Sitting 30 miles off the coast of Normandy, Guernsey lies closer to France than the UK – Weymouth is some 75 miles away – but it remains, like the Isle of Man, a British Crown Dependency with the Royal Guernsey Golf Club affiliated to the English Golf Union.
Royal Guernsey Golf Club was established in 1890 but the present course is a more recent creation, laid out on common land between the bays of L’Ancresse and Grand Havre (to the north of the island) by Philip Mackenzie Ross in 1949.
The esteemed Scottish architect could never be described as prolific, choosing his projects carefully, but he obviously knew a thing or two about reconstructing war damaged links courses as he went on to resurrect the Ailsa at Turnberry two years later.
A mere quarter of the twelve par four holes on the scorecard are more than 400 yards in length so the course measures up to a modest 6,200 yards. The layout includes only two three-shot holes (at 6 and 14) for a par total of 70, with the last of the four par threes played at the 18th hole.
I thoroughly enjoyed my round at Royal Guernsey. The professionals was extremely welcoming and gave me plenty of pointers on how to play this tricky course. I played on a reasonably windy day although given its location there are probably few days where the wind doesn't influence the course. I particularly enjoyed the par 4s running along the sea front, the blind tee shot on the uphill 17th and the fantastic downhill par 3 18th which if you were a member could definitely be a bit of a card wrecker if it was playing into the wind.
I've played Royal Guernsey/L'Ancresse (two clubs play on the same links) several times including the Trophy off the back tees and really like it. There is a mixture of styles giving real variety, the holes nearest the club house being more common land in style with blind shots and hogs backs on links terrain with the middle and closing holes including some elevated tee shots into complex greens with the aforementioned "dolmens" (menhirs) coming into play, albeit with relief in some cases. The wonderful closing stretch is classic seaside golf with Martello Towers feel very much in play from the back tees on the 15th and 16th (from personal experience) with massive depressions in the fairways leading to the very scary uphill par 4 17th flanked by gorse on both sides followed by the classic drop shot par 3 18th where depending on the wind you will need a mid iron or a wood. In terms of the "best" course in the Channel Islands, it's hard to decide - L'Ancresse is not as consistently "good" as La Moye in Jersey but is in my opinion more fun.
The only down side for me is that you may have to wait a considerable time on a Saturday for shots across the bisecting road while the locals make their weekly trips to drop carrot stalks and chewed up straw hats at the municipal dump !
After a gentle short par four opening hole, the 2nd is a solid par four of 401 yards along the first of two coastlines abutting the course. Clumps of gorse are about the only thing that will stop you admiring the adjacent bay of Grand Havre. The par three 3rd hole continues along the shore.
There are very few fairway bunkers but gorse is a major hazard that will punish inaccuracy, especially on the front nine, which concludes with a demanding par four of 461 yards. With the exception of the par three 7th, most of the outward holes run north-south. By way of complete contrast, all of the inward nine up to the 17th hole run in an east-west direction.
The 15th and 16th are the last of the holes along the beach. Seventeen is a dogleg right and uphill. From the short walk to the 18th tee, there is a wonderful view across the course with the clubhouse to the left of the 18th green and L’Ancresse Bay behind it. This unusual finishing hole is a short par three with the green well below the high tee.
This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every English course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.