Ferndown Golf Club is a pine and heathery heaven, set in pleasing manicured countryside and located 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.
There is no doubt that Ferndown is one of the prettiest and best-conditioned courses in the South and the club is not resting on its laurels. In August 2014, Murray Long was appointed as Courses Manager from Sunningdale Golf Club. Murray has further improved both the quality of the playing surfaces as well as the presentation.
Whilst the constant rain today didn't help to show the course in all it's glory, as one or two patches of surface water started appearing on some greens and fairways towards the end of our round, there were also just a couple of shortfalls with the conditioning of the course which let the place down a touch. That said, it is only the middle of March and I'm sure that these little issues will be righted within a month or so. The first noticeable thing was that the fairways were a little bare and patchy. The second is that the greens were a little bobbly and bumpy. A number of bunkers had also been remodelled and were not ready for play, but this is obviously a necessary improvement and I'm sure will also add to the quality of the course once completed. Maybe I'm being a little picky, but then I am spoiled as the condition of my home course at the moment is absolutely fantastic.
As for the routing and the quality of the holes; the routing on the front nine is quirky as you end up back at the clubhouse after 6 and 8, whilst the back nine takes you out and about in a sort of loop that encases the first six holes. All of the holes are very prettily framed with trees and heather, and there are a few memorable holes. Those that stand out are the 6th (the SI1 hole, and a good 400 yard uphiller), the 9th (a downhill dogleg left long par 4), the 12th (an excellent mid-range par 3 to a long and narrow green), the 15th (an uphill dogleg right par 4) and the 16th (a short dogleg right par 4). All the par 5's are disappointing and are what lets Ferndown down when compared to courses of a similar ilk. If a par 5 is not long (and none of the three of them are at Ferndown), then they should present a challenge in a different way, either by way of the hazards on the hole or by way of a significant change of direction or elevation to get the golfer thinking. Unfortunately, the three shotter's at Ferndown don't hit any of these criteria and are the only major disappointments on the course. All the other holes are good enough, without being outstanding.
In summary, Ferndown is a beautiful looking golf course and I'm sure it will be in immaculate condition during peak season, but at this time of year it left a little to be desired and there are a few holes that aren't up to the standard of the majority. Anthony.