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. The club hosted the PGA Seniors championship in 1989 and the Girls Amateur was also staged here in 2005.
On a recent trip to the United Kingdom I was fortunate to play at West Hill Golf Club. The course was not only my first round in the English heathlands, but also my first overseas.
Simply put, West Hill is a complete test. It is impossible to imagine golfers of any ability tiring of its superb layout. What struck me most profoundly was that the course creates an engaging golf experience without prototypical features employed at hundreds I have played across the United States. Whereas so many layouts in America generate challenge with manmade ponds, lengthy forced carries, narrow fairways flanked with trouble, and repetitive greens, West Hill creates a dynamic adventure with:
• Firm conditions that bring the existing terrain into consideration on almost all shots
• Wide playing corridors which typically allow players to recover from errant shots
• Natural hazards such as hollows, streams, and patches of heather which bisect the line of play and prevent the use of driver on every tee shot
• Wavy greens with steep drop offs that require different angles and shot shapes to hold
West Hill’s topography is no different than countless courses in my home area, yet it could be dropped here in the Carolinas and immediately be a top rated course. Its design allows the natural contours of the land to deliver a thoughtful experience. Playing West Hill makes me eager to return to England and see other authentic heathland courses.
Although each hole at West Hill is worthy of study, some of my favorites include:
• #3: The par four 3rd kicks off a thrilling stretch of holes on the front nine. The tee shot is blind to a landing zone that cants hard from left-to-right. For many pin placements, the left half of the fairway will be preferred, though far harder to stick. The right half is flatter but also features additional hazards. The green is receptive to shots on the ground which may be necessary, as the curvature of its entrance may repel aerial approaches.
• #8: The use of diagonal bunkering is a simple, yet underutilized means of deception. On the tee shot at the par four 8th, the player faces the decision of determining how much they may wish to bite off a series bunkers playing right-to-left. An aggressive tee shot may hurdle the far right trap, thereby leaving less yardage into the rumpled green complex, but it will also leave the golfer with a blind shot. There is more visibility to the left, but that same fairway also runs out.
• #10: Golfers are enticed to play down the right half of the 10th – avoiding ditches, out-of-bounds, and formidable bunkering. Of course, the best angle is approached from the left, taking on all of the trouble.
• #12: Rarely do I encounter a drivable par four that I do not wish to attack. The 12th at West Hill may be an exception. Despite lacking any penalty areas of note, the severe, multi-tiered green and nine treacherous bunkers in play near the putting surface bring big numbers into play for even a slight mishit.
West Hill is an enthralling, consummate golf experience. By the 9th tee box, I had used every single one of my 14 clubs with a variety of shots. My praise for its strategic architecture, conditioning, staff, and membership community cannot be overstated. Parkland courses in America considering renovation should look to a heathland gem like West Hill to better understand how simplicity in design enables timeless challenge and interest.
What a lovely review. I particularly liked your realisation that the course offered you options with consequences. Take on the hazards off the tee, get your reward; take the easy option off the tee, pay for it later. I do love those courses where the best shot is the one which flirts with disaster.
Thank you for the kind comments Robert! It especially struck me that West Hill manages to achieve such strategy without needing to employ superfluous features.
The early spring sunshine peered through the imposing Scots Pines, dappling the fairways and greens with delicate shadows and all was well in the world.
West Hill Golf Club was a perfect venue to resume my assault on England’s and Britain and Ireland’s respective top 100s after a winter break.
It deserves its place in both lists because of its beautiful course which is almost as gorgeous in the opening week of March as it would be with heather in bloom in August.
It also nods its head to some sporting history in its splendidly appointed clubhouse where the most scrumptious lunch is served.
West Hill is not an overly long course (par 69) but it certainly demands respect, particularly off the tee from which heather, sand, water or sometimes all three, await the errant.
While the flag can be seen from most tees, there are dips and rises which can also feed balls into the many ditches across West Hill.
The first sets the scene on all counts with an opener across heather before going out of view as it trundles down towards a slither of water which traverses a fairway, framed by pines. The subsequent approach is towards a green protected by bunkers on either side.
Because the ground was moist and the ball wasn’t running, our second shots required more oomph than they would later in the season and that was the story for much of the day.
That said, West Hill was in terrific condition, given the context that many courses have been closed because of the incessant rain over recent weeks.
And it does have holes which can bite – including the 458-yard, par-four third which demands a hefty carry over heather before veering down to the left.
Those who cut the corner and manage to fire over a brook to reach its green will have earned hearty applause.
There are five par-threes at West Hill beginning with the fourth and all require pinpoint club selection to avoid sand traps or worse.
I thought I had struck a handsome ball into the 13th only to find it lodged between newly planted trees and a recently erected fence just over the back of the green.
My plea for relief, because I was up against a man-made structure, was quickly dismissed after a phone call to the club pro who pointed out it was the boundary of the course.
My appeal had been a weak effort to save a round which had promised much but had exploded on the 11th, a splendid rising par-four which I had reached in regulation only to take, inexplicably, a further five shots before finding the cup.
Later, in the clubhouse, I mused on whether the 1908 professional’s preserved mashie niblick, hanging on the wall, would have served me better than my 2022 putter.
Before the 13th is a smart halfway house dedicated to England cricketer Eric Bedser whose twin brother Alec was also a West Hill member for many years. Indeed, their portrait adorns the bar next to the aforementioned ancient club.
Back on the course, I think the final three holes are West Hill’s strongest stretch.
The 16th is another which drops down towards a small stream and then sharply ascends to a double-level green. I mucked it up after a rather pleasing tee shot.
The 17th offers a rather nice breather – a picturesque par-five which demands strategy but even short hitters could par and maybe birdie.
The home hole is a stunner with huge Ganton-esque bunkers protecting a slither of green, framed by trees to the left and the clubhouse behind. I was well-chuffed with a four.
I have yet to play the others of the famous three Surrey Ws (Woking is pencilled in for May) but they will do well to match West Hill’s wow factor.
It provided a super start to my golfing year. I would love to play it in summer.
Another golfing jewel in Surrey’s crown - how many good golf courses do they want in one area eh?
Whilst not quite living up to Worplesdon for me, it is still an unbelievably good golf course, built on an impressive piece of land.
The 18th is a superb closing hole, not least when you’re faced with the club house 10 foot behind the green, take one club less would be my advice….and then make sure you don’t thin that one!!
Wow, what a golf course, just immaculate and so fun to play! We played off the white tees as the course itself is quite short so we wanted to make it a little more challenging and we felt there was a lovely balance in terms of enjoyment and difficulty! Just loved every second of it, well worth the green fee! Greens were amazing condition as you would expect, the heather was brutal, but the fairways were wide enough to give you a chance so luckily didn't find the heater to often! So many outstanding holes, the only hole that i can imagine people don't like is the 14th, it just requires a power fade around the corner which leads to a nice wide open fairway, not something you would really be able to tell without a gps device showing you! Overall can't fault a thing, friendly staff, great practise facilities, peaceful round of golf, loved it, can't wait to play many more in the surrey area
I have been sat debating on 5 or 5 and a half for this course for 5 minutes now. I gave Walton Heath a 5, but this course is my favourite style. I think on balance, trying not to be biased it deserves the same if not better! I'll stick to a 5 for now.. just!
Given our incredibly late tee time of 6:15pm, we had the whole course to ourselves. We just about managed to get round, having to watch with great intensity the ball flights of my playing partners on the 17th and 18th but oh my what a place! I've wanted to play Woking for a lot, and some would say they can't pick a favourite between this and that, I look forward to playing Woking on my next journey down if it's anything like this place!
I think I would always be a little biased because this is golfing haven for me. Whether it's a parkland with water or a heathland dotted with tall mature trees, I'm in awe all the way round. I would argue this even has more holes that I stood and could really admire from the tee than Walton Heath. The contouring land this course is laid out on gives a great balance of golf holes. Even going round a house which I found quite unique. I'm sure they get their fair share of golf balls in their gardens!
Again, there's no point talking about condition, everything I've found in Surrey and Hampshire so far (This will be my 5th) is nothing short of brilliant. It's a shock to see such consistent condition coming from Norfolk, where some can be good and some can be far from it.
There are a lot of really strong holes here for me. All consistent in quality but a few that stood out to me were 4,5,8 and 14. The first being a lovely looking par 3 in the first to head to head back towards the clubhouse before darting off in the opposite direction again with 5. You can't see much from the tee but make sure you're short of the heather! 8 is probably my favourite with great cross bunkering making it a difficult tee shot and the very difficult 14th which is very deceiving off the tee. 456 off the whites, and after thinking I'd hit one perfectly, I found myself in the left crap next to all the trees!
Overall, I can't really fault West Hill. I'm up to 28/100 at the time of writing and I'd probably call it one of my favourites to date. Well worth the trip, and a half decent twilight rate too!
'The perfect members club' is how my friend described it, and we had a brilliant round and experience here.
For our 3 ball (12,12,14 hcp) there was plenty of challenge, highlights being:
- World class greens: perfect roll, vast expanses of subtle swales and undulations. Unless you're a seriously good putter there'll be a 3 putt on your card!
- Really strategic drives; on par 4s 11 & 12 we really had no idea where to place our drives; and after playing 12 I still have no real idea of where a 'safe' shot would be
- Clever par 3s; on 7 we each hit to within 20 ft of the hole and walked off thinking we'd got the hang of the short holes here...on 9 back pin placement we all went at it, missed and a 4 won the hole!
- Excellent use of bunkering for depth perception: 6, 8, 10,16
- As my friend said, some of the friendliest members we've met anywhere; lots of youngsters and women members (a nice contrast to some very male-dominated clubs) and we felt like if you were lucky enough to join you would be made to feel very welcome
A class act, and if visiting the area I would tie this in with 36 at The Berkshire and you'll have a cracking few days!
West Hill has been on my list of courses to play for quite some time, so when the offer came I jumped at the chance. The experience from start to finish was exceptional.
The pro shop welcome and warm and friendly, and many members stopped to say hello and wish me well for my round.
The course opens with a deceptively tricky par 4 with a stream/ditch to avoid off the tee, heather on both sides and a green that slopes from front to back. A three wood left me in the heather and a 6 followed.
The third invites most to open the shoulders and let one rip with the driver. At over 450 yards it is a test for all golfers and a stream in front of the green and a wicked sloping green awaits. A par here felt like a birdie and my round was off and running!
The 6th is a straightforward par 4 with a cross bunker to negotiate if you are long off the tee, sim left and you will be fine.
The 8th was the star of the show for me, a stunning hole of clever design and very easy on the eye. The greenside bunkers are wicked and a sandy par save felt like a birdie for me.
10 is a difficult driving hole with OOB and a ditch either side to contend with, a well struck drive will bring the left hand bunker into play, particularly off the yellow tees.
14 is a hole that appears to divide opinion. A sharp dog left right means a high cut off the tee is paramount if you want to get home in two. My playing partner who is left handed demonstrated what can happen if you go the other way! A par here had me celebrating like I had won the open.
18 is hard! The stunning cross bunkering with heather in bloom was tremendous and despite a card wrecking 8 I enjoyed the final hole none the less. Time for a well earned beer on the terrace overlooking the 18th.
The condition was perfect. Every hole was immaculate. Fairways were like carpets and the greens were fast and true.
If you get the chance to play West Hill - take it.
Heathland course on great land but strangely green in the driest April on record. Long Meadow grass in the greenside fringes. Spongy fairways. This is a really good layout, but looks like someone has gone a bit mad with the fertilizer....that may come back to haunt them
West Hill is a beautifully presented and scenic course with a number of holes framed by pines and heather. When we played it (September 2020) it was in tremendous condition despite the lack of rain and challenges faced by some other courses in the area. The course wasn’t excessively tight, allowing you to enjoy hitting driver off most tees, without being easy.
Standout holes for us were the 3rd, 12th and 18th. Our minor quibble would be that in some places the course is packed in a little tightly. Examples include the 14th where it seems the design of the hole is heavily influenced by the desire to avoid balls going into a house on the right and the putting green which seemed to be quite close to the right of the 18th green, especially given the approach is long and left is dead.
Overall though this is a wonderful course, well worth its place in the top 100.
There’s very little to choose between the 3Ws, but I’d make the case that West Hill is the most consistent of the three courses when measured across the eighteen holes. It may not quite hit the same highs as elements of Woking and Worplesdon, but the gentle undulations and well routed design means that West Hill delivers with first-rate heathland golf.
As with Woking and Worplesdon, West Hill has excellent greens, some of which are huge and include some interesting undulations. The best of these can be found on the back nine at the 12th and 15th. The 12th is a short, perhaps reachable par four but a back-half pin placement would provide an excellent defence as the green is a big two-tiered affair. The 15th green on the other hand is more subtle. This is a long par three but the green is undulating and menacing, protected by a spine that runs through the centre of it.
Greens aside, my favourite holes are those with the cross-bunkers, namely the 6th, 8th, 10th and 18th, all of which are memorable. The tee shot on 3 is also gripping as you drive across a diagonal ridge and a wedge of heather to an angled fairway whilst trains pass by on their return from London. The only hole that misses the target is the 14th which is sadly a bit of a mess from the tee and would benefit from the tee position being relocated to its left. The only options from the tee are a lofted drive over the trees or a big slice, hence I’m quite surprised that the club haven’t found a fix for this hole yet. Otherwise, there’s a lot to like about West Hill. It’s a course that’s always been beautifully presented on the times when I’ve played it, and I must also extend my positive reflections towards the clubhouse whose ambience is more relaxed than most highly ranked clubs making for a comfortable and welcoming trip for visitors looking for a day out on the Surrey heathland.