The military installation of Tidworth Camp was created by the War Office in 1897 when it acquired Tedworth House and a substantial acreage of Salisbury Plain, to the north of this imposing property. The British Army’s Southern Command was established at Tidworth in 1905, with the golf club founded two years after this, when it was formed as a sporting facility for the officers.
Soldiers and locals constructed the original 9-hole layout, but when it was doubled in size to a full 18-hole course shortly after World War I, German Prisoner of War labour was used to construct the new holes. Harry Colt subsequently refashioned the layout to create the course that’s now in use then Donald Steel altered a couple of holes in the late 1990s.
As time’s gone by, the number of military club members has dwindled, allowing civilians to play an increasingly prominent role in running the club. Tidworth Garrison is now a private member’s club, leasing land from the Ministry of Defence for the sporting enjoyment of its members, guests and visitors.As one might expect from a Colt design, the par threes are exceptionally good holes, with the 160-yard 5th and 174-yard 13th the best of the four short holes. Because there are only two par fives on the card - at the 6th and 14th - the par for this 6,320 yard downland layout is set at 70.
Tidworth is a fairly old style Wiltshire downland course with lots slopes and a few blind tee shots. I have just returned after a gap of 25 years and the first thing you notice is the par 3 by the entrance is now a carpark and practice green; not sure if this has been replaced by the 11th but if it has it is a poor replacement (as per another comment the tree is ridiculuous). Trees have certainly grown up on the front nine and holes 3-13 are the most interesting part of the course with a good variety of holes (other than the 11th) with the 13th being the pick (a nice looking par 3). Course condition was generally good except for the bunkers (stony with variable sand depth). Overall I would say better than average for Wiltshire (arguably more interesting and varied than Kingsdown ranked at three) and worth playing if in the area. Not a classic Colt course though, with Clyne and Whittington Heath for example two superior under the radar Colt courses.
Tidworth Garrison and High Post are regional downland rivals and “Royal” High Post as it is locally referred is currently ranked higher than Tidworth in the Wiltshire Best In County rankings. There’s no doubt in my mind which course is best.
“Tidworth combines some of the best qualities of a seaside links with an inland, heathery course, and is, in fact, one of the best downland courses in the country,” wrote Frank Pennink in 1976. Since then, and perhaps prior to that, trees have matured and some have been planted in bizarre places.
The par five 6th hole has a wonderful greensite which drops off sharply at the back. A few yards behind the green a row of incongruous conifers hide an old marker post somewhere within the branches. The green was likely to have been designed as an infinity concept on this semi-blind hole – the conifers have both blocked the far-reaching backdrop of the downland and the next fairway and compromised the character of the greensite. The scrub hawthorn trees down the left side of the 9th spoil what could be a much better hole. As for the large random tree blocking the route to the par three 11th green, I have to say it’s one of the most peculiar arboreal hazards I’ve seen and it’s memorable for the wrong reasons.
Tidworth could once again become one of the best downland courses in the country as Frank Pennink described more than forty years ago; it’s one of the more authentic Colt examples I’ve seen for some time. The opening holes are a tad nondescript and the finishing few are not from the very top drawer, but there are a good number of holes in the middle that would grace any English Top 100 course. The par four SI 1 12th is a peach and the one-shot 13th with its raised green and trio of bunkers cut into the left side is a real pearler.
Despite my feelings about tree interference, I enjoyed Tidworth. There’s a Golden Age gem hiding under the Garrison’s camouflage.
Despite the fact that at least one person didn’t find my original review helpful, it seems that Tidworth Garrision Golf Club is not resting on its laurels. Tree and scrub clearance is well underway and judging by the photos I’ve seen of the completed work on #6 and #9 both these holes have markedly improved.
Just as expected, the infinity green on the 6th has magically appeared from the dark shadows of the conifers. Even though this photo was taken in the middle of winter, on a grey and miserable day, the greensite looks way more interesting and the far-reaching views have added a sense of scale that had been previously been blocked out by trees.