I think that Woking is a very pleasant track with a nice heathland feel to it and a some very nice holes. The 8th is a marvellous hole, and the 6th is good, as is I think also the 13th, and the fourth is a wonderful piece of architecture making something interesting out of something which would otherwise be bland - it is the definition of minimalism and it feels like the bunker is in exactly the right place. This is no fault of the place but I do not agree by how highly it gets rated by some people. For instance the most recent Architects top 100 had it placed I think above the likes of The Berkshire Red, Saunton East, Royal Cinque Ports and Wentworth West, and I am afraid I think this is very wide of the mark. How you can rank this as being superior to The Berkshire Red for instance I find unbelievable. Not only is the latter on infinitely more pretty undulating terrain, but has no weak hole whereas I would argue at Woking that 1, 18, 9 are not great holes and 11, and 12 not the best and some of the green approaches whilst quirky are a little underwhelming such as 14, and 17. Enough of the criticism!... I think the club is extremely welcoming and their regeneration work on the course in recent year speaks of enlightened staff and management (ie Heather and tree removal). The overall feel is a good advertisement for the old English course feel that you get at the best Heathland courses and it is a nice experience and test of golf.
Jim, it seems a little odd to me that you bring up a separate Architects' Top 100 list whereas the four courses you mentioned are all better ranked courses than Woking on this website.
I personally feel that Top 100 Golf Courses ranks Woking fairly but your point raises an interesting one about architects' rankings. Whilst golf architects are probably the best informed to rank and rate golf courses, I often think that they're maybe too close to the subject matter, and their opinions of golf courses are skewed by the quality of the course strategy and architecture (which admittedly are hugely important), as opposed to what may appeal to a wider community of golfers such as land, location, conditioning and just how much fun the course is to play. Maybe a discussion for a separate thread rather than on the course review page for Woking, but food for thought all the same.
Thomas hits the nail on the club head. Being wide of the mark depends on where the mark is.
Perhaps Woking is like Exile on Main Street - the best Stones album, according to music Critics (& golf course architects). However, music Fans may have other ideas.
I hope I’m the first person to ever make this Woking/Exile comparison
Thank you for your intelligent and witty responses Thomas and BB: A good reflection of what we can be most proud of as a golfing community. I do stand by my general comment that there is a lot of bigging up of what an architectural gem Woking is, and maybe it is just me but I get the sense that there is a degree of jumping on the bandwagon. (Aside from 4 it does not seem to me architecturally exceptional but I am sure I am showing my ignorance and missing subtleties.) As you correctly point out Exile on Mainstreet may be the critics lovechild but to be fair nothing in the World Top 100 on this site reflects such excesses and indeed it seems to have the correct ranking here, and I don't want this discussion to detract from the fact that it is a lovely heathland course, and a lovely club, and I'd say a must play in the London area.
This was my second round at Woking, the first four years ago in rather inclement weather really did not give me the opportunity to take in the course properly. The club has a very traditional feel to it although very relaxed and friendly. The course which is primarily a two ball course is similar in terrain to its counterpart West Hill with elevation and undulation across the course which are utilised well. Woking has some stellar holes such as 4 a short par 4 with a centre bunker some 80 yards short of the green which makes the golfer think about strategy from the tee. The 6th is an excellent par 4. Driving from an elevated tee the golfer gets a good view of this cracking hole but beware as the errant tee shot may end up with your approach entangling with the heathery brook running diagonally across the fairway short of the green. Bunkers either side of this green really frame the hole well. Holes 9 and 10 are quite weak. Hole 9 is a tough hole which requires either a very high draw that lands on a left to right fairway which throws the ball back down the hill or a layup to the dogleg which leaves a very long uphill second shot to a sloping green .The 10th a shortish par three is set along the ridge line seems a little out of character with the rest of the course. Holes 11, 12 and 13 are holes which highlight Woking’s excellent use of its terrain. The 11th requires a left to right tee shot but anything offline will be swallowed by the heather and the green which has many pin positions will test your distance control otherwise the player will face a very tricky two putt. Hole 12 again moves gently from left to right but all the fun happens at the green. It appears relatively flat from the fairway but it has plenty of movement from left to right although it sneakily rises up towards the back of the green almost creating a little bowl on the right hand side. The tee shot on 13 requires a little draw before a medium iron to this undulating green which is framed nicely by the pine trees behind it. Holes 14 and 15 both par five holes do not disappoint. The surround of the approach to the 14th green is brilliant with little swales and undulations everywhere….very unusual. Hole 17 is a very nice little par 3 with a false front which has bunkers protecting it left and right. It would have been nice if the pond was more of a feature on this hole but I am sure there is a reason behind this. I actually really like the 18th with its fairway sloping from left to right the player rarely has a flat lie to attack this green which slopes gradually from left to right pushing the ball towards the water which guards the miss hit or pushed approach shot. A day out at Woking is a real treat and I for one cannot wait to return.
It’s majestic. What a pure, grand, true feeling Woking has. Its greens are the best I’ve played on.
The course offers something for everyone. The fairways are wide so hackers like me can find them. If you want to go low though you have to be on the correct side, otherwise the green will likely repel the ball. The short par 4 4th is the most famous example of this – go left of the centreline bunkers and your approach is unlikely to hold the green. Right gives you the better approach angle but first you must flirt with the out of bounds.
The terrain is undulating, nothing too hilly but enough for great variety and views. The dogleg right 8th is one of the most gorgeous par 4s I’ve seen and the 6th isn’t far behind. The back nine is equally attractive, it’s flatter but has more trees and heather to frame fairways.
Unfortunately I do agree with others’ views that the 9th is a let-down compared to other holes, even big hitters must have trouble making that raised green in two. 1 and 18 could be longer but in their context I don’t think they’re bad holes, the 18th’s wildly undulating green makes it more than hard enough. Lots of rounds must end on three-putts.
I have another gripe I haven’t seen mentioned – there are quite a few public footpaths through the course, not the club’s fault obviously but seeing kids cycling on a green ruins the ambience and feeling of seclusion. A members’ 4-ball also stopped me from playing through for far too long.
In hindsight, those points are worth making but they didn’t detract much from the experience. I had high hopes for Woking, I’d always gazed longingly when passing by on the train and it didn’t disappoint. This is as pure, strategic and as well conditioned a course as you could hope for. Playing once was great but I would love to return and learn more about its hidden tricks and quirks.
In the summer of 2019 I returned to Woking after a 20-year absence. Much has changed over the last two decades but the atmosphere of the club and the strategy of the course have not budged an inch.
For architecture buffs, golf historians and those with an admiration for traditional, old-school clubs Woking is a living, breathing monument and this highly strategic course is still studied as much today as it ever was. There is a wonderful vibe at this venerable Surrey-heathland masterpiece which strongly appeals to the golfing cognoscenti.
At a modest 6,606 yards (par 70) from the black markers Woking, which oozes character, is never going to beat you up from the tee and I suspect much of the membership will never even hit a ball from the stones.
However, things change dramatically when it comes to playing your approaches into a set of greens which must rank as one of the finest across the country. Swales, slopes, semi-punchbowls, mounds and hollows on the putting surfaces give much drama on our shots into and from around the undulating greens. You may often hit a shot into the heart of the green only to watch in dismay as it is swept away from the flag or, on the contrary, closer to the hole should the angles be used wisely… or fortunately.
Then once we are on the greens, immaculately conditioned on my visit in early June, the fun and excitement recommences. They are not comparable in style to Beau Desert – my favourite set of inland greens – but the challenge is very similar and extremely rewarding should you master them. There was visible evidence of new draining being added recently on many greens but this did not affect the roll of the ball in the slightest.
It is not just the contouring of the greens that is so impressive but how the greenside bunkering is sculpted into the entire green complex. Examples of this can be found at several holes but particularly the 3rd & 8th and at many of the short holes. Quite often you are given the choice of taking the bunker on or shaping your ball around it and using the green contours as your friend…
In truth there is a collection of excellent holes at Woking and the rhythm of the course is good too as we flow through the heather and woodland –significantly cleared during recent times opening up long views across the property – as we play a variety of shots. I love how we are brought right back to within touching distance of the clubhouse after the 14th – the first of back-to-back par fives – before we venture out to play the closing loop of four which includes a new par-three 16th over water…
Admittedly there are a few awkward holes at Woking, ones that you could say don’t really fit in with the rest of the course. But I like holes that make you feel a little bit unsure on how best to play them. And this trio certainly tick the box in that regard. The three holes I am thinking about in particular are the first, ninth and the 18th. None of these will ever be classed as great holes. You could indeed argue they are poor ones... at best ill-fitting. However, I’d rather acknowledge them as holes which make you feel uncomfortable… and how you negotiate them is paramount.
I don’t quite feel right talking about other golf clubs on a review for a particular venue but the inevitable comparison to near neighbours; West Hill and Worplesdon – collectively known as the “Three Ws” – must be made and I make no apology for saying that Woking is my preference of the three. It’s a tactical feast of golf where you must think well in order to play well.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Beautiful course - each one of the 3 W's is - but this a great layout with a good variety of challenging holes.
The course is top quality and so many of the holes are sublime. The heather ls gorgeous and the condition overall is fantastic, lots of beautiful golf holes in particular hole 6 which from the white tees looks stunning with heather either side of the fairway. Hole 14 was also one of my favourites with the clubhouse behind making it a fantastic approach shot into the green and one that you do not want to knife long! The club is full of history and very old fashioned still being a 2 ball only club! I have only played there once but would love to go back and play again although it was very difficult with the greens being quick and extremely undulated. Definitely a golf course I would be happy to play every day!
My wife and I played Woking as part of a trip through some of the best heathland courses in the area. This was the last of the three "W's" for us to play we found all three of these courses to be excellent. The course starts with a short par 4 of 277 yards with the fairway actually sloping downhill towards the green. The second is an excellent long par 3 of 221 yards across a valley to a green guarded by a bunker short and right and a sloping back to front green. There then runs a succession of amazing holes including the well known par 4 4th with it centrally placed bunkers demanding a strategic decision off the tee. 8 and 9 are extremely difficult par 4's, and 10 a demanding short hole with a steep slope to the left. The highlight of the back nine is probably the par 5 14th with the green situated right next to the clubhouse verandah. The finish is a short par 4 of 362 yards, but the green is guarded by a large tree to the left for left side pin positions and a pond to the right for pins placed on that side of the green. The green also a large ridge running through it which adds to the difficulty of this fine hole.
The greens are certainly interesting with a variety of slopes, borrows and runoffs that make it difficult to get the ball close to many pin positions. I enjoyed to the flow of the holes and the course was natural, comfortable and fun to play.
The "W"s are all excellent courses, and I rate Woking the most difficult test of golf, Worplesdon the most fun to play, and West Hill the prettiest of the three. I would agree with editor Jim McCann that to be a member with reciprocal privileges at all three would be heaven. Read my story: Diamonds of the heather - golfing London's heathland
This course has a reputation for wonderful greens. I confirm that this theory is 100% correct. The opening hole is a very short par 4 followed by a very long par 3. They are fairly similar in length which is a little odd, but the course doesn’t take long to get going. A very demanding par 4 3rd hole will test the very best of golfers, and really begins to emphasize the magnificent shaping in the green complexes. I did fall in love with the greens and strongly encourage visitors to pay attention to what Tom Dunn left us with.
In my humble opinion, there were a small number of areas where the grass needed to be cut – but that was just on the day I played it – and they didn’t come into play. More importantly, there are many enjoyable aspects of playing golf at Woking. The routing has a nice change in direction and the land is more undulating than meets the eye. Uphill holes are especially difficult (eg: 9th) of which there are many, as is the need to avoid superbly placed fairway bunkers (eg: 4th fairway).
You have to wait until the 14th hole to play an official par 5 per the scorecard which takes away from the courses design variety, although the 9th hole at 470 yards to an uphill diagonal green could well be the toughest par 4 in England! Could new tees add to the variety on the scorecard?
I discussed with my playing partner how enjoyable the course becomes as you progress through the round. The closing hole feels very different to the rest. On the day I played the course, the flag was back-left and almost ungettable from the middle of the fairway even with a sandwedge in my hand due to overhanging branches.
Woking is a tough golf course and will ask a lot of your driver off the tee given how tree-lined this course is compared to the other heathland courses in Surrey. Woking is a wonderful club and is absolutely worth playing every time you’re in the area.
I’m sure Fergal is aware British clubs tend to run fairly tight ships and excesses of staff are rare. To keep out of play areas pristine takes lots of resources. When the grass is growing the course manager will have everyone cutting just to keep the greens, surrounds, fairways and semi rough in pristine condition. The costs involved in keeping everywhere pristine would be prohibitive for members and those visitors for whom paying a green fee is the norm.
Having played the 3 Ws recently, my order of preference is West Hill, Worplesdon and Woking. My reasoning is that there at least 6 holes on Woking that have more of a tree dominated parkland feel (2, 3, 4, 9, 17, 18), rather than heathland which is my preference. So this order of preference is aesthically based rather than design etc. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and the 2 stretchs of holes (5 to 8) and (10 to 14) are superb. The 8th is as good a par 4 as Ive played (played 85 of top 100). A couple of other observations. 1/. Not sure of the 9th hole. Very tough and unless you can shape the ball right to left off the tee, the approach to the green which is severely uphill, will be in the 180 to 200 yard range. 2/. Perhaps some more trees can be removed as there is a claustrophobic feel on 12 (off the tee), 13, 14 and 15. 3/. The odd, out of character tree on the right side of the 13th fairway is most bizarre. It is completely out of character (much greener and lusher than the pines and firs) and spoils an otherwise brilliant hole. Was it planted nefariously or with permission of the club by some eccentric dignitary or patron ? Either way it is a shocker !
Our golf society visited here last week and we were looked after from start to finish. Coffee and decent bacon rolls on arrival then a round of golf. We were all very impressed with the course itself especially the fairways and greens. A nice range of holes, some challenging and others just a beauty to play. We finished with a magnificent three course lunch, buffet style, that beats most others we have sampled. Thanks to everyone that looked after us and we will surely all be back later in the year. From Mark and all the Silly Billys
It’s interesting to note that this reviewer was impressed with Woking's fairways and greens this April but the reviewer below reports a very different story regarding mid April course presentation. It will be interesting to see for myself when I visit in a couple of months time.