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.
September 11, 2008