One of nine golf clubs operated by the Camberley-based Crown Golf Group, South Winchester Golf Club lies on the southwest outskirts of Winchester, with the course configured as two returning nines.
It’s an early 1990s design from Peter Alliss and Dave Thomas which occupies a site that many think could be earmarked for future residential development. Indeed, during the covid-19 epidemic in 2021, contractors were seen drilling test bores whilst the course was shut for play.
In a letter to members, general manager Roger Tomey confirmed the contractors were from a property specialist which was establishing the site's suitability for future development, saying:
“Winchester City Council are currently undergoing a strategic local planning consultation and South Winchester Golf Club, alongside Royal Winchester Golf Club, has been identified as a possible site for housing in Winchester at some time in the future.”
Tomey went on to mention the land was subject to a deed of covenant in favour of the members, ensuring it remains as a golf club until at least 2026. After that, who knows?
Playing South Winchester on a cold New Year’s Eve, where the temperature never rose much above freezing, seemed an appropriate way to celebrate my memory of the unforgettable Peter Alliss who passed away earlier in the month. Among many achievements in his life, he co-designed this golf course in the early 1990’s.
And his golf course is good fun with lots of space, rolling hills and pleasant countryside to enjoy. Even the weather improved on a still and dry day and some wintry sunshine appeared late on. The course has wide fairways, water in play on at least 5 holes and challenging greens and bunker placement. At nearly 6500 yards off the yellow tee boxes, it is a big hitter’s dream, with none the par4s shorter than 340 yards. The four par3s are a good contrast in style but strangely all around 145 yards from the ‘yellows’.
I find myself agreeing with the previous reviewer as to the most memorable holes. On the front nine I like the two downhillers, the par5 third hole and excellent par4 at 5, before a brute of a par4 back to the clubhouse to end the outward half. Here a good drive has to be followed by a magnificent long iron or hybrid across a pond and up a steep incline to a raised green, well protected at the front. The challenge of the second shot was beyond me, but I walked away feeling happy enough with a 5, it seemed like a well-earned par! The stand-out holes on the back nine are the long par4s at 14 and 15 (the latter I would rate as the best hole on the course) and then the ‘’blind’ finishing hole where it is quite possible to end well if you avoid water to the right of the green.
In conclusion, I believe the challenges are tough but fair. Drainage is good, the course has stood up well to heavy seasonal rainfall, followed by freezing conditions, even if placing and regular cleaning of the golf ball is very necessary. This does not however detract from a very enjoyable experience.
This is a big and bold course that’s definitely worth playing if you’re in the area. It’s tough and long but great fun with some brilliant holes in the mix.
1, 4 and 5 are all tough and long par 4s that you should be happy making par on (I love the drive on 5). 9 is tough with a downhill drive towards a lake, followed by a long uphill approach into a tiered green.
On the back 9, 14 is a good par 4 which doglegs to the right with a huge bunker short and left of the green which you don’t want to find yourself in. 15 is the best hole on the course and is a real treat. The drive is from an elevated tee and must carry as much of a lake as you dare to. Go too far left and your second will be blocked out by trees, go right and you’ll be wet. After negotiating the drive, you’ll have a mid to long iron over another large bunker into the green. A great hole.
18 is a little quirky - a massively downhill blind par 5 towards the green surrounded by a lake. Quirky but good fun.
This course exceeded expectations by quite a way, it looks good - the holes are well defined with large bunkers and long fescue grass throughout. It’s a long tough walk but I’d recommend visiting. Would be interested to see how this compares to the nearby Royal Winchester which must be laid across similar ground.