West Hill Golf Club is the youngest of the trinity of “Ws” located in this most beautiful corner of Surrey (Woking and Worplesdon being the other two). Cuthbert Butchart, a Scottish professional from Carnoustie, laid out the course in 1910 on the instruction of the founder, Mrs Marguerite Lubbock, a keen golfer. At the time, ladies were not allowed to become members at other local Surrey clubs, so she decided to form one of her own. Butchart went on to become West Hill's first club professional and he also made a name for himself as a fine, forward-thinking clubmaker. His drivers were revolutionary, superbly balanced and fitted with innovative lead weights.
Butchart is not a household name in golf course architecture, but he created an excellent course at West Hill, which has remained virtually untouched ever since (except for some recent bunker refurbishment). The course is routed in an out and back fashion across undulating sandy ground. The fairways are lined with pine, birch and, of course, tangly heather.
Measuring slightly more than 6,350 yards, West Hill is not long by today's standards, but with only two par fives and a lowly par of 69, it represents an enjoyable and testing challenge. The key to scoring well at West Hill is the successful negotiation of the five short holes and the best of these is undoubtedly the 15th, which measures 212 yards from the back tees. British golf luminary Henry Cotton felt that the 15th was one of the best short holes in Britain and, for a while, Cotton shared the West Hill course record with a 67.
West Hill is home of the famous Father and Son Foursomes Tournament, which was first contested in 1931. The Times and The Telegraph report on this event as it progresses each year. The winning team become proud holders of the Geoffrey Lubbock Challenge Cup, which was donated by the husband of the founder Marguerite.
If it's charm that you are looking for, then you need look no further than West Hill. This is a truly delightful golf course.
It had rained all night but the hardy and the committed queued at the first tee, squinting in to the low flying reluctant sun, beaming through the freshly leafless boughs of towering beech. We hunkered closely, expectantly, stiff limbed and well wrapped, bending into the hard winter breeze, coaxing numb fingers onto cold, slippy grips.
Why? Because this is West Hill. A sand belt classic that enthralls from first to last. Champion ground for golf. The siren prettiness of the place, stripped back to stately pines and brutal heather is beguiling and offers exquisite winter play.
The endless Summer has left the ball lying low on a tortured sod but there is a palpable fastidiousness about the preparation here never the less. Special.
You will enjoy the vistas across the course, the gentle undulations and the timeless heathland routing. Where there are blind shots you are rewarded by generous landing areas and spectacularly pretty approaches. Each hole is a delight and a challenge.
Very few score well here. The greens, should you find them in regulation, do not give up birdies without a fight.
So as the sun sets on the endless summer of 2018, we enjoyed the immaculate West Hill, even if it was, as all our courses are, strained and sparse of fairway grass.
West Hill is a beautiful heathland layout that I was able to play as an afternoon round after playing Worplesdon in the morning. The day was warm and i think I was feeling a bit dogged from the heat and getting used to the time change from the States. Anyway that's my excuse for my lousy play on the first few holes. Playing with top 100 editor in chief Keith Baxter and editor Jim McCann we were joined by Gary, a boyhood friend of Keith's and a West Hill's member. It seems that they have cleared over 3000 trees from the property, giving the course an open but beautiful setting. The course really begins at 3, a tough dog leg left par 4 with a diagonally running stream about 75 yards short of the green. The green slopes back and right to left which means a running approach has a good chance of running out all the way off the green. 6 is a fine hole, with a blind tee shot opening a shot to a green with a significant slope form back right to left front. Definitely a tough par. The diagonal cross bunkers at 8 are magnificent. Here the green has a significant back left to right front slope and a miss left and long make for an extremely difficult up and down, as I found out. 9 is a fine short par three with over being near death due to the steep bank off the back of the green. 12 is a great short par 4, drivable for the long hitter but protected by excellent bunkering and a severe slope in the green. The uphill par 4 18th is a fine finishing hole, 440 yards from the white tees. A centrally placed bunker likes about 275 yards from the tee, and the heather topped cross bunkers lie another 50 yards distant to give the hole an outstanding look. The green is fairly open but out of bounds runs really close to the left and back so take care!
This course was in superb condition and is a beautiful setting. It was a real pleasure to enjoy a drink on the verandah outside the 18th green and watch the other golfers finish. For me the course had a couple of holes where the heather pinched in and limited my strategic options, but on looking at the yardages playing from another set of tees might have alleviated this concern. A great club, welcoming members and a beautiful course and setting. I think most golfers would enjoy the experience of playing West Hill. Read my story: Diamonds of the heather - golfing London's heathland
I think the comment from an earlier reviewer should be borne in mind when comparing West Hill to near neighbours Woking and Worplesdon: “I don’t spend hours thinking about which of my three kids I love the most and I’m not about to start with the three Ws. All great – just enjoy!” I fulfilled my mission to play all three courses when I teed it up here last week and I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment as they’re all top tracks.
One of my playing companions hadn’t seen West Hill for a while and he was impressed by the extent to which the trees had been thinned out in recent years, opening views out to other parts of the course, and this says a lot for the club’s commitment to properly managing its arboreal inventory.
With heather encouraged to prosper alongside many of the fairways, the character of the course is probably now as near to its heathland origins as possible. Two- way “half and half” contour mowing of fairways also gives each of the holes an aesthetically pleasing look, though for some reason the club still persists with diagonally cross cutting in front of the greens.
Conditioning niceties aside – and West Hill is a very well-presented layout – the course epitomizes much of what’s good about inland golf in that part of the golfing world, even if the fairways look as though they’re being irrigated more often than at neighbouring courses, which somewhat undermines its firm and fast playing credentials.
After a gentle introduction at the first two holes, the round really kicks into top gear at the long par four 3rd, played slightly downhill to a green that’s fronted fifty yards in front by a ditch slashing diagonally across the fairway. The next three holes are all top drawer too.
The green of the par three 4th sits behind the creek that runs across the previous hole and it’s beautifully framed by majestic specimen trees. The par five 5th plays up to a heather-threatened crest then drops downhill to the green, before the par four 6th also tumbles down to a putting surface that’s guarded in front by a couple of beautifully fashioned bunkers.
Mention should also be made of the beautiful cross bunkers that dictate the playing strategy on the tee at the par four 8th hole. Set in a diagonal line on the right side of the fairway, these traps more or less force golfers to play to the left before attacking the raised two-tiered green with an approach shot.
On the inward half, I admired the short par four 12th and the two slightly downhill par threes at holes 13 and 15 but the course never quite reached the giddy heights of the front nine for me until arriving at the long par four 18th, which provides a big finish to the round.
Two elongated fairway cross bunkers need to be overcome en route to the home green but, if they can be avoided, then a satisfying net par in front of the clubhouse terrace is a real accomplishment and a gratifying way to end a round on a special course.
In an area drenched with a bountiful number of the country’s elite courses West Hill stands proud as one of Surrey's oldest and most respected.
The alluring venue is consistently cited as a firm favourite for many a travelling golfer and there’s an undeniable charm to whacking your ball around this fabulous and tranquil parcel of heath where the occasional rattle of a train on the Ascot to Guildford line is the only disruption.
A regular fixture in the various top 100 golf course listings its position in relation to near neighbours Woking and Worplesdon often appears more important than inclusion itself for this distinguished trio. I imagine the debate as to which of the ‘Three W’s’ is the best causes much bemusement amongst the ranking fraternity and whilst my own preference is for one of the other two candidates there really is a hairs breadth between them all.
Nearly every hole is a treat and it’s hard to pick the standouts because there are so many but the third, fourth, eighth, tenth, 15th and 18th are my personal favourites. The only two holes that don’t sit particularly well with me are the uninspiring 11th and the 456-yard 14th where the drive borders on absurdity; yes I draw the ball but the left-to-right fairway is virtually out of sight with a wall of trees facing the driving golfer.
Whilst golfing at West Hill you can almost feel the fabric of the course. The fairways are velvety, the heather-clad bunkers provide eye-candy, as well as adding strategy, whilst the colours of nature abound continuously on the periphery. A round at West Hill is a special treat and one that should be savoured and enjoyed for a long time.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Played the 3 Ws recently. Must admit to finding it difficult to choose between WH and Worplesdon but if I had to choose it would be WH as its par 3s are at a level higher than Worplesdon’s.
The best holes include:- 3, 6, 8, 10 and 12 which is a great short par 4. The 14th is very tough which, notwithstanding what the course planner says, has to be played with a fade off the tee (as a right to left golfer, I could only hit an iron straight (ish), just before running out of fairway, leaving myself 220+ in – so a par 4 and a half. Obviously trees grow and this has caused some issue on this tee although if I could hit a fade, I would love the hole ! 15 in are the best holes on the course and 18 is a worthy finish.
After my second visit to West Hill I feel I underestimated how very good this course is and therefore should update my review of May 2015. Beautifully presented (greens could do with being a bit quicker) the course is a picture with lovely vistas and is surprisingly tranquil in such a busy location. Excellent bunkering.The 1st is an excellent par 4 opening hole and there are other long/tough par 4's at 3, 6, 10, 14 (tough tee shot if you draw the ball) and 18 which makes playing to handicap difficult. Only seemed to be one short par 4, the fairway of which was framed by a series of bunkers. My favourite holes were the gorgeous 8th and the 16th. No real poor holes and an absolute delight to play, West Hill is now one of my favourite courses
I played West Hill twice on a perfect day in March 2017 as part of a golf society and I’ve ended up falling in love with it. I have played a number of very good (and more famous) courses in the Surrey/Berkshire area in recent years but West Hill has, for some reason, left the greatest impression on me.
I will acknowledge that, for a 10 handicapper, I shot two good rounds off the par 69 yellow tees (77 and 74) so a neutral observer may be suspicious that my judgement has been clouded by this but I’m confident in my impartiality that this is not the reason for my favourable view.
So, why did I like West Hill so much? There are many reasons:
* The way it seems the course has been made to fit perfectly into such a small area.
* The conditioning of the course – Other than faster greens, I find it hard to believe the conditioning could be any better in summer. The turf could certainly not be any more lush.
* The chipping green and practice bunkers adjacent to the first tee. The close proximity means you can relax with any anxiety of having to rush for your tee slot.
* The Eric Bedser Tea Hut (the famous cricketing Bedser twins were both members) between the 12th green and the 13th tee where you can acquire a mean Sausage (or bacon) sandwich.
* The spongy ramp/walkway from the car park to the course. If only the paths on all courses could be as welcoming to our tootsies as this.
* The railway line (and many South West trains) that runs parallel to the long par 4 3rd.
The holes worthy of special mentions are:
* The 3rd (par 4) is a long par 4 in yardage terms but doesn’t play as long as you think. A great hole for drawers of the ball who like to open their shoulders, especially after playing the more restrictive first two holes.
* The 4th (par 3) is very inviting even if I managed to avoid hitting the green in both rounds. It seems most people rank the par 3 15th as the best par 3 but I preferred the 4th (despite a birdie on 15).
* The 5th (par 5) is a very good birdie (if not eagle!) opportunity with a nice approach to the green
* The 6th (par 4), similarly to the 5th, rewards you with the view of the green layout as you approach the brow of the hill. This should raise a smile.
* The 8th (par 4) gives great views of the hole with a slash of heathery bunkers to play with your mind for your second shot.
* The 9th (par 4) is a long two shotter unless you (dare) thread a driver through the narrow link between the two parts of the fairway.
* The 16th (par 4) is another hole with a great vista of the green – don’t take too much club off the tee, mind, or you’ll find the leat at the bottom.
* The 18th (par 4) allows you a welcoming last hurrah with the driver. Even with a lengthy drive, you‘ll probably be playing in nothing shorter than a 7 iron to a partially hidden green to the watching gallery on the well situated terrace. A lovely way to finish.
I did consider whether it was appropriate to give West Hill a 6-ball (Albatross) review as doing so gives me little manoeuvrability on future reviews but the way you feel about a course comes from the soul and shouldn’t be measured simply by its yardage, exclusivity or prominence. On that basis, it’s impossible not to give it top marks.
This is an excellent course. Played this last week, playing two rounds in a day for £65 winter rates. Which given the condition of the course at this time of the year is fantastic value and far cheaper than comparable courses (if that is a factor for people). Long hitters won't be able to use the driver too much as many fairways run out after 250 yards off the yellow tees. This increases the number of mid rather than short irons into holes, with the course playing longer than both Woking and Worplesdon. Greens were in good nick, but not especially fast, understandable given the time of the year. The course can feel a tad noisy with the proximity of the trainline (though not uncommon for golf courses in general), roads and Sandhurst Military academy. Althougth, i'm nitpicking. The holes are varied and interesting, well worth a visit. Make it your first stop, if you plan on doing the three W's.
We played West Hill yesterday on the very reasonable twilight green fee and found it a beautiful course with friendly staff and members. The course had been closed in the morning due to downpours but despite slightly soggy areas it played beautifully.
A classic of its type but very playable, neither of us losing a ball showing there is more space than appears, and the heather isn't too thick. Well recommended.