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 the whole of the British Isles.
If you’re going to take your non-golf playing partner out onto the golf course, then look no further than Isle of Purbeck. The views here are spectacular. Located above Poole harbour, a stretch of beautiful heathland and woodland lie below you with sea views in the distance.
Whilst the sweeping panorama is breath-taking, the first four holes on their own merit are a little bland. That’s until you step up onto the 5th tee which, bar none, is my favourite tee shot in golf. In truth, the whole golf hole from tee to green is pretty special and makes the course a “must-play” on this single experience alone. Naturally, the tee box takes up the most elevated position on the course to maximise those wonderful views. You’re then faced with an intimidating drive over gorse and vegetation to hopefully land your ball onto what appears to be only a slither of a fairway. In truth, you don’t need to take your driver from the tee and there’s more width in the landing area than you realise from up high. The hole then gently curves to the right with an infinity style green awaiting in the distance.
Whilst the 5th is spectacular, the Purbeck Course is much more than this hole alone. Playing over heathland with aspects of links characteristics to boot, the next few holes return you back to the clubhouse before making another about-turn towards the edge of the hill again to allow you to soak up more of those splendid views.
The 8th, a lovely dogleg par five takes you towards the same horizon as the 5th whereas the 10th “The Narrows” is a gorgeous par four played along the edge of a precipice to an isolated green framed by gorse and heather clad mounding and was undoubtedly one of my favourite holes on the course. The layout then takes a shift-change on the 11th with a parkland style signature par three where the green is enveloped with fir trees. The remainder of the layout sadly eases you away from those vistas as you move inland but still offers some excellent holes taking you up and down across a heathery landscape. 16 is what I would describe as the last of the noteworthy holes where a stream is strategically placed perpendicular across the fairway to guard the hole from anything too aggressive off the tee. The approach shot is then played to a green perched unusually atop of the crest of a plateau that’s askew from the line of the fairway.
I think you’ll gather from my assessment that I loved much of the course layout and would place the landscape as maybe the best in the county. The ground is varied and whilst obviously more heathland in its nature than any other style, it is somewhat of a hybrid with hints of moorland and links. On the negative side, and main the reason I can only give the course a 4-ball rating is the condition of the course. I may be doing the course a disservice having played it in November, but I found the putting surfaces to be slow and the course in general was a little rough around the edges and in need of some TLC. Some may also find that the test of the golf course isn’t a particularly strong challenge. That being said, given some serious investment, the golf club would without doubt receive much more recognition and could find itself rising in the rankings. An uncut diamond if I ever I saw one.
Tom’s review is pretty much bang on, although I loved the approach shot to the tough par four 2nd hole (see image right) which features a lovely greensite in front of the clubhouse which is ringed with bunkers. Perhaps suggesting the first four holes are a little bland is maybe harsh, although compared to what comes at the 5th then it’s a fair comment.
The 5th has become one of my favourite holes in English golf. Tom’s description of the tee shot is absolutely correct but the approach shot, for me, is even better than the tee shot (see image below). It’s a truly wonderful second shot to a gorgeous infinity green which falls off sharply to the right, left and at the back. It’s incredibly tough to hit the dance floor and it’s certainly an approach from the absolute top drawer.
The bunkering on this hole, and indeed quite a few others, is actually very good. Blow-out styled and heather fringed, but there are some truly weird flat bottomed modern-shaped traps scattered around the routing which have absolutely no place on this wonderful heathland course.
Yes, Isle of Purbeck is a heathland course in my book. Some call it moorland, some have even oddly called it a links, but this is surely heathland and the heather is pretty thick and tangly in many places.
I loved every moment of my game here last Friday in glorious winter sunshine. The condition was good for mid-November. The new management has turned things around quite a bit since Tom played here last November. There’s still a way to go and I’d recommend the club commission an architect with a sympathetic approach to take a look at what can be done to reinstate the authenticity of the design.
It’s clear that bunkers have randomly appeared here and there over time. It’s possible that some old photographs can be found which show the location and style in which the original traps were designed. If these images are not available I’d suggest adopting the blowout style which look natural in this vast landscape and already work harmoniously on many holes.
With the investment in the right areas, Isle of Purbeck could give any of Dorset’s “premier” heathland courses a run for their money. It’s my type of course that has grand scale and plunging topography. Factor in the seaside backdrop and it’s hard to beat. The one-shot holes are pretty good too – as you’d expect from a Colt course.
I’d probably award Isle of Purbeck 5 balls based on what I saw a couple of days ago. Keith Baxter
The Isle of Purbeck is often noted for its glorious 360 degree panoramic vista over the nature reserve that its engaging holes have been thoughtfully etched through. The views are indeed superb yet the course is every bit their match.
The course is unquestionably of its own character, it cannot easily be stereotyped into “links”, “heathland”, “parkland” etc… as we often like to do. This is its ace card.
The terrain, in the heart of Enid Blyton country, is ideal for golf; naturally undulating, fast, firm and exposed to the wind. At times it plays like a links with the ground game the preferred way to approach many of the greens. Other times you should use the lofted route as you play to raised greens or have to carry greenside bunkers. Many times the choice is yours. The key to all this is that there are options and you must work the ball, often thinking outside the box.
The routing is beautiful and takes us on adventure around what can only be described as a wondrous property; sand, heather, gorse and bracken abound with the sea visible from virtually all parts. Wherever you look the landscape appears to be painted with every colour of the rainbow.
Isle of Purbeck is far from perfect, has its flaws (although the site has enourmous potential) and not everything is rosy. That said, I can forgive it its weaknesses because there are so many high points and the ‘joy to be alive’ factor is unbelievably high when playing here. The Dorset heathlands are lovely, pretty and conditioned better but if I had just one round in the County I would choose here.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
I've been lucky to play the Isle of Purbeck a couple of times, and can highly recommend it both as a small game and as a Society.
The area itself is lovely, the trip over the Sandbanks chain ferry notable, and if you like real ale a stay in beautiful Corfe Castle will be memorable, but go for a mid morning tee time !
The course itself is a clifftop linksy heathland course, with bone hard fairways in the Summer, amazing views and some really challenging shots.
Probably the only course I've played that has GUR due to oil oozing up to the surface !
Tip - on the signature 5th hole with views over Poole Harbour you only need a mid iron to clear the gorse and hit the blind hogsback fairway, on neither occasion did i finish the hole over-excited as I was by the views and joy to be alive.
Very friendly and good value club, excellent real ale and food deals, definitely visit if in the area.