The vista from the Isle of Purbeck golf course is breathtaking, for the course is positioned on a high heathland plateau and the 360-degree panorama continually interrupts one’s concentration of the game at hand. To the south across the Solent is the Isle of Wight, to the east across Poole Bay is Bournemouth, to the north across Poole harbour is Brownsea Island and Poole Harbour beyond and lying to the west, the Purbeck Hills. If there is a golf course where you could drag your non-golfing partner along, this is it. He or she will be more than happy to drink in the views.
Whilst this is seaside golf, this is not links golf; Isle of Purbeck Golf Club is set in a heathland nature reserve, decorated with a profusion of gorse, heather, rare flora and fauna. The club was founded way back in 1892 and was modified at the turn of the 20th century by one of the all time great architects, Harry Colt. Enid Blyton and her husband once owned the Isle of Purbeck Golf Club and no doubt the surroundings inspired her writings.
We won’t place Isle of Purbeck in the “championship” category. For a start, the course measures less than 6,300 yards from the medal tees. On the other hand, we won’t dismiss it as holiday golf either because the challenge is significant. As we have already mentioned, the course plays on high ground and is fully exposed to the winds. There are four long par fours and a collection of extremely challenging par threes. More importantly, you’ll need to keep the ball out of the gorse and heather.
Bournemouth is not necessarily regarded as the most popular location for a serious golfing break, but there are some fantastic courses to be played, including Broadstone, Ferndown and Parkstone. We think though that the Isle of Purbeck is one of the best golf courses in Dorset. The view from the Isle of Purbeck’s elevated 5th tee is worthy of the green fee by itself; it’s one of the most scenic tee shots in Britain.
In July 2021, architect Tim Lobb tweeted that his firm, Lobb and Partners, is “thrilled to start” an “exciting long term golf and landscape enhancement strategic plan” at the Isle of Purbeck.
By the ‘flaming sword of Haile Selassie’, I declare the fifth hole at Isle of Purbeck the most dramatic I have played in the top 100 quest so far.
The mystery over why the revered Ethiopian emperor’s ceremonial weapon hangs in the clubhouse is matched by why this picturesque course has been allowed to decline.
Selassie died in 1975 and I can well imagine that the Isle of Purbeck was a rare jewel back then.
Sadly, it is no longer and, while the views over the sea are outstanding, its fairways are unkempt and greens are scratchy.
This is a huge pity. With love, this could be in England’s top ten but it seems more likely to drop out of its top 100.
There is no doubt that the over-riding memory of this Harry Colt-designed track is the vista across the Dorset coast.
We were there on a wonderful summer’s day when we could see for many miles and the backdrop is most stirring on the 4th green and from the fifth tee.
The latter is an incredible hole which doglegs sharply from left to right after a tee shot onto a slither of landing area. A hit too far finds gorse and anyone being too ambitious by trying to cut off the corner is likely to find a valley of sand and stone.
The putting surface is perched on the cliff, making full use of the dazzling scenery.
The fifth comes after quite a strange opening which sees the second hole wind back to the club house and a walk across the car park before the short par-four third.
We had witnessed the perils of the second while having our pre-game lunch but learned little. It is a long par four to an elevated green which was pretty tricky to read.
This wasn’t helped by the surface which, in common with all on the day, was lumpy with a surprisingly long grass cut.
Meanwhile, the fairways contain barely a blade and look as if they would take some very serious work to put right.
This is particularly evident on the 12th which conjured thoughts of a soft black moonscape.
If they could be reclaimed, there are holes on the Isle of Purbeck which could be classics.
These include the 8th, a bending par five which requires some precise hitting to prevent the ball from sliding into trouble.
Ditto the 10th, curiously named The Narrows despite not being narrow at all. In common with several holes, it has a blind tee shot and a bush to the right of the target which draws in overstruck approaches.
The 11th begins the section of the course which feels more like parkland and is a splendid par three over unfriendly terrain. It is called The Island but isn’t on an island.
The 13th is an interesting hole across a brook (for once, its name Dyke suits it), and then up to another highly-placed pin.
The most perplexing is the short 18th, stuffed between the first and the 8th (we witnessed a row when a chap coming down the latter played the wrong ball!). I would say it is the least impressive home hole I have played anywhere.
This rather sums up The Isle of Purbeck… grand unfulfilled promise.
As well as the course needing attention, the clubhouse is well populated but feels dated (there is even an empty cigarette machine) and the practice area appears a tad unloved.
But here’s the rub. Our rounds cost just £26 each. They will doubtlessly be the cheapest visitor rounds on the whole top 100 odyssey.
So, in terms of value for money, it would rank very highly. But maybe there needs to be an analysis of the club’s economics because visitors will surely be dissuaded from a trip to the relatively remote spot if the basics are not sorted out.
I live in hope. As Haile Selassie said: “Who can foresee what spark might ignite the fuse?”
Terrific review as ever, They have appointed a new Master of the Greens in 2021, formerly of Wimbledon Park, Famously the best kept course in London, so I am expecting the condition to match the pedigree very soon.
Umm, how do you rate this course? As mentioned already, the views of the landscape are STUNNING and you will struggle to find better views on any golf courses. I also enjoyed the layout. The tee shot from the 5th will set the pulse racing and the par 3 at 11th is not for the faint hearted.
The problem came with the condition. We have had drought conditions during some recent summers, but even so the fairways were poor. I was told the Club is restricted on using chemicals to promote grass growth, which is a shame from a golfing point of view. The greens were okay, but not great.
We got a County Card rate and paid about £40 which I felt was all things considered was reasonable value.
I would say you should choose to play here simply for the views!
Quite possibly some of the best views on any golf course in the UK, particularly from the standout 5th tee where you are seemingly hitting your drive out into Poole Harbour, make this a worthwhile trip.
Aside from this the course is enjoyable, if not pristine, and the club is friendly located on top of the hill overlooking the coastline and the harbour. The long(ish) par 3 11th is another beauty, carrying bracken downhill into a green surrounded by pine trees, but there are also some more standard inland sections that perhaps drop this course from “outstanding” to “very good”.
A must play for the views alone, and the more gentle links setup is not without its challenges which could test players of most levels.
Quite literally breathtaking views wherever you look, and a layout that is both challenging and playable. When the wind blows it can make you want to give up the game, but what a fantastic course.
The fairways were poor and the greens were very very average, so that is why it is marked down, but another course that you simply must play
The views are stunning for sure.I played yesterday on a nice sunny and slightly windy day but conditions were fantastic to be fair. What a real treat. Complete peace and tranquility over looking the sea. A really tricky course but completely satisfying and worth a trip. Very friendly welcome on arrival despite being nearly 20 mins late!
With the isle of purbeck it is very much a course you go to play once in order to experience the excellent views that the club has to offer and then not go back again. The course overlooks the entire city of bournemouth leaving some absolutely exceptional views, the best of course being on the 5th tee which is arguably the best it gets in terms of attractiveness of a golf hole. The tee boxes were quite rough and the fairways were not too green or well kept. The greens are also unfortunately not the best and were quite sandy and bumpy but with the location of the golf course it rules out the green keepers use of certain machinery and chemicals which is a real shame. There are some holes which are really interesting and enjoyable and then there are others that leave you a bit uninspired. The opening 4 holes are below average golf holes and it doesn't help that the condition of the place is quite shoddy.
Holes like 5, 9, 10 and 11 are all great holes with a bit of character to them and there are a few decent holes on the back nine but many are quite average. In the winter the place is a total bog and I've heard from various people that it's not even worth paying a penny to play the course between November and March. However in the summer it is an enjoyable round on a beautiful golf course that can be a tough test if you're not able to keep the ball straight.
This review is spot on. No point keeping score at Purbeck really, given the bad conditioning and bad design of many holes. There's almost no grass at all left on the fairways, and too much grass on the greens, which are very slow. The 5th is very scenic but as another review said - you can hit a perfect shot and it will still kick your ball left into the gorse because of the fairway slope and firmness. Definitely not a top 100 course, but still scenic and worth visiting once.
The anticipation of playing a “top 100” course disappeared very quickly. The fairways have lost much of their grass, presumably due to a lack of rain / inability to fertilise and as a result were very patchy, requiring preferred lies. But far worse are the greens which were shockingly poor - apparently due to disease but very bumpy and incredibly slow. No real point trying to putt sensibly at all.
As with previous reviews it all seems quite sad. The layout of the course and views demonstrate why the course has been held in such esteem. The club also seems steeped in history.
Avoid for a while until until the course conditions return, but based on my experience today that may be some time. I hope one day to play IoP as it should be played.
This was a course i'd wanted to play for a long time but I think it maybe the last time. Unfortunately the fairways were gone and the greens were almost in maintenance mode. The scenery is truly unbelievable with the views over the harbour and the holes are a great mix of blind tees shots, elevated greens and rugged terrain. My fear is though the course has not been maintained and will never come back. The staff were very welcoming as were the members we spoke to.
I played on 15 July and can only echo the sentiments of this reviewer. There is an overwhelming sense of sadness when a really good golf course has lost its way - there was no grass on the fairways and the greens were also unfortunately very poor. I really hope the course can recover but it may take some time (some holes may have to close for a period), and Covid means that resources are stretched at this time. As I say, it's a good course and despite the condition, I enjoyed the round and the scenery is wonderful. There are a couple of outstanding holes on the course namely the dog leg left to right par 4, 5th with some dunes to carry on the tiger line, the very scenic short par 3, 9th where the purple heather was prominent and the downhill par 3, 11th. In fact the set of par 3s is of a high standard. To conclude, I am truly hoping that the course can find the conditioning it deserves.
I played this course in July 2020 and agree with this review. I have played and enjoyed the course many times over many years, but can only say how sad it is now for the course to be in such poor condition. most of the fairways have no grass and need a complete renovation and the greens are heading in the same direction. It needs a lot of money spending on it to return it to former standards. I spoke to a member who said the problems have been caused by poor weather conditions for peaty soil, and the lease of the land from the National Trust does not grant permission to use fertilisers anywhere on the course. In its current state it is a great place for a walk and to enjoy the majestic views. As regards golf, maybe enjoyable as a throwback to a time when courses were first created.
Returned in July 2020 and have to agree with all the June and July reviews and comments. Not sure if there is another course where I have such mixed emotions trying to balance layout/interest against condition.
First thing to say is this is an incredibly welcoming golf club from the professional in pro shop who offered a refund for one of our group who couldn't carry to the friendly club members who were only too happy to talk about the course and the welcoming team in the wonderful club house which has one of the most spectacular views all the way to Poole. Considering the recent weather the course was in wonderful shape and a credit to the green keeping staff. There are some great holes, the par 3s are not excessively long but each presents a different challenge and the blind dogleg 5th is a cracker. Myself and my partner will definitely back in the summer to test ourselves again.
Isle of Purbeck is a bit like a stylish uncle whose clothes and manner still reek class, but whose clothes are a bit threadbare. It does have the best views I’ve had on a golf course, it does have some standout holes: but it does also have average greens and some drought ravaged fairways.
It’s also by no means easy. Played off the whites there are some decent length forced carries, especially on 6, 11, 12 and (I think) 15. Everyone raves about 5, and it is magnificent from the tee, but I thought six snaking back up the hill was its equal; it’s a proper tough hole played against the prevailing wind requiring a good drive to avoid the bunker and then solid second and third shots.
As for the condition the main issue was the fairways, which were bone hard and very scruffy. With significant slopes stopping the ball was in some places impossible, a playing colleague hacked out of a bunker on the 6th wandered forwards and had to be directed back down the course as the ball was behind him.
But we had a lovely welcome and played a course like few others. I’d go back there, and take others. Not sure my golf is good enough to be a member.