The provenance of the Army golf course is rather interesting and the development of the club is just as absorbing – how many golf clubs do you know that have had six names, five clubhouses and eight courses?
Aldershot Divisional Golf Club was established in 1883, with members playing on a 10-hole course that was arranged so that a round of 12 or 18 holes could be played, on the west side of the military barracks. The Royal Aldershot Officers’ Club came into use as the first clubhouse.
The club changed its name and moved several times before James Braid played an exhibition match on 29 May 1909 to mark the opening of the club’s new course on Laffan’s Plain. Soon after the end of World War II, yet another new course was abandoned, with a replacement 9-hole layout brought into play.
In 1974, seven years after an 18-hole track had been set out to the south west of the old 9-hole Torrie course, this layout was now vacated in favour of a new 18-hole layout on Laffan’s Plain and Watt’s Common. The clubhouse moved to Berkshire Copse and the final name change, to Army Golf Club, was made.
As for the modern day course, it’s laid out through pleasantly undulating woodland between Farnborough and Aldershot, measuring 6,550 yards from the back tees, playing to a par of 71. Ditches run alongside or cut across several of the holes, ensuring excess rainfall is efficiently dealt with, leaving fairways dry and fully in play, whatever the weather.
The 441-yard 4th “Government House” is the toughest hole on the front nine, veering left past a wall of rhododendrons, with the fairway bending towards a green that slopes markedly from right to left. The 355-yard 7th “Graveyard” is another fine par four on the outward half and it’s also a left doglegged hole, played to a testing, two-tiered green.The signature hole at Army Golf Club is regarded as the 399-yard 15th “Spilway”, which was remodeled in 2001. A stream snakes across the fairway in front of the green, so it’s better to be long than short with the approach shot. Another recently upgraded hole is the 409-yard 18th “Goose Green”, where the fairway curves gently right to a tricky, two-tiered home green.
The Army GC is currently hosting the Hampshire County Championship at fairly short notice and proved to be a solid test for the County's best. The first hole is a short par 5, which although looking intimidating from the tee, has plenty of room at the landing area for drives. It's a straightforward, relatively easy start which is a good design feature for an opening hole. The next 2 holes are shortish par 4s which need to be taken advantage of as the 4th is a 450 yard dog leg right to left par 4 and the 5th a robust 220 yd par 3. The 6th is a long iron then wedge to a very slopey undulating green which is very tough but fair enough considering the length of hole. The approach is attractive with banking to the back and left of the green. Holes 7 to 9 are ok, perhaps only utilitarian. The back 9 is the pick of the nines in my view and starts with a very attractive strategic shortish par 4. The 11th (stroke 1) is fairly straightaway par 4 of 455 yards which is just a strong, superb, no nonsense hole. This hole with the 4 and 16 (more of this hole later), represents the variation and contrast to the cohort of short par 4s. The 12th is a dog leg left to right very gettable short par 5. Holes 13 and 14 are brilliant risk and reward short par 4s where the numerous little brooks and streams are used brilliantly as the "risk". The 14th has a stream 260 from the tee ( holes is 320) and further streams dominate the right side on the lay up at 200 yards. Brilliant design. Hole 15 is very attractive medium length par 4 which moves gently from right to left with more streams both short and right of the green. The 16th could be great, but is arguably unfair. Having observed first hand scratch ( and plus ) golfers trying to figure out how to play this hole was fascinating. The hole is a 435 par 4, which moves right to left, with trees very prominent on the left hand side at the dogleg. There is plenty of room right but any tee shot between 240 and 260 to the right will be blocked out by trees. Possibly the trees were not a factor when the course was constructed but they are an issue now. The only way of playing the hole in an orthodox way, with driver / 3 wood, requires exemplary accuracy as lthere is a 15 yard area where the green is accessible. There is more width (of course) further back but it leaves a 220 / 230 uphill approach. A couple of the big hitters went over the trees on the left which requires both supreme length and nerve, especially as you don't see the balls landing. I like quirky and every course should have tough holes on them but I would suggest that this hole is overly penal. The 17th is an excellent par 3 of 200 yards slightly downhill and the finishing hole a strong par 4 left to right with internal OB on the right. A couple of observations. Firstly, both playing the course and caddying in the counties, the course has grown on me to a level of fondness. Secondly, I don't think I've played a course where the choice of pin placements can have such a profound impact on how a course plays. It goes without saying that a tree lined course uses trees as it's overarching defence, however the Army has its greens fulfilling a similar role also.
A 4 ball rating would describe the golf course perfectly, it is definitely an above average golf course so worth seeking out to play if you are in the area however it is not anywhere near as good as courses in Hampshire such as the likes of Liphook, Blackmoor, North Hants, Stoneham. The Army golf club is fairly well maintained however could be better, often when I've played there it hasn't been the best even when I've gone in the summer. The greens are average but some holes look quite nice such as the par 4 4th, par 3 8th and the par 5 12th which for me are nice holes. However many holes are bland and kind of similar. The club is quite nice and has good facilities and good food and drink, so overall it is a respectable golf club which is good to play if you are looking for something a bit cheaper and standard.
This is a great course and superbly maintained. Played it in August 2018. The fairways were a little bare but isn't that lovely for England! The greens were just superb and challenging. The bunkers were exceptionally well maintained, as was the whole course area.
The course itself offers a challenge to any golfer reasonably tight so accuracy is required of the tee. The greens are well protected by bunkers and the slope of the land. A good course complemented by excellent service in the club house, which is characteristically army, but it does have good showers... Really enjoyed my day there.
I was surprised to see no reviews of the Army course as yet and as a happy member of this club for nearly 20 years I will try to give you all a balanced and fair appraisal of the course going into the 2017 season.
The conditioning of the course has improved immensely over recent years with teeing areas and fairways having been double seeded on numerous occasions and their quality now showing terrific improvement to match the quality that the greens have always retained.
So, about the course itself, it is completely (densely) tree lined and has numerous streams and ditches providing additional feature. The trees are actually a mix of Pines, deciduous Oak, Chestnut and beech trees but with the large amount of tall Scots Pine trees, we are blessed that the course does not lose any definition in wintertime.
Firstly, I should make no bones about it, playing up to 6,550 yards and par 71, this course will show its teeth at regular intervals in your round and with decent length on many holes and relatively small greens, your game will be tested to the maximum and you will need to be at your best to play to your handicap.
A relatively gentle Par 5 opening hole is immediately backed up with a tricky stroke index 4 second hole. Just a bit further into your round a par 4, 442 Yard Stroke index 2 flanked by Rhododendrons down the left and Tall Scots pine trees down the right comes at the 4th hole and a par 3 on the 5th hole can stretch back as far as 220 yards which can often be played into a prevailing wind.. a brutal hole and not my personal favourite but apparently cited by none other than Peter Alliss as being “one of the best Par 3 holes in Hampshire”.
If your scorecard is still intact after this start then you have done very well!
The sixth hole is a real gem with a semi blind drive over a ridge down into a gully with a treacherous green protected by a serious side slope, be sure to keep your ball under the hole on this green!
The 9th hole is one of my personal favourites with the fairway guarded by two bunkers, left and right from either of which will make it almost impossible to find the green in regulation. The green itself is raised (go long here and your hopes of par are finished!) with bunker protection again front left and right. Whilst the right side bunker gives you a relatively simple up and down chance, go into the left hand bunker and you are faced most times with a delicate plop out, onto a treacherous downslope running off the green.
Other noteworthy holes are the stroke index 1 par 4 11th hole at 452 yards, a slight dogleg right through a raft of Scots Pine trees, the 524 yard par 5 12th hole, a great looking hole as long as you keep your ball in the fairway and your drive gets over the heather!
The short par 4 13th hole is visually intimidating from the tee but has more space on the right than you can see. The fun with this hole starts with the second shot to a steeply sloped green, another hole to make sure you keep your approach shot under the pin.
One of the signature holes has to be the par 4, 15th hole which has a straightforward drive as long as you do not block yourself out by going too far left. The green is protected by a stream which meanders from the top right hand side of the green around the front and away from the green at front, left point. You need to hit a good drive here or you can be facing a 180 yard shot over the water onto the green.
The 16th hole, a stroke index 3 is actually felt by most members to be the hardest hole on the course. A long dogleg left hole, gently meandering up a small hill means that a perfect tee shot is required for you to have a chance of seeing around the corner AND being in range for your second shot to reach the green. Once on the green, subtle breaks can ruin your chance of a one putt no matter how close your approach is.
Overall the course is tough but fair and a good test for any golfer, if you play it, I hope you enjoy and review it too!