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 fantastic 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 wonderful, 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 it. 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.
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
Absolutely fantastic course, easier than the Duchess which I also played today. first class facilities. Super venue defo worth a trip, not ideal for high handicappers. Up their as one of my favourites.
I'm not a fan of the Dukes course. It is often raved about and ranked quite highly in the country (in this case Top 50 in England), mainly because of a couple of holes and the fact it's at 'Woburn'.
I'll start with the good. The first hole is nice, the second is really nice, and the third is beautiful. The 3rd is the famous downhill par 3, which photographs great, but the green does need to be flattened a bit, as the back to front slope makes it very easy for your ball to roll all the way off the front. The fourth is a really great uphill par 4 that doglegs left. Hole 5 is fine, and quite a good par 5.
The problems start at 6, which is an okay par 3 that really isn't an issue. But it is the start of a trend of extremely dull golf holes. 7, 8, 10 and 11 all run parallel and are very featureless holes, whilst 9 is a nice short par 3, but design-wise is very boring. 12 is an okay par 3 (similarly to 9, a bit boring). 13 is a really good par 4, but the dullness continues at 14, an extremely tight long par 5. 15, 16, 17 and 18 all run parallel, making them hard to distinguish from each other.
The course is extremely tight (which I don't mind on the Duchess), which combined with repetitive, featureless holes, makes for a very boring round. If you have to play 2 rounds at Woburn, I would definitely not play the Dukes, and play the Marquess and Duchess.
Previous host of the British Masters, this course at the Woburn estate is iconic in some English golfing circles. This was the first course at Woburn, and every hole is played in isolation due to the trees (more on those later). It can also play extremely long, and certainly difficulty and challenge is one of the strong characteristics of this track. There are some great holes, such as the downhill 3rd par 3 3rd, with its shallow, wide green. The next is a sweeping uphill dogleg, and for me the opening 6 holes are the best stretch on the course. On the back, the 13th approach is over a large gully, which means leaving the right yardage is crucial. Unfortunately, like many courses built in this era, the course is extremely tree lined, which doesn’t offer many different lines of play or strategy. It’s basically hit it straight, or dead. There’s definitely room for courses like this in the golfing world- but they are just not for me.
Played the Duke's in October 2019 and it was in good condition throughout; even off the yellow tees all the recent rain mean't it certainly played all of it's yardage, so no pushover.The course starts well with the first six holes arguably the most interesting on the course. The short downhill 3rd is a delightful par 3 and the uphill sweeping dog-leg par 4 is equally good. After the 6th I just feel the course becomes a bit mudane with fairly straightforward treelined holes similar to those that you can play on many other courses. Picks up at the end with the last three holes being dog-legged and more interesting. Certainly worth playing but overall I feel the ranking of the Duke's is too high.
Better than the Duchess but a level below the Marquess. In my view Dukes is not a top 100 course and as the trees grow and the course gets more claustrophobic and therefore monotonous (the trees and vegetation unchecked will also affect the condition), it will be less enjoyable to play and reviews will be less favourable.
I had been looking forward to this trip for a very long time and it did not fail to dissapoint me whatsoever. The prince of wales young mens amateur championship was the perfect opportunity to get in a few rounds at the holy Woburn Dukes course! A lovely 36 hole day with a lunch in between and a bbq afterwards.
I could play there every day and not get bored however would get very frustrated when i’m not hitting it straight as it is brutal when you miss fairways. The condition of the course was immaculate with the greens being smooth and very speedy, tees being wonderfully maintained and the fairways were fantastic although very narrow! The bunkers were also really well kept witb beautiful design to them and plenty of sand. It is the perfect land to have a golf course on and a lot of the holes looked stunning with trees running down either side of them.
An obvious favourite hole of mine would be the 3rd, which was even prettier than i had expected, a stunning par 3 with a spectacular view above the green. The 4th was also an awesome hole looking back down the fairway from the green with the large trees running down the sides of the hole. The 13th hole for me was an amazing hole but also extremely difficult, however if you hit the fairway, then the approach shot is something special.
The Dukes course at Woburn is nothing short of outstanding and I would love to come back and play there again. It very much lives up to its great name and high expectations of course maintanance.
Do you not think that other than the holes you have mentioned, the course is very boring and the holes all feel the same? 7-11 are just back and forth nothing holes, as are 14-18. The condition is great, but when I walk off i really struggle to remember most of the holes.
I was lucky enough to be invited to come and play the Duke's in June 2017 by my local Pro, I had helped him out a little and he paid me back by giving me my first trip to Woburn, and what a place it is!
Being a junior member there and his father the current club captain, I was in for a real treat, upon arriving the place is out of the way, beautiful and tranquil. The facilities they have there are wonderful, they have a great range which is a bit of a walk but nevertheless a good walk! We were lucky enough to get there in good time, grab some breakfast and then to be surprised with a buggy outside and a trip down to the short game area they have there. Now that is the best practice ground I've been on, nothing on anything I've played in Dubai, even the national centre reserved for the England Golf boys at Woodhall Spa is far inferior to the area they have at Woburn. A code to get in, fenced off and all kinds of shots you can imagine playing from the 10 odd bunkers they have over the massive greens playing between the beautiful pine trees that blend in just right. Playing all kinds of shots, and losing a few nearest the pins with the pro!! Coming back to the clubhouse I noticed a rather nice BMW in the spot reserved for Mr Poulter himself, it couldn't be?!
The layout of the Dukes is lovely, charming and traditional weaving through the many trees of Woburn, the friendly starter warned me not to go left or right, a great help! So I decided I would snap hook two straight into the trees! Managed to get a lucky bounce on the first and make an incredible par draining a 20 footer! The stunning 3rd hole approached very quickly. Looking back up at the tee surrounded by colourful rhododendrons, you can't really go wrong. The tricky par 3 6th is another beauty to behold, we won't talk about how I played it! Club selection is key here as it's a long way down (and back up!) 13 was probably one of my favourites, the views on this hole aren't anything special until you stand looking back at the hole. A prime example of not needing a cliff, water, out of bounds or the sea to create a work of art of a golf hole.
Between tees as I recall weren't too bad and as for people on the course, the only people we saw was a 3 ball in front, Luke Poulter, His granddad and an ex commentator with Ian watching a few holes with his younger kids, who stopped to watch me and my partner tee off and stopped for a chat and a picture. Lovely guy contrary to other opinions, we had seen him earlier minding his own business with his caddy sat in the clubhouse eating breakfast, not even being approached, shows the class of the members.
After the round, the captain had left a message for me with lunch and drinks paid for which was an amazing touch. Finishing up a world-class day, the only thing missing was the golf game!
Course Played: June 2017
Between Tees & Congestion: 9
TOTAL SCORE - 44.5/50
The Duke’s, the oldest of the Woburn trio having being founded in 1976, is around 300 yards longer than the Duchess’ and has a little bit more seniority about it. This layout has hosted several prestigious professional and amateur golf tournaments in its relatively short existence. And apart from a short stretch of holes, just before and around the turn, each hole is memorable and at times breathtaking.
I must admit that by the time I had played the tenth (after commencing at the sixth thanks to a shotgun start) I was wondering what all the fuss was about. Holes six and nine are sound par three’s, played in opposite directions over a deep valley, but don’t compare to the other short holes on the course and whilst there is nothing wrong with the seventh, eighth and tenth – all strong 400+ yard par fours – these weren’t quite up to the admittedly very high quality I was expecting.
However, it didn’t take long for the course to start going through the gears and virtually every other hole from there on in was superb and everything I had imagined and hoped it would be. Each hole is played in almost glorious isolation from the next and the round as a whole is enthralling as you walk the peaceful fairways.
The tree lined nature of the course, each hole flanked mainly by towering pine, silver birch and chestnut, inevitably requires straight driving and you don’t have to be far off the fairway to be totally blocked out from the green. Indeed at times you can actually be on the fairway and still have to work the ball slightly if the hole is located in a certain part of the green.
There’s no denying that the Duke’s course becomes very narrow at times and I must admit that I’m not a fan of ‘strategically placed’ trees but for the whole the Duke’s remains very playable.
Despite many holes being played through mature trees the routing of the course does have a little bit of a feeling of going ‘up and down’ at times and many holes do run parallel to one another but this is a minor point as is my pet hate of the course finishing on a relatively weak hole from a playing perspective (long iron, flick). There’s actually nothing wrong with the 18th hole, except that it is the 18th hole.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.