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 had the pleasure of playing at Hayling for the first time with Keith (see below) and I'm very pleased that we finally got there. After a steady start the course builds nicely with the majority of holes from the 5th onwards being of the highest order. The terrain changes dramatically from the 7th with humps, hollows, ridges and gorse bushes aplenty nestling amongst the dunes. Add in a handful of blind shots, a few bomb craters, lovely slick greens and a couple of brilliant short par-4's and you have all the necessary ingredients for true links golf. The final few holes return to the flatter ground but as my scorecard shows, they still provide a stern challenge. The wonderful views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight add to a memorable experience. Underrated in my opinion. Brian W
I’ve been meaning to get to Hayling for years, but for one reason or another I’ve never made the trip. Yesterday I remedied the situation and was pleasantly surprised, even on a cool and overcast late winter’s day. There’s often misrepresentation that Hayling is the only true links course on the south coast between Rye and Cornwall – poor old Dawlish Warren is always overlooked; even the authors of True Links missed that particular Devon links. Can anyone think of any others? Anyway, Hayling is undeniably the best links course on England’s south coast to the west of Rye, some think it’s even Rye’s equal.
Hayling gets off to a rather prosaic start but that’s not to say the opening handful of holes are easy, because they are not, it’s just that the first few are flatish and not particularly exciting. The best holes are in the dunes at the western periphery of the property and any of these would complement a Britain & Ireland Top 100 golf course.
Over the years it’s obvious that the bunkering has been tweaked and there’s a combination of wonderful revetted traps and not so wonderful irregularly shaped bunkers that would look fine on a heathland course, fringed with heather, but seem out of character to my eyes. If the bunkers were uniform and the opening stretch of holes could be strengthened, perhaps by incorporating #14A into the routing, Hayling would be a permanent fixture in the GB&I Top 100. As things stand, despite its subtle greensites (and a couple of huge St Andrews-like greens), it’s likely to stay on the cusp of the very competitive GB&I ranking table. However, I thoroughly enjoyed my short time on Hayling Island and I’d recommend the experience to anyone. It’s a solid, understated, varied and immensely enjoyable links course.
Keith, I reckon Littlehampton, probably an hrs drive to the east of Hayling is proper links, it even makes it into the True Links, not that this is the bible, having played numerous courses in it that should not qualify (Southport Muni, Sheringham, Hesketh). Freshwater Bay on the Isle of Wight isn't far away from being a true links course either, maybe the ground is a bit high but plays like one.
LIttlehampton is a good shout Warren. I'd quite forgotten about that particular links... I must play it at some point.
By the time you assess the situation at the 9th tee, you begin to appreciate that this is definitely a course for very accurate driving and it is a little disconcerting having so many blind shots on a course you do not know. The marker post stands on top of a ridge. The hole doglegs to the left where the ridge is at its highest so a draw just right of the marker post is ideal.
One of the most memorable holes is the 13th, ‘Widow’. The tee shot is blind and there is no fairway in sight. The beach is to your immediate left and out of bounds. A straight drive into the centre of the fairway over the hill is the key. You then have an approach down a steep hill to the green. It is very easy to run through the green but be careful as out of bounds is only a few yards away.
The drive on the par four 17th is through a narrow opening with very thick gorse on either side. All along the far left is the lake which reaches almost to the lovely old art deco clubhouse. The temptation is to cut the corner but your best line is right of centre. The 18th features a wall of gorse on the left and heavy rough to the right. The green is 43 yards long so the pin position may require you to take one more club.
This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every English course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.