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).
This was my very first true game of links golf on England’s south coast. Those of you who know the area will understand why, as there are very few proper links tests on the southern most coastline of the U.K. This gives Hayling a particularly special status and means it is held with great affection by those who are lucky enough to play it.
The clubhouse is an imposing one that displays a blend of Art Deco and nautical grandeur akin to the similarly attractive seaside design at Castle Stuart. It sits guarding the ground beside the 18th green and 1st tee (as many great links clubhouses do) and surveys the scene across Hayling Bay and beyond. Make sure you stop for a drink on the balcony after your round to lap up the views and the ambience.
This dagger shaped piece of Hayling Island is a special strip of links land with a recognisable and memorable character. My overriding feeling after playing the course is that it displays a real identity, an engaging ebb and flow and asks a multitude of questions of your golf game. We played the course in January and the condition of the course (particularly the greens) was highly impressive. I’m led to believe that it is a must to visit here in summer, with the various flora and fauna in full bloom to see it at its best, so I plan to do just that.
The highlights; well there were a lot of asterisks and notes on my scorecard which is always a good sign. The 3rd is an attractive hole with a characterful back to front green complimented by a deep pot bunker acting as its gatekeeper. The 5th is an incredible par 3 which tells you all it needs to from its name ‘Narrows’. The bean shaped green is 34 yards long but no more than 12 yards wide with run offs on three sides and a devilish bunker on the fourth. The other smile inducer on the front side is the par 5 7th ‘Death or Glory’. I always love a hole that asks for opposing shot shapes and a solid left to right drive here that finds the fairway will leave a possible chance to reach the green in two favouring a shape in the opposite direction. The decision to take it on will be defined by the execution of your drive and in fact, a cautious approach to the hole will probably result in just as successful an outcome.
The truly wonderful stretch of golf runs from holes 10-14. At 269 yards, the 10th is a bundle of fun reachable par 4 that allows golfers of all abilities the chance to hit a round defining shot (depending on the wind direction). It’s not all plain sailing here though; the sole bunker is well placed at around 200 yards and very much in play which means you will require a precise plan to avoid it. The 11th is another special par 3 but is somewhat overshadowed by the holes that sandwich it. Hole 12 named ‘Desert’ is indeed a ‘very demanding’ par 4 as the stroke saver states. In fact I’d put that up there for the stroke saver understatement of the year award. 462 yards, intimidating at every turn and a well defended green site mean this has all the hallmarks of being the make or break hole of most scorecards.
Work was being undertaken on holes 13 and 14 when we visited with 14 completely out of play and replaced by spare hole 14A (a really nice par 3 in its own right). You can see the continuing theme of quality with these two holes though and the addition of the new Himalaya style waste bunker in the face of the bank protecting the 13th fairway, is a memorable spectacle.
A couple of points that I felt could elevate this course even further up the rankings were firstly to increase the question asked of you on the 1st. Par 3 starting holes are often as divisive as marmite but this opener is on the weaker side of the examples I have seen. I believe plans are afoot to strengthen the challenge posed here which will benefit the whole offering. The other hole that I felt a tinge of disappointment with was the SI1 6th hole named ‘Cutting’. I recall hearing Gil Hanse once talk of always giving the golfer hope and this is one hole that really doesn’t allow many options for the average golfer. The burn that cuts the fairway between 330 and 390 yards into this hole effectively turns it in to a par 5 for the all but the most accomplished players. The sheer width of the hazard and position on the hole make it an overly punitive foe in my opinion. I’m sure it’s champions would point to the fact that it is rated the hardest hole on the course and therefore, poses the most stringent examination which deserves to be approached with the upmost reverence.
All in all, as a collective offering, I was blown away by Hayling. Courses that ask varied questions are always the most memorable and I can remember all 18 holes here after one visit. That is always my benchmark for a golf course that I’d like to visit again and Hayling most definitely resides in that category.
Hayling is a beautifully, natural seaside layout positioned on Sinah Common, a site of Special Scientific Interest at the very southern tip of Hampshire.
The front nine serves as a very satisfying starter before the main course, the back nine knocks your socks off - particularly the stretch of 10 thru 15 - enthralling holes in and around some mighty impressive dunes and encountering some fantastic fairway undulation, the highlight being the terrific 2-tier fairway on 15.
Hayling has its quirks, with a number of blind shots throughout the round but these only embellish the challenge presented before you.
Hayling is steeped in great history and tradition, Harry Vardon is said to have played an exhibition match against James. Braid here in 1902 before 5-time Open Champ John Henry Taylor was brought in to make upgrades to the course and later Tom Simpson in 1933 left his mark on the fine layout.
Remnants of World War 2 defences can be seen on the holes as you approach the turn - land to the west of the 7th was occupied by the ministry of defence and provided protection from Luftwaffe attacks on nearby Portsmouth Docks.
Hayling has wonderful presence and is a must play.
Simply put, Hayling is one of the best links courses you’ll find anywhere in the UK - and maybe even the world!!!
Why it is ranked so low I will never know! Amazing views just blend in to one there’s so many, and the course backs them up with a fantastic layout that is challenging in its own way, but very playable.
Links is not my favoured style of course so to walk of this rating it so highly probably tells the whole story from me!
We drove 3 hours to play this, I’d drive a lot longer if I had to.
Absolute classic, and an absolute must
Not trying to be "that guy," but I hope you can provide some further detail on what makes Hayling the prime links course for you, perhaps by contrasting it against some other courses that others might traditionally hold higher? I see that you've played Liverpool, but I know that's one that frequently divides audiences.
Hi Ryan - I’m sure you’ll agree that how a golf course plays is very subjective: weather, company, greens, cost, hangover etc etc so there are a lot of factors at play before you’ve even shanked one off the first!
But Hayling stands out amongst most if not all, other than Trump International.
There are some fantastic panoramic views of the sea/estuaries which give you that picture postcard quality, but it is the actual layout and playability of the course that is the real stand out feature.
Some real links style holes throughout, classic mounding, blind tee shots, pot bunkers, dips and swails - it’s got the lot. It’s probably not as penal as some courses, although the razor sharp gause means anything heading that way is a gonner, whilst a lot of links courses are open other than the occasional beach or sea!
The condition of the course was also outstanding, with traditional links style greens in top condition.
We all just walked off having loved every single hole and that in itself is a rarity, if you haven’t played it and are down that neck of the woods then I recommend you give it a go!
Thank you, Jordan...I hope you'll consider emulating your response to my request in future reviews! Much more telling!
Played today and bearing in mind it’s the middle of November I can’t believe the course could’ve been in any better condition. From the welcome in the pro shop to the members we encountered on the course, this must be one of the friendliest clubs in the country. Not a fan of an opening Par 3, even less so with a steaming hangover, but it grabs your attention right from the start and lets you know it’s not going to be an easy day. Greens ran pure and true and there wasn’t any need for preferred lies to be in place given the excellent condition of the fairways. Everyone in our 4ball agreed that this is a great course and really should be ranked far higher than it is. Having experienced the excellent breakfast beforehand my only regret is that we didn’t have time to stay for a drink and lunch afterwards. I’ve no doubt I’ll be back to play again in the future.
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!