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.
Date: February 19, 2020