I expected Woking to be good but it was even better than I thought it would be, which was a pleasant surprise. Laid out by Tom Dunn in 1893, well before other heathland courses such as Sunningdale or Walton Heath, the layout is much the same today as it was then, apart from changes to the 9th, 10th and (more recently) the 16th, along with reversing the order of play for the 11th and 13th.
I’d read that agronomist Jim Arthur had consulted at the club during the 1970s and 80s and if the condition of the greens nowadays is in any shape or form a result of the work he put in during that period then they’re a fabulous legacy of a much respected man because they were absolutely superb.
The par fours at the right dog legged 3rd and left doglegged 9th were my favourite holes on the outward half – the fairway on the former sloping markedly right to left as it heads towards a really unique, horseshoe-shaped green whilst the fairway on the latter rises sharply to a large, two-tiered plateau green.
The 12th is another terrific par four, veering slightly left to a beautifully constructed green that’s benched into the hillside, protected at the front by three large bunkers. The first of back-to-back par fives at the 14th returns golfers to the verandah at the rear of the clubhouse, which is very much in play at the back of the green.
In these days of health and safety, I’m astonished that members and guests are still allowed to put themselves in the line of fire from stray approach shots to the 14th green – I overcooked my wedge shot by a considerable margin and just missed a large group of people sitting yards from the back of the green as my ball landed on the floor tiles then shot straight up into the overhanging roof with a terrible clatter.
Even an almighty cry of “FORE!” from the secretary, who was alongside me at the time, gave people only a split second of a chance to try to avoid a serious injury from my clumsy shot. Thank God nobody was injured but it could so easily have been very different - perhaps a fine mesh net rigged up along the front of the terrace would afford some protection from hackers like myself?
There’s another surprise in store at the end of the round, with water hazards featuring prominently at two of the last three holes. The lily pond at the par three 16th will catch anything short or right of the green whilst the pond to the right of the 18th will only really worry those who slice their approach shot - perhaps attempting to avoid firing into the clubhouse on the left if they’ve already done so at the 14th!
I can understand why former member Bernard Darwin spoke so highly of Woking as it’s a magical place to play. I haven’t yet played near neighbours Worplesdon or West Hill (they’re also ranked within the GB&I Top 100) but I’d love to do so next year to see how they compare against Woking, which sets the local bench mark for me at the moment.
Date: July 24, 2016