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.
The Isle of Purbeck has become my local club since I returned to golf earlier this year and it truly is a memorable one. Even though I reside in the area the first time I drove through the gates to see the view down over Poole Harbor and Brownsea Island I was astounded at how beautiful it was.
And before I get on to the course itself I'd also like to praise the club for welcoming back someone who'd not played the game for some 8 - 10 years with a smile and openness. Byron, who's usually manning the pro-shop, is a jovial and enthusiastic chap who is always happy to go the extra mile to ensure you experience is excellent. And Phillipe is a tremendous professional who's tuition has allowed me and my wife to develop our games in a low pressure environment over a short space of time.
Indeed, for those who are just returning to the game, are less mobile, or just want a quick few holes the Dene course is an excellent bit of fun with a beautiful view down over Swanage bay. A little longer and more interesting than your standard pitch and putt its the ideal way to dust off the rust. Though being perched a top the peach of the ridge the cross winds often whistle through at a pace I've not experienced on any other course.
And the main course, the Purbeck, is one I've always found enjoyable to play. The first thing to note, and this is something you'll see in the reviews over the past year is the condition of the course. When I first started playing in April of this year the course had not come out of the winter lockdown well, fairways were scrubby - the 12th in particular - with rabbit holes dotted across the course making for an adventure even if you found the center of the fairway. Though the greens, for me, have always been impeccable running fast and true with slight breaks. With a new head greenkeeper, John Deere equipment and a fairway re-seeding initiative that commenced in October this year the course is showing signs of becoming an impeccable course. Add to this the announcement of Lobb + Partners as landscape consultants and I'm excited to see how the course develops over the next few years.
Conditions aside, the course does not play long from either the yellow or white competition tees, with driver only necessary for the longer hitters on a few holes. But that does not detract from how challenging the experience is. The course rewards strategy, accuracy and a level headed temperament often compounding one error with a challenging recovery - or lost ball in the thick gauze.
For me the layout is a little odd, starting with the 1st and 2nd before wrapping back around to the short par 4 3rd is somewhat peculiar and I've always felt that the course should begin with the 3rd before finishing up with the first and second to make for a challenging three holes in front of the patrons - who I must say enjoy watching with a cold beer on the terrace during a hot summers afternoon.
The most challenging stretch of holes - for me - are the 4th thru 6th, with the signature 5th not only an incredible view from a top the ancient Saxon burial ground but also a vicious test of mettle both off the tee to a semi, blind fairway (always aim further to the left than you think) and an approach shot that requires upmost accuracy to an isolated green with bunkers and gauze surrounding it.
From there, the par 5 6th can be a slog when in to wind. Playing dramatically up hill I've rarely managed to reach in two and often find myself pushing the ball right in to the misery of the spikey bushes. But the course does ease up on you for a while after that. The 7th is a gentle par 4 that is deceptively short, a long iron or hybrid will comfortably find the down slope of the fairway and leave you a mid to short iron in to a tricky green reminiscent of Pete Dye's upturned saucer style greens.
The 8th is, for me, the most fun hole to play. A long snaking dog-leg par 5 hole that stretches away from the club house, in the height of summer all balls that find the fairway will collect down to the right, following the natural path of the fairway. Its nearly impossible to reach this in two but its damned fun to try.
The 11th is another hole that stands out for many who've played the course. A long picturesque par 3 its intimidating off the tee, with little room for error. Short left is a humungous bunker that I'm yet to enjoy the pleasure of trying to play out of, while anything off line will inevitably find itself in the trees. I've tended towards clubbing up and an gentle swing that often rests on the back of the green. A par here is to be cherished.
The final hole of real note in the back 9 - which I find to play easier but be less of a visual feast - is the 14th which plays from a beautifully elevated position allowing you to really open up the shoulders to a wide inviting fairway. In to wind this hole can play long with a tricky false fronted green that will reject anything that comes up a little short.
Overall, the Isle of Purbeck is a tremendous and unique course from another era of course design. Its improving condition, laidback atmosphere and commanding views make it a great day out if your around the Dorset area. Many combine this with other brilliant Dorset courses such as Parkstone, Remedy Oak, Ferndown and East Dorset for what is likely to be a great golfing holiday on the south coast.
Lovely course. It was in good condition when I played it. A lot of blind tees shots. As it isn’t a long course; I took a conservative approach and hit 3 iron a lot off the tees and was rewarded for it. Some amazing views from the course. Well worth a visit.
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.
I played yesterday and the tees and greens were the best condition I’ve ever seen them. Recent rain and work new green keeper has done clearly bearing fruit. It was great to see as I have played here numerous times over the years. Also more good news for the course is course architects LOBB and partners have been commissioned to work on the course so the future looks bright because as you say, there is so much potential
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.