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).
In terms of playing the course it really does build as the dunes become bigger the further you get from the club house, (personally if I was to alter the course I'd change the first to play a par 4 down the practice ground, this is my opinion and probably wrong, but I think the 1st is a poor opening hole, I'd then change the 2nd into a long par 4 rather than a nothing par 5). However as you get further from the clubhouse the fun starts with the 6th being the first of a long run of very different and interesting holes .The 8th is very much like Royal St George's SI1, but much much shorter. The 11th is one of the best par three links holes I have played, in fact I struggle to think of a better one on the south east coast in terms of a short challenge (obviously there is the Maiden at Royal St George's for sheer dramatics). Then there are the completely different challenges of the 12th and 13th across some very large hill like dunes (don't be tempted in summer to drive the 13th somebody watched my ball bounce out of bounds today). The 14th is also a good par five although there seems to be a spare green further on by the 15th tee which if used would make it a truly great and very tough hole with the marsh all down the left. After that you are back to the flatter on the way to the club house with some long and testing par 4's with water and some big carries.
It's really worth the visit and is a friendly place to be, just get chatting to the charming pro Ray Gadd to get the idea. I just think the club needs to concentrate on the course a little more, they really have a great historical links here and they really need to treasure it a little more.