"The Royal Wimbledon Club was founded some two hundred and sixty years after the Royal Blackheath," wrote Bernard Darwin in his 1910 book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, "and yet golf is still so young a game in England that the two appear of almost equally hoary antiquity. There is an old-fashioned air about the golf at Wimbledon – an atmosphere of red coats and friendly foursomes made up at luncheon, which is exceedingly pleasant."
Golf was probably played on Wimbledon Common in the early 19th century. Records go back to 1864, suggesting that some of the London Scottish Rifle Volunteer Corps, who were posted nearby, met on Wimbledon Common to form the London Scottish Golf Club. Tom Dunn designed the original course and the Royal Wimbledon Golf Club came into existence in 1882. But there was trouble brewing in the ranks of the two clubs and eventually, in 1907, the Royal Wimbledon Club moved to its present location at Caesar's Camp and Willie Park Junior designed this "new" course.
"A wonderful place is this new Wimbledon course," wrote Darwin, "for as soon as we are on it all signs of men, houses and omnibuses, and other symptoms of a busy suburb disappear as if by magic, and a prospect of glorious solitary woods stretches away into the distance in every direction." Even today, visitors will experience a delightful peaceful atmosphere. But the course we play today is very much the work of one of Royal Wimbledon's many famous members – Harry Colt. Some other well-known members include Roger Wethered and Lord Rothschild.
Royal Wimbledon is a tough test with narrow undulating tree-lined fairways. Accuracy is all-important on this 6,348-yard par 70 course. One of the best holes is the 12th, a long semi-doglegging par four, measuring 452 yards from the medal tees. After a solid drive you'll be left with a tough approach shot to a plateau green.
One of the easiest holes at Royal Wimbledon is the short par four 6th. But we bet you can't match the remarkable feat of the former Royal Wimbledon Captain, Edward VIII. When he was Prince of Wales he holed out in one on this 265-yard par four.
I recently took the opportunity to play Royal Wimbledon Golf Club in their 36-hole scratch open competition, The Royal Wimbledon Trophy.
It’s a golf course that has long been on my radar to play but the consequence of having to drive deep into London coupled with a hefty visitor green-fee of £155 had delayed the process.
However, following the strong recommendation from a playing partner last year and for the princely sum of just £60, which includes food before, between and after golf, I decided to play The Club’s flagship amateur event in September 2017. Handicap permitting (you must be off 4 or below to enter and this often gets balloted lower) I will be back because this is an extremely good and underrated golf course.
Absent from virtually all of the rating lists Royal Wimbledon is on a par with, and indeed superior to, several of the inland venues that regularly grace the rankings.
It is the third oldest golf club in England dating back to 1865, has a rich history, storied membership and has played a significant role in the evolution of the game of golf.
There are two distinct sections to the course. The upper part of the property is played over a tract of tight, firm heathy land whilst the lower section, which we dip into twice, is predominantly parkland in nature.
The best of the golf can be found on the 13 heathland holes and there some absolute gems amongst them.
Recent tree and shrub clearance, particularly around the green sites but also close to the fairways, is now paying dividends with speedier rounds, firmer ground conditions and improved playing surfaces.
Royal Wimbledon is the real deal in terms of challenge and it also packs a big punch in the entertainment stakes.
The route that the course takes, which Colt altered significantly but not entirely from Park, is very enjoyable. The visits to the parkland holes are well spaced and we’re in and out quickly enough for it not cause a big issue. There is a hub of activity around the 1st green, 2nd tee, 5th green, 6th tee, 12th green and 13th tee as all paths cross and this is also where the ‘halfway house’ is located.
The Club – who I suspect don’t seek nor desire publicity - probably don’t want to read this but Royal Wimbledon should be included in all the magazine and website rankings. It should also be quite lofty and therefore more visitors would sample this fine specimen of a golf course.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Just a point if clarifation on the age of the course.
It is London Scottish Golf Club, which neighbours the course which dates back to 1865.
The Royal Wimbledon Course was first set up in 1907 by LSGC members who left the club due to issues between the army regiment and civilians.
The course, more or less as it is now, was laid out by Harry Colt in 1924.
Royal Wimbledon's inconspicuousness in the echelons of the golf rankings is a classic case of old school, a sign of a club not welcoming commercial partnerships and general outsiders. The facilities all-round are extremely good, David Jones of tour-fame has done a great job in establishing a shop brimming with quality clothing and equipment, plus very welcoming team of teaching staff. The old dining room and the long veranda room intertwine to offer one of the most majestic entertainment areas in SW golf if not the country. There is a long driving range where you can hit off the turf and a new short-game area in construction.
An original Harry Colt heathland course, it is also one of the most savage, unrelenting and least-sympathetic you will ever play; the new green staff has done a great job in returning it to it former glory. You have to have your game switched on for the entire 18 holes if you don't want to shoot hundreds. Not long on the card but many par 4s play down then hit back up, most where you have to hit a good drive to just give yourself a chance at hitting the well-guarded greens. All the par 3s require a well-struck shot to carry the whole yardage.
However its once you're on the putting surface that the fun begins. When Jack Nicklaus described putting as "a game within a game", he'd probably just played in the Spring Meeting at Royal Wimbledon. Large, undulating, very quick at times, you have to be able to read line and length, occasionally you can putt off the front. Basically off first or second shot, there's nowhere to miss, if you dont hit the green you're essentially toast, generally demanding an extremely delicate chip to save par. You will recognise this in the scores in the members' medals.
Pretty at times but also very intimidating, the only relief is the well-stocked halfway hut which as grace would have it you pass multiple times. The two par 5s are the most obvious opportunities to pick up birdies, however par is a huge relief at every other hole, even considering the short 6th, 9th and 17th & 18th. Its a shame about the changes they've had to introduce to the 1st & 18th which if anything only makes them harder. The only downside is the amount of traffic the course gets which makes conditions less playable as the day and season goes on. Which is a pity because at its finest (which is truly is a several occasions during the year) it is a beautiful and unbelievable test of golf.
I wouldn't say its a shame that the club isnt more welcoming to more commercial, competitive and outside event, but as far as a level of challenge is concerned it definitely deserves to be in the Top 30 in England and maybe the Top 50 in GB & I. You will never beat this course.