- +44 (0) 1908 370756
M1 J13, S of Milton Keynes
Contact in advance – midweek only
Ross McMurray, Clive Clark, Peter Alliss and Alex Hay
Woburn Golf Club is in an enviable position. It's the only club in England that can claim to have had all three courses continually placed in the Top 100 since we became the first publication to rank England’s Top 100 Golf Courses back in 2006.
The Marquess course straddles the county boundary of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire and is set within 200 acres of majestic mature woodland, part of the delightful 3,000-acre Woburn Abbey estate, home of the Dukes of Bedford for over 350 years. Woburn Abbey is presently home to the 15th Duke of Bedford.
It took a quartet of architects to develop the Marquess: Ross McMurray, Clive Clark, Peter Alliss and Alex Hay, the course opening for play in 2000. The Marquess is different in nature to the Duke’s and the Duchess, but perfectly complementary. The Marquess’ fairways are wider and the land more undulating The trees are more park-like, featuring oak, yew, chestnut, rowan and beech, whereas the other two courses are predominantly carved through pine forests.
The Marquess is a supremely challenging golf course, measuring well over 7,000 yards from the back tees. In 2001 and 2002, it stole the British Masters from its elder brother, the Duke's. Thomas Levet and Justin Rose respectively emerged as the winners.
There is absolutely no doubt that Woburn is a classy place to play golf and now with three superb golf courses – Duke's, Duchess and Marquess – it is one of the most desirable golfing venues in England. The Marquess course will surely mature into one of the best championship golf courses in Britain.
Very good set up and all three courses are top class. Some very fun holes on the Marquess, the 12 is real risk and reward as is the split fairway par 5. Greens always run true and a quick test. Well worth a visit and has great clubhouse and practice facilities.
The term ‘Marquess’ is a name reserved for a nobleman ranking above an earl and below a duke. Having played the Dukes course at Woburn on the morning of the same day, I was intrigued to see if the naming reflected my own thoughts on the hierarchy of the two courses.
As I mentioned in my review of the Dukes, each course at Woburn has its own distinct character and the first impressions of the Marquess were ones of a more spacious grandeur. The tree demographic is a more varied one than on the other two courses and those trees tend to lie a little further from the fairway edges, which allows you some space to breathe, particularly from the tee.
The turf is a undoubtedly softer than the Dukes and, with us playing in early season, this was reflected in the grass growth and coverage in the rough being a little more sparse in some areas. The Marquess I am told, comes into prime condition a few weeks after the other courses, but it was still in incredible condition in its own right, particularly so early in the season.
Demonstrated quite strikingly by the 1st green, the green sites on the Marquess are much bigger and even more testing than the Dukes with sheer size mixing with subtle (and not so subtle) contours to befuddle and bewilder the first time player. The greens were quick for the time of year but I imagine their teeth will really show in the summer months when the surfaces reach peak pace.
The round starts in reasonably benevolent fashion with the opening par 4 giving you chance to acclimatise to your surroundings. The par 5 2nd similarly poses an early opportunity to make some headway against the scorecard if you manage to place your drive in the fairway.
The 3rd and 4th both share the same attribute of extremely memorable green sites, even if they are quite different in character. The 3rd is a sweeping downhill right to left par 4 where the green and in particular, the back section, demand that you position yourself below the hole. The 4th is a slightly kinder test tee to green, but the false front and ridge dissecting this putting surface will provide much food for thought and the illusion that the green is much smaller than it truly is, is compelling when viewed from the fairway.
The signature hole accolade in my opinion, is contested by the 7th and 9th holes. Both are very unique, but the 7th is quite simply an iconic golf hole that tells a story some lesser courses don’t manage to tell in all 18 holes. It is defined by an opening question, to aim left or right? Two fairways stretch out in front of you on this par 5, divided by an avenue of imposing trees. To be indecisive will surely lead to failure so the key to this hole is to consciously plot a path to the green. From my single experience, I would suggest the left side is the better of the two, with a continuous path of shorter grass offered. It is hard to convince yourself of that from the tee however, as the right fairway cleverly shows you a visual sight line all the way from tee to green, but crucially does not show you the dead area of rough vegetation just beyond the tee shot landing zone.
The run 11-15 offers a really diverse set of golf holes where the questions asked vary from shot to shot. 11,13 and 14 are solid testing holes, 12 is a reachable par 4 defined by the snaking waterway that litters the approach to green and 15 is an all before you par 5 where the view from the tee is one of the prettiest on the course.
The similarities of the green site on the par 3 17th to the 16th at Augusta were remarkable, particularly as we were treated to the equivalent traditional Sunday pin at the Masters, to the left of the green and at the bottom of the slope. There may not be water to negotiate here from the tee, but make no mistake, there is plenty of potential for a late round catastrophe in and around this green site.
So as to how I ranked the two courses (Dukes and Marquess) side by side. Well the honest answer is they are both excellent and it really comes down to what you desire from a tree lined parkland test. The Dukes is certainly the prettier of the two courses and if I only had one round left at Woburn, I would probably plump for another walk amongst the charming avenues of statuesque trees. But if I had to select a course to play every week, I think it would be the Marquess for me. It’s test is a slightly less exacting one from the tee and therefore, it is a course that I think you would grow to love more over time. I’m sure if you polled one hundred golfers, the split would be pretty even though. The overriding theme is of a quality offering of golf right across the facilities here at Woburn.
Unbelievable golf course and one fanatics golfing experience, I felt a little bit nervous going into the pro shop and club house as this is one heck of an elite place. But must say they were so friendly as polite which started off my golfing experience off so well. The course was in believable condition and I must say I actually believe these greens to have been the best i have ever played on. The course really did reward strategy and a well placed tee shot really allowed you every opportunity to have a wedge in. It took me 2hrs to get to and was a little pricy compared to some club in the Uk top 100 however I do feel the price tag makes sense for what you get. I can’t wait to come and play here again already.
I remember once listening to a podcast ahead of the 2019 Women’s Open, ‘State of the Game’ with Mike Clayton and Geoff Shackelford, and they were highly critical of playing the Open at the Marquess. I’m not a fan of seeing either the Men’s or Women’s Opens played away from the coast either, but the disdain they had for the course was unfounded. It seems that modern woodland designs are becoming less fashionable in today’s world where woke is the order of the day, but their claim that the Marquess is “not even the best course at Woburn” was something I personally found unjustified and wrong. For the record, that year Woburn produced one of golf’s most charismatic winners in Hinako Shibuno, so for that at least, we can be thankful.
Not unlike Messrs Clayts and Shack, I also unashamedly have a preference for golf design from the golden age. A post millennium design by an ex-tour professional was not a prospect that had me too animated, but of the UK parkland golf I’ve played, I would rank the Marquess amongst the best.
It’s a course that is beautifully treelined throughout, particularly where the holes are lined with pines and spruces and there’s some thoroughly engaging golf, predominantly across the front nine with the 7th and 9th being the standout holes. The 7th is famous for its spilt fairway and unlike most split fairway design attempts I’ve seen where an average-Joe like me aims at the centreline hazard and just hopes the tee shot doesn’t find the middle of the clubface, such is the width of the divide between these fairways, this hole actually forces you to make a choice on the tee; left would be my suggestion unless you’re playing the course for the first time or are feeling suitably heroic, the hole plays much gentler from that angle. Just two holes later, the 9th delivered my favourite approach shot to the green, an old oak tree stands guard here short and left in front of a green benched slightly into the side of a hill. Lovely.
The 12th is the often-celebrated hole on the back nine, but I’m yet to be convinced that it’s a great one. An island fairway with a green set back behind a pond creates drama for amateurs and the elite alike, albeit the wetlands made this inevitably the softest part of the course. The golf course then changes dynamic on the 15th where a contrasting open and rolling style of fairway comes into play. After this, I felt that 16 through to 18 sadly closed out the round with something of a whimper rather than a triumph.
To keep my review brief, I’ve only touched upon the most memorable of the holes as it’s now a few months since I played the course, but my recollection was one of many quality holes that I very much enjoyed. I do also recall that strongly contoured greens were a feature throughout, large in scale and designed for the tour pro. This meant that long range putts were rarely simple, so a two-putt was often something to be welcomed rather than dismissed. Other than the slightly mediocre end to the round, my other primary concern is that lots of bracken lay underneath those fine pines meaning a ball is lost if you’ve been loose with a tee shot. Woburn would be best advised to find a way to better manage this vegetation and allow the pine straw to fall onto the ground and help provide an opportunity for an escape route. That would make the Marquess much more fun. I’d still happily return though.
Probably one of my favourite courses of all i have played. The Marquess course was virtually empty when me and my partner played it and it was a really enjoyable experience. The walk up between fairways feels like your the only ones on the course as the pine trees seperate each hole beautifully and enables you to focus on the game and not worry about other golfers on the course.
Food was really nice, not too expensive, practice area was really nice, pro in the shop was a bit snotty which annoyed me a little, but i let it slide and didnt make a fuss of it. Fairways were really nice and well kemp, greens were playing quite fast that day too, up around 11.5 so was really nice to have a go at the pin and know they were gonna keep the line....
A great course and well worth a trip to play.
Visually a treat - as long as you like playing golf in a forest (I do). Links afiicionados may not be fans of trees, but on the Marquess they frame every hole. Sometimes the trees are an attractive backdrop, sometimes they pinch in at driving distance or narrow a green entrance, and sometimes they are in the middle of the fairway - the par five 7th is clearly the signature hole that rightly grabs the headlines.
I enjoyed this course. The greens and overall conditioning were excellent (even on a wet day), the greens are big and interesting, plenty of changes in elevation, and a mix of long and short holes (unless you play it off the back tees then it's a mixture of long and very long holes).
It was great to see the Women's British Open here too, showcasing to the world that golf in Britain is more than windswept miserable links.
I cannot believe this is my first Top 100 post of 2020! My wife and I had our first child in January and then we have been in lockdown for most of 2020. Strange year! So to say I was buzzing driving round the M25 at 6.45am was an understatement!
This was my first visit to Woburn, a venue I’ve been wanting to come to for a long time. Woburn has the honour of having all three of its courses inside the Top 100 rankings, so I decided to start at the top with The Marquess and I’ll head back for a 36 hole day hopefully later this year, but at the moment, no comparisons can be made with The Duke and Duchess.
The Marquess is visually stunning. It gives you the feeling you’re on a Tour standard golf course. Each hole is carved out of various types of trees, which makes it feel as though you’re playing in an amphitheater. The green sites are some of the best I’ve played in the UK. Very cleverly designed and the greens themselves rolled quick and were often tough to read with subtle breaks and heavy contours. They were fabulous.
Tee to green, although long, is relatively straightforward and forgiving. A great mix of dog legs and elevation changes mean on the whole there aren’t too many holes that are the same.
Holes 3, 7, 9 and 12 are stunning. Hole 7, a Par 5 where a copse of trees splits the fairway, allowing you a choice of drives, ending at the highest point of the course looking across farmland, might be the best Par 5 I’ve played during my England Top 100 tour so far and instantly makes it’s way into my England Dream 18. The other hole that makes it in there is the 12th. A short Par 4 with a snaking water hazard that offers you an array of ways to play it. It’s aesthetically pleasing and extremely fun to play.
It’s hard to pick faults, but for me the Par 3’s are fairly unremarkable and I was slightly underwhelmed by a couple of the finishing holes, namely 15, 17 and 18, which don’t measure up to the class of the rest of the course, but it’s a fantastic place to play golf with a selection of incredible holes in immaculate condition. A must for any Golfer.
For all photos of reviews, please follow Chris’ Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/top.100.golf/
This course is simply one of the best in the UK. Condition was outstanding. Staff were fantastic. Everything about this place is perfect.
One of the best English courses I've played. Simply beautiful condition and location. a must for any golfer living in outer north London.
Like Forest of Arden, the Marquess course on the Woburn Estate is a previous host of the British Masters. It is fairly similar to the Dukes course, albeit with wider fairways and more water hazards. The greens can be fairly slopey, but the green speeds here are sensible enough that this doesn’t cause too much of a problem.
The best hole on the front 9 is the risk rewards par 5 7th. This actually has a split fairway, with some trees in the middle. The right hand side is a riskier tee shot and only leaves a heroic carry to the green, but is the shortest route. This is compared with the left side which is a lot safer, and a lot easier to lay up on.
On the back, the 12th was my favourite hole, a short par 4, with an almost island fairway, but also a driveable green. All in all, it’s a pleasant layout and a nice part of the world for a round of golf.