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, but the Duchess is lovely in its own right, and a stern challenge.
Charles Lawrie routed the Duchess course but sadly died before the build started, so his partner Donald Steel completed the project. The layout opened for play in 1979 and it measures a respectable 6,651 yards from the back tees, but it’s tighter, more heavily wooded, and therefore less forgiving of the wayward shot than the Duke’s. It's also more undulating than its older sibling, appearing more comfortable in its own skin.
It's 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 as finding the small greens in regulation is no mean feat. 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 or be left with long approaches.
There are some solid 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 one shotters 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 which many prefer over the Duke’s and Marquess.
Played all three courses at Woburn as a member and this one is by far my favourite and the best! The ball echos as you hit it as your surrounded by tall pines. Always in amazing condition all year round. Every hole is different yet all very beautiful and never gets boring playing this course. Very tight fairways on this course but if you miss the fairway and hit your ball into the trees you quite often get a lucky bounce back onto the fairway! I’ve played lots of golf courses and this has got to be one of my top 3!
The afternoon of our 36 hole day at Woburn took us to The Duchess and completed the set of three very different courses at the superb Woburn Golf Club.
The Duchess winds it’s way through a forest of tall pines and never leaves them. It’s undulation and routing makes for a more interesting round than The Dukes and in my opinion, a much prettier course.
There are arguably no standout holes, there are just a number of very good ones. The 1st in particular being an excellent opening hole. It plays longer than its 435 yards, as the approach shot is played over a large drop and you need to carry it all the way to the green.
The course is tight and claustrophobic in places and to score well here, finding fairways would be rule number one. Whilst you can find your ball in the thick pines, rescue shots into greens are few and far between, so there is a lot of medicine to be taken.
Like The Dukes, the middle holes border on repetitive, with many similar holes, but due to the positions of the greens and the routing it does manage to keep intrigue and shaping shots into greens are often required.
I really enjoyed the finishing stretch from 15-18. With their severe undulations and shaping, picking the right spot to land your tee shot is integral and makes for a tricky finish that requires concentration right up to the final putt.
Having played all three courses now, I’d easily have Marquess as the best (it’s a cracking course) but I would have Duchess and Dukes MUCH closer in the rankings. The Dukes has the better opening stretch, but Duchess is much more fun to play. But they all complement each other superbly and the members here are very lucky to have 3 lovely courses to choose from. Woburn is a cracking club and if you’re looking for a 54 hole golf trip, an overnight stop here should be definitely be considered.
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Very biased review alert , played both both the Duchess and the marquess on a brilliant society day set up by IGC. first 18 was on the Duchess where i managed to get my first HOLE IN ONE on the par 3 13th the course was in perfect condition as youd expect and played ALOT tougher than its more esteemed sister the Marquess i really enjoyed the test of the duchess where driving the ball straight was key . overall had an amaizing day at woburn and its 5 star service .
Tighter than a ducks bottom but well worth the hefty green fee if you get the chance. First class venue, I think the hardest of the three courses at Woburn but beautiful.
I haven't played the Marquess Course, but if I was given 10 rounds on the Duchess and Dukes, I would split them 1 Dukes and 9 Duchess. For me the Duchess is a far better course, and it's not even close.
There is way more variety in the holes, including more doglegs, and the routing isn't back and forth like the Dukes. Standout holes for me are 2, 4, 8, 10, 11, 15, 16 and 17.
All this being said, it is extremely tight, so you do still get some repetitive holes as they all look the same. I've played there maybe 8 times so I can easily tell them all apart, but after 1 round you may struggle to distinguish the 11th from the 12th, or the 7th from the 13th.
The condition is always great, so I'd say it's worth a stop if you're in the area.
I have not played the Marquess course at Woburn, but played the Duchess’ and Duke’s a few years back. The Duchess’ course is heavily lined by trees on either side and the fairways are narrower than one will find on other parkland courses. In fact, the trees are thick and the fairways narrow that at times it does not feel like a parkland course. One would not have been surprised had this course somehow incorporated “forest” in its name as it likely deserves that descriptive word more than a few courses that do have “forest” in the names.
The Duchess’ course is considered short at 6500+ yards. It feels like it plays longer as one does not want to take a full swing on the tee shot, resulting in the approach shots being a bit longer than one might expect. One has to have full command of a near center strike on the clubface to score well.
I expected to not like the Charles Lawrie designed course given the lack of variety in setting and the tightness of it, but in fact I found the course to be a lot of fun. As it was the second round of the day, we played it as a better-ball net so that we could save a bit of time if one of us was out of the hole. The result for me was playing to my index while having a few laughs.
The greens are kept very smooth here. The greens are rarely tricked up with severe undulations. There are tilts and tiers but they are easy to determine the appropriate line. Overall, I felt the greens to be too similar.
Because the setting lacks variety, this is a course more difficult to remember than many others. In general, the differences are only in the green setting. For example, the first hole par 4 has a valley fronting the an elevated green. The second as a par 3 has one of the thinnest greens one will ever find surrounded by three bunkers. In Fourteen has a green sloped left to right with the contour of the land.
The par 5’s are short with the longest at 500 yards, and one par 5 (the fifteenth) only 464 yards. I did not like a single par 5 on the golf course.
The better holes are:
- the first, a longer par 4 with a fairway sloped to the right going downhill ending in a valley before an elevated green.
- The fifth, a short par 4 with trees blocking the entrance to the green from the right side
- The eight, a medium-length par 4 seems to have a better setting for the green.
- Sixteen is a mid-length par 3 in a lovely setting.
I did not like these holes:
- the second due to the trees being so close to the green.
- the third as the green is too small for the hole. In addition, the trees are so close to the hole one feels like they can feel them interfering with a putt. If one put a roof over this hole, it would be a tunnel.
- The fourth has trees located in the fairway for the second shot (a pet peeve of mine). It does have a nice green.
- Fifteen is much too short for a par 5 to be of interest to even the best players.
- Seventeen is a short par 4 dogleg left and the trees feel like they are closing in on you. Ugh.
Despite the course appearing in some top 100 lists, as well as some saying it is more difficult than the Duke’s course, this is a course I would not go back to play. While I had an enjoyable time, I think it was because we made it fun rather than the course making the round. As such, unlike courses such as Beaconsfield, Royal Ashdown Forest, or Liphook, it is not a course I would want to play again. I played it once and it was enough.
What could bring me back (although my list of courses I have yet to play remains very long) would be if they removed some of the trees such as on the second hole and seventeen. The trees actually detract from the visual of the course on several holes. I would also re-shape the greens to make them more interesting as they are primarily flattish. The course could also use another 15 bunkers along the fairway. I would certainly change the fifteenth to make it a par 4. It would be desirable to add some 20-30 yards to every par 5. None of these changes would change the essence of the Duchess’, but in my opinion would make it both more fun and better visually.
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.