Champagne, benedictine, moussec, brandy, Pimms No 1, a few slices of lemon, a dash of soda water and serve with lots of ice. These are the ingredients that make up the infamous Pink Jug that can be ordered in the charming Royal Worlington clubhouse. This potent concoction isn’t equivalent to your standard post round ale, and the ingredients that create the course that graces this Suffolk countryside don’t conform with the norm either.
Bernard Darwin christened this The Sacred Nine whilst architect Tom Doak gave the course a rare score of nine out of ten in his Confidential Guide. Royal Worlington seems to have gained prestige amongst course architecture purists and golf writers alike. And in some ways rightly so. It’s a remarkable feat of design how they fit nine holes into this small pasture that also plays as the home to Cambridge University’s golf team. Shared fairways, tee shots across greens and some clever routing has allowed a nine holer to be constructed over a space where you wouldn’t think it possible. Combine this with the mounded greens with sharp fall-offs and sunken hollows and you can understand why course designers fall in love with this place.
My issue with Royal Worlington being so lauded though is that the plot of land is essentially no more than an open field. The land is distinctly average, and I can’t agree that a great course can be created purely on the basis of solid architecture alone. Aesthetics and land movement must also be a factor?
Onto specifics, and whilst criticism is sometimes thrown at the first for being a benign hole, I personally didn’t have much love for the second. I felt that at 200+ yards, the hole is just too long to be paired with such a severe green. That being said, the rumpled fairway on the lead up to the 3rd is beautifully reminiscent of a links, whilst the humped 5th green is genius, this time because the length of the shot is appropriate for a green of that shape and undulation. The course is full of ideas to create the most from the land, with back to back bunkers across the shared fairway on 4 and 6 and the public road that crosses the 9th helping create a memorable experience.
The green sites were a lot of fun to play, but I do need a golf course to provide more interest from outside of 50 yards, I also like to be stimulated from the tee. Different teeing grounds for the front and back nines might be a start. Admittedly, I only played 18 holes so I may have missed some of the course’s subtleties that the golf architecture enthusiasts opine after, but perhaps this is just an average bit of land with some interesting features? Maybe I’m wrong and it’s one of the world’s best as many educated golfing folk have testified; or maybe too many Pink Jugs were enjoyed during their visits and have clouded their judgement.
Date: February 01, 2020