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1 mile S of Liphook
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Liphook is as pretty as a picture and one of the earliest examples of strategic design. This delightful, classic heathland course spans Hampshire and Sussex’s county boundaries - it's a course for the connoisseur, not for the dilettante.
The club was founded in 1922. A teacher called Arthur Croome (a partner in the architectural firm of Fowler, Abercromby, Simpson and Croome) designed the course, his one and only. “He did it wonderfully well,” wrote Bernard Darwin in Golf Between Two Wars, “all the better perhaps because he had not much money to do it with and must rely as far as possible on kindly Nature.”
According to the club's history, Tom Simpson joined Liphook Golf Club and became "Master of the Green" and he was later responsible for a number of course revisions.
By today’s standards, Liphook is relatively short, measuring less than 6,200 yards, but with a lowly par of 70. Playing to handicap is another matter. The heather, pine and birch place a premium on line rather than length.
The sandy ground is wonderfully undulating with natural depressions and elevations and, in some ways, the terrain is reminiscent (if a little less dramatic) to that at nearby Hindhead, where there is another charming and understated golf course.
Andrew Horton commented: “You quote Darwin as liking the 2nd, a short hole, but he is describing the 11th I think. The course used to begin at the 10th when the adjacent pub was the clubhouse, so I imagine he played it at that time. Similarly when he talks about the 5th, I think he is describing the current 13th.”
Liphook starts unusually with a par three. “For sheer beauty I think I like best the second hole,” wrote Darwin, “a short one with its knowing little bunkers waiting by the fringe of the green and its clump of dark trees keeping watch and ward behind. The fifth, too, is picturesque with its big golden bunker and its stream.”
Bunkers are audacious, characterised not only at the 5th, but also at the 6th and 11th. The prettiest holes and probably the best sequence of holes is the trio from the 12th to the 14th. If we had to pick a favourite hole, we would plump for the 14th, a short par four doglegging to the right where a bold drive will leave a short pitch to the green, and a good birdie opportunity will be on offer following a well-positioned drive.
Liphook is a classy golf course which does everything well, but in an understated way. A charming course with friendly members – the perfect venue for golf.
Tom Mackenzie of MacKenzie and Ebert completed a rerouting project just ahead of the club’s centenary celebrations in 2022, eliminating a crossing of the busy A3 road. The first phase took place in 2019, involving the construction of two new holes (8th and 9th) and a new green on the new 11th to create the longest par five on the course. Holes 10 and 11 were then merged in the second phase to form the new 10th and the 15th was realigned to use another crossing under the railway.
Liphook has provided a beautiful canvas for me to set the benchmark for my Top 100 journey. Celebrating their centurion year, Liphook provides a brilliant heathland golf experience in the county of Hampshire.
A meandering arrival with a glimpse of what was to come built my anticipation, and a short drive led me to the newly laid visitors' carpark. My friend and I visited the clubhouse where we were welcomed and enjoyed a reasonably priced lunch overlooking the first tee and 18th green. The clubhouse had a relaxed atmosphere and the members were friendly.
Let's get to business.
- The vast changes to the course over 2020 have, it seems, elevated this course to the next level. There are many beautifully framed holes which require thought off of the tee and a variety of shaping to maximize your chances of birdie/par.
- Greens are in incredible condition. They rolled extremely true and undulated brilliantly. We learnt that Liphook is home to David Murdoch, holding one of 87 coveted Master Greenkeeper certificates. This shows.
- Fairways were pure and the heather was bearable at this time of year.
- Holes are incredibly well framed, water is used to make you think, and the bunkering is sensible and I love the heather that accompanies some of these.
- 14 was a strange hole to me which offered a considerable challenge but was said to be controversial with the membership. While finding the hole difficult, the approach shot was exciting, but I can imagine I would feel differently if I landed in the heather-covered mound.
- The par 3s were fun and had some great greens (if you manage to hit them!), although I personally don't enjoy kicking off with a par 3 and feel it is one of the weaker holes on the course.
- The 18th hole is a great way to finish, with a wide fairway and the chance of reaching in two if your drive is well struck. It's always nice to finish in front of the clubhouse.
- There is no half-way house yet, so bring snacks. There are also some long walks between holes and a railway track, which I think is what stops it from being considered as highly as some of the more private and tranquil heathland tracks in Berkshire and Surrey.
Liphook is an exceptional course with a welcoming atmosphere and can be played all year round. I hope to return later on in my journey and see how the holes mature and where the heather grows in the nurseries formed by the brilliant course team. I wish I could have played better, but had a brilliant day regardless, with plenty of highlight moments and gorgeous views.
Intensely understated would be how I would describe the arrival at Liphook. The beautiful avenue leading to the clubhouse weaves through towering trees of varying species and well shielded private residences. When you eventually arrive at the visitors car park, you could be excused for believing you may be in the wrong spot. However once you round the clubhouse and survey the scene, you realise you have in fact touched down in a golfing oasis.
Sandy in nature and highly manicured, this hugely likeable layout has undergone major surgery in the last few years at the hands of Tom Mackenzie and team with the ultimate aim of reducing the number of times you need to cross the old A3 that dissects the property. Three new holes have been created around the turn and each has an engaging identity with a different challenge. This was my first visit to Liphook so I have no basis for comparison between old and new, but the new routing seems in keeping and the new holes have bedded in very well in a relatively short period of time.
The opening run is one of my favourites in quite some time with the first four holes really setting things off in some style. An attractive par 3 greets you on the 1st and is followed by the par 4 2nd that is a deceptively difficult test of accuracy and perseverance. There are many places not to miss here, but I can confirm that missing the sloped fairway in the heather on the right off the tee and over the back left of the green for the second shot are most certainly not the places to be. Another engaging par 3 follows at the 3rd before your reach hole 4. The longest, yet probably the most honest par 4 on the course. It is laid in plain sight out for you to see but, particularly around the green, it has the potential to trip you up in spades.
After crossing the road to the 5th tee, you find yourself on the half of the course that has seen the bulk of the renovation work, but it is not until you reach the 8th that any changes become apparent. My only point on the new holes would be that I felt the new 10th tee shot was one that felt awkward in its appearance. What is essentially an attractive hole is for me, impinged by the driving landing area being so close to the crossing road, particularly if one were to take a shorter club for safety. With bunkers and water left and houses and thick vegetation right, it’s a tee shot that I didn’t warm to, not due to its difficulty, but due to its playability. I am sure there will be many hold ups on that tee in the years to come.
The run from 12 to home has the potential to make or break a round with holes that, on the face of it could yield a decent score, but in reality, will only do so if accuracy is maintained throughout. Certainly 15 and 18 should be attacked with the aim of securing a birdie (or better). Beware of the tricky 14th though, both in length and accuracy required, it is the hardest task in the closing stages.
Sadly my golfing ability decided to exit stage left (literally) on our twilight round here so my observations of ‘playing’ this magical course, particularly on the back nine, were more through the observation of my playing partners rather than my own experience of playing it. Two reasons for me to venture back to Liphook in the future; 1) to see how the changes continue to marry with the original layout as they mature and 2) to try and play the back nine from somewhere near the middle of the course. A wonderfully serene place that is welcoming, magical and leaves you wanting more.
Unfortunately we played Liphook when the morning was taken over by an invitational and as a result it took 5 hours to play. This was a negative, however looking at the plus side we did get to meet a few of the members as we waited on the tees and moving around the course, and I have to say they were more welcoming than you can image. In fact we got the description of each hole as we played it which was fantastic. So thank you to the members.
The course itself is great and the changes they have made certainly seem to be for the better. The condition is also top notch with tees, fairways and greens all in great shape. The pick of the holes were 2, 4, 7, 12, 14 and 16 which is great fun with the little quarry down the left hand side that we both found ourselves in.
Afterwards the veranda overlooking the course on a sunny summers day is a lovely place to be and talk back through the course. I would love to go back and play the course again when it wasn't quite so slow and I could play at a better rhythm as I am sure it would be somewhere where the course just got better and better.
Just driving into the estate is something to behold, brilliantly setting the scene for golf course to unleash its outstanding natural beauty.
Every hole on this course is curated and manicured for ultimate pleasure, with each proving unique from the next, each providing a challenge different from the next, all without dipping in standard.
The holes have been carved through beautifully landscaped heathland pine, with the short Par 3 12th a particular delight (even if I did absolutely thin it through). The Greens are so true, fast, but ultimately fair.
This has rocketed to my top 5, and I hope to return again. Spectacular!
Although the weather wasn't on our side today at Liphook, I couldn't care less! It's been rough for everyone with recent circumstances, the last top 100 course I played was Sherwood Forest back before the first lockdown, so I'm so grateful to be back doing what I love!
I'm told Liphook has recently finished some major works to the layout, changing holes and hole numbers about. Whilst I wasn't fortunate enough to play before, I wouldn't have known it had changed. The layout is constant, every hole has beautiful long trees, colourful heather and a fair hole set out in front of you.
While it doesn't have much meat in terms of length, Liphook prides itself on having fantastic greens, some of the best i've played on. It emphasises hitting greens as with the undulations you can often be found with a very tricky chip to make par. It's a scoreable course, with its slight lack of length, I get the feeling anyone on their day could really do well here.
The overall condition of the course is stunning, I hardly need to mention that given the area it's in. So many courses in Hampshire/Surrey/Berks are so well manicured it's really no surprise to me anymore!
Liphook has some stunning par 3's, most under 160 off the yellows which is good to see.
Overall, a fantastic layout, matched with incredible condition, just a shame the golf wasn't up to scratch! Definitely will be back some day
Liphook is a charming and beautifully presented course, incorporating a great variety of holes. The combination of pine trees, heather, white sand and the occasional lake give it a wonderful feel to match almost any other course (and given I played Queenwood directly before, this is compared to some stiff competition!)
The course has a really nice routing with regular changes of direction and elevation. I never played it before the recent overhaul and a good sign that they did a great job is that I could hardly tell which were the new holes.
I didn’t have my “A game” but could appreciate the quality of the course nonetheless. My standout shot was from the bunker in front of the 18th which I caught way too clean. It bounced on the path beyond the green, up on to the clubhouse roof, then rolled back down again and bounced back to the edge of the green. I almost holed the putt for an unconventional par! I gather from my host that I am not the first, and will doubtless not be the last, to do this.
Liphook is a very playable course with little to fault about it. Overall it arguably doesn’t quite have as many standout holes as some of the top Surrey heathland courses that it inevitably is compared to. However a great indicator of the quality of any course is how much you want to play it again and I certainly will be looking to come back as soon as I can.
It’s all change at Liphook. A club I’d previously considered to be relatively set in their ways has made the bold and progressive step to make some major course changes at one of Southern England’s most beloved heathland courses.
I’ve always found there to be a charisma and allure to Liphook that’s unrivalled in this region until you get to Surrey and Berkshire’s top heathland courses. I’d sight one of the prime reasons for this sentiment to be the twisting lane that you drive down that meanders past parts of the course and alongside some beautiful houses before you arrive at the traditional timber-clad clubhouse. This really helps build up the anticipation before you arrive for your round.
Onto the course, and Liphook has charmed many a visitor over the years with its beautifully shaped greens, naturally shaped bunkers and its selection of attractive heather-lined holes, albeit it has lacked the contiguous nature that you find at most courses due to the road and railway that divides the course into different segments. This to the large part hasn’t been a detraction for me, whilst some walks are long, I always enjoy the surprise that comes with visiting a course as you enter a new part of the property and arrive at each new setting. But what has been the course’s main downfall in the past was the death-march across the busy B2070, particularly when crossing beside the blind bend at the back of the old 14th. And with that, comes the primary reason for the major course changes that have taken place. Whilst the road crossing after the 4th hole hasn’t been removed, the much more treacherous walk after the 14th has now disappeared. This results in some major rerouting, hole renumbering, two brand new holes and some major reshaping of some of the pre-existing holes. And to Mackenzie & Ebert’s credit, I think the outcome has been a genuine success.
The main area of change comes between holes 8 and 11. Outside of this, some of the holes have been re-sequenced but to the most part, they remain untouched. Before explaining the changes, I must make the point that I also had the good fortune to play Liphook earlier in the year when the changes were still taking shape. At that time, I quite honestly couldn’t figure out how the changes would fit together. But given the restrictions of this relatively tight property, I’m very impressed with how this complicated jigsaw has been assembled.
New holes have been added at 8 and 9 in the portion of land where the old 14th used to be. The old 14th always felt like an awkward hole and had the odd feature of a bunker that was placed in the rough between a gap in the trees. The short 8th that bisects the old fairway is now a genuinely top-drawer par three where the ground falls away to the right of a large, subtly sloped green. The new dogleg 9th will probably take more time to bed-in than the 8th where this par four hole is shaped around a small pond, but the green here is wonderfully undulating in the tradition of Liphook’s many other excellent greens, and could easily catch many an accomplished golfer unawares when the green is running at full Summer speed. Quite frankly though, it’s remarkable that they’ve found the space to create these two new holes of such quality.
As good as the new additions are, it’s the changes to the next two holes that are the course architect’s most outstanding work. The changes to the 10th, where the old 10th and 11th have been connected to form one long continuous hole are just tremendous. This is now a gorgeous par four that extends to 431-yards from the raised blue tee. A testing drive between the out-of-bounds and scrub to the right and a catchment pond to the left need to be negotiated before the wonderful former par three 11th green complex which is now used for the new green. There’s some masterfully reshaped bunkering around this green too that is the chef’s kiss finish to a wonderful, remodelled hole. Whilst “Two Counties”, the par five 7th (formally the 13th) to the raised green and carry over the diagonal stream is perhaps still my favourite hole at Liphook, the new 10th is now damn strong close competition.
The extended 11th, Forest Mere, is another excellent change. They’ve somehow discovered an additional hundred yards from the copse of trees through the back of the old green that now turns this hole into a testing par five where the fairway pinches in around the area where the old green-site used to be.
Whilst I’ve focused on the changes so far, I imagine that several readers will probably not have played Liphook before, so I must add that the original parts of Liphook that remain the same are best to remain that way as they’ve always been most enjoyable. The tough par three at the 1st is maybe a little awkward for a way to start the round, but after this, you have a genuine classic heathland that in my opinion is head-and-shoulders the best course in Hampshire. The par threes at the 3rd and 12th (previously the 7th) are perfect short holes, particularly the 12th that plays into a basin. The rest of the longer holes are all visually attractive, but also lend themselves to the golfer who can plot their way around a golf course as they by and large offer more than one way to play the hole - something I admit is not always present on tight heathland courses.
Going back to the recent changes, and after the unchanged 14th (previously the 9th), which is another highlight from the original holes with clumps of heather that separate the green from the fairway and leaves the golfer with a semi-blind approach, you now walk through a passageway under the arch of the railway to the newly aligned and driveable 15th. 16 in all honesty probably still needs some tinkering, as I think the route to the green could be shaped more naturally than it is at present, but 18 is thankfully left untouched. A birdie is very much in play with a good drive on the last hole, but the big undulations and beautiful shaping and bunkering approaching the final green always means your round finishes on a natural high.
I suspect the club will still be in observation mode over the next year or two as they’ll want to see how some of the changes play out, so they may develop some more contouring around the greens as time passes and as they react to how the new changes bed themselves in and are accepted by the members. But even without any further modifications, Liphook already compares well, and dare I say it, maybe even compares favourably with the likes of Surrey’s 3Ws. Given that there is some strong competition at the top of the England rankings, I’d make the case that the club could perhaps now go on to cement a place within England’s top 30. Admittedly, that’s never an easy nut to crack, but Liphook is now making a very strong case for its inclusion.
Lovely review and after reading it I cannot wait until I next visit what was already my favourite course in Hampshire. Always had wonderful greens and a lot of beautiful holes but looks like they have made some great improvements to take it up a notch. The other inland Hants tracks at Blackmoor, North Hants and Stoneham are all wonderful tracks but it looks like Liphook will continue to cement its place above them in the Hants rankings. If I lived closer to Liphook I would join in a flash and I already preferred this over nearby and excellent Hindhead.
I was very fortunate to play at Liphook in October of 2018 - a distant family member happens to be a member here and I was delighted to receive an invite to play, having passed the course on the train virtually every day for the preceding 6th months and thinking that one day I would love to have a knock. A classic heathland and tall pine course mirroring many of the courses on the Surrey sand-belt, I have no doubt that it is capable of matching many of the courses in that area for quality, and it certainly trumps a number of them in terms of value for money - £95 rack rate or £65 twilight is a price tag that you simply cannot disagree with and it is worth every penny. There is no question that this was the finest course in Hampshire 2 years ago, and I hear the recent changes that have been made to the course have been met with huge acclaim. I hope to return again soon to take in all of the new elements.
I had the pleasure of playing Liphook in 2019 prior to its re-design and the delight of playing recently with the new layout in play. This really is a lovely golf course in fantastic condition.
The course opens with a medium/long par 3 but the real fun begins from the second tee where the heather starts to come in to play and influence your thinking off the tee, risk the heather right but keep as open a shot to the green as possible or play left and face a long approach over a large tree to the green.
Particular highlights for me were:
- the beautiful par 3 3rd, well bunkered to stop anything short or right,
- the dogleg sixth where the braver your drive over the heather the shorter and more enticing approach to the green,
- the par 5 7th (previously the 13th) where two firm strikes will get you up to a large green with a good birdie chance. For the shorter hitters or those in trouble off the tee the small stream 100y or so short provides a real second shot conundrum,
- New holes 8 and 9, par 3 and short dogleg par 4 fit in very well with the landscape in particular the par 3 eighth,
- The new 10th is a real challenge with a very narrow landing zone if electing a driver off the tee with water left and bunkers right. The green, with two distinct levels rewards second club shot selection.
- 14th, an uphill par four with a blind second shot. Aim slightly left of the marker post and anything short should funnel greenwards.
- 18th - a fantastic closing hole with the green just in reach for a well struck 3 iron to have a chance at birdie or better, a great conclusion to a tight matchplay competition.
All in a very fun, thoughtful and pleasant (on the eye) course that has been improved by the new layout. Weakest holes probably feel 'weak' due to the standard of many others however being picky these would be the first, fifth, eleventh and sixteenth.
I would be delighted to play Liphook every week.
Personally Stuart, I think that four balls is a little bit mean given the tone of the review. But then you gave Castle Stuart in Scotland 3.5 balls! so at least you are consistently parsimonious with your balls. I like your reviews, keep writing. You make some good points here. But Liphook is a five baller all day long. At least! potentially a six if the tee shot has more interest on 1 and 5? I am sure there always things to do architecturally at every course? Both 1 and 5 are clever holes if you have played them often particularly in how you play to those greens. Which is always a strategical decision denied to the day tripper, so perhaps some more visual interest from afar is no bad thing? We tourists rarely understand the jungle as well as the natives. Best wishes Stuart. Happy golfing.
The E Type Jaguar. Arguably the best-looking car ever manufactured? Timeless and peerless. However, as I am sure you are aware, there is a company that is building “fresh off of the line” E Types. With modern accouterments and technology. It looks like a 60-year-old heritage piece, but it can turn your face into skydiver elastic in under five seconds. The best of both then. Pedigree matched by performance. A snip at £500k.
Now, you will see from Fergal’s Preeminent and faultless review below, how the charms of Liphook “Old” have beguiled him.
Well, good news. Hampshire’s Number one has just elevated itself into serious contention with courses currently ranked far above it. Sunningdale. Walton Heath. St Georges Hill. It is no laughing matter to mention Liphook in the same echelon.
The first Six holes will be familiar to you if you have played here prior to the rerouting and newly constructed holes. Tough, varied and exquisite. 4’s 3’s and 5’s that can break your round if you are not on form. Whatever your score, you will enjoy the journey and the vistas. Sublime.
The old 7th is now the 12th. So you cross the road to play your new 7th. The old majestic masterpiece that was the 13th. a Swashbuckling par 5 that will require two fine and accurate blows to secure the chance of a birdie or better.
Then we have the first of the brand-new Mackenzie Ebert holes. The 8th. a 165 yard par 3 with a three club green, two bunkers to the right and a myriad of possible pin locations that can be downright generous to utterly penal. Carved out of the established forest, it’s a triumph. Classic, subtle and utterly rewarding.
So, to the new ninth. Be careful not to drive into the fairway bunker here. That is the perfect line to leave a wedge shot into a generous green, that might yield a flattering birdie, if you have warmed up by then. It’s a dog leg to the right flanked by two lakes that are really more ornamental than in play.
The Ninth is short enough at 340 yards on the turn to have the bigger hitters looking for a green in one route, sadly, the trees to the right of the fairway preclude this option. I think that is a pity. I always like a hole that could yield an 8 or a 1. Or anything in between. As it is, you have to stick to the script. Pragmatism. Bernhard Langer would love it. Into five feet. Back of Ze net. I suspect that a “big dog” route over the pond, direct to the green might be irresistible in time? Who doesn’t want to see that shot? The old 14th that it replaces used to have a tenuous angle…
By now, you will be absolutely in awe of the new layout, the routing, the conditioning and ambiance. This ground is too good for golf. You will just want to sit and paint water colours. Even though you can’t paint.
Wow, I have gone on too long. If you have not dozed off by now, be rest assured that the new tenth is a top echelon par 4 with water Left and Bunker right. Dare I say Signature hole? After all, there quite a few contenders. But it is a belter of a hole.
Are you laying up to the generous fairway short of the bunker and the pond? To leave a medium to long iron in? Into the well defended and established green complex? Or are you going to rattle one straight down it’s throat? Leaving a wedge? I’d like to see a little more jeopardy over the right-hand bunker in time. It’s too easy to bail right and long over the bunker. Fine tuning. Not the full Jack at Muirfield.
After birdieing the tenth, you will have a pep in your step as you assail the formidable and equally picturesque new 11th, Formally the par 4 12th. Now a Par 5 Measuring 560 yards. Ewan’s Bunkers can still grab you. (sorry Ewan) but from then on it is a three shotter unless you are a tour speed hitter. Refreshing.
Swales to the left of the green are well engineered, however I think the right-hand side of the green is a blank canvas that will not remain untouched for long. It is as flat as a fen, and incongruously under designed. Over all, a vast improvement on what was a terrific hole.
Now we are back to the old 7th. Now the 13th and it is familiar ground here. I suspect that scoring may be quite improved on the back as opposed to the front. All things being unusually equal. Reachable par 4’s and 5’s yield potential birdies more so than the front.
You will all be delighted to hear that the old ninth, now the fourteenth, remains lovingly untouched. You will never forget this one, whether you do well, or not. I would suggest that the pin location board just in front of the tee was amended. Instead of just a back, middle or front designation, it would be progressive to have: “25 on 10 from L”. Perhaps? First time playing? Add 5 yards to the sprinkler and aim ten yards right of the huge post. Middle for diddle.
Anyway, the best tip here, is to look right as you pass the Links tavern pub and you will see where the pin is for yourself as you make your way in to the club.
The old 15th is the new 15th. But it isn’t. The old awkward dogleg to the right has gone, and a 308 yard risk and reward drivable par 4 is the really enjoyable upgrade. 1? 8? All possible. Fantastic. I’d make it tighter for those going at it with the chicken stick. But then I would. Wouldn’t I?
Where 15 has now straightened, leaving the old 15th tee complex redundant, I think there is a new opportunity for 16 which has been overlooked thus far. It was always a 200 yard iron shot to a fairway leaving a short iron from elevation into the green. I would like to see another option. Utilising the old 15th. Giving a player an option over the new bunker, to allow a longer shot, that if accurately struck, would allow a different angle and approach over the ladders of heather to the green below. More is more here.
17 and 18 remain splendidly untouched.
So, what we have here is a club that has all of the panache and understated elegance of a classic English Heathland golf club, that has had the courage, determination and propensity to bring that distant future to now. Familiar to the purist and alluring to the Mods. Where there were 4 holes of contention, there is now only one. Personally, I love the 14th.
Sublime. And It will not cost you £500k. the delight around the club is palpable. And rightly so.