Welwyn Garden City was one of the first “new” towns to be developed in England and it’s the second oldest Garden City in the country, predated only by Letchworth. The town of WGC, as it is known in abbreviation, is set only twenty-five miles to the north of central London, but in tune with the garden city movement, this self-contained town is surrounded by greenbelt countryside. On the west side of town, close to the A1M, is where you’ll find the famous Welwyn Garden City Golf Club, which was founded in 1923.
In the early years, the club played on a 9-hole course, which gradually developed into a full 18-hole layout under the architectural guidance of Fred Hawtree. Today’s course measures a modest 6,096 yards from the back tees, but Welwyn Garden City’s par of 70 is tough to better, unless your name is Nick Faldo.
The opening hole is a 466-yard par four card-wrecker and a brutal start to what is, on the whole, a very enjoyable and playable parkland course. On the 1st tee, take aim at the oak tree and the middle of the fairway bunker (which is not in play for most golfers) and try to find the gap in the centre of a skin-tight fairway, which bottlenecks at the landing area. Not many golfers find the perfect spot for an approach to the narrow green, guarded by a large bunker on the right and another short and left… even fewer will walk off this first green marking a four on the card.
The front nine progresses in a more genteel fashion until the 441-yard par four 9th is reached. Making par here on this demanding, tight, stroke index 1 is the exception rather than the norm.
It’s surprising to find a 600-yard hole on a course that doesn’t boast great length, but the par five 17th, considered by many to be the signature hole at Welwyn Garden City Golf Club, is a genuine three shotter for almost every golfer. From the tee, the fairway cants from right to left at the landing area towards ominous out-of-bounds. The second shot must miss a fairway bunker in order to leave an approach to a bunkerless green – but mind the pond to the left and avoid the bunker some 30 yards short of the green, which plays visual tricks. Trust the yardage and aim for the centre of the green.Overall the golf at Welwyn Garden City is very enjoyable, with varied, entertaining holes and delightfully undulating topography. It also seems to be a proving ground for champions. WGC is the home of Sir Nick Faldo, who plied his trade here, and also, more recently, Walker Cup player and Tour professional Tom Lewis came through the garden city ranks. Presumably there’s something special in the Welwyn Garden City water.