Hayling is set upon a Site of Special Scientific Interest, on the South West peninsular of Hayling Island. To the south, there are superb, panoramic views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight.
The golf club at Hayling was founded in 1883, and the five times Open champion J.H. Taylor, made major revisions in 1905. But, as Bernard Darwin said, in Golf Between Two Wars, the course “had been laid out in the days when there was confusion of thought between golf and steeplechasing. Even as Mr Wemmick said, ‘Hullo, here’s a church. Let’s have a wedding,’ so the early fathers of architecture said, ‘Hullo, here’s a sandhill. Let’s have a drive over it.’ There were far too many such shots on the original Hayling, with the result that ideal valleys, or rather narrow ways between the hills, were not used to the best advantage.” Tom Simpson reconstructed Hayling in 1933, and Darwin said: “The new broom had to do a great deal of sweeping-away and did it thoroughly. The result is a links that can hold its head up in the best company and yet has lost nothing of its ancient charm.”
It’s no surprise then that there are few blind shots at Hayling. The ground gently undulates between the dunes. There are, however, a number of semi-blind approach shots, making club selection challenging, especially when the wind is up. There is an overwhelming feeling of naturalness at Hayling and often the course appears slightly unkempt. We can forgive them for this, because Hayling is a friendly and open club. They allow people of all standards to play here during the summer season.
The course measures more than 6,500 yards from the back tees. It breaks you in gently and then really gets going after the turn when we enter the dunes. The 11th is a gem, a stunning par three called “Woolseners”. It measures a lowly 150 yards but it plays towards the Solent, and often, it’s into the prevailing wind – the elevated green is sited on a plateau and is well guarded by bunkers. The 12th is a tough par four, called “Desert” – presumably because it runs alongside the shore – where the green is sited against the dunes. The 13th takes its name from what was once a huge, ragged bunker, called “The Widow” (see below). The approach shot is over a hill with the Solent once more providing a pretty backdrop.
The bunker was filled in many years ago after problems with children building tunnels into it, one of which collapsed nearly killing the kids digging it. What was once a bunker is now a hollow filled with impenetrable scrub – a far greater hazard. Update courtesy of Martin Law.
Hayling has hosted the English Women’s Amateur championship on four occasions (1936, 1948, 1966 and 1983).
I first played Hayling in around 2017 when they had just begun renovations on the course - 4 years on and the new bunkers feel mature, the cleared scrub areas are penal again and the overall conditioning is perfect for a course of this genre.
After a fairly calm first four holes, every hole from the 5th to 13th really are the greatest hits. I love a course that asks questions off the tee and like any good links course the areas around the greens have fantastic hollows and shapes.
I feel Hayling is perhaps underrated, or perhaps it’s just on the up and will soon be where it belongs. It’s perhaps not a UK top 100 course but it will push very close.
Sometimes when you return to a course you are disappointed, but sometimes the opposite happens. I returned to Hayling two years after my first visit and absolutely loved it, so much so it is now in my own personal favourite top 20. Much of my previous review applies but second time round I understood the course, the blind shots and the strategies of placement off the tee. Still think the par 3's lack a little with two of them seemingly similar, but this is minor. Hayling Island is a cracking links course in good condition with many interesting holes, pot bunkers, narrow fairways etc etc. Fabulous !
A trip to Hayling is well recommended, utilizing the twilight rate of £50 provides fantastic value for money. Crossing onto the island to play creates a great feeling of anticipation. The club house is delightfully set out and really adds to the special feel of the golf course. The greens and the majority of the fairway were in great condition.
Whilst I am not a fan of opening par 3's, as I prefer a course to give you a welcoming drive to get you started, the first hole definitely sets a high quality that the rest of the course follows. The fairways are narrow, especially with a decent wind, which I assume is never far away here, but the immediate rough is forgiving.
The undulating greens and greenside bunkers are of top links quality and provide a thoroughly exciting challenge to your short game.
Enjoyable links golf on a very good course. Well worth a trip.
Hayling Island flies a little under the radar when it comes to the countries links courses. The clubhouse which is impressive gives excellent views of the course and the proshop staff were very helpful on the day we visited. The course starts with a gentle par 3 and is followed by a relatively easy par 5. Hole 6 which is S.I.1 is a very strong par 4 with a green that has a ditch protecting the entrance. The 10th is a fun drivable short par 4 with a narrow bunker less green….this is fun hole. 13th is an unusual par 4 where the player drives up onto a plateau before a shortish approach to a green that runs away from the player….OOB lurks over the back of this green for those who over club or approach from the rough. The last 5 holes are pretty demanding…more so if the wind is up and I agree with the previous reviewer regarding the 18th which is rather underwhelming. The greens at Hayling have always been excellent when I have visited and the course has plenty of very good holes to keep golfers of all standards interested.
Hayling Golf course on arrival promises much, situated amongst the sandhills adjacent to the beach overlooking the Solent and with it's very smart art deco clubhouse. The panoramic view from the balcony gave a good indication of the task ahead, although thankfully and unlike some other reviewers we were blessed with a warm albeit breezy June day.
Course was well presented throughout; greens were true and although not as quick or of the same quality as some similar ranked inland courses they were fine. Deep pot bunkers were well kept and added to the challenge.
After a couple of gentle holes the course really gets going on the 3rd, a difficult dog-leg par 4 where aiming at the marker post over a mound looked like it was a big carry for us mere mortals. Another good par 4 followed where once again line off tee was crucial. The 6th was probably the pick of the holes, stroke index 1 with a water filled cutting across the fairway very much affecting the second shot and meaning it was imperative to hit the fairway off the tee. This started the best stretch on the course from holes 6 to 12. Hole 7 was I thought the pick of the par 5's. On Hole 8 it took a while to work out where we were heading until we noticed a postage stamp area of fairway; a short par 4 requiring a rescue off the tee to the small area of fairway guarded by a bunker on the right hand side to gobble up balls drifting on the breeze, then a short iron is required blind over the intervening dunes. Hole 9 is another testing dog-leg par 4 where line off tee over dunes was vital. Hole 10 was a lovely looking short par 4 at 269 yards, with a raised tee (looking towards the sea) and large fairway bunker to avoid. Hole 11 is the pick of the par 3's, although in truth I thought the par 3's were probably the weakest part of the course. Hole 12 was another strong par 4 at 441 yards with green perched up on a plateau and requiring a fade into the pin in the back right hand corner. The drive on 13 was another one requiring local knowledge and the blind downhill shot to the green was fraught with the unknown. From the 14th in I thought the holes were good solid holes but they were less affected by dunes and mounds; could do with a stronger finishing hole.
Fairways are fast running and narrow (very narrow in places compounded by the dog-leg angle of many fairways) and bounded by long grass and gorse so accuracy is at a premium and I can't think of a course that I have played for the first time that I found harder to locate the fairways off the tee. There are blind tee shots and other tee shots where you are not sure of the correct line and this combined with the fast run-off and a 15-20mph crosswind made it very tricky; most courses make good use of directional marker posts and personally I feel that a few more would be beneficial to visting golfers at Hayling.
Overall I'm not sure what to make of Hayling. It is obviously good but there is just something missing but I'm not sure what because I love both links and tight courses; possibly missing a strong opening and finishing hole, possibly a similarity on the par 3's ?. Very different to the more open Barton on Sea and for me obvious comparisons with Pennard and Isle of Purbeck although without the same jaw breaking views, elevational change or variety of golf hole, but much better conditioning than Purbeck. Was it a fair course? .. not sure. What I do know is that (despite a 2 hour drive) a few days later I'm thinking I want to revisit to try again and learn how to play the course and that must be a good sign !
As I'm writing this review I am laughing to myself as I have an unfortunate history with Hayling island Golf Club. The first 4 times I came to play here every single time it was hammering it down with rain and blowing winds of 40mph+. I can assure you that on my 4th trip I was so close to giving up with the golf course and never coming back to play it again! Nothing to do with the course itself, just the weather was always against me and I thought I would never catch a good day! However it was 5th time lucky for me and I'm so glad I persevered because it is a wonderful track. The 5th time I played here it was a hot summers day, shorts and a T-shirt and best of all... no wind or rain!! The golf course is fantastic and every time that I turn up to play it I feel happy even when the weather isn't so good! It is a proper links golf course and can be absolutely brutal if you are not straight off the tee or cannot deal with wind very well. The fairways are quite narrow but that adds to the great test of golf that it is. Some of my favourite holes would be the 5th hole par 3, a par 3 with a very small and narrow green and a drop off all around it, you do not want to miss the green. The 13th hole par 4 is also one of my favourites as it is right by the sea. A fairly short par 4 with a single house plotted behind the green makes the hole look very nice and if you play it you will remember this one out of all the holes. It is a super course and I can't wait to play it again in the summer for the Hampshire amateur, lets hope the bad weather curse is over!
Played two rounds at Hayling on Friday despite the horrendous weather. Wind was 3 clubs coming straight from the west. Meant for an interesting day of golf. Pro shop is very welcoming and changing facilities are fine. Bar/restaurant is very nice and has great views over the course and food was good.
Pro warned us that the fairways had suffered from the long dry summer and this was evident on most holes. Obviously nothing can be done about this by greenkeeper. Greens were some of the best i've ever played on. they were superb.
also would recommend you carry bag rather than use trolley as trolleys aren't allowed in the rough because of its SSI status, so makes for a long round.
the course is one which is needed to be played twice as there are many blind tee shots which makes driving a lottery first time being played. 14 inwards is a nice stretch of holes, probably because they were down wind!
Overall i gave 4 ball ranking just based on the fairways being slightly poorer than expectation. but i would certainly recommend playing Hayling as overall is a very good links course, and they looked after visitors superbly. We all said that we would play this course again, which often isn't the case.
This is a cracking course, one that starts gently but really gets going around the 5th, from which point on there are a sequence of holes of great variety with all the shots required. I've played a few times now and am yet to survive 15-18 unscathed, holes which are long, into the prevailing wind, and with heaps of gorse awaiting you off the tee. It's a fair track though.
And, oh yes, watch out for (the quite large) adders! I got quite a shock....
Since Hayling Golf Club doesn’t sit within an area renowned for links courses such as Kent or Southport, it unjustly goes relatively unnoticed. That’s a real shame because it’s a links that deserves much greater attention.
As you arrive, take a look from the balcony of the Art Deco clubhouse that will naturally raise comparisons with its more elaborate cousin at Castle Stuart, and you’ll be sure to notice the sheer quantity of gorse that swallows up much of the land in front of you. It must look a delightful sight when the gorse is in bloom, not that playing in July meant that there was a lack of colour; patches of heather were just coming into flower offering a gorgeous purple hue across areas of rough.
Onto the course routing, and after a fairly benign opening par 3, the course asks you to shape your shots left and right over low rolling dunes for the first few holes. Alongside these fairways through the front 9, World War II concrete bunkers, known as pillboxes are dotted here and there. The 5th hole aptly named “Narrows” is where the course starts to gather momentum as you play a short iron to the slimmest of greens. The 6th is stroke index one and you’re asked to hit to a fairway that tapers in the further you strike your drive before hitting your second shot over a dry stream, mainly a large expanse of scrubland when I played it. The short 8th is an intriguing short hole where you need to hit a long iron from the tee towards a small fairway landing area before being faced with a blind pitch over dunes for your approach. The 9th is a blind tee shot that has you intrigued as to what lies over the dunes in the foreground, and after the driveable par 4 10th (dependent upon the direction of the wind) follow the three best holes of the course in quick succession.
The 11th is a par 3 into a raised plateau green surrounded by pot bunkers (pictured) and reminds me of a couple of short holes at Royal Birkdale. 12 is strong par 4 with a green cut into a dune that offers a magnificent backboard and a hidden bunker on the left that will snaffle any slightly pulled approach shot. The 13th is probably the most photographed hole on the course and a fabulous risk reward hole with another blind drive onto a heavily sloping fairway. The fairway banks fiercely right but still offers the opportunity for the brave or foolish to hit a well struck shot with a hint of fade to find the green. The closing holes offer a tough finish, particularly into what I assume is the prevailing wind. 15 and 17 are particularly challenging and both measure roughly 430 yards. Water hazards are never far away during these closing holes but don’t necessarily come into play. The clubhouse then overlooks the 18th fairway for what must be a terrifying drive if you’re holding onto a good score. The gorse flanks both sides of this narrow fairway in what I can only describe as a military like pincer-movement.
Whilst I’m not going to disguise the fact that I do have a bias towards links golf, I still think there’s enough of interest to Hayling to just sneak it into 5-ball territory. I wouldn’t class Hayling as one of the very top links of Southern England, but any avid links golf fan who doesn’t have Hayling on their résumé is definitely missing out.
Hayling is an extremely fast running golf course played over pure linksland. It begins at a nice steady pace then gathers momentum towards and around the turn before it gradually but emphatically builds to a crescendo at the 12th; one of the finest holes you will ever play.
However, unlike many other courses that noticeably peak at some point during the round, but then often fade away, Hayling continues to deliver over the subsequent holes too. This ultimately ensures its position as one of the country’s leading links courses.
The Club was established in 1883 but the course we play nowadays was mainly laid out by Tom Simpson in 1933 with only minor changes made since then. The present course serves up natural and classic links golf in abundance with a lovely rugged feel to many of the holes and where the ground game is well and truly alive.
One could argue that that final few holes aren’t quite demanding enough for a real top championship links course, and with the prevailing wind at your back there may be an element of truth to this, but should the breeze switch direction, even just a quarter, and like it often does at the coast, then I imagine it to be an intimidating finish.
The location of Hayling, on the windswept south-west tip of Hayling Island, is a stunning one with splendid views across the English Channel and towards the Isle of Wight but its isolation from other leading links courses mean that it goes somewhat under the radar. One must head 100 miles east before arriving at Rye whilst Burnham & Berrow in Somerset is the closest true links course to the west.
But if high quality links golf is a staple part of your diet then a trip to Hayling is essential.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.