Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin) - Lincolnshire - England

Woodhall Spa Golf Club,
The Broadway,
Woodhall Spa,
Lincs,
LN10 6PU,
England


  • +44 (0)1526 352511

  • Golf Club Website

  • 19 miles SE of Lincoln

  • Contact in advance - handicap certificate required


Visit Golfbreaks.com for a golf holiday at Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)

The Hotchkin course at Woodhall Spa invariably fights with Loch Lomond and Sunningdale Old for the coveted position of “best inland golf course” in the British Isles. Originally, Harry Vardon laid out the course and it opened for play in 1905. Harry Colt, just before the Great War, made further modifications to the layout. But in the 1920s, the owner, Colonel S.V. Hotchkin, put the course through one last major redesign phase before the Hotchkin finally matured into its present layout. The English Golf Union purchased Woodhall Spa in 1995 for a reputed £8m and turned it into their headquarters.

An oasis in the heart of Lincolnshire. Set amongst glorious pine, birch and broom, this heathland course is an absolute delight to play. The sandy subsoil allows all-year-round golf, the springy turf making walking a real pleasure. Keep your ball in play and do your best to avoid the heather, gorse and bunkers. See if you can copy the feat of J.A. Wilson (8 h/cap) and his opponent L.D. Henshaw (12 h/cap). In 1982, Wilson holed in one at the 12th (a beautiful, long par three) but only managed a half because Henshaw also holed in one. Apparently they were hurrying their shots too because they had just been invited to play through. The four-ball standing behind the green were gobsmacked!

The Hotchkin is bunker heaven (or hell), notorious for its deep, cavernous sand traps. It is also helpful if you can hit the ball long and straight. Otherwise you will be presented with some very tough second shots. Woodhall Spa isn’t a tournament course, but it is supremely challenging and plays host to a number of distinguished national and international amateur competitions.

Many important matches have been decided on its famous 18th hole. This 540-yard par five finishing hole typifies what is so special about Woodhall Spa. If we can strike the ball with solidity off the tee and avoid the hazards, then we give ourselves a chance of scoring well. We can see the flag clearly in the distance but the drive is tight. We must land left of the sentry oak, but not too far left, otherwise we will be bunkered. We must be dead straight in order to find the crisp, sandy fairway and if we achieve all these things, and if we are a stout hitter, we may be tempted to go for the green with our second shot. It is tempting - the route to the green is visible but is protected by bunkers and there's a swale guarding its right flank. What can we say? “Go for it” perhaps?

It is definitely worth making the trip to play this gem and the green fee is tremendous value for money too (especially if you are a member of an English golf club). And remember - the Hotchkin is undoubtedly one of the premier inland courses in the whole of the British Isles. Can you afford not to play it?

In 2016 Tom Doak was hired to advise Woodhall Spa on a development plan that includes tree clearance and “generally removing visual clutter so that the unique bunkering can dominate the views”. Additionally bunker faces will be reconstructed to ease maintenance. The schedule of works was due to be completed by 2022, but we received an update from Tim, a Woodhall Spa member, in February 2017:

"The work Tom Doak is doing has been speeded up and should be completed by 2019. All bunkers are being remodeled, many that had disappeared are being reinstated and a small number of obsolete ones are being removed. Huge areas of undergrowth have been cleared so that the feel of an old fashioned heath with far reaching views across the course are being brought back. Although only holes 7,8,9,10,11 and 13 have been done so far, the changes are fantastic and when completed will elevate Woodhall further from its already lofty position. Some of the holes (still to be completed) will have significant work done to the greens and also the position of the tees."

Tim contacted us again in February 2018: "“The second phase of the three-year renovation program at Woodhall Spa is nearly complete. The changes this year are to holes 5, 6, 12, 14, 16 and 17. The changes to the two par fives (6 and 14) are particularly dramatic. Many trees have been removed. Many old bunkers have been reinstated and the visual impact of these changes are striking.”

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Reviews for Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)

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Description: Woodhall Spa Golf Club is an oasis in the heart of Lincolnshire, set amongst glorious pine, birch and broom, this heathland golf course is an absolute delight to play. Rating: 8.6 out of 10 Reviews: 101
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ben
Although a nice course its ridiculous to put the Hotchin in the top 100 courses in the world. There are some very good holes and they have made the best of the very flat Lincolnshire land but I always come off the course thinking I have played a lot better courses.
December 17, 2014
6 / 10
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steve
December 18, 2014
Name them because id like to play them. Woodhall is world class as far as courses are concerned. It is a classic golf course that is standing the test of time.
Mark Jasayko
December 23, 2014
I generally agree. It is a very good course with some very unique and memorable bunkering. But it is not a World Top 100 calibre course. My feeling is that the course, along with a number of others, initially got into the Top 100 but have been surpassed by new courses, renovated classics, and by courses rediscovered by those who are willing to travel. That said, I understand the sentiments of the course's defenders as there are a number of courses for which I have a great deal of affinity - such as Royal West Norfolk - but that is very subjective and not shared.
David
December 24, 2014
Totally agree that this course is not a world top 100 course. Given Mark's example, a good one, I'd play Brancaster 9 times out of 10 over Woodhall Spa.
james
December 24, 2014
Sites like this are all about opinions. When I read reviews like this, I wonder how many of the world's top 100 the writer has actually played? Two examples: my friend, a sunningdale member all his life who I took here, who admitted he almost preferred Woodhall; or my own, having been lucky enough to play a huge number of the very best, I would go back to Woodhall over almost any other inland course. Then again, perhaps we are both idiots, or Sunningdale doesn't rate for the reviewer either!
Tim
December 25, 2014
I completely disagree with the assessment of the Hotchkin. I have been privileged to play all the top 20 in England (as well as around 30 of the World top 100) and am v lucky to have been a member of Sunningdale for the last 22 years. Hotchkin is top notch. Holes 2-7 are as good as anything I have ever played and despite the slightly disappointing 18th the back 9 is excellent (the 18th at the likes of RCD and Portrush are somewhat underwhelming too!) 3 years ago I had the opportunity to play with my best friend who who's a relative of Hotchkin and it was a joy - I now understand why he is such a good bunker player..... The sadness is that's it's location without a nearby motorway means too few have experienced such a terrific test of golf.
ben
January 09, 2015
James, I have too played Sunningdale on a number of occasions and I'm probably in the minority in that I believe the New course is better than the Old, but for me Sunningdale is far better than the Hotchkin. Like most on here (or least those that profess to have) I have played a lot of golf courses around the world and played at a fairly high standard so I’d like to think I have enough experience to make a fair assessment. For me the Hotchkin is missing something to make it special although it’s a very fine course, whether that’s because you don’t stand on any tee and feel yourself say wow like it RCD or that the club house feels very dated.
Tim Thomas
January 12, 2015
Ben, I think you are right about the New (intend to right a proper review as I have done of the Old soon) but them I am biased...Disagree about Hotchkin. Clubhouse there is terrible but then ones at Rye, Portrush and West Lancs aren't exactly easy on the eye. To be honest Birkdale lacks wow factor of RCD because Dunes are so high and whilst the clubhouse is a lovely sight on 18 that's not the golf course and Birkdale is the best links in England in my view. RCD unique because of Mountains of Mourne view but even that cannot make up for a modest finishing hole.Tim
james
January 13, 2015
Ben: I actually agree with you re the New at Sunningdale! Don't personallycare less re clubhouses, but would be interested to know whatthe missing "wow" factor. Not sure RCD a fair comparison, as the setting there has enough wow factor for about 5 golf courses. For me, I find it hard to split the New and the Hotchkin. Perhaps I have a bit more affection for the Hotchkin, as when you get to the green, having passed that brutal test, a score is there to be made. The New is almost too unforgiving throughout, greens included.
Medius Viridus
Woodhall Spa Hotchkin is outstanding,make the effort to go,even if it's in the middle of nowhere,(sorry it just feels that way)I have to admit I played it over 20 years ago,no GPS or range finder gadgets back then.And the club didn't allow yardage books,you were expected to know how far you drove the ball and take it from there.. The good old days,ha. Try and make it an overnite trip if need be,it's a must play course,that doesn't break the bank balance
November 02, 2014
10 / 10
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David Oliver
6 handicapper that played Woodhall in the middle of September 2014. Played 36 holes on a bright sunny day. After the gentle start the course was stunning. The heather was new and ablaze with pink and purple. 2,3 and 4 are brilliant par 4s, all three different but top draw. The rest of the front 9 was suberb. I don't understand the last reviewer who suggested there was no variety, there are long par 4s a couple of short ones, doglegs to both directions. Off the medal tees there are some strong holes with some great design especially 11 and 13 which are both first class. The conditioning was superb also. The only reservation was that more trees should go on the back 9.
October 06, 2014
10 / 10
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David Davis
This course for me was a classic example of having very high expectations for a Top 100 World rated course and being very, very disappointed.I see how it’s a strong test of golf from the Championship tees but for me the course lacks variety and imagination. Half way through the back 9 I realized I’d hit the same tee shot about 10 times and the main hole that stuck out was the short par 3 surrounded by the huge bunkers.Sure I’m being a bit critical but for a Top 100 World Course I’d just expect a lot more.
September 28, 2014
6 / 10
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James Dilworth
August 07, 2019

Hi David, I think you need to revisit it, the variety of the par 4s is superb, especially if you think of difference between front and back. Just think about contrast between back to back par 4's, the 6th (par 5 of backs, par 4 of standard), long and straight, followed by the 7th sharp dog leg which offers a great risk reward choice. There is just a great mix of par 4's some long, some short 15 320 yards but heavily protected by bunkers surrounding it, 17 at 330, one the longer hitters can driver with a perfect draw but the penalties for a slight stray shot are huge. Maybe you played it on a bad day, but the mix of holes, lengths, the challenge, asking something different of every tee, for me fantastic.

Alistair Wilson
What a wonderful course, fully deserving of its rating. I played the course on Monday in the torrential rain and a firm wind to boot. From the point that you arrive you can tell this is a special place and a very well matured course. The tee boxes are immaculately kept. The course is tight and is covered in bunkers. Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerI have seen some deep bunkers in my time but these were immense. If you are not a competent bunker player this is not the course for you. I didnt expect to see fairway bunkers that were as deep as the greenside ones. If you are caught in them, that spells the end of your score on the hole! All the par 3's on the course were beautiful and are all heavily guarded. In all the course is so visually striking with the way the natural heather and rough is left to mature around the fairways and swallow the bunkers from view which in turn swallow your ball int the process. The course has a little bit of an 'out and back feel' about it but because the holes are well protected you dont really notice it. All in all this is a great, my experience was dampened a little because of the weather but feel it would be unfair to award anything less than a 6-ball rating.
October 26, 2013
10 / 10
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James Lewis
I played here for the first time in August and was not disappointed. What a golf course. Every hole is a gem. The course was in fantastic condition and offered a tough test of golf. It is a must play for every golfer. I can't wait until my next round here. Superb!
September 01, 2013
10 / 10
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Leslie Smith
Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic. You get the drift ?Returned to the Hotchkin for the first time in six years this week determined to hit a four iron off the first - right centre of fairway towards the right bunker at 233. Ha ! Once again, I pulled it into the left bunker ( 198) and the fun began . We played off the white tees ( handicaps 3, 5, 5 and 7) and I recovered surprisingly well overall.What to say new ? Well, this is truly one of the world's great inland courses - in my opinion, slightly ahead of Sunningdale ( old) and a class above the distinctly overrated Walton Heath. It is owned by the EGU and is comparatively easy to play - £85 on a weekday. It should however, carry a Bethpage type sign, warning mid handicappers to play the Bracken course instead of negotiating some of the 200 yard into the wind carrys required off some of the white teas ( and indeed, a few yellows) on the Hotchkin.Its all been said below- heathland, pine and purple heather. Deep, deep bunkers. The par 3 169 yard 5th( I hut a 5 iron into the strong wind )sees a narrow slim green flanked on left and right by deep bunkers requiring a recovery over 10-12 ft lips ! Every hole is interesting and the greens ran out beautifully this week. Long rough was fair and your ball was findable. A real joy for me are the three short par 4s - 15-17- fantastic designed short dog leg holes all heavily bunkered.I could go on and on- the long into the wind par 3 9th - again protected by a cavenously terrifying bunker to the right- what a hole !The staff and clubhouse have always been a treat- very approachable and rightly proud of their great course.In summary- beg, borrow and steal to travel to Lincolnshire and if you do- you will be having one of THE great golf experiences of your life.It deserves 7 balls !
August 15, 2013
10 / 10
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James
First, I must declare an interest. I grew up playing here a lot, and thus have an emotional tie. Respectfully, though, there can only be one rating for this truly great course. If you have the good fortune to play it (and you will struggle even from forward tees) walk back to the back tees and contemplate it from there! Equally, you cannot call yourself a good bunker player until you have tried to play from these insane pits. True class, save for perhaps the rather odd 15th, which I have always thought they should do something about. The stretch from 4 through to 7 has always been a personal favourite, though there are many great holes to choose from!
July 23, 2013
10 / 10
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Buzz
Played in June 2013 after torrential rain. Course in fabulous condition. True greens, not devilishly quick (maybe due to rain?) but very fair. Enjoyed the presentation of course (tee boxes, fairways, greens, bunkers all in great nick). Welcome fantastic, friendly and professional. Excellent facilities. Not over-impressed with course layout. Very samey in my opinion. 4iron + 8 iron sufgiced on majority of par 4s!! Worth playing although if in area I'd reccomend Seacroft before this if its purely the golf course you're looking for.
June 23, 2013
6 / 10
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steve
July 23, 2013
Very samesey mmmm. 4 iron 8 iron on most par fours, you should be on tour, if you're not already.
TR
August 16, 2013
Did you play from the ladies tees?
Richard
October 05, 2013
This is one of the strangest reviews I've ever read on top100. My son is part of England golf, so I've spent a lot of time at Woodhall. I also spent five years working as part of the support crew on the European tour, travelling to all the events and sometimes getting to play the courses FOC after the events, so I really do know a good course when I see one. To call Woodhall "samey" is just plain and simple wrong. What you should have said was... It is deeply complex, wonderfully designed, beautifully manicured, world class golf course, that is far to detailed to make any comment on until you have played it several times, only then will you begin to understand it's true quality. Seacroft is also a lovely course, but not in the same league as the Hotchkin.
Wallis
November 09, 2013
Have to agree with previous reply,tho I played the Hotchkin 20years off a 9HC there is no way this is a samey course,4iron 8iron on all par 4's !! I couldn't do that then,let alone now. Ignore the ludicrous review posted,one of the best,if not best,courses you are likely to play
Lee Stacey
Played this course on a sunny spring morning, what more can I say then wow….Took me a while to come to this conclusion but when you put everything in context i.e. layout, variety of holes and being unique! This course stands out above the rest. Yes I agree the course does share similar core details then other courses i.e. Notts & Sunningdale but the one thing you don’t forget about is the bunkers!! A good score can be had if you hit straight and stay out the heather and the bunkers. The greens were abit slow but ran true. Can’t wait to play the course again in the summer when the heather has blossomed. All holes are strong but if I had to pick one hole above the rest it will be the 11th which is a great looking hole of the tee.
May 02, 2013
10 / 10
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