelenting and least-sympathetic you will ever play; the new green staff has done a great job in returning it to it former glory. You have to have your game switched on for the entire 18 holes if you don't want to shoot hundreds. Not long on the card but many par 4s play down then hit back up, most where you have to hit a good drive to just give yourself a chance at hitting the well-guarded greens. All the par 3s require a well-struck shot to carry the whole yardage.
However its once you're on the putting surface that the fun begins. When Jack Nicklaus described putting as "a game within a game", he'd probably just played in the Spring Meeting at Royal Wimbledon. Large, undulating, very quick at times, you have to be able to read line and length, occasionally you can putt off the front. Basically off first or second shot, there's nowhere to miss, if you dont hit the green you're essentially toast, generally demanding an extremely delicate chip to save par. You will recognise this in the scores in the members' medals.
Pretty at times but also very intimidating, the only relief is the well-stocked halfway hut which as grace would have it you pass multiple times. The two par 5s are the most obvious opportunities to pick up birdies, however par is a huge relief at every other hole, even considering the short 6th, 9th and 17th & 18th. Its a shame about the changes they've had to introduce to the 1st & 18th which if anything only makes them harder. The only downside is the amount of traffic the course gets which makes conditions less playable as the day and season goes on. Which is a pity because at its finest (which is truly is a several occasions during the year) it is a beautiful and unbelievable test of golf.
I wouldn't say its a shame that the club isnt more welcoming to more commercial, competitive and outside event, but as far as a level of challenge is concerned it definitely deserves to be in the Top 30 in England and maybe the Top 50 in GB & I. You will never beat this course.