Woodcote Park Golf Club was established in 1912 and founder members enlisted Harry Vardon to design their course, assisted by the club’s first professional, Montrose-born Tom Winton. To mark the opening of the inaugural 18-hole layout, reigning Open champion Vardon played James Braid in a stroke play exhibition match, which Braid won by a single shot, 78 to 79.
Those scores might appear to be relatively high by modern standards but the course measured all of 6,840 yards – with bogey set at 80 (37 out and 43 in) – and the professionals were playing with hickories over a comparatively long distance. Indeed, a contemporary report suggested the course “would be improved if some of the later holes were shortened”.
Two holes on the original course were routed beyond Grove Lane, next to the current 16th hole, and both were lost to development in the 1930s, replaced with two holes which were inserted into the northern loop. During World War II, holes 1, 17 and 18 were requisitioned for agricultural use before the land was reclaimed in 1952 and the holes restored to their former glory.
The projected routing of the M23 motorway in the mid-1960s gave some cause for concern, as it could have impacted on a corner of the course around the 12th and 13th, however the proposed road improvements never happened. More recently, alterations were made to holes 9 and 16 in the late 1980s and the 11th and 17th were lengthened at the start of the new millennium.
The course occupies a chalk downland landscape that was once open in character, but a concerted tree planting program in the 1960s has resulted in tree-lined fairways playing largely in isolation to one another. Greenside bunkers were reconstructed a few years ago, when traditional sand hazards were replaced with modern, grass faced splash traps, and this improvement gives the course a more contemporary look.
Notable holes include long, difficult par fours at the 5th – which doglegs right past three diagonal cross bunkers towards a left to right sloping green – and the 10th, where the fairway rises gently to a two-tiered, sand-protected green. The 481-yard par five 18th is a fine closing hole, offering a late birdie opportunity if the fairway bunkers defending the home green can be avoided.