Woking Golf Club has a charming Old England heathland course, laid out by Tom Dunn in 1893. The club was intended to provide relief for a few golf mad barristers who were sick and tired of playing on muddy clay. We must thank Woking wholeheartedly because nobody thought that heather and gorse-strewn land was viable ground for golf and this was the first experimental heathland layout.
At the turn of the 20th century, there were only a few heathland courses around London and Bernard Darwin described them as “the stars of sand and heather”. He had a soft spot for Woking Golf Club because it’s the oldest and one of the best. He went on to say, “although my judgement may not be strictly an impartial one, I think it is still the pleasantest of all upon which to play, and the golf is undeniably interesting.” Darwin was once a mad barrister himself and also a member at Woking for more than sixty years.
Woking Golf Club is listed in the catalogue of Simpson & Company Golf Architects, but we don't know what work Tom Simpson may have carried out.
There is absolutely no doubt that Woking is located in an idyllic spot and the unusual pavilion clubhouse only adds to the charisma. This is not a championship layout by any stretch of the imagination; the course only measures 6,602 yards from the back tees. But Woking is a mature and strategic layout requiring well-positioned tee shots that must, at all costs, remain out of the heather and in play. We recommend that you leave your driver in the boot of the car to avoid any temptation.
Woking is not riddled with bunkers but those that are there are adroitly positioned. In 1900, a controversy raged when Stuart Paton dug two bunkers into the 4th fairway. The members were mortified that they might be penalised after hitting a good straight drive. Looking back at this, Woking was a pioneer in architectural terms, forcing the player to make a strategic decision, lay up short or bravely aim on the right line.
In 1926, a match involving captain Bobby Jones and the rest of the American Walker Cup team took place at Woking. The Americans were beaten 6-3 by the “Moles Golfing Society”. The British Amateur champion was captain of the Moles. Woking was also once home to the Alba Trophy, a celebrated amateur competition. These days, Woking is used to genteel peace and quiet in Surrey’s suburbia. This is definitely a course for the connoisseur. Or as Darwin said in his 1910 book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, "I can only end as I began by asserting that there is no more delightful course whereon to play golf."
Tim Lobb has been the consulting architect at Woking for a number of years. The par three 16th hole was redesigned in 2013 and new forward tees have since been installed on a number of holes. The club is also engaged in an ongoing heather restoration program to significantly improve the course’s environmental impact.
Local knowledge really counts in a place like this. A couple of examples to illustrate my point: The short par 4 first hole calls for a long iron from the tee unless you've got hubris and try to drive the green. The problem is that both the green and the sloping ground in front were so firm during our visit that our (well-struck) approach shots just trickled over the green and ended up in the bank below. A struggle to make par instead of a good birdie opportunity for the unintiated.
On the long (420 yards) par 4 3rd, I missed slightly long and right and from the ankle deep thick grass a couple of yards off the green, I had no shot. Again, local knowledge would have told me to miss short or left.
On the par 4 dogleg left uphill 9th, the stroke saver does not tell you how far it is before you run out of fairway on the right side, so you risk hitting an iron into the fairway, which I should have done, but didn't, as it would have given me a near impossible task with my second. Instead, I stuffed a good drive into the trees on the left which were higher than what I (somewhat optimstically) thought that I could hit my driver. Again, local knowledge would have told me where to aim and which club to choose.
On the last hole, a good drive gives you only a pitch into the green. However carefully you hit this shot, you run a real risk of the ball trickling across the away-sloping green and into the water. Fortunately, mine stopped just a few inches short as the greenkeepers had not been sadistic enough to shave the bank all the way to down to the water.
All this is to say, until and unless you find a better course guide than what is sold in the pro shop, make sure you play this course with a member or someone who otherwise happens to know the course well. Alternatively, abandon any ambitions to score and just enjoy the walk, like we ended up doing.
Not a bad idea, because during what is a very civilised and pleasant walk, there are also plenty of things to love: not the least the par 5 14th (pictured). It is reachable in two for the longer hitter, but its green ends only a few paces off the clubhouse terrace, which uniquely is not out of bounds.
Or, the new 16th with its undulating green where a longer putt can break two or three times.
All this points to a club which still puts members first, second and third and which still has a long road before being considered "corporate".
In my book, Woking is not a match for the best in the heathland category such as Swinley Forest, Sunningdale, St George's Hill, Walton Heath or The Berkshire (do not want to debate where Wentworth West belongs these days as I last played it in the 90s). I also have Hankley Common higher than Woking but realise that opinions are more split on that comparison.
However, if you have ticked them all off and are looking for something else, you can do a lot worse than spending a day here. More heather and history feel than nearby West Hill, but also a bit more old school.
Will be interesting to also compare Woking with Worplesdon, but that is another day..and another review.
Woking golf club was a picture today. Beautiful heather framing a well manicured course weaving between the trees. While not a long course, it is protected well by the aforementioned heather and dangerous bunkers. The biggest defence are the green complexes. Large and fast with huge undulations leaves some truly daunting putts if you land in the wrong section. I think I preferred the opening nine, where more elevation was in play giving beautiful views of the course.
Along with a great round, I must say the hospitality was 1st class for our outing. Pre round coffee and rolls and a fantastic lunch after made a great day. I think the ultimate test is always ‘would you like to come back?’ In a heartbeat!!
Having played here a few years ago now and remembering how good it was, I was pleased to return a couple of weeks ago and play it again. What can I say??? It was amazing, One of the best days golf in my life, on what can only be described as one of the best manicured courses I have played. Not a blade of grass out of place, everything was perfect, (apart from my game!!). The greens were superb, receptive of a well struck shot, and with a good pace on them. The fairways were immaculate, as were the teeing areas, and even the hazards (gorse and bunkers) were as pretty as a picture. The heather in particular was pretty demanding, any shot missing the fairway was gobbled up by it. But lost balls aside, I was spellbound. Standout hole for me is the par 4 6th, one of the prettiest holes you'll play anywhere. I was so looking forward to playing this particular hole again, and I'm glad to see that even after finding the aforementioned gorse off the tee, I still managed to par it, one of only a few that day! I love Woking, and if I lived closer I would join in a heartbeat. Definitely, definitely, in my own personal top 3.
I used to glimpse Woking from the train heading towards Basingstoke and wished I was playing rather than on my way to dull meetings, I had my chance recently and the experience didn’t disappoint. Nestled in the Surrey sand belt the course carves its way through picturesque mature forest, only the noise of trains from Waterloo and jets into Farnborough disturbs the tranquillity.
Short by today’s standards with only 2 par 5’s the course relies on some spectacularly contoured greens for its defence, you really need to have your approach shots dialled in to find the right part of the greens. Find the wrong spot and you’ll end up with some monster putts, miss the greens and you can end up with some of the toughest up and downs you can imagine, long putts to save your par at best. The club has a very good practice putting green which for a change feels the same as the course greens, I advise spending 15 minutes before teeing off working on long putts, it’s a certainty you’ll have 5 or 6 very long putts at some point and it’s all too easy to 3 putt with a tiny lapse of concentration.
The course begins with a gentle par 4 before suddenly hitting you with a long par 3 needing big carry, then a succession of strong par 4’s which demand tee shots to avoid the heather to give you any chance of finding the greens in the right place. 8 & 9 being really tough, dog legs both needing big carries over the corners to have a hope of reaching in regulation. Woking isn’t long overall but there are some tough 400+ par 4’s which is where the course shows its teeth. The par 5’s feel like a break and are a good place to score albeit you still need to find the right place on the greens, the 15th green in front of the club house is a great place where you can hole a long glory putt or painfully 3 putt in front of the members enjoying their refreshments. Of the two nines the front has more interesting architecture, there is much more elevation change providing some excellent raised tee boxes and greens. The closing stretch is superb with the final hole tempting you to carry as much heather as you can to leave a wedge into the green protected by a tree and the pond. Overall just a fantastic experience, combined with excellent service it easily justifies its high ranking. As to where it sits in comparison to its close neighbours, the other two ‘w’s I don’t know. I played West Hill a couple of times many years ago and Worplesdon is still on the bucket list.
Simply amazing. Straight in to my personal favourites in England without a doubt. Beautiful tree lined holes with immaculately maintained greens. Sadly the heather was not in colour but the various flowering boarders where out in full glory especially surrounding the pond as you enter the club and that frames the 18th so well. A memorable evening of golf with some challenging par fours. I will return.
Woking prides itself as a very English club. In many ways it is; no heroic carries, some slight eccentricities (only two par 5s and they are back to back), the clubhouse, but not the roof, is an integral part of the course, a grand history of foursomes and public school golf and, in non-Covid times, a relatively formal but excellent food offering.
Yet, in mid-April 2021 it felt a little American. In a very dry Spring for the south of England the course had very little run indeed. So it was play your shot to a spot, play your next shot and then hope that you’d got the right side of the hole on some huge, elegantly sloping greens.
The lack of run meant that it was a long course. And don’t let the apparent lack of length make you think it’s easy. It isn’t. Off the whites there are 8 par fours of more than 400 yards, stroke index 9 is 450 yards with a second strongly uphill. One of the par 3s (the 2nd) is 220 yards across a valley. And, as mentioned earlier there are only 2 par 5s, with neither being anywhere near easy to reach in two shots.
Where Woking scores is the requirement to be in the right place to hit one’s approach shot to the green, and then the need to put that approach into the right part of the green. Get it wrong on those beasts of greens and three puts await, with I suspect four puts not being unknown.
I’ll keep coming back to Woking, because one day I’ll play it well and walk off satisfied with 32 points. 33 of us played, the winning stableford score was 35 points, the winning gross score 4 over. Don’t ever let it be said that it’s an easy course because it’s not 7,000 yards. Length is not necessary for difficulty, just have lots of par 4s to prevent the long golfer putting for eagle four or five times.
I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, quite anticlimactic to be honest. 5, 6 and 8 are absolutely fantastic and I couldn’t wait to continue. 9 & 10 were ordinary, 11 starting to get good again and then the 12th green was just ridiculous. A real shame the 16th was redesigned and the green was a bit of a rollercoaster ride bordering on crazy golf.
No doubt it’s a quality course but way over rated in my opinion. How it ranks better than Hankley Common on here is beyond me. Some of the bunkers at Woking wouldn’t have looked out of place on a public course.
Disappointing and over priced.
In October 2018 I represented The Oriental Club at The Bath Cup at Woking Golf Club. I was the youngest person playing by 35 years – easily.
This is an old school club, deep routed in tradition and whilst the public can request to play here, the club would rather you didn’t. Having said that, I am glad that I did.
I have played two out of the ‘Three W’s’ (Worplesdon and Woking – West Hill being the third) and I have to say that the course is undeniably pleasant. There is no doubt that Woking is located in a tranquil spot and the wisteria-embraced clubhouse only adds to the charisma. This is not a championship layout by any means; the course only measures 6,603 yards from the back tees. But Woking is a mature and strategic layout requiring well-positioned tee shots that must avoid the heather – at all costs!
The course has a deep and long-standing relationship with England’s Public Schools. The Club hosts a number of well supported tournaments, such as the Bernard Darwin Trophy and Gerald Micklem Trophy, both public schools team events. I hope to be involved with such competitions in the years to come, however many of these are seniors’ tournaments – suitable as the club is the home of the Senior Golfers’ Society of Great Britain.
The day of the Bath Cup was splendid. A chilly but bright October day highlighted the course’s beauty, unfortunately no beautiful purple heather. The format was 36 holes match-play with lunch in between. Lunch. This was some lunch. Jacket and tie please. Two glasses of Red minimum. And I overate – the food was lovely – three courses plus seconds. The afternoon 18 holes was a right off. Not just for me, thank goodness. We didn’t win – and that’s OK.
I look forward to returning and experiencing this Surrey gem once more.
I payed Woking last week for the first time and was very impressed. It is almost like a hillier version of West Hill with some terrific holes and nice views of the course, particularly from the 11th tee. It is although worth noting the tremendous green complexes! Some huge surfaces with wonderful swales in them and on a couple, you would swear a VW Beetle had been buried there as a feature! :)
The course experience was mirrored by the clubhouse. A super old building with an excellent ambiance and terrific food. I am really looking forward to returning to what is without doubt in my mind, the best course of the 3 W's.
Highly recommended - an excellent day out.
I think Woking is underrated. At 27th in England, to me this seems too low. A ranking of around 15 to 20 is about right. The course is an architectural masterpiece, filled with exciting holes and a cracking front nine especially (although the back nine compared pretty well). While this review talks about the course only, I should say the clubhouse is a beautiful old building and the terrace is just lovely, a place to relax after a quick 18.
Hole 1 is a decent risk reward hole. At only 272 yards it is short, but it is challenging to hold the green sloping entirely from front to back.
I like hole 2. It is a classic par three of 211 yards over a valley with a giant tree short and left. The shortest bunker doesn't come into play so much, but for me was a hazard as I only hit driver 165 yards.
Hole 3 is a fantastic par four of 410 yards uphill. It bends to the right ever so slightly. The bunker in front of the green is a challenging hazard. The green in itself is hardly easy, sloping heavily from back to front.
At 318 yards, the fourth isn't the toughest hole but the famous double bunker down the middle has prominence. The fairway narrows towards the green. A classic risk reward hole.
The fifth is one of my favourite holes on the course, 355 yards uphill to a huge green. Visually this hole is beautiful, framed by pines and a hillside behind the green. Pin position is key here and at 47 yards deep, the green houses a lot of pin positions!
Hole 6 is magnificent, 390 yards downhill from an elevated tee. The heather frames the fairway beautifully. The fairway bunkers 220 yards really pinch the fairway. You then cross a burn to a large green sloping from back to front.
The seventh is a charming little par three of 157 yards with pinching bunkers and a fall off area long. You have to hit the green here. I think this is actually a good, pretty hole.
Woking's finest moment is the 420 yard 8th hole, playing uphill and bending to the right. The four bunkers really complicate the approach shot, but the main interest to this hole for me is the variation in pin positions, with the toughest being back right over the bunkers.
The 9th is the longest par four at 433 yards, and for me was the weakest hole. Not because it is a bad hole, but it has less strategic merits. It bends sharply to the left and climbs uphill to a long, narrow green.
At 150 yards, the tenth is the second shortest of the par threes. It is tough to attack here, and requires a fade as everything slopes to the left. The two bunkers make this hole difficult.
The 11th is a strong 377 yard par four and exposes the open heathland sections of this course. It sweeps round to the right. The corner can be cut a little bit here. Everything on the green slopes back to front.
The 12th is the finest of the three par fours from 11 to 13. It looks so simple, and a long drive will chase down the hill, but it is tough for 385 yards with three bunkers short and a severely sloping green from left to right.
I think 13 is one of the toughest holes at Woking, 423 yards uphill into the pine trees. The bunker short and right of the green has a lot more presence than you would expect. This is a picturesque hole.
14 is the best of the two par fives, and at 525 yards is the longer of them. From the tee it looks simple, and the three bunkers can easily be avoided, but the green complex just two yards in front of the terrace is one of the course's most interesting, with everything sloping from back to front and right to left.
The 15th is the other par five, 501 yards uphill with a large swathe of heather on the left. Just the one bunker here to avoid. The hole has another interesting green complex with two halves sloping in opposite directions.
My favourite par three is the sixteenth, 144 yards over a lake to an incredibly complex green complex. Three bunkers pinch the green left and right, and there is another one short. The green has multiple ridges.
17 is a good par four of 418 yards down the hill with a more simple design. Just the two bunkers to worry about here, and the green slopes from front to back. A classic hole lined by tall pines.
Some say the 18th is a twitchy and awkward hole but I really like it. It's a par four of 328 yards with a pond on the left very close to the green. It can be driven, but with water, bunkers short, a green sloping towards the water and a clubhouse to the left it isn't worth the risk.
My round was very enjoyable and the course was impeccable, and the course conditioning was immaculate with beautiful turf on the fairways, smooth and flat tee boxes, great bunkers and immaculate and lightning quick greens. A must play, worth every penny of its £125. I should say as well the welcome was so friendly and everyone at the club was so welcoming, unlike the stuff other people have said (not necessarily on this website). A delightful place to play golf.