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 an outstanding 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.
Don't miss the third course at Woburn, the Duchess.
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.