Ferndown Golf Club is a pine and heathery heaven, set in pleasing manicured countryside a mile or two north of the popular seaside town of Bournemouth. This is where Peter Alliss learnt his trade, for his father, Percy, was the professional here for more than a quarter of a century.
The club was founded in 1912 and Harold Hilton, one of the finest amateur golfers of all time, designed the course. It opened for play in 1914. Hilton won the British Open championship as an amateur twice, a feat only surpassed by Bobby Jones, who was British Open champion on three occasions, also as an amateur.
The Old course at Ferndown Golf Club plays across a sandy outcrop of land where there is a proliferation of heather and pines. It’s an inherently pretty golf course and sometimes Ferndown is bracketed alongside Augusta because of its immaculate tee to green grooming. The hazards at Ferndown are subtle – there are the obvious heather and trees to avoid, but the bunkers are especially well designed and positioned. Steep-lipped sand traps are invariably visible from the tees and the fairways and they certainly concentrate the mind. Many of the holes are dog-legged in shape and tee shot position is critical, rather than sheer length. Ferndown is a course where scoring well depends entirely on whether or not the ball is kept in play.
By today’s standards, the course is fairly short, measuring less than 6,500 yards from the medal tees, but the heathland layout will challenge the very best golfers and will enthral the average handicapper with its inherent beauty. Many important amateur and professional events have been contested over the Old course. In 1989, Ferndown hosted the Women’s British Open. Jane Geddes carded a 67 on the first two days and dominated the tournament from thereon in.
Ferndown sits just outside of the UK top 100 and whilst this feels harsh we do have an abundance of courses queueing for entry onto that list. Ferndown feels special and the tree clearance promotes an intimate feel to the routing. The year we played the greens were the best I had played on all year and the manicured nature of the course must be commended. Dorset is a golfing giant that so many ignore, at their detriment.
Returned to Ferndown in August after a gap of a few years, Still a delightful heathland course with plenty of interest for a day out. Course condition was just out of this world unbelievable. Yes it was their open week, but it was worth the entry just to see the way the whole course was presented and to putt on the greens, which were stunningly quick and probably the best i have ever putted on. Some much higher ranked courses could learn a lot. Course is good but great work by the greenkeeper !
“It’s the first birdie of the day!” proclaimed our playing partner as Mrs W’s ball zipped down the second hole of Ferndown’s Old Course only to thwack into a seagull.
Seconds later another wing was clipped as the same thing happened to the group in front of us on the third.
Butterflies rather than birdies had been my problem in the opening holes because I was psyched out by our names being announced over a loudspeaker at the opening tee.
The mixed open during Ferndown’s festival week was presented with same gravitas as the Ryder Cup. Alas, I wasn’t sure that my game was up to the tremendous billing.
The picturesque Dorset course, synonymous with the Alliss family, was superbly presented for the competition.
Fairways had recovered impressively from recent rain and were cut in a light and dark before the criss-cross patterns in front of the greens. Putting surfaces were pacey but readable enough for me to sink a couple of monsters.
Not that we had it all our own way – far from it. This is a serious test of golf and many of the holes demanded harder hitting power than I possessed.
The first lays a marker - a stroke index 13 which was 401 yards according to my Garmin watch.
I can testify that a decent drive is not the end of the story because no less than seven bunkers protect the hole.
Pringles is the name of the third hole where Mrs W’s crisp shot almost killed wildlife. It is a challenging par four which bends to the right and needs care to avoid overshooting into the colourful bushes at the back of the green.
The fifth is a par three which plays longer than is 204 yards because of the slope just in front of the green. I flushed a driver and still came up a couple of yards short.
I was a fan of the par-five seventh, called Elysium – an ancient Greek word which means afterlife. Well, I was in heaven – going through a green framed by colourful bushes and attractive apartments and then chipping in my return for a non-feathery birdie.
The eighth is also my bag. A shorter par four which requires strategy to avoid bunkers on the left and trees to the right, before hitting a green on a hill.
The 12th and 14th are fun par threes – the former surrounded by trees and bunkers while the latter is more accessible with a green in a bowl.
The short 16th is also interesting because brighter golfers than me will realise that a driver will probably cause an overshoot into gorse – whereas a well-placed iron will reap greater reward.
The 397-yard 17th has the defence of a ditch to dissuade cowards such as me from going for broke in two.
Meanwhile, the 18th is a cracking finishing hole – uphill towards the clubhouse, weaving through bunkers. I played to my handicap and floated up a pitch with my third before nailing a 30-footer for my par in front of the clubhouse (why didn’t they announce my name after that?!)
Our playing partner’s handicap was a dazzling plus-two so I was keen to hear her opinion of Ferndown Old.
She agreed that it was in fantastic condition but too many of the holes demanded a long second shot, leaving her relying on the same club more often than she would expect.
I agree. We very much enjoyed Ferndown because it has an immediate wow factor. From arrival at its fabulous clubhouse with quality food, friendly staff, excellent practice facilities and the attractiveness of the course.
But I like variety and am a fan of the quirky – Ferndown doesn’t have much of the latter and is, consequently more of a pure golf experience than its near-neighbour Broadstone which we had played two days previously.
But, hey, they were both great in their own ways.
Ferndown is fantastic. A gorgeous heathland course that compliments its neighbours Parkstone and Broadstone, and makes you feel like you're in Surrey.
The first is a great downhill par 4 with some of the best bunkering you'll see short of the green. 2 3 4 5 are all good holes, and the 6th is a great uphill par 4 back towards the clubhouse. 8 is a short par 4 by the clubhouse which is also a great hole. My only criticism of the course is the back nine isn't quite as good.
A wonderful course that is a must play if in the area
What a course. What an experience. What a member's club. If I could play only one course as a member for the rest of my golfing days, this could be the club.
The course was in pristine and immaculate condition. The greens were fast but playable. Visually, the course was stunning.
The first is a straight par 4 from an elevated tee looking out at some brilliant bunkering. I thought to myself that we don't always see too many straight holes and too many straight ones that looked that amazing.
The course had enough changes in elevation, green complexes and types of hole to leave you satisfied and coupled with the impressive trees, fauna and heath-rimmed white bunkers, it made for such a memorable experience. The members and staff were so friendly that it added up to nigh on the perfect golfing experience, which surpassed our expectations.
Wow, wow wow. My personal #278 course in England and # 411 worldwide.
This is right up there as my top "wish I was a member here course".
Everything previous reviews mention about the perfectness of the facilities for members regarding practice facilities, putting greens, tees, immaculate presentation, speed of greens etc applies.
We played it (after the "worth playing" 9 holer) as round #7 of our five day Dorset trip (which we booked through YGT and I was pleasantly surprised what a good deal we got).
The welcome from staff, the clubhouse, the views (especially from balcony) of the course, the locker rooms are all exemplary....the blue print for a members club.
Ferndown is even more perfect than Parkstone was on day 1.
Broadstone is tougher...that might ,are it a better course depending upon how you rank it ??? as is Remedy Oak, but overall I would firmly rank Ferndown as the very very best course/club to visit or - if you are lucky enough - to join.
Firstly, I want to say that Ferndown golf club may be home to some of the fastest greens I have ever played on in my life. The course condition is immaculate and the greens truly are levels above any others that I have putted on before. They are very undulated so putting on them is tricky but then again, that makes it all the more enjoyable.
The course itself is spectacular, beautiful heathland golf course which looks lovely from hole 1. You ease into the golf course with a relatively short par 4 to begin with, however the 2nd hole is a 180 yard par 3 which requires an accurate shot to find the green. The favourite hole for me would have to be the 14th which is a beautiful looking par 3, not too long, but surrounded by bunkers and a tricky up and down if the green is missed.
Ferndown truly is an awesome golf course which is kept in top notch condition, definitely worth every penny you pay to play this golf course. I’m tempted to give it 5 1/2 but there is just something about it which puts it in brackets below the likes of swinley, west sussex, alwoodley or woking. Still a top top golf course though, one of my favourites for sure!
Albeit flatter and more tree-lined than its neighbours at nearby Parkstone and Broadstone, Ferndown is another Dorset heathland gem. It must be a great course to be a member; you could throw a blanket over the practice green and net, first tee and clubhouse, whilst that golf-fix for a few evening holes can be easily satisfied as options of both a loop of six or eight are available at the start of the round due to the multiple loop options that return you back to the clubhouse.
The course is an easy walk since there are no severe hills to climb and tees are typically less than a half-wedge away from the previous green making Ferndown a very compact course. I’ve played the course twice now, spanning a period of four years between rounds and the bunker rework carried out over that period is of the highest calibre. Many of the bunkers, with the 4th hole probably being the best example, pop up above the ground providing extraordinary visual features rather than being embedded below the surface like most courses’ bunkers. The sandy areas on the 1st and 6th holes are especially remarkable examples of bunker design with the latter being beautifully natural with its shredded turf appearance. The 8th is another hole that’s defined by its bunker; a smidgen over three hundred yards, you could be mistaken to thinking this hole presents an easy birdie opportunity, but with the massively intimidating Warren bunker combined with an upturned saucer green and bushes tight to the rear, there’s plenty of protection on this hole to punish any slightly miscued shots.
Aside from the bunkering, a couple of the par four holes are protected by their proximity to the boundary line, 3 and 16 both coming immediately to mind, where the rhododendron bushes and white ‘out of bounds’ posts immediately at the rear of the greens offer plenty of intimidation. The 16th is also best characterised by its green; whilst in general, the greens at Ferndown are interesting without being wild, 16 breaks this mould as it’s a fantastical multi-tiered surface where placing your ball on the same tier as the pin will mean you’ll have relied on luck as much as skill and good judgement.
The course is by no means long, and its par fives all offer genuine opportunities for birdie, but to offer contrast to this, the dogleg par fours at the 9th, where there is a tiger-line available to cut the corner, and the rising left to right dogleg 13th, that extends to 452 yards uphill before approaching an oversized false-fronted green, help bring some needed muscle to the course. Ferndown is not an easy place to score though, due to its tight tree-lined routing and tricky bunkering arrangements, accuracy will be key to any golfer who wants to play a round that does justice to their handicap.
Arriving early at the golf club, friendly staff and members made us feel most welcome. Yes, the starter was a bit long winded on the do's and don'ts but as the vista over the golf course is so picturesque, it was easy enough to focus on something else. The course itself is so playable and an easy walk. The greenkeeping is to a very high standard with a particular shout out to the greens and truly excellent bunkers. At just over 6,200 yards from the yellow society tees, some will find the course a tad short but perfect for the senior player. I loved the first hole, found a couple of short par 4’s fun to play and honestly could not find any hole to fault. Perhaps not as challenging as Broadstone but of the top Dorset courses, this must rank as the most enjoyable to walk and play.
When I go to a golf club, especially a well-established one, I like to feel like a member for the day. On tour in Dorset playing what are widely regarded as the top four clubs in the county, the only place I did not get that was the day we played Ferndown Old.
If the criteria for reviews posted on these web pages are purely the golf course then I concede that the Old Course at Ferndown is a first class layout delivering a decently smooth flow between green and tee box with some genuinely terrific golf holes in the mix.
Yet despite paying £110 each, visitors are clearly deemed as secondary to members and are given their own changing room where there is a large poster with the correct clothing shown on one side and the incorrect stuff on the other. I seriously doubt that anyone wearing flip-flops, denim cut-offs and a football top would head to Ferndown anyway, but he would never get past the door.
There is a sign in the car park telling visitors do not change into golf shoes outside and when one leaves the changing room one is given another list of dos and don’ts from the starter. One cannot take one’s clubs within five yards of the green. Why?
I quite understand why one should not take a golf trolley into the heather, but what is wrong with taking it nearer the green? Unfortunately my shirt had slipped out and I was told to put it back in. It was rather like being back at school and one was embarking on one’s first round. My fourball included our club professional who is not likely to lack the required etiquette and nor were me or my two other companions.
The course redeems much of this although there were no stroke savers so on holes like the short par five ninth it is not clear to the first time visitor what the line is. And only being able to walk on designated paths adds time to one’s round for no apparent reason.
There is a lengthy instruction on the short par four 16th where one plays left of a fiendishly tiered green that is rather like reading a legal document explaining the risks to the individual golfer of slicing into adjoin gardens. Two more fine finishing holes, take us up the clubhouse.
Sadly we also experienced a very much them and us atmosphere in there too with members getting served even if they had approached the bar after us and not one of the three women working behind the bar ever looked up at us to say, ‘I will be with you in a minute.’
So there it is: a four to five star golf course in a beautiful setting with slick, immaculately maintained greens, but as an overall experience that I would take away with me from my day no more than three. It would be the one course of Dorset's top four that I would not return to.
I am sorry to read that you did not fully enjoy your experience at Ferndown Golf Club. I have taken note of your feedback and will consider what further steps we can take to ensure visitors, who are most welcome at Ferndown, do feel like a member for the day (which is our wish). Delighted that you enjoyed the golf course and we do hope that you will visit us again. Ian Walton GM
We played Ferndown as visitors and we thought we got a very warm welcome. The changing rooms were fine and we didn't mind the visitors changing room being separate. The course was in fantastic condition and it looks like they have done a lot of work on it in recent years. We thought it was the nicest course we played out of the top 4 Dorset courses and should now be much higher rated and would recommend anyone to play it if they are going to Dorset