Woburn (Marquess) - Buckinghamshire - England

Woburn Golf Club,
Little Brickhill,
Milton Keynes,
Bucks,
MK17 9LJ,
England


  • +44 (0) 1908 370756

  • Jason O'Malley

  • Ross McMurray, Clive Clark, Peter Alliss and Alex Hay

  • Dan Grieve


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 for the Marquess of Tavistock and his family, the new course taking the name from his title.

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.

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Reviews for Woburn (Marquess)

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Description: The Marquess course at Woburn Golf Club straddles the county boundary of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire and is set within 200 acres of majestic mature woodland... Rating: 7.6 out of 10 Reviews: 38
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Wayne

Visually stunning, plays very American in parts, e.g. target golf, but that's a bad thing here.

Appealing for many of the tee boxes and the greens are superb, undulating but so true to putt on.

Well worth a visit.

June 12, 2017
8 / 10
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Cédric

The contrast between Marquess and Duchess is quite striking. Different environment and altogether different width and atmosphere. Clearly, Marquess is the big course at Woburn. Many interesting holes, some memorable. Not a really difficult course tee to green, we thought. The length is not really a problem. Sure, you won't have a short iron to reach the par 5s in two. But the difficulty lies elsewhere: the greens!! Large and very undulating. Be on the wrong side and you're gone. A pleasant experience, a great club it seems, providing top notch facilities.

June 11, 2016
6 / 10
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Crawford Anderson-Dillon

We invented golf. Well, the Scottish did, really. But the ‘British’ made it what it is today – an elitist sport enjoyed by rich people more interested in excluding others than actually hitting balls. This British take was imported by Americans, who have, for over 100 years, reveled in its exclusivity. No-one does snobbery better than the Yanks, who just use money instead of lineage as a pre-requisite for entry. Democratic, as usual.

In every UK golfer is the suspicion that, just perhaps, golf is really about Scottish Presbyterian stoicism. Play in the wind, the rain, on scratchy grass. Play in shorts, in the winter. Play courses with no clubhouse and get changed in the car park. And carry your clubs, ya big Jessie! It’s not about luxury. It’s about endurance. We take perverse pride in feats of bravery in arduous conditions. The course may be rubbish, but as long as it’s near the sea, with a force 9 blowing, then we’ll tell that story all day.

Americans aren’t too fussed on endurance golf. They prefer luxury golf. Easy golf. Fun golf. A few years ago I played at a course in the US called The Highlands. The affable chap in the pro shop cheerfully enquired if I wanted a ‘cart’ for my round. Once I’d figured out he meant a buggy instead of a two wheeled wooden contraption pulled by a drey horse, I replied that no, I wouldn’t be needing a cart. I was British, damn it, not a fat American. I would walk the course and carry my clubs, like the good Lord intended. I should have twigged by the name of the place that this was a mistake - Highlands wasn’t just a romantic reference to some long lost clan affiliation. The place was a series of gullies, valleys and inclines that I had to trudge over, down and through. I gave up on the 14th hole, suffering from heat exhaustion and exposure. Paramedics were called. “Silly Britisher”, they said.

The Highlands was a feat of endurance, but the Americans did everything they could to make it enjoyable. The rounds were cheap, the ‘cart’s were cheaper still. They had water stations at every hole, along with toilets.

There was a drive through hot dog stand at the turn. They had phones to call for liquid relief every now and again. I’ve barely played a course in the US without a refreshments cart passing by every few mins to ask if I wanted anything. If it wasn’t for golf course refreshment trucks I’m not sure the American youth would have anything to do of a summer, employed as they all are to drive them with a smile. And The Highlands isn’t a fancy resort course. It’s a local club with members who, on the whole, live around the course. This isn’t special treatment in the US. This is their normal.

In the UK you’re lucky to get a plastic bottle of water in the pro shop. And maybe a banana. Frankly, we’re rubbish at it. If you want pampered, luxury golf, don’t look for it in the UK. Go to America, or anywhere else for that matter. At least, that’s what I thought. Then I visited Woburn.

Woburn has a beautifully appointed locker room, with plush carpets and showers and hairdryers. “So?”, you might ask. “They all have that”. True, but this was just for the visitors! The members have their own, I presume even more plush, locker room. I stood there in wonder and thought “Could it be? Is this an American style golfing experience? In the Home Counties? Surely not.”

As it turns out, it was.

Woburn, as a golfing mecca, isn’t actually that old. The first course was laid out in the 70’s by some old aristocrat who had to do something with the land to stop a compulsory purchase order and it’s being turned into a park. The horror! A second course was added soon after and they became known as the Duke’s and Duchess’ respectively. Not content with 2 great golf courses a third, the Marquess, was added in 2000. Though technically a marquess is one rung down the aristocratic hierarchy than a duke, don’t be fooled into thinking that this is an inferior peer of the realm. Longer, bigger, wider, and often more difficult than the other courses, it’s become perhaps the premier track. International championships are played there.

The Marquess is a modern course, built to accommodate the modern game. This is a place where the driver is in your hand more than any other club, except maybe for a putter (though perhaps you’d fair better on the greens with a driver, but more on that later). It’s long and the fairways are wide. It’s a place to rip the hell out of the ball off the tee. It’s not a dainty course where accuracy is at a premium. That being said, it’s not easy. Huge bunkers are placed at the drop zones for big hitters. The greens need to be approached from the right angle. And if you do go off track and land in the rough, you’re in trouble. The course was wrought through ancient oak forest and the trees are huge, tall and resolutely unyielding in the face of any protestation. One of the great pleasures of the course, however, is the sound that reverberates around the holes when you hit a sweet shot. The great trees absorb nothing and their leaves are so high up that the noise bounces back and forth across the fairway like you’re in a pin ball machine. It makes the thrill of a great stroke even better and worth the entrance fee alone.

Woburn Marquess course on the 7th teeThe first and tenth are famously designed to ease the golfer in and although long enough they’re pretty tame. Even the greens are modest. As you get further into the holes it starts to get more interesting. The second, a shortish par 5 dogleg left, let’s you know this is no pushover and the run of par 4’s in the third, fourth and fifth are just lovely. You can grab the driver, hit a big bomb and then a solid long iron into the greens. The most visually stunning hole on the course is the par 5 seventh, which has a split fairway, giving you the choice to go right and have a chance at a second 3 wood into the green for a birdie chance, or to play safe and take the long route round the left. Of course, everyone in my 3 ball went for it, and all of us were 3 off the tee. The folly of youth! The 9th hole has a stunning green surrounded by rhododendrons that looks like it’s been stolen from Augusta. It’s not an easy hole but its certainly a beautiful one.

The back 9 continues the trend of big, noble golf. They aren’t gimmicky. They don’t rely on tricks or deceit to catch you out. They just use the natural contours of this rolling countryside to make you use every club in the bag. You can out a score together here, but you need to be striking the ball well. And long.

If anything the par 3’s are the most forgettable holes. None of them are surrounded by the usual water or sand or gorse filled gullies we’re so accustomed to. Only the 14th requires a long iron over some lower ground. They aren’t that pretty but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good holes. Deep bunkers and difficult greens make them a challenge.

Did I mention the difficult greens? My goodness, they are hard. So often club golfers see the pros miss a putt on the Tour and ask how they could miss that. But, there is a big difference between the greens at an average club and those of the courses like Woburn. They are big, expansive and beautifully manicured. They are also hellishly contoured. And those enormous trees that surround the course make it really difficult to read those contours because they throw your perceptions out. I three putted maybe 11 or 12 holes. And I’m having a good putting season. As a contrast I played 9 holes at my own course a few days afterward and holed 6 or 7 holes with one putt, often from more then 10 feet away. I actually played the Marquess pretty well tee to green. But my disastrous green display cost me a good score, and beers in the bar.

Having said all that, it wasn’t a spectacular golf course. It was good. Great even. It was a solid, well laid out and well maintained golf course. But I didn’t walk away feeling it was special. I didn’t get that tingle standing on any of the tee boxes that I get at Royal County Down or the island green at Coeur d’Alene. In many ways I applaud the fact they didn’t artificially embed these kind of things and instead used what they had available in the best way possible. But it doesn’t feel extraordinary. That doesn’t diminish the quality of the golf or the great time that I had there. It just explains perhaps why some people feel underwhelmed by it. If you played great courses all day then maybe you wouldn’t be enthralled. As it was, I was enthralled.

But, the course, good though it is, doesn’t explain why Woburn is such a marvelous place to visit. To understand that you have to accept how American it is. In the UK we love to sneer at all things American. We love America, of course. Deep down. We’ve assimilated all their ‘stuff’. We eat their hamburgers, watch their movies and listen to their music. In return they eat our afternoon tea, watch Downton Abbey and listen to our music. It’s a symbiotic relationship but we just don’t like to admit it. Instead we dismiss everything American in public as rubbish, while privately addicted. But the whole experience at Woburn is designed, from arrival to departure, with enjoyment in mind, and that’s very American and that’s why it works.

The clubhouse is lovely, well made and laid out. The guys in the pro shop are polite and friendly. The putting green and driving range are in nice places and well put together. The tee boxes are impeccable, flat and clean. The course bumph (things like the tee markers and the flags themselves) are high quality and well placed. The halfway hut at the 10th tee is a fairy tale little wooden cabin, selling food and drinks that wouldn’t be out of place in Borough Market.

It’s the kind of golf we don’t usually do in this country and it’s the kind of golf we should do, because the evidence here is that we can do it well, when we try. The only other places in the UK that I know which are similar are Celtic Manor and Gleneagles (though admittedly I haven’t played any golf at either of them) and on the face of it they are world class resorts. Surely we are savvy enough to combine our golfing prowess with some good service. We can mix the golfing experience with a better all round adventure, something that rewards all the senses and not simply that puritanical sense of achievement under hardship.

Because it’s places like Woburn that make you realize just how lazy everywhere else is.

June 19, 2015
6 / 10
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Richard Smith
June 20, 2015
Thanks for the thoughtful review. As an American golfer who has played extensively in the UK and Ireland, I have to agree with almost everything you said. Most American golfers seem to want to buzz around in their cart even thought they're perfectly healthy, knock down a 6 pack of beer, give themselves every putt under 5 feet and take a handful of mulligans then brag about the score they shot! Give me the sparse conditions and simplicity of the game in the UK any day.
Aidan Healey
Played the Marquess for the 10th time and it remains my favourite golf course in the UK.. From the moment you enter the forest and drive in the entrance at Woburn it gives you that buzz. It is just a special, special place. The condition of the Marquess as always was absolutely perfect, but I must say I've never seen the greens so fast. Must've been near 12 on the stimp comfortably but with the huge slopes and undulations in them, they played even quicker. As a layout it is not as narrow as the Dukes or the Duchess but plays a lot longer and is a lot hillier in places. The Marquess has in my opinion the finest set of Par 5's you'll find anywhere in the UK, the 2nd a short but beautiful dogleg left (reminiscent of the 13th at Augusta) to a small green that Woburn (Marquess) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerfeeds the ball of in every direction. You then have the famous split fairway 7th, just an incredible golf hole that you would rank up there as one of the best Par 5's in the world. Go down the right and take on the 220 yard forced carry over 3 huge bunkers in the ravine. It is a brilliant risk and reward hole. The 11th and 15th Par 5s play much longer at 570 yards off the tips with well bunkered fairways, it makes you play them wisely. The 2nd shot to the 9th is one of the most beautiful you'll find anywhere in the world, a carry of around 150 yards over a huge drop, to a extremely fast sloping green from back to front guarded by a huge Oak tree to the left and 2 bunker the right. Watch out for the rhododendrons at the back of the green, when they are blooming purple it looks visually amazing. It is a wonderful layout, and every wonderful layout has a driveable Par 4, the 12th with the island fairway is just an amazing hole which adds to the fantastic layout. Par 3 14th is a wonderful yet brutally tough hole with it's Ampitheatre design around the hole, a 3 on here is a brilliant score with it's 3 tier green and 230 yards. The final 3 holes are extremely difficult with 2 long Par 4's at 16 & 18 and a tricky little Par 3 at 17. The Marquess course will be a superb host the British Masters in October, and is sure create an exciting tournament for the fans. Expect plenty of birdies and eagles, it truly is an amazing course and amazing place Woburn. Personally think the Marquess should be ranked even higher!
June 10, 2015
10 / 10
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iaincmccoll
Somewhat underwhelmed. Have played over 70 of the top 100 UK courses and enjoyed the Marquess but thought it a little overrated. Good fun and in good condition, with variety and testing holes but lacks spice and has no truly great holes. Many of the previous ratings have similar phrases, suggesting club management are posting reviews!
August 20, 2014
6 / 10
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Sam Mendoza
August 28, 2014
WOW WOW WOW, how can you say no truly great holes? are you sure you played the Marquess? the 7th? not memorable!! 16th?
Andy
Played The Marquess in a singles match. This is the best course I have ever played. The scenery was stunning. The fairways were better than some greens I've played on. The condition was top class, everything was just perfect. I can't wait to go back.
May 16, 2014
10 / 10
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Sam Mendoza
I am shocked that this course is not a LOT higher. I had my first experience of Woburn yesterday playing the Marquess as well as the Duchess. Both were amazing, but the Marquess was jaw dropping. Every single hole was well thought out and i loved every second. I am a HUGE fan of the West Course at Wentworth, but for me this edges it, its that good! The Marquess should be holding a tour event, it's mades for it.
April 29, 2014
10 / 10
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Justin
How is this course not rated higher? Fantastic condition, slick but fair greens, fairways to die for and each hole is different and gives you the feeling that you could be all alone. The only thing that lets it down (if i'm being picky) is that 18 is a slight disappointment. Still a good hole but not a memorable finish to a great back 9. Favourite hole? Choose between 7, 9, 11 and 14 all fantastic. Best halfway house I have ever seen and a great welcome from all the staff. The food in the bar after is great - Woburn Burgers all round and not silly prices - which they would probably get away with. A very relaxing and enjoyable day. Have had the pleasure of playing a few of the top 100 courses and this is right up there with the best inland courses in my opinion. Better than Woodhall Spa? In my opinion definately! and much much better than 'The Brab'. Combine it with the Dukes and Duchess and well all I need is a fat man in a red suit and i've got Christmas. If you are finding fault with this course I would bet fair money it is because you are not playing well. Will definately be back.
April 08, 2013
10 / 10
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Joseph Austin
Awesome Course, course was in perfect condition. The members at Woburn are totally spoilt for choice, similar to Bearwood lakes - although in my opinion a sterner test. Every hole offers a different challenge and will get you thinking - particularly good are the par 4's holes numbers 3, 9 and 16 are very very good! This said the par 5 11th is in my opinion the best hole on the course. All in all thoroughly enjoyable the day and will certainly be back to try the other 2 courses.
September 20, 2012
8 / 10
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Kevan Voce
I’ve played the Marquess a few times now and is, in my opinion, the best of the three Woburn courses. It is more open and thus visually appealing than the Duke's or Duchess and the land more undulating. The mark of a great course is there being at least six memorable holes – and there are on this. The third is a tremendous dog-leg with a very inviting approach over a valley to a green perched up a hill. The 7th is the signature hole and as other reviewers have said is stunning. The 9th is another great hole – the approach to a very inviting green is one of the best on the course. The stand-out ones on the back are 12, 13 & 14. All have great character. The other remaining holes represent a good all-round test of golf. I agree with another reviewer that the 1st and 18th are not great but there is plenty here to keep you entertained – I can’t believe it’s not higher up the rankings – maybe the slickness and corporate feel of the place puts a few people off.
July 22, 2011
8 / 10
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