- +44 (0) 1908 370756
M1 J13, south of Milton Keynes
Contact in advance – midweek only
It was Lord Tavistock’s brilliant idea to bring golf to Woburn. He commissioned Charles Lawrie of Cotton & Pennink, to design the Duke’s course. After two years, and much tree-felling, the first course at Woburn Golf Club opened for play. It didn’t take long for it to be recognised. In 1979, the Dunlop Masters was hosted, and, since then, the Duke’s has never looked back – playing host to the English Strokeplay Championship, the British Masters and the Women’s British Open. The professional golfer, fashion designer and personality, Ian Poulter, is officially attached to Woburn Golf Club.
With fairways flanked by glorious pine, birch and chestnut trees, the Duke’s is an intimate golf course. Each hole is played in splendid isolation. It’s a serious challenge too, measuring almost 7,000 yards from the back tees and 6,550 from the regular tees. Straight and long driving is the order of the day. This is not a course for the novice golfer – it will beat you up and spit you out.
There are some strong holes on the Duke’s but the pick of the bunch is the famous par three 3rd. Framed by rhododendrons and gorse, this is a genuinely delightful golf hole. The green is 100 feet below the tee, and the hard green slopes violently from back to front. Measuring only 125 yards, a short iron must be played to the heart of the green, otherwise, the ball is likely to scuttle off, pronto. The 5th is a notable, short par five – a well-struck drive down the right, as close as you dare to the trees, will provide a chance to reach the green in two – anything struck too far left, will scamper down a slope towards the trees.
The Duke’s is a good course, but Woburn’s younger upstart, the Marquess, has threatened its status. There may be a benefit to this – the Duke’s will be less busy – perhaps... but don't miss the third course at Woburn, the Duchess either. It's hard to decide on which two courses to play during a 36-hole day of golf at Woburn!
I found that this was as good if not better than it said on the tin....
A tricky but rewarding course, stick to the fairways for a good score.
Would certainly play again..!!
I’ve played all courses at Woburn many times. The dukes is my favourite. It’s somewhere inbetween the Duchess and the marquess. It’s just so wonderful playing amongst a established forest.
Woburn is class and you will love it
The Dukes course was my first experience of golf at Woburn and what an introduction it was. This course, and in particular the early and latter parts of the round, was exactly the experience I imagined it would be. The fairways are isolated tranquil avenues wandering through the established forest and that creates a feeling of solitude and peacefulness. Enjoying slightly firmer turf than the Marquess course, we played the Dukes at the perfect time of year (Spring) and we found the course to be in absolutely wonderful fettle; possibly one of the best conditioned courses I have played so early in the season in England.
The opening run is quite something with a number of the headline acts coming in quick succession. The opener is a relatively short par 5 but the jeopardy of the hole resides in the deceptively tight tee shot. To the left, OB lurks and to the right, the contours mean the undergrowth is closer than it appears. Quite possibly the most famous hole on the course, the severely downhill short par 3 3rd has a back to front sloping green and is as fun as it is deceptively difficult. Playing just 134 yards, this shot is all about distance and spin control. Anything long and you could be signing for a double bogey or worse. Conversely, any shot coming in spinning or short will undoubtedly follow the contours all the way down to the front edge leaving a testing two putt.
Then on to the 4th, an absolutely breathtaking par 4. The hole plays uphill sweeping to the left and lies in lower ground with thick forest lining the banks on both sides. The amphitheatrical nature of this hole is quite special and it is hard to truly do it justice with words alone. All I can say it is a wow moment as memorable as any I can remember on an inland course in the UK.
The holes continue in characterful fashion with a theme of tree lined tee shots and a reward for accurate approach play. The opening nine is short in yards but long in potential for mishap and nowhere is that more evident than the 7th. The SI1 par 4 blends a mixture of elements to mean that it is a true half par hole where 5 will often be a good score. The tee shot is reasonably tight with death and destruction down the left. You then play to a large two tiered green surrounded by bunkering that is sufficient punishment to cost you at least one shot.
The run 8-11 could be deemed the plainer part of the course where a couple of holes wander across a flatter and slightly more open piece of ground. That relative lack of interest is reflected in the higher stroke indexes through this run; my advice would be take advantage of the respite. The treacherous run for home begins on the 13th, possibly the most exacting challenge on the course in my opinion. The tee shot needs to be accurate in both length and line where anything other than perfect leaves you an elevated level of difficulty on an approach shot that is already one of the hardest on the course. That approach (if played from position A) is played from circa 180 yards out with a severe depression short and right of the green. Anything weak and right will incur a severe penalty.
The last 5 then retain the breathtaking statuesque corridor feeling of the the opening run. These holes are all wonderfully engaging and beautiful, and I’m sure each person playing them would have a different favourite. I particularly liked the 17th as the strategy involved in the tee shot comes at the perfect time in the round to ask such a question. Chasing a score or the match, there is the opportunity to be bold and take on the corner leaving a short approach to the green. Alternatively, a shot played with a long iron will most probably keep you out of trouble from the tee but adds a significant additional difficulty to the approach shot.
From my own subsequent experiences of having played the Marquess and having seen much on all three courses online, it is clear that each course at Woburn has a distinctive and recognisable character. The Dukes is a defined by a sense of solitude and tree lined splendour that is at times, distractingly beautiful. The result of the tree lined nature of the course means that it is not an easy golf course, even at a reasonably modest 6900 yards from the back tees. A wayward golfer may spend a lot of time in the undergrowth with established forest between them and the next target and that may affect your enjoyment on a particularly bad day on the course. My advice if you are suffering such a day would be to play stableford and to play something off the tees to keep the ball in sight. There are courses for blazing driver off every tee, but for the average amateur golfer, this will rarely be one of them.
I had the pleasure of playing both the duke and duchess on the same day and I must say what an unbelievable experience it was, I have played “Marquess” previously so know I was in for a great treat as I couldn’t have enjoyed that experience more. The Woburn facilities and general surroundings are outstanding and something I have not really seen before. The “dukes” course is the oldest course they have and one you really need need to play to understand how magnificent it truly is. The course for me was much more narrow off the tee then the “Marquess” which for me meant it needed a more calculated tee shot and did mean I was 3w,5w and 4i on most par 4s but if you had the right idea you did leave yourself in a great position for your second to be green bound. The fairways and greens were in impeccable condition and you really got an unbelievable feeling that you was playing a high ranked course. I really feel the best thing you can do is book a round here and enjoy yourself!
I’ve heard of the 1970s being referred to as the dark ages of golf course architecture, yet from this barren spell came one of England’s most iconic golf clubs, Woburn. The Duke’s was originally the championship layout and has hosted many prestigious events, but has since been overtaken by the Marquess as the premier layout, which is a position I’d also subscribe to. I feel that the Marquess is the better course of the two (I haven’t played the Duchess), but I considered that this might not be the case when I was playing holes 2 through 6 which is a spell of seriously good parkland fodder. The longer holes at the 2nd, 4th and 5th are all beautiful right to left dogleg holes where the land lends itself to some wonderful golfing terrain. The very pretty 4th hole through the valley concludes with a mischievous two-tiered green whilst the par five 5th hole skirts around a deep basin. These were what I deemed to be the two best holes on the course.
I’m not a huge fan of drop-shot par three holes, but the 3rd hole at the Duke’s is unforgettable, albeit the green is a little too severely tilted. Another memorable par three comes shortly afterwards at the 6th where a large abyss needs to be cleared, although both par three holes described would benefit from some vegetation clearance.
Nevertheless, by the time I stood on the 7th tee, I was very impressed. From that point onwards however, I didn’t feel that the rest of the course delivered upon the early-round promise. I’m sure there are some constraints in the land that led to its routing but with several holes going back-and-forth along the same line, the middle section of the course left me wanting more. Later in the round, the course does start to skip along quite pleasantly again as I felt that some of those famous Woburn treelined visuals returned to the course, but still without anything truly memorable and unique that competed with those outstanding opening holes.
Overall, the Duke’s is a quite solid course and worth a visit, but it wasn’t one that quite lived up to its weighty reputation as far as I was concerned.
What was my take-home from the Dukes at Woburn? The aroma of the towering pines, the immaculate tee boxes, the stunning clubhouse or the pristine greens?
They were all outweighed by the healing properties of the magic marmalade on the halfway house’s sausage roll.
Beaten to embarrassment by the first nine on this picturesque Buckinghamshire beauty, I was in desperate need of revival.
And then I was infused with the unique zing from the exotic-tasting pastry-based product and my never-before-seen shank disappeared, my drives gained 50 yards and my putts became ten times more accurate.
In the footsteps of one of Seve’s great victories, I had needed an A-game and a dollop of local knowledge from the start.
I had neither and that was particularly evident on two of its picture holes – the 3rd and 5th.
The former is a short, very attractive par three which demands accurate club selection from an elevated tee down to a green which slants from back to front.
I made the schoolboy error of not trusting my Garmin and overshot by a couple of yards. Our hosts then told me my chip back on to the putting surface was the trickiest shot on the course. Suffice to say I finished with a five.
The fifth is an extraordinary par five with a requirement for the second shot to hit the tiniest slither of fairway otherwise trees await on the right or a grassed crater lurks on the left.
But the par-three 6th tops them both in the fiendish league – anything short disappears down what can only be described as a chasm to the front centre and left of the green. Overhanging trees and a deep bunker mean that there is no chance of a par from this hollow grave.
These holes and my sudden shank knocked the stuffing out of me and my mood failed to improve until the mid-round snack.
Thereafter, Woburn’s length really kicks in.
With silver birch, horse chestnut trees and the pines lining each fairway, the only hope is to hit long and straight.
My playing partners who had consistently found the secret to do just that warned that the 14th was a particular monster but, by now, the mystic sausage roll was fully digested and I could no longer be intimidated.
In other words, Woburn Dukes can yield decent scores if you hit the ball properly.
Its greens are as good as I have played on so far this year but some have tiers with flags placed just beyond the divide, so, what initially appear to be good chips can easily bend away from the target.
The fairways are tight but, except for the aforementioned 5th, do not require a maths degree to hit the right spot.
And the setting is supreme. The avenues of trees, kites flying above, well-behaved dogs accompanying owners on the way round and even a baby dear skipping joyfully.
Before and afterwards, the facilities are top class – from the pro shop to the outside drinks and eating area to the range and putting green.
But none have quite the magic of the halfway house.
Now I just need the secret recipe to get my game going for the remainder of the season.
The tranquility of playing golf in a forest really appeals to me. The Dukes scores highly in this respect, although the towering trees can make the playing corridors feel a little narrower than they actually are.
The short par 3 third is the obvious highlight for me. I love a short par three, and the change in elevation means you have to really think about distance control. After that, the holes are consistently good without any stand outs. Some of them are very long, and the trees await an errant drive, with different doglegs shaping in all directions.
A very solid challenge that will test the very best.
I felt compelled to post a comment as there are a quite a few reviews where the Duke's hasn't lived up to expectation. I agree that the Duke's isn't "majestic" to look at some of the holes are less memorable however it doesn't pretend to be a resort course, it's a golfers course rich in tournament history and the conditioning never fails to disappoint.
The Duke's requires bold, straight, long tee shots, well controlled approach shots and a deft short game. It's not for novices, nor for the faint hearted. Mistakes are punished. Good golf is rewarded.
The conditioning is always excellent at Woburn.
The tree lined fairways give you a sense of privacy and exclusivity.
The smell of pine reminds you of Les Pins at Le Touquet.
The knowledge that several of the worlds best have graced the same fairways always makes me extra determined to not let the Duke win.
The welcome in the club house is always friendly and courteous and the facilities are well maintained, functional, practical and comfortable.
The practice facilities are excellent. It's well worth making the extra time to visit the dedicated short game area located behind the 2nd tee of the Duke's. I could while away several hours here given the chance.
Woburn is class and The Duke is a gentleman.
After playing The Marquess a couple of months back, I had been keen to return to Woburn for a 36 hole day across the remaining two. Luckily we found a fresh Autumn day and teed off bright and early on The Dukes.
Much like The Marquess, all holes are played in superb isolation with fairways flanked by pine, chestnut and birch trees. The close proximity of the trees to the greensites gives the feel that you are playing into the galleries, with the crowds watching on.
The opening five holes are a fantastic set of holes. After a strong Par 5 opener, the 2nd is a lovely sweeping right to left downhill Par 4. As you get to the green on the 2nd, you are met with the sight of the upcoming Par 3 3rd. A stunning downhill one shotter, where the green sits 100 feet below the tee box into a chasm of rhododendrons. A beautiful hole. The next, the dogleg uphill Par 4, was my favourite hole on the course. Looking back down the hole from the green is a sight for sore eyes. Another Par 5 follows that is very cleverly designed. If you don’t get a full and far tee shot away, you face a devilishly tricky 2nd, trying to find a very narrow fairway that falls away sharply on the left hand side.
After the Par 3 6th I found the next set of holes a little uninspiring. Back and forth with straight tee shot and a short iron flick into a flat green. There’s not a lot here to hold your interest.
From the 13th the course picks up again with an excellent Par 4 across an undulating fairway, which for my mind offers the best approach shot on the course.
The closing stretch are all good visually impressive holes requiring good tee shots to score well. If you’re offline across this narrow course it really bites and Par saves are a rarity.
For me the Marquess is a better course due to the consistency of very good holes and there are certainly less average holes there, but the opening set of holes on The Dukes are the best of the three, it’s just a shame the course never quite lives up to the standard set by the opening five. That said this is a very good course that is visually impressive throughout and is a strong test of golf.
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Fantastic lay out and in great condition. They were working on the course during the visit but I can only assume they are trying to improve on perfection.
It’s a tight course and a lot of irons needed around here making some of the 420 plus holes long and a real challenge.
Get out and play it if you can