Jersey is the southernmost of the Channel Islands, extending to an area of forty-six square miles, with its royal golf club situated on the eastern flank of the island, alongside Grouville Bay. In 1878, F. W. Brewster and several others were given permission by the parish constable to lay out a links on Grouville Common and within twelve months Queen Victoria approved the club’s use of the royal prefix.
A number of Royal Jersey golfers – the most famous of whom were Harry Vardon and Ted Ray – would make their mark as professionals and they started out as caddies at the club, learning the game and playing once a week on a Sunday afternoon. Vardon would eventually claim six Open titles and Ray would win the Open in 1912 and the US Open in 1920.
Today’s 18-hole layout begins with a taxing tee shot along the bay on the narrow 1st fairway, where the opening drive is aimed between the stone walls of Fort Henry on the left and a WWII German gun bunker on the right, positioned above the water’s edge. It’s a uniquely engaging start to a round that will keep golfers captivated all the way until they hole out on the 18th green.
Royal Jersey is rather hemmed in by housing nowadays but it still plays to a respectable 6,120 yards from the back tees with a standard scratch score of 71, one more than the par for the course.
Thomson Perrett & Lobb to consult on improvements to historic Channel Island golf course. Click here for more.
As my 100th review, I thought it would be an idea to review my home course - I will be as impartial as possible. The course has undergone some extensive changes in the last few years which has improved the aesthetics of the course. The changes have included some tree clearance (not enough), re-modelling of bunkers and the construction of new tees. The first 4 holes are the closest to the sea and are without doubt spectacular. The 1st hole is a short par 5 that hugs the sea wall. This hole enjoys three fairly unique features: 2 concrete bunkers built during the WW2 occupation, on the right side of the fairway at 200 yards and 375 yards off the tee respectively and a decent sized fort on the left side of the fairway running from 250 off the tee to 350 (these features are very much in play as the fairways touch these features). The combination of the bunkers, fort and the proximity of the beach on the right, provide a very memorable and intimidating start to the round. If the course had been built today, it is likely that the architect would use the natural focal point of the sea more and the green for the par 3, 2nd would have been closer to the sea wall and that the 580 yard par 5, 3rd, would have hugged the coastline a la 18th at Pebble and 12th at Kingsbarns, rather than meander down into a valley about 80 yards inland. Notwithstanding this, the 3rd hole is superb. There is a slight imbalance in the two nines, with the front 9 comprising 3 par 3s, 4s and 5s and the back 9, 7 par 4s and 2 par 3s. The back nine naturally players tougher. The 2 signature holes (for me) are the par 4, 11th, which is a medium length par 4 slight dogleg right to left which has the magnificent Gorey castle as a backdrop and the 17th which is a 400 yard par 4 which heads towards the fort on the 1st hole with the sea and French coast behind. Overall the course is short by modern standards (its 137 years old) but is tight especially when the wind blows. It is a true links with fast firm fairways and greens. It is a treat to play, as is the other main course on Jersey, La Moye, which is built on a spectacular cliff top. The 1st hole is sufficiently "wow" to be worth the green fee itself.
Holes 5, 6 and 7 run back and forth at the far end of the links. Each of these par fours is around the same length at just under 400 yards but the 7th (index 2) poses the greatest threat with gorse and a raised green.
The 8th is only 129 yards and is made even shorter by the tee which is some 40 feet above a well-guarded green. You almost feel like you are in someone’s back yard in this little wooded area. The hole was only opened in 1984.
The par five 9th and par four 10th and 11th holes all run in different directions. The 10th is an interesting dogleg left with plenty of bunkers waiting for your second shot.
The par three 16th requires that you hit over the entrance road. As is the case with many greens at Royal Jersey, the 17th is an elevated target which is built on an old German bunker. The 18th is a shot par four where the green is slightly sunken.
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.
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