The Duchess is the shortest and prettiest of the three courses at Woburn Golf Club. Major competitions, accolades and honours are usually heaped on the Duke's, and more recently, the Marquess courses. Nevertheless, the Duchess is delightful in its own right, and a serious challenge.
Charles Lawrie designed the Duchess, and the course opened for play in 1979. It measures a respectable 6,651 yards from the back tees and it’s tighter, and perhaps less forgiving of the wayward shot than the Duke’s. But all the same, it’s a fine undulating woodland course, carved through pine trees. It will require the full repertoire of shots and, finding the small greens in regulation, is very challenging.
This is definitely a course where you must keep your ball in play. If you manage to do this from the tee, then the rewards can be great. Use your driver sparingly because this is a real thinker’s course. The towering pine trees make each hole appear exceptionally tight. However, on occasions, you will need to go for distance.
There are some great holes on the Duchess, especially the par threes. The 9th, stroke index 2, is a par four, which begins with a long, narrow chute off the tee. Halfway down, everything begins to kick left. The green, a stingy little thing, is close to the trees on the right and fronted by a nasty bunker on the left.
Most of the par threes are quite long and challenging, demanding very straight tee shots. The unusual, 203-yard 7th, has a huge bunker, front and right, and danger to the left. An historic ridge – the remains of an ancient Danish settlement – runs diagonally across the hole and will push anything short and left into the forest.
The 15th, a 485-yard doglegged par five, is a typical Duchess shot-maker’s delight. Anything other than an arrow-straight drive ends up in the trees. A short drive leaves a blind second shot. The left-sloping fairway runs downhill, then rises sharply to a two-tiered green.
The Duchess fits into the Woburn family exceptionally well – it’s a real gem. In our opinion, the Duchess is as good, if not better, than the Duke’s and the Marquess.
The Duchess seems to be tighter and hence more claustrophobic than the other courses at Woburn. Personally I enjoy the Duchess as much as the other two, probably because there is more of a premium on accuracy. Although it probably has less stand-out holes (maybe the 1st is my favourite), for me it has less poor holes and it is a good solid course. However a bit like the Marquess and Duke's I think the ranking is too high and I could name a number of courses which I would rank higher
Comfortably the blandest of the 3 Woburn courses. Only tree lovers would describe Woburn Duchess as pretty as everything is green - tees, fairways, rough, greens and even the shockingly ugly weeds, bushes and other wild vegetation that inhabit the ground under the trees. No purple heather or yellow gorse bushes in sight ( probably not indigenous but it's just an illustration ). There are courses that are dominated by trees which accommodate more variety than just avenues of trees running just off the fairways. The condition of the course was not great either. Ok before anyone responds by saying why play Woburn Duchess if you don't like parkland. The reason is that some publications (inc Golf Monthly), are misguided enough to have the Duchess in their top 100 in GB&I list - and it was the last course on that particular list that I had to play.
I played the Duchess course on a late October day, mild but misty and damp. I'd not played at Woburn for a few years but the experience was as good as I remembered, friendly, helpful staff and top notch facilities. Even with a 1300 tee time we had the course to ourselves, able to enjoy the experience of walking the tree lined fairways heavy with the scent of pine. As other reviewers have said the Duchess is the shortest of the three Woburn courses but makes up for it with tighter fairways and small greens, all immaculate with tee boxes that look like carpet. I personally didn’t think the fairways especially narrow, only the wildest of drives will mean you're searching the trees or reloading. What’s key to a good score is ensuring you are in the right place on the fairways; it’s all too easy to rip a good drive only to have a tree blocking you or playing your next shot from an incline. There is a good mix of long and shorter par 4’s; I thought they were the best holes on the course. The only slightly disappointing element was the greens, quite slow albeit very true, I’m putting it down to the weather and time of year. IRC
Woburn can boast no less than three golf courses that all regularly feature in the various Top 100 rankings.
That in itself is unique but what impresses me the most whenever Woburn is debated is that if you ask three different people which course they prefer you are likely to receive three different responses.
The Duchess starts off in scintillating fashion with a couple of absorbing holes and has a much better and compelling routing than the Duke’s. The course is also slightly more undulating as well as being shorter in length.
Many also say it’s much tighter but, whilst it possibly is a little bit, I didn’t think this was too noticeable. That said it’s still a course where you must keep your ball in play! The greens are certainly smaller too and, with the exception of a couple, much flatter.
The par four opener has a particularly narrow fairway that starts to gradually tumble down approximately 150 yards short of the green before rising back up steeply to the ‘dance floor’ at the same level as most of the fairway. Whilst the par three second has the most wonderful green setting, deeply seated amongst tall pines, with a narrow and twisting putting surface protected by three bunkers.
The remainder of the course doesn’t quite live up to this early billing but there are many more fine holes to come, especially amongst the closing stretch. Indeed I was very impressed with the final third of the course which has a lovely mix of holes and requires both length and finesse. The 11th and 12th also work nicely together and whilst not stand-out holes play very well.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
This is a very pretty and lovely course. Not long by any means, but really quite narrow! The par 3 2nd is a good example of that, you can't afford any bit of lateral movement to the ball. Leave the driver in the bag and enjoy that course for what it is. The routing with the other courses around is a little disturbing, but the place is well marked. And offers some excellent facilities. Lucky members these are!