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.
Date: July 06, 2017