Marlborough Golf Club was founded in 1888. Nine holes of the 6,469-yard course in play today were laid out across free-draining downland by Tom Simpson and Herbert Fowler in 1920, J Hamilton Stutt added a second nine in 1974.
Wiltshire has two golf courses rated as ‘Gems’ by ‘top100golfcourses’. We played the first at Ogbourne Downs on the last day before the third and longest Covid lockdown back in January 2021, and vowed to return to play the other at nearby Marlborough, just five miles down the A346, as soon as possible after golf returned. So Thursday this week was the day.
The terrain and general landscape of the Marlborough Hills is similar as is the maintenance standards at the two courses, although Marlborough has many more trees, but there the comparison ends.
Whereas Ogbourne Downs has a variety of memorable holes, Marlborough plods along with an unexciting offering. Unusually for me just hours after the round, I am struggling to recall many of the holes. I like the downhills par 3s at 2 5 and 14, and the long dogleg 7th at the bottom of the property is probably the stand-out hole, the rest are mundane.
I prefer golf courses that start and finish with par 5s, to start as it gets the play moving and to finish as it often gives up a chance of birdie to send the golfer home happy. Marlborough unusually starts and finishes both nines in this manner, and also offers hot snacks at half-way, a welcome initiative not seen enough, in my view, on British golf courses.
But other than a decent welcome, my praise ends there. Noisy country roads encircle the golf course and adjoining Common, and the slopes, particularly on the front nine rather than being a feature simply fail to inspire.
A pleasant walk and round of golf in agreeable surroundings is provided for the enthusiast, but sadly little more.
Marlborough is a tale of two nines, the flatter and older common land forming the back nine, and the newer front nine which opened in the 1970's and is built on sloping fields down towards the main Swindon to Marlborough A road. Both nines start and finish with par 5's by the clubhouse; incidently a very unusual design of clubhouse, an A frame style built in the 1980's which offers excellent views over the course. A couple of decent par 3's on the front nine but I think hole 8 is a truly awful design of a par 3 uphill to a blind flag and the uphill par 5 at 9 is not much better. Best hole on the front nine is possibly the 6th where you need to get the drive in the right spot to play around the dog-leg. Front nine can feel like a bit of a slog (especially when wet) but back nine is more pleasant but without any stand-out holes. Just down the road from Ogbourne Downs it is of similar standard, probably tougher to score on but I would say not quite as appealing to play because of the newer holes