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.
Date: May 03, 2018