Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin) - Lincolnshire - England

Woodhall Spa Golf Club,
The Broadway,
Woodhall Spa,
Lincs,
LN10 6PU,
England


  • +44 (0)1526 352511

  • Golf Club Website

  • 19 miles SE of Lincoln

  • Contact in advance - handicap certificate required

  • Richard A. Latham

  • Harry Vardon, Harry Colt & Colonel S.V. Hotchkin

  • Andrew Hare

The Hotchkin course at Woodhall Spa invariably fights with Loch Lomond and Sunningdale Old for the coveted position of “best inland golf course” in the British Isles. Originally, Harry Vardon laid out the course and it opened for play in 1905. Harry Colt, just before the Great War, made further modifications to the layout. But in the 1920s, the owner, Colonel S.V. Hotchkin, put the course through one last major redesign phase before the Hotchkin finally matured into its present layout. The English Golf Union purchased Woodhall Spa in 1995 for a reputed £8m and turned it into their headquarters.

An oasis in the heart of Lincolnshire. Set amongst glorious pine, birch and broom, this heathland course is an absolute delight to play. The sandy subsoil allows all-year-round golf, the springy turf making walking a real pleasure. Keep your ball in play and do your best to avoid the heather, gorse and bunkers. See if you can copy the feat of J.A. Wilson (8 h/cap) and his opponent L.D. Henshaw (12 h/cap). In 1982, Wilson holed in one at the 12th (a beautiful, long par three) but only managed a half because Henshaw also holed in one. Apparently they were hurrying their shots too because they had just been invited to play through. The four-ball standing behind the green were gobsmacked!

An amazing escape from a cavernous Woodhall bunkerThe Hotchkin is bunker heaven (or hell), notorious for its deep, cavernous sand traps. It is also helpful if you can hit the ball long and straight. Otherwise you will be presented with some very tough second shots. Woodhall Spa isn’t a tournament course, but it is supremely challenging and plays host to a number of distinguished national and international amateur competitions. Many important matches have been decided on its famous 18th hole. This 540-yard par five finishing hole typifies what is so special about Woodhall Spa. If we can strike the ball with solidity off the tee and avoid the hazards, then we give ourselves a chance of scoring well. We can see the flag clearly in the distance but the drive is tight. We must land left of the sentry oak, but not too far left, otherwise we will be bunkered. We must be dead straight in order to find the crisp, sandy fairway and if we achieve all these things, and if we are a stout hitter, we may be tempted to go for the green with our second shot. It is tempting - the route to the green is visible but is protected by bunkers and there's a swale guarding its right flank. What can we say? “Go for it” perhaps?

It is definitely worth making the trip to play this gem and the green fee is tremendous value for money too (especially if you are a member of an English golf club). And remember - the Hotchkin is undoubtedly one of the premier inland courses in the whole of the British Isles. Can you afford not to play it?

In 2016 Tom Doak was hired to advise Woodhall Spa on a development plan that includes tree clearance and “generally removing visual clutter so that the unique bunkering can dominate the views”. Additionally bunker faces will be reconstructed to ease maintenance. The schedule of works was due to be completed by 2022, but we received an update from Tim, a Woodhall Spa member, in February 2017:

"The work Tom Doak is doing has been speeded up and should be completed by 2019. All bunkers are being remodeled, many that had disappeared are being reinstated and a small number of obsolete ones are being removed. Huge areas of undergrowth have been cleared so that the feel of an old fashioned heath with far reaching views across the course are being brought back. Although only holes 7,8,9,10,11 and 13 have been done so far, the changes are fantastic and when completed will elevate Woodhall further from its already lofty position. Some of the holes (still to be completed) will have significant work done to the greens and also the position of the tees."

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Reviews for Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)

Av. Reviewers Score:

This course has always been highly rated internationally, but it took me 3 plays to appreciate its many subtle features. Yes, the greens are fast, the bunkers frightening, but you can plot a way around this course and it doesn't involve excessive use of the driver. Like Silloth and Dornoch, its off the beaten track but worth the journey all the same. The course has a number of outstanding short par 4's, which although short require accurate placement of tee and approach. This is best shown by the 15th., played slightly uphill...you need to avoid the bunker right and then play a wedge to an elevated green surrounded by bunkers. The hole funnels in slightly and the bunker short of the green makes you think its a shorter shot than you think...play to the yardages here, and you won't go wrong. The 10th also requires an accurate tee shot to avoid heather and bunkers,and the sloping green needs to receive an accurate approach wedge shot. These short par 4's can offer a birdie or wreck your card, and what few courses offer is a challenge on every hole...Woodhall Spa offers this better than just about any other UK course

November 14, 2016


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Set near Sherwood Forest off the beaten path, Woodhall Spa might be the most underrated course ranked by golf magazines. The idyllic setting in the woods is quintessential England. People walking their dogs through the property, the smell of wood burning fireplaces nearby, a gentle mist in the air. Woodhall Spa has only three par three holes but taken together they may represent the best collection of par threes on any course in the world and the bunkers are peerless, as deep as you will see on any golf course. This is bunkering of the penal variety. There’s a bit of magic in the air at Woodhall that is difficult to define. The routing is world-class as is the artfulness of the design. The antithesis of a lot of courses built today, this is golf of the throwback variety. Bring it on.

John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs

November 10, 2016


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Took the drive to Woodhall Spa on the basis that it was a great course.....we were lucky with the weather but even luckier to be able to play such a wonderful course!!!

The bunkers live long in the memory, but the whole course oozes class without being snobby etc and as for value for money.....you will not beat this place!

Highly recommend everyone experiences this!

April 21, 2016


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Recently played here and thoroughly enjoyed it (both courses) the Hotchkin is a lovely challenging course with deep bunkers and is defiantly one of the best inland courses in the UK.Although I enjoyed the course and will be returning it did not feel "special" as a lot of the similar top rated inland course feel when you play them.
October 12, 2015


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Tucked away in the quaint little resort village after which it is named, the Woodall Spa Golf Club is laid out amongst a forest of mature pines and birch that give it a wonderful sense of isolation from the outside world. In fact its location is probably somewhat to its own detriment. Despite being home to England’s National Golf Centre, with no major roads taking you there, finding Woodhall Spa can be a bit of a mission in it’s self. However for those that are willing to make the journey to Lincolnshire in search of good golfing grounds, your efforts will be well rewarded with a round on this beautiful inland layout.

Woodhall Spa has 36 holes: the Hotchkin Course and the Bracken Course, with the former being the older and superior layout of the two, and the focus of this review. The Hotchkin Course is a fine test of one’s golfing ability, largely due to the very deep, and extremely large bunkers found scattered throughout the layout. These enormous bunkers can be found flanking the edges of fairways – often lurking amWoodhall Spa (Hotchkin) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerongst beautiful patches of heather and long grass – as well as fronting or surrounding many of the green complexes.

The bunkers are obviously the headlining act in the course’s defence. It is the visually striking yet penal roughs, and large greens - which can make three-putting a real possibility – that both play solid supporting roles. Additionally, forced carries over heather off many tees - some being upwards of 200 yards from the back markers - would no doubt intimidate the average golfer and definitely add to the difficulty of the layout.

All of this boils down to the fact that in order to score well at Woodhall Spa, one must drive the ball well, and do so all day.

In singling out some of the course’s finer holes - depending on your taste - there is plenty to choose from.

The par threes are particularly challenging, and as a set of one-shot holes, are some of the most unforgiving I have encountered. Even from the back markers the 5th and 12th play at 148 and 176 yards respectively, meaning that many golfers will only require a short to mid iron. However missing the green on either of Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerthese two holes is likely to result in an extremely difficult recovery shot from one of the very deep greenside bunkers that surround the respective putting surfaces. Playing at 209 yards from the tips, the 8th is the by far the longest, and rounds out the trio of fine one shot holes. The tee shot is slightly uphill, and must carry a lone cross bunker in the fairway, sited some thirty yards short of the green. Three more bunkers flank either side of the large green to the front – two on the left and one on the right – ready to swallow up anything that strays too far off a decent line.

But there is far more to this course than simply some challenging short holes. The biggest strength of the Hotchkin Course for me would have to be the fact that it possesses a number of great holes spread over a variety of lengths.

Of the great par fours, the pick for me is the 338 yard 10th, where your drive must skirt two fairway bunkers with the first being sited on the left, the second a little further up on the right. This hole dog-legs from left to right, and it is a drive that splits the two fairway bunkers while still slightly favouring the left-hand side that is best rewarded by a short approach into the open-fronted green. The safe route is to play out to right and short of the second fairway bunker, though from here you must approach the green at an angle that shortens the depth of the green considerably, whilst also avoiding a pair of bunkers sited short right and two more long and left. To keep the approach interesting the green falls away from you, ensuring your approach requires deft judgement in length to get the ball close for a birdie putt.
Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin) Golf Course - Photo by reviewer
If I had one slight bit of criticism of the Hotchkin Course it would be the greens, which despite being on the larger side of average, are not very strongly contoured. In a perfect world they might possess some stronger slopes to make them more interesting. However, given the significant challenges that one faces in reaching these surfaces in regulation, I gladly accept their mild contouring as being a fair trade-off that likely keeps the course from being too punishing for the average golfer (myself included). In fact it’s reasonable to suggest that the gently sloping putting surfaces would be a warmly welcomed respite by most who play here. Their size still makes three-putting a real possibility anyway, so let’s not split hairs.

The Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa is a fine layout that has well and truly earned its reputation for possessing strategic challenge, beauty, and deep, intimidating bunkers. If you’re not driving well, I’d recommend you steer clear until such time as you are. For everyone else, golf here in the summer is absolute bliss…

This review is an edited extract from my Blog titled: An Architect Abroad. The full review can be found by clicking here along with photographs taken of the course. Please also note that my rating of the course here has been done specifically against the other courses which I visited on that trip, many of which rank very highly in the top 100 listed on this website for the United Kingdom. For that reason some ratings of courses may be lower than that given by other reviewers.
July 08, 2015


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Dave R
July 14, 2015
So...the only criticism is that the greens could be more sloping, Other than that hugely complimentary. Why only 4 balls for a course widely regarded by many as being as good an inland course as you will find in the UK?
Truly superlative! The quality of the design, the condition of the course and the wonderful yet penal bunkers make this a world class venue. I haven't played Sunningdale but have played Loch Lomond, Notts, Wentworth, Ganton and many more, and would rate this the best inland UK course I have experienced. Yes it can be difficult to get to, and all serious golfers should make the pilgrimage. For one of the world's top 100, and well deserved, the green fees are a snip.
May 20, 2015


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Played the Hotchkin course in early October 2014. They were very helpful, we play on the Sunday Salvor program but it rained heavily and they let us play on Thursday. The course was in excellent shape required good driving to avoid the gorse on some holes. I have played Sunningdale and Ganton and think this is the best inland course and great value for the money. Would like to come back and play the other 18 hole course.
December 23, 2014


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Although a nice course its ridiculous to put the Hotchin in the top 100 courses in the world. There are some very good holes and they have made the best of the very flat Lincolnshire land but I always come off the course thinking I have played a lot better courses.
December 17, 2014


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steve
December 18, 2014
Name them because id like to play them. Woodhall is world class as far as courses are concerned. It is a classic golf course that is standing the test of time.
Mark Jasayko
December 23, 2014
I generally agree. It is a very good course with some very unique and memorable bunkering. But it is not a World Top 100 calibre course. My feeling is that the course, along with a number of others, initially got into the Top 100 but have been surpassed by new courses, renovated classics, and by courses rediscovered by those who are willing to travel. That said, I understand the sentiments of the course's defenders as there are a number of courses for which I have a great deal of affinity - such as Royal West Norfolk - but that is very subjective and not shared.
David
December 24, 2014
Totally agree that this course is not a world top 100 course. Given Mark's example, a good one, I'd play Brancaster 9 times out of 10 over Woodhall Spa.
james
December 24, 2014
Sites like this are all about opinions. When I read reviews like this, I wonder how many of the world's top 100 the writer has actually played? Two examples: my friend, a sunningdale member all his life who I took here, who admitted he almost preferred Woodhall; or my own, having been lucky enough to play a huge number of the very best, I would go back to Woodhall over almost any other inland course. Then again, perhaps we are both idiots, or Sunningdale doesn't rate for the reviewer either!
Tim
December 25, 2014
I completely disagree with the assessment of the Hotchkin. I have been privileged to play all the top 20 in England (as well as around 30 of the World top 100) and am v lucky to have been a member of Sunningdale for the last 22 years. Hotchkin is top notch. Holes 2-7 are as good as anything I have ever played and despite the slightly disappointing 18th the back 9 is excellent (the 18th at the likes of RCD and Portrush are somewhat underwhelming too!) 3 years ago I had the opportunity to play with my best friend who who's a relative of Hotchkin and it was a joy - I now understand why he is such a good bunker player..... The sadness is that's it's location without a nearby motorway means too few have experienced such a terrific test of golf.
ben
January 09, 2015
James, I have too played Sunningdale on a number of occasions and I'm probably in the minority in that I believe the New course is better than the Old, but for me Sunningdale is far better than the Hotchkin. Like most on here (or least those that profess to have) I have played a lot of golf courses around the world and played at a fairly high standard so I’d like to think I have enough experience to make a fair assessment. For me the Hotchkin is missing something to make it special although it’s a very fine course, whether that’s because you don’t stand on any tee and feel yourself say wow like it RCD or that the club house feels very dated.
Tim Thomas
January 12, 2015
Ben, I think you are right about the New (intend to right a proper review as I have done of the Old soon) but them I am biased...Disagree about Hotchkin. Clubhouse there is terrible but then ones at Rye, Portrush and West Lancs aren't exactly easy on the eye. To be honest Birkdale lacks wow factor of RCD because Dunes are so high and whilst the clubhouse is a lovely sight on 18 that's not the golf course and Birkdale is the best links in England in my view. RCD unique because of Mountains of Mourne view but even that cannot make up for a modest finishing hole.Tim
james
January 13, 2015
Ben: I actually agree with you re the New at Sunningdale! Don't personallycare less re clubhouses, but would be interested to know whatthe missing "wow" factor. Not sure RCD a fair comparison, as the setting there has enough wow factor for about 5 golf courses. For me, I find it hard to split the New and the Hotchkin. Perhaps I have a bit more affection for the Hotchkin, as when you get to the green, having passed that brutal test, a score is there to be made. The New is almost too unforgiving throughout, greens included.
Woodhall Spa Hotchkin is outstanding,make the effort to go,even if it's in the middle of nowhere,(sorry it just feels that way)I have to admit I played it over 20 years ago,no GPS or range finder gadgets back then.And the club didn't allow yardage books,you were expected to know how far you drove the ball and take it from there.. The good old days,ha. Try and make it an overnite trip if need be,it's a must play course,that doesn't break the bank balance
November 02, 2014


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6 handicapper that played Woodhall in the middle of September 2014. Played 36 holes on a bright sunny day. After the gentle start the course was stunning. The heather was new and ablaze with pink and purple. 2,3 and 4 are brilliant par 4s, all three different but top draw. The rest of the front 9 was suberb. I don't understand the last reviewer who suggested there was no variety, there are long par 4s a couple of short ones, doglegs to both directions. Off the medal tees there are some strong holes with some great design especially 11 and 13 which are both first class. The conditioning was superb also. The only reservation was that more trees should go on the back 9.
October 06, 2014


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