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.
I played at West Hill on the Monday just passed, having been left at home with no set plans. With the prospect of another uneventful day of furlough looming I decided to scour the top 100 website to look for a course to play, whereby I could make the most of the end of British summertime. I live in SW London and so I'm fortunate to live in close proximity to the Surrey sand-belt courses, the big Berkshire courses and Hampshire which is also blessed with some very fine places to play. Although I'm yet to play many of these I am aware of the pedigree that they hold, and when browsing the Surrey list my eyes were of course drawn to the household names of Sunningdale, Wentworth, Walton Heath etc. Sandwiched next to Worplesdon and Woking is West Hill golf club (both on this website and in geographical location) - ranked 10th in Surrey and in the top 100 for England as well as GB & I. Having compared green fee's with many other of the courses in Surrey, I settled on booking a round here with the very pleasant secretary, who kindly offered me a twilight fee brought forward two hours, for a very reasonable £75. I booked in at 9.30am to play at 14.08pm, and so the excitement started to build - a day once with no plans had improved its prospects immeasurably! I jumped on a train at 12.30pm and journeyed for half an hour from Clapham Junction to Brookwood station, which is a 10 minute walk from the club. Whilst on the train you pass through the towns of West Byfleet and then Woking, catching glimpses firstly of West Byfleet golf club and then Woking GC, Worplesdon GC and the clubhouse of West Hill itself. Its these fleeting moments where you spot a green, or a manicured fairway or purple patches of heather that really cause anticipation to build and as I hopped off the train to begin my walk to the course, I sensed that it may be a special afternoon in the making. I arrived at the gates 50 minutes before my tee time and as I wandered towards the pro's shop I paused for a moment to take the view in. Laid out in front are vast expanses of heather, scotch pine and delightful panoramic views of the course. The 1st and 18th are laid out in a back and to fashion from the clubhouse and away to the left you can see the magnificent 2nd green and the (immensely difficult) 3rd hole. Once I'd snapped out of my gaze, I was warmly welcomed by the professional and directed to the chipping green (which is great fun) and practice nets. 45 minutes flew by and I was on the tee. I had a tee time all by myself and I could not wait to take all the elements of the course in. It is a glorious opening hole - short, but with a huge amount of heather to carry with your tee shot (this is the predominant theme of the entire course). An iron was sufficient to open the round, a wedge and two putts for a par got me off to a good start and I approached the rest of the round with a real buzz. The condition of the course was absolutely pristine. The most recent reviewer remarked that he had never seen the course in better condition and I am certain that I have never played a course that is well manicured as this. The tees had been hand cut in a checkered pattern, the fairways were mown tight, the bunkers were full of wonderful soft sand and the greens were incredibly firm and true. In my opinion there are no weak holes on the course. The 3rd is a fantastic blind par 4 that requires two good hits to reach the green. The 5th is a brilliant blind par 5 with heather crossing the middle of the fairway, taking driver and even 3 wood out of the longer hitter's hands. The view from the top of the 6th hole down to the green is gorgeous and the 8th believe to be the best hole on the course - it requires a straight drive through an avenue of tall pines, avoiding a number of fairway bunkers, and the green complex has a very tricky back to front slope. Other highlights were the 10th, the driveable 12th, the 15th par 3 which has one of the best greens I've ever seen, and the 18th which is as strong as a finishing hole could be. Played uphill, it measures 440 yards from the tips and with the clubhouse sitting a mere 5 yards off the back of the green, nerves could definitely play a part when one is standing over their second shot in a Saturday medal! The view from the clubhouse back down to the course is stunning and when putting out on the 18th it feels as if the members are sat on the green with you, it really is that close. If I continue to describe my round here I will soon run out of superlatives, but I have to say that this is up there with the best courses I have ever played and with the warm welcome from the members and professional, it is one of the best golfing days of my life. You could throw a blanket over Woking, Worplesdon and West Hill and the area is very lucky to have them all in such close proximity. The debate as to which is the best course of the 3 W's is not one for me to settle as I am yet to visit Woking or Worplesdon; but if they are on a par with West Hill then in my opinion this might well be the golden triangle of golf in England. West Hill really is worth a 5.5 ball rating minimum, and is an absolute treat to play. Make every effort to visit it!
I am lucky enough to play West Hill every year as part of my society. But this year is the best condition I have ever seen the course. Perfectly green fairways with defined cut. Greens were excellent as usual. But there appears to have been a lot of work in recent months addressing finer details which have also made a fantastic difference. Just those little touches make for an even more enjoyable experience. Staff always very friendly and welcoming and can’t wait to get back there next September but hopefully before. Top top course all round.
West Hill is well deserving of its rankings in the Top 35 in England, and Top 100 in the UK. Often thought of as the 'weakest' of the 3Ws, it is still not to be missed. It is a classic heathland course with lots of great holes, and a must play if it the area.
1 and 2 are nice starting holes, and 3 is a really good blind par 4. 5 is a really good par 5, where heather cuts across the fairway, taking driver out of your hand. 6 is a gorgeous blind par 4 with a spectacular view when you get up the hill, and 7 is a lovely par 3. Hole 8 is in my opinion the best 8th hole in the London heathlands. It is beautifully bunkered, with great strategy, and just a gorgeous hole. 10 and 11 are two very tough par 4s, whilst 12 is a great short par 4 with a crazy green. 9 and 13 are short par 3s tucked into the corners of the property which I like, whilst 14 is a hard dogleg right, often criticised for being too sharp. 15 is another nice par 3, 16 a lovely par 4 with a view of the railway behind, and 17 a good par 5 with heather coming across the fairway again. 18 is a spectacular par 4 with brilliant bunkering and strategy, and the green is literally paces from the clubhouse, so don't catch a flier!
I understand the criticism that there are too many blind shots (3, 5, 6, approach into 11), and some people say too often heather or a ditch cuts across the fairway and takes driver out of your hands (1, 5, 11, 16, 17 and 18). However, this is all part of the fun of plodding your way around a brilliant test of golf.
West Hill has a lovely rustic feeling to it, it’s well manicured but has a grand, natural vibe to it. On the first hole you’re straight out into the heather then both sides of the second are bordered by our twisted purple friend and enemy. It’s a tough yet fair start before you disappear into the pine trees.
The greens in July were really quick, understandably. They felt faster than Woking’s next door. Despite its every day SSS of +1 for men it is scoreable if you don’t do anything stupid, and it does have some very cool bunkering but you never feel like you’re going from sand to sand. They do help to frame what I think are West Hill’s most attractive holes, the 8th and 16th. There isn’t a weak or ugly hole there though, it’s consistently tough, rewarding and pretty.
The practice facilities are excellent too but there’s something I can’t put my finger on that’s stopping me giving it 5 out of 6. Perhaps it’s experiences at other courses, Woking has a couple of weaker holes but stuns you in other ways, whilst other heathlands I’ve played have felt more wild and adventurous. West Hill is beautiful and I really enjoyed it but I won’t be rushing back. It deserves a place in rankings lists but for me personally doesn’t hold much replay value.
The tree clearance has been absolutely brilliant and has taken West Hill to a whole new level. The playing conditions were among the best I had seen in Surrey and the setting for each hole is really lovely. The views across the property are glorious corridors through the remaining trees and you really get a feel for the rolling topography as you look around. The upgrades to the course have produced plenty of well-deserved compliments, which I thoroughly support.
The elegance of the experience is such a treat all the way around. I agree that the visual on the 14th tee is confusing, and it would require (at a minimum) many more trees coming down on the right-hand side to make more sense of where you are actually going.
West Hill in its upgraded and refreshed state is now a masterpiece that the members are so lucky to call home.
This is a pure golf course. I have played a good selection of golf courses but have not played on many greens faster than West Hill. They get the greens rolling so well you feel like you are putting on a carpet, no bobbles and it just rolls on and on. The facilities are excellent as well, the range is awesome in the summer as you get to hit off the grass which is cut just like the fairways so it feels amazing. The course itself is really good, lots of lovely picturesque holes with the 8th hole being my favourite. A tough par 4 with heather all up the left hand side and bunkers guarding the front of the green. This is a great club and I would definitely reccomend to play it as it is in extremely good condition all year round. Only criticism would be the 14th hole! I’ve played there a lot as i’ve got friends who are members and every time i step on the 14th tee it doesn’t feel right. You have to aim over some really tall trees and play a huge slice just to keep it on the fairway! Other than that hole i think the course is great and on par with Woking and Worplesdon!
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.