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.
I had the pleasure of playing Isle of Purbeck this week and there are several points I would like to make. Some as a direct result of playing it and some from reading previous reviews.
The course geography is part of the Jurassic Coast, so high up and not far from the sea. As a result the wind was, and is likely always, a big factor. The wind not only affects the ball in the air but also dries the fairways out, so in the summer the ground is very firm and dry. Indeed there are many shots where stopping the ball is the primary concern. I don't see it as my place to criticise the course for this - the club is over a hundred years old - simply play it as it is. However I do find these conditions concentrate the golfers mind to really consider where the ball is going to go, and how it will react in the wind and bounce. To me this is part of what makes a good course. In this respect it has similarities to Aldeburgh, although not as long and also the greens are flatter.
A pair of holes that stands out are 13th and 14th - by no means signature holes, they are two straight par fours of equal length in opposite directions. One played down wind and the other into the wind. The interest is in discovering that different style shots and strategy can work for each. Recalling these I can think of another test of a good course - would I play it again? In a heartbeat, and what's more I'd play many of the holes completely differently.
The views from the Isle of Purbeck Golf Course of Poole Harbour and surrounding areas are stunning and the old world clubhouse is a treat.
The course itself however was just not my cup of tea in any way, shape or form. The conditioning of most of the course was extremely poor and the greens average. There were hardly any memorable holes apart from maybe the 5th and even that irked me. Because the fairway was so hard, good tee shots could be punished by running off to the left into the gorse and having an unplayable lie. The approach shot was also to a thin, rock hard green with steep run offs and all four of us blobbed the hole in varying ways. I just don't think golf should entail that good shots are punished and there were far too many holes like that at Purbeck when the course is really firm.
Its a shame as I was really looking forward to playing there but just came away with not enjoying the course and being disappointed by the conditioning and a layout that just didn't suit my eye. Although there are plenty of elevation changes, I didn't find the course fun or interesting unlike some people have done.
First thing you notice as you swing into the carpark at Isle of Purbeck are the views of Brownsea Island, Poole harbour, down the coast to Bournemouth at beyond. Just stunning !
Course is not bad either with an interesting mix of holes, infact I would say most holes are entertainingly good. The 5th is the signature hole (what a view) but I find it almost a bit too tricky when the ground is hard and running. Good par 5's at 6 and 8, a good variety of par 3's including the very difficult 11th (with trouble everywhere); infact too many good holes to mention really. I would say the weakest hole is 18 and I personally would start the course on current hole 3 and use current hole 2 as the 18th; both holes are right by the clubhouse and it seems entirely logical.
Find the fairways and you can score, miss the fairways and the gorse, trees, ferns, heather etc makes scoring very difficult and during the summer with hard running sloping fairways it is definitely not easy to find them off the tee. Not what I would call a holiday course as you need to have your 'A' game here.
Last played Purbeck during the summer of 2018 but have played it on a number of occasions previously and consistently the condition of the course (and in particular the greens) has been below par. Course layout and design is very good, views are fabulous but it is the greens condition that makes the long trip less enticing other than on an occasional basis. For me the consistently poor quality greens hold it back and I don't think it worthy of a top 100 rating and hence the reason for my 3.5 ball rating; improve course condition and it probably gets a 4.5 ball and becomes worthy of it's ranking.
Isle of Purbeck was one of the most pleasant surprises on our trip to the South West of England.
The location of the club gives a clue about the uniqueness of the course, since it is located on top of a peninsula to which we arrived through a ferry that makes the journey from Poole.
Some of the views offered by the course (especially from the tee of hole 5) deserve the cost of the green fee, but what really surprised us was the quality of many of its holes.
After a rather prosaic start, the field starts to gain interest from hole 3, a blind and drivable pair 4. The day we played, with the wind in favor, I had trouble finding my ball, until I saw it resting in one of the greenside bunkers, from where I did up and down for birdie.
However, the rest of the round, with a constant wind of about 50-60 km/h, was not a triumphant ride at all.
From there on, the challenge rises with each hole, from the spectacular 5th and the strong uphill par 5 6th, and reaches its climax, in my opinion, between holes 11 and 16. In particular, I found especially memorable the 13th hole, with its green set in the middle of a hill, which allows playing with the rear contour to try to bring the ball to the hole.
Again, as at the beginning of the round, the last two holes do not maintain the same level of quality, but they should not be discarded as bad holes.
As for the maintenance of the course, my feelings are found: on the one hand, I enjoyed the terrain of the fairways, firm and dry, but it is true that the fairways and greens, without being bad, were not in excellent shape. It is, perhaps, the only aspect of the course that remains clearly improvable.
However, this circumstance does not prevent my sincere appreciation for this authentic hidden gem.
Tremendous site with wonderful views on arrival. We played in early June and the overall condition of the course was - how can I put this ? - a little reminiscent of a welsh links......sort of scruffy, rugged, natural. After Broadstone, Parkstone and Remedy Oak this was a bit of a surprise but off we went.
A gentle start, first two holes (not sure why these are not the last two holes ?) go out and back to (the wonderful) clubhouse, and then a short but blind driveable (unless into the wind) par 4 third hole, followed by a par three.
After four holes I was level par .... and then came a bit of a come down.
The fifth tee - signature hole - has amazing views of the Isle if Wight, Bournemouth, Poole, a marker post, gorse.....and NO fairway. To be fair once you have savoured the magnificent view it is a straight forward shot down over the post leaving a perilous second into an awkward green. We all missed the fairway right and lost balls.
The next is a challenging uphill dogleg with gorse both sides and it is now that tearing the course up becomes a no return ! A variety of similarly challenging holes follow, accuracy is at an absolute premium ...and I didn't have it
The twelfth, stroke index 2, is an uphill drive onto a ridge leaving a shot to the green which appears to slope back to front. I left my second slightky short and tried a linksy bump and run with a seven iron which went up and had a look at the back flag...and then turned left and came back down off the front of the green. It was still moving when my playing partners putted !!!
It dies not look that steep and the greens do not look that immaculate, but I still cannot believe what we saw happen.
It beat me up. I scored 12 points on the first four holes and I think I made it angry as I only scored 12 more points on the remaining 14 holes !! I wasn't playing well but neither was I playing that badly !?
Despite the condition issue, still would love the return to try and play it better second time round. Fantastic challenge and fantastic panoramas.
Nice layout, with some pretty views, and some nice holes.
I'm sure when the wind blows it's very tricky.
A bit tired in places and lacking in conditioning. Greens ok (which is the main thing) but fairways and tees could have been better.
Enjoyable and would return, especially considering you get fed before AND after the round for the very reasonable green fee which makes it a good value for money course.
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.