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1 mile SW of Virginia Water
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Wentworth Golf Club played host to the 1953 Ryder Cup matches between the USA and Great Britain. Team Captains were Lloyd Mangrum (US) and Henry Cotton (GB). This was one of the most fiercely contested competitions in Ryder Cup history and the Americans had to wait until the closing stages of the singles matches before gaining a single point victory. Peter Alliss took a six at the final hole to lose 1-up to Jim Turnesa and Bernard Hunt missed a putt on the 18th green to halve with Dave Douglas. U.S. Captain Lloyd Mangrum said he would “never, never captain an American team again because of the 9,000 deaths I suffered in the last hour”. USA 6 ½ - GB 5 ½. The Ryder Cup was played at Pinehurst in 1951 and at Thunderbird in 1955.
The West course at the Wentworth Club is the most famous of the Surrey heath and heather courses. The club is also the most televised in Britain, once hosting three professional tournaments every year (World Matchplay, PGA and the Seniors Masters), but now only the PGA Championship is staged annually at Wentworth. The West course was also the venue for the fiercely contested 1953 Ryder Cup, resulting in a single point American victory 6½ 5½.
It must have been an absolute delight for Harry Colt when he was asked to design the West course, which opened for play in 1926. After all, he was already familiar with this landscape, having designed the East Course (founded two years earlier).
The West is a relative youngster in the scheme of things. Many of Surrey’s famous sand-belt courses were established around the turn of the 19th century. Wentworth was also one of the first golf course developments to feature fairway-side houses, quite a number of which are owned by well-known celebrities. It’s a sort of up-market 1920s golf and country club complex.
Bernard Darwin refers to the West Course as the Tiger Course in his book, Golf Between Two Wars. He writes: “The course is intended to test that rampacious animal to the full. It is a little hard to assign the Wentworth country as a whole to any precise class. There is heather and there are trees and yet it is not quite of the same nature as its near neighbour, Sunningdale. It is set in park-like surroundings, and yet it is certainly not what is usually called a park course. It is a cross between the two, although the Tiger Course has about it least of the park and most of the heathery character”.
At the start of the Second World War, the Army requisitioned the clubhouse and labyrinths of underground bunkers were built. Deep below the famous clubhouse lies a secret wartime HQ. It was the Second World War that gave rise to the other name for the West Course – “Burma Road”. The course was allowed to grow wild because it was feared that enemy aircraft might land on the fairways. Towards the end of the war, German prisoners were brought in from a nearby internment camp to clear the course. One of the officers overseeing the clearance operation reputedly said: “Let this be their Burma Road”.
There are many memorable holes on the West course. The 2nd is a charming, exacting short 155-yard par three; a huge sentry oak stands between two bunkers guarding the right-hand side of the plateau green, the tee is level with the green, but the tee shot must carry across a valley to find the putting surface, don’t be short. Next, we come to the 3rd, a brutal, uprising 448-yard par four; avoid the bunkers on the right-hand side of the fairway, positioned 250 yards from the tee. Otherwise any chance of reaching the green in two has gone. A crisp accurate long iron or a fairway wood will reach the huge, 37-yard deep, three-tiered green that is protected by a bunker to the left and a bunker to the right; three-putting is commonplace. The 13th is yet another of the West’s long par fours (par five for the ladies). The hole sweeps around to the left, the green is invisible from the tee; the obvious line for the tee shot is down the right-hand side of the fairway, but here lies a cleverly located bunker. A good drive down the right of the fairway will leave a tough approach to a subtly contoured green that is protected by two bunkers to the left and two to the right. A par here will definitely feel as good as a birdie.
The last hole we'll mention is the famous bunkerless 17th. It’s a huge 566-yard par five that seemingly sweeps infinitely to the left – from the narrow tee there are tall trees on both sides, creating a tunnelling effect. A footpath dissects the hole some 200 yards away. The ball must be struck down the right-hand side of the fairway – anything left will be blocked out by trees or, worse still, out-of-bounds. Only the longest hitters should take the strategic line down the left side of the fairway, a solid 300-yard swish will make it to the corner of the dogleg. The approach shot is played blindly over a rise, aim for the large oak in the distance, but be aware that everything slopes onto the green and then everything seemingly slithers off again.
When you step onto the first tee of the West course, you will feel an overwhelming sense of familiarity. It is definitely a place most people would be more than happy to call home and play the monthly medal here for the rest of their lives. The holes weave their way through sprinklings of heather and across gently undulating terrain with mature trees lining each and every fairway. This is a truly classy golf course and it's a tough one too, especially after Ernie Els gave the West a new set of teeth. It now measures more than 7,300 yards from the tips and with many new bunkers and some new tiger tees, the Burma Road is now a serious 21st century challenge.
The West course closed to visitors for twelve months from 1st June 2009 for an extensive £6.5m renovation programme. Ernie Els was in charge of the changes which included 18 new USGA specification greens, new bunkers and a new canal-like stream, which protects the green on the famous closing hole. The new-look Burma Road received mainly positive comments from the pros at the 2010 BMW PGA Championship, but Paul Casey argued that the changes had stripped the West course of its character. Click here for the 2010 press release – “All Change On The West”.
The West came in for further criticism during the 2011 BMW PGA Championship. Ian Poulter joined forces with Paul Casey stating, “I don't like this golf course. Period. End of story.” Poulter went on to say, “Some of the fun of the last few holes has been taken away.” Wentworth’s former owner, Richard Caring, stated after the 2010 event that he had not quite got it right first time. Caring admitted, “the 18th was a dream I had, I wanted to give the spectators a bit of excitement, a bit of theatre. We might have gone slightly too far because it’s proven to be quite difficult.”
Ernie Els was against the changes to the 18th, and the green was lowered for the 2011 event with the depth of the putting surface extended to invite second shots. However, the 18th still proved to be too difficult for most pros and the vast majority opted to play the home hole as a three-shotter.
The 2011 PGA Championship took its toll on most of the field but the play-off was all set to be a thrilling affair featuring World No.1 Lee Westwood and World No.2 Luke Donald pitching their wits in a sudden death head-to-head on the 18th. Neither player opted to go for the green in two and both players had similar pitches into the green. Donald judged his pitch and spin to perfection but Westwood’s pitch spun off the green into the new canal. The play-off turned into a flop rather than a thriller. Donald not only claimed the PGA Championship title but also knocked Westwood off the World Number One spot in the process.
The West course closed immediately after the 2016 PGA Championship for yet another major redevelopment. Ernie Els Design, in conjunction with European Golf Design, were commissioned to handle the renovations, which includes the redesign of five greens, the installation of sub-air systems on every green (the first of its kind in England) and a reduction in the number of bunkers. The project completed prior to the 2017 PGA Championship.
Despite numerous multi-million pound renovations over the last decade, the West course has continually fallen from favour in the golf course rankings. Will the latest iteration arrest the decline? The rise and fall of the troubled Burma Road
Played it in November so not a great time of year to play condition wise for most courses.... but it was still outstanding. Fantastic layout with a huge variety for a woodland course, not too tight but tight enough to make very challenging and a few long par 4's keep you on you're toes. The 8th hole has made it into my favourite holes in golf. The greens were sanded so not fast at all, which I think made my experience better because I recall playing it a few years ago and got beaten up by the greens. Club house and practice facilities are as good as you will get. A bucket list course in my opinion.
Once the trip to Wales was confirmed this one appeared in the horizon but some weeks before the round I found out that maintenance was being done on greens and the course would just open the day before my visit. Decision was to be made on site if to play this one or East and once I arrived after seeing the greens I just believe they were not that bad and it was worth to play the big one.
I have read many complains and critics to Ernie’s changed but as I have not played it before there is no point for me in complaining because I didn’t see it other than on TV and what is more real is that what I saw and played is just terrific!
Day started with a long drive from Celtic Manor and arrived with enough time for a coffee at the bar, a walk inside the Club House, watching the putter from my hero Angel Cabrera’s win in 2005 and only then off for a quick and short range session before the round. My host is a 60yrs old +1 hcp who can still play and it was a great round off the white tees: 7000yds, soft fairways with little roll, a little bit windy and demanding, very demanding!!!
As many Colt courses it makes you feel afraid off the tee showing all types of danger but when you get to landing areas you realize the space is quite bigger than what the tee boxes show.
Greens are sloped and big, even with sand quite fast and challenging and when you see the winning score from last month you realize how damn good these Tour Pros are. It is not only yards off the tee they have, or how in the center they hit the irons and how good they are around the greens. I hit 11 GIR and only once (with the putter short on 11th) I was able to scramble. That tough it is in the surroundings of the greens.
There is no point in describing a course most of us are able to see on TV every year but just how good the experience of being at the Club is, how perfect everything bends Club House, Staff, ProShop, Bar, Members, Range, views, Charm … just one of those very special experiences! And a great golf course as well.
I really hope to be back, play it in full throttle and experience both East and Edimburgh which I was told are as good. Not many of us are lucky enough to get these invites, but if it appears in your email go do it, it is worth every single second.
I have always felt an affinity toward Wentworth as it provides some of my earliest memories of watching golf on TV as a child. It is a course I felt I could have described holes 1 through 18 without ever having visited and there aren’t many courses in the world that I would be able to do that with. When the opportunity came to play the course in August 2021 for the first time, I obviously jumped at the chance. It did however bring a certain level of worry that I might be building myself up for an experience that may struggle to reach the lofty expectations I had set over so many years as a spectator. I needn’t have worried and I’m glad to report these fears were unfounded.
This is a grand place and you definitely couldn’t call it understated. Both the clubhouse area and the surrounds around the 1st tee certainly give cause for nerves. You can feel the weight of history lingering around you and there are no shortage of eyes surveying your potential impending embarrassment if your tee shot were to go awry. We had 3 England rugby players and TV crew waiting to tee off afterwards and a corporate hospitality group on the putting green; no pressure then!
The aforementioned 1st tee shot is a wonderful spectacle viewed from the vantage point of the raised tee beside the castle like clubhouse. The walk is equally as pleasing and the hole is a relatively gentle one, played as a par 5 on the amateur card. I had my first putt from above the hole on this green and this was good to get this exposure early as the greens were immaculate and extremely slippery.
In my opinion, the strongest holes on the front 9 were the 3rd and the stretch 7-9. All of them solid par 4’s that reward quality golf shots and reject average ones. The 3rd in particular is a brute, playing just under 460 yards and slightly uphill, it’s a 4.5 par at least for most mere mortals. The approach shot is pure theatre, with the attractive property watching over the green and reminding you of your affluent surroundings.
Hole 7 was the prettiest of pictures as we arrived at the tee box. We took a minute to survey the scene of heather, manicured turf and forest blending beautifully together in a bright symphony of colour that really was a feast for the eyes. That view stretches from the 6th green and across the 7th and 11th fairways that run parallel to each other here. It would be between these two holes (7 and 11) as to which were my favourites on the course and I have still been unable to split them; it is just a wonderfully attractive section of the property.
A key feature at Wentworth is a lack of weaker holes that offer true opportunities to build a score. There are what would appear to be chances on the scorecard, but what the scorecard doesn’t show is that punishment still looms large. The run for home from the 13th is an extraordinary stretch of holes, which for me has the perfect balance of potential reward and difficulty which make the various tournaments that have been played over this course, such an engaging watch approaching Sunday afternoon. Holes 13-15 could wreck even the most in-form players scorecard, while 17 and 18 offer the opportunity to attack if the situation warrants it. Again, there is severe punishment awaiting if you get tempted into a impromptu bout of over confidence however and I’m sure many recreational rounds here end in both ecstasy and despair in equal measure.
This is an exclusive place and becoming more so as the years go by. I know in the U.K. any scent of a country club culture can put some people’s noses out of joint and result in a certain resentment. However looking at the golf course objectively, it is a wonderful test in great condition with memorable holes from beginning to end. Yes there are better courses in the surrounding area (Surrey’s heath belt has to be some the finest golfing real estate anywhere) but for me, coupled with the history, Wentworth is a bucket list golf course that all golfers should aspire to play if they are ever fortunate enough to get the chance. I may never get that chance again, but will relish that summers afternoon walking these famous fairways.
Its just one of those courses that you have on your list of must plays, it certainly was for me and it didn't disappoint. I must have driven past the entrance many times whilst playing other courses locally wondering what it was like on the other side and driving through the estate to reach the club house you realise you are somewhere special. The course was being set up for the coming tournament and finishing on the 18th with the grandstand up gave me a very small slice of what it must be like for the pros with all the fans watching. Such a lovely course and condition was amazing.
I played the West course at Wentworth maybe 7 years ago, so my actually playing experience is limited. However, my spectator experience …
I have visited this behemoth of new money every year since I was 15. I have seen it change hands and even met the new owners – The Reignwood Group. This is not the club it once was and indeed it is not the course it once was. In 2005 and again in 2007, the course was altered by The Big Easy, Mr Ernie Els.
When I say ‘it once was’, this is not a negative. The transformation of the club has come under much scrutiny and I shall leave the broadsheets to that, but from what I have seen, the club is a slick and luxury operation. The course has improved vastly and is the right test in terms of quality and difficulty for the flagship event on the European Tour.
The BMW PGA Championship is an outstanding competition and I have been lucky to have attended all 6 days previously, from the star-studded Pro-Am to the magnificent show that is the Sunday.
I must commend all that run and create the Spectator’s Village. You really could spend all day here; games, merchandise, food and champagne galore.
I was luckily given an invite through a member, around my birthday time which was much appreciated! There’s 2 clear aspects you have to view wentworth with. 1. Is the course 2. Is everything else wentworth encompasses.
The drive in, the clubhouse, the service, the aura of the place just makes you appreciate golfs special places. We did the whole lot and went full in for a breakfast in the restaurant, tour of the clubhouse and mandatory £xxx spent in the proshop like it’ll be our last time playing golf again here. No matter where you went you were made to feel welcome. And to top it off managed to get into a conversation about Harbour Town With Matt Wallace on the driving range thanks to my lighthouse headcover from playing there in 2017!
We had an awesome starter lead us off on the 1st, and damn what a nervous tee shot it is standing in front of the iconic clubhouse, road in front and somewhere down there is a fairway! There many reviews with details about the course etc. For me, it was iconic and a great course - it’s immaculate and the greens are also some of the best you’ll putt on. It lacks some memorable iconic holes so to speak and in places it plays long. Wentworth is about the course and the experience. I loved it, but it wouldn’t knock Sunningdale old or new from either of their perch...
Fortunate enough to play here a few weeks back.
Fantastic place to be, and a fantastic golf course.
Not a criticism, but sometimes when you play a course as famous as this I think you are expecting to have your socks blown off, and it never quite made it in that sense, but I feel very privileged to play what is a momentous course in golfing history
Nice review, you’re a lucky guy! :) Playing the West sounds like a great experience. I’d love to play there one day. I might just need to hold out for that elusive Pro-Am invitation!
I played yesterday afternoon and the course is just outstanding. I have an 11.2 handicap and played from the yellow tees (6700 yards) and played well (for me) shooting an 84 on a course that I find challenging (a couple lessons this month at my home course and striking only 30 putts, which is below my average, clearly helped).
Given that we have had a lot of rain over the past few days, the condition and pace of the greens was incredible. I knew that they had the sub air system (and I have played the course 5-6 times in the past including a couple since the renovations) but I sill blasted several putts on the front 9 past the hole - the greens rolled like 11-12 stimp greens that seemed to have no impact from the rain.
The course itself possesses excellent variation. The 2nd and 18th holes seem to get the most notoriety but I am most impressed by the 8th hole. The hole has a fantastic motion to it pushing you right with your tee shot and then back to the left to the pin/green. Rough enters the fairway around 230-240 yards allowing most golfers to play it safe and hit a 3 or 5 wood off the tee leaving a longer iron shot to the flag (which works given the ample back-to-front length of the green and the effective 'backstop' behind the back of the green). Better players can play it aggressively and leave a short iron to the flag but if your tee shot isn't accurate it becomes hard to make a 4. In my view its a perfect balance between risk and reward and the shape of the hole, cut of the fairway and placement of the bunkers actually create a few different risk/reward tradeoffs depending on your risk tolerance off the tee.
I have always preferred links style courses but this is among my favorite courses in the world post the renovations. It's a nice bonus that the service and facilities are excellent but really that part of the experience isn't as big a part of the day as it is at places like queenwood or beaverbrook. Overall, its the kind of golf experience that's worth doing whatever it takes to accept a member's invitation when one comes along.
Dear Thomas, This is a great and measured review - thanks, and I wholeheartedly agree with what you say about the course. I too absolutely love the links and heathland for which these shores are rightly famous, and fully appreciate the overwhelming tendency to compare unfavourably Wentworth West's parkland/heathland hybrid against the heathland neighbours of Swinley and Sunningdale etc. However despite all of this, as you say, the West is a thoroughly engaging, varied and enjoyable challenge first to last, and its amongst my outright favourites too. As you say the conditioning and the greens play a big role in this and it is hard to overstate what amazing experience playing on and around the greens are. But that is not to understate that there is not one remotely weak hole and - conversely quite a few that have in their time formed part of world best x holes lists like 2,3,7,13,17... and I personally love the 18... it is such a fun end to the round especially following the brilliant but completely different 17th, and so good when the match is still to play for. If you hit a good tee shot left of centre - it is hard to resist the urge to go for it!
Something about the West course doesn't get me excited like Swinley Forest or Sunningdale does. A bit like going to Scotland and not playing links golf, going to Surrey and not playing heathland just seems a bit odd. However, this all changes when I'm inside the gates, and in the Wentworth bubble, which is like heaven.
The service in the clubhouse is the best anywhere, and the clubhouse (whilst being modern and not to my taste) is absolutely gorgeous. You'll more than likely be the only people there, and it really does make you fell like a millionaire.
As for the golf course, it is a bit too American and doesn't feel like it's in Surrey, similarly too The Wisley. However, when I go through the course, there really isn't a bad hole, with 3, 5 and 6 perhaps being the least memorable, but still all good holes. It's one thing to have no bad holes, but it's another thing to have lots of really good holes and several great holes. I would put holes 1, 2, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 as really good holes, and would go as far to say holes 7 and 13 are great golf holes. It is a huge compliment to the original design by Harry Colt, and to the changes made my Ernie Els.
On top of the design, with new money invested by the new owners, the course might be the best conditioned course in the UK. The fairways are like carpets all year round (thanks tho their 30+ strong greenkeeping team), the bunkers are gorgeous and always well presented, and the greens are immaculate and always fast (thanks to their Sub-Air system).
If you are lucky enough to visit, try and play all 3 courses, as they're all so different and offer completely different tests. The West is a must though, and is spectacular.
Is this the only club in the UK that does not offer any visitor times?
Hi Warren. It's not, although unlike America, it is one of only a handful.
Queenwood down the road is ultra-exclusive. Whilst there are some charity days and auctioned tee times etc at Wentworth, I don' believe these exist at Queenwood, which is the more private of the two.
Other private course in the UK I'm aware of is Loch Lomond. Ardfin was private, but has now opened its doors to the public.
I've played the West a number of times over the years, but not since the recent changes. It's a tough cookie this course, unless you're a low single digit player, don't even try to play from the back tees. Pick your set of tees as this course plays long, especially when soggy.
I have both topped and shanked a tee shot on the first to great delight of Sean, the starter. Sean is a wonderful guy. Oh, I've also hooked a tee shot onto the first tee of the East. Always shout Fore.
Anyway, I find that the course is a brute, it's too difficult for my liking. Once you hit the last 4 holes, I feel like I've been beaten over the head one too many times. I best enjoy the stretch of holes 4-8 leading to the halfway hut just before the 9th. The greens are fantastic and with the new sub-air system should play wonderfully all year round.
Before the renovations, I found the green complexes and the bunkers too tricked up. They sometimes really knock the stuffing out of you (16th green for example, or the 8th).
Given it's a private club, it's best to go with a member or get invited. I think there are some tee times but they run into the hundreds of pounds. For me, it's not worth it. I prefer the East, as it's more playable but overall if you have a limited time and budget, I think there are better places to play in the area.
Reviewing and rating the West course based on playing it prior to the most recent changes is unfair and inappropriate. Apart from being tough, which it still is, your criticism of the greens and bunkers is outdated as they have been redone. I don't understand why you reviewed the course now and not after you've replayed the revised course.
Fair point but I made it clear that this review is for the course before the recent revisions. And since the course is still mostly the same, I think it's fine to review the course based on what I saw on numerous previous rounds. Courses change over the years but reviews can only take a snapshot of each course in time. As long as the reviewer specifies it, I think it's fair.
I dont understand people who rate a course that is no comparison to the course before it has had monumental changes. It also sounds like the course beat you up and its too tough for you so you paid it back by slating its rating. I really dont get it.
I for one do not understand why it would such a big deal. I saw this remark on other topics as well and I think it's unnecessary to discourage anyone to write a review which - apart from this dispute - in my opinion is well informed and pleasant to read. Hendrik disclaims his standing where necessary and on the contrary, I think his specific remarks about certain greens can be of value when assessing the success of renovations. As this website is a platform for golf and golfcourse architecture enthusiasts, there will be many readers interested in the history of a course and the changes it has undergone. Don't forget there are also readers who have not and will never be able to play the course as it was before the renovations. Together with the reviews of more recently played rounds, one can track changes and developments and form an own opinion. Lastly, when you dislike a course and it is renovated, wouldn't you take your initial review into account when considering to replay it after these renovations?
Steve - “It also sounds like the course beat you up” is usually a cheap shot dished out when a reviewer’s opinion doesn’t match that held by person making the comment.
You don’t have to be an elite golfer to understand quality architecture & difficulty alone certainly doesn’t make a course good - as Alister Mackenzie alluded to in his 13 principles:
“ Courses should be so arranged that the long handicap player, or even the absolute beginner, should be able to enjoy his round“.
Perhaps Wentworth simply fails in this regard?
Maarten, this isn't a site that rates a course from bygone times, it is site that allows you to tell people what your opinion of the course was that you played so that people can go and compare. Its like going to a Hotel 20 years ago, that has been refurbished, changed owners and is nothing like it is today and rating it on something that's not relevant today. BB, yes the course beat me up on a lot of holes but boy did i enjoy it. It wasn't a cheap shot, it was an opinion on what he wrote and i don't get his rationale of rating a course from so long ago, that bears no relevance to today's course, in the slightest as far as ratings go. I still read his post and think there is some annoyance because it wasn't an easy ride, just what i got from his words and reason to slate a course that has now been changed so radically.
A fairly pointless review frankly. As others have pointed out Hendrik talks about impossible bunkering and green complexes - all of which went 4 years ago. He talks about expensive tee times. This is a guest only club and has been for 4 years. You cannot pay and play. To rank this as a 3.5 rating makes no objective sense. As others say, probably the best greens IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY/EUROPE. A course that does not have a weak hole. All of Henrik's points are out of date. It is at the very least a 5 ball, and a very enjoyable if challenging round for mid teens handicappers up.
Just to update my views (that have caused some reaction judging by the comments, wow, it's just golf guys, relax).
I was fortunate enough to play the West Course again this summer and enjoyed it more. Of course, it is a wonderful course, full of history and tradition. Of course, the greens are immaculate. Of course, the service is impeccable. But as BB said (thanks!), it's about enjoyment and I just feel that I enjoy other courses more (and there are a number in the immediate area...Swinley Forest for example - totally different but more playable and for me, more enjoyable). And thanks to Maarten too for understanding what I meant with my initial review, golf courses change over time and that's usually a good thing.
Anyway, if you get the chance to play the West Course do jump at it. The recent changes (especially on 8 and 16, in my novice views) made these holes better. I still wouldn't "fly into town" to play the course, but "stay overnight" so I guess it's 4.5 stars now reading the ratings guidance on your site.