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.
For me, four things about this course stand out. Firstly, length. When people refer to the relative lack of length of West Hill (and other similar courses such as New Zealand and Woking) compared to modern day courses, they are missing the whole point of the course and, in many ways, of amateur golf generally. The key to a good round of golf at West Hill is simple - hit it onto the fairway! If you are marginally out of position with your tee shot (particularly on the par 3 and 4 holes), then this really limits your options and requires creative shot-making to make a par. 6,400 yards may not be long enough for the touring pros, but for 99.99% of the golfing population it is a non-issue.
Secondly, the lack of gimmicks and "signature holes". It has all the elements that should be in any golf course - challenging variety of holes; difficult par 3s; a short par 4 (12th) and a great finishing hole. There is something reassuring about playing a course that is just a very solid test of golf.
Thirdly, the opening and closing holes of the round. I've played many of the top 100 courses and it is amazing how many of these have - relative to the other holes on the course - weak opening and closing holes. A good opening hole and, even more so for a golf course where club competitions are played week-in, week-out, a challenging closing hole is a real plus for any golf club. West Hill opens with a very picturesque hole over the brook. However where it really excels is the 18th hole. Of how many courses can it be said (hand on heart) that the final hole is the best hole on the course? The 18th hole at West Hill has the lot - a great view of the clubhouse from the tee; challenging bunkering, a very difficult approach to the green (if you pull it left you are done for) and a great view for spectators from the patio! It isn't possible to relax until you have sunk that final putt on the 18th which is exactly the way it should be.
Finally, the greens. They are fast and true and a lot of thought is required to navigate these successfully. As with all those familiar with the area I suppose I should contribute to the three Ws debate . . . 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!