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: 95
TaylorMade
Anthony Daniels
Played the Hotchkin on 11th April expecting great things. However, I came away distinctly underwhelmed. The layout is good, but not great, although the back nine is much better than the front. The condition of the fairways was poor, and it was obvious that this due to the amount of traffic they have on the course, but if you have a course ranked supposedly in the top 50 in the world you should be able to employ the greenstaff to keep it in great condition whatever. The greens were true but were very slow as they had far too much grass on them, again a consequence of having so many people playing, I would suggest. Contrary to several other reviews I think the bunkers were superb - great fun to try to get out of if you were unfortunate enough to go in them, and also made you think about your strategy and how to get around the course. Finally, although the welcome was very warm, the clubhouse is appalling. It's basically a garden shed and is in no way in keeping with a course that is ranked this high, but then neither is the course. On the long journey home one of my pal's described Woodhall Spa as being the best municipal course in the country. I think this is pretty accurate. It is not in the same league as either course at Sunningdale, or as good as many other inland courses I've played. Highly overrated, but good value.
April 23, 2011
4 / 10
Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)
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Paul Michael
May 11, 2011
The best muni in the country? I'd love to play the rest of your top 10 muni tracks if you count Woodhall Spa as a municipal course. When did a muni ever have this course, welcome, layout or National Golf Centre? The Hotchkin is very much deserving of it's ranking.
am
May 15, 2011
Reading the above the criteria for a top-ranked course would be conditioning and presentation, a large well-appointed clubhouse and, as the only comparative courses mentioned were at Sunningdale, a degree of exclusivity and expense. Design quality, shot values and ambience are of little significance. Conditioning is partialy dependent upon the time of year, April in Lincolnshire sees the onset of the growing season, perhaps a visit in September for the Senior Home Internationals will see the course at it's best. In Spain, there any number of average courses in top condition with palacial clubhouses. If municpal is implied as a degrogatory term, St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Bethpage are municpals and, like the Hotchkin, are considered to be among the World's Top Fifty Courses. To quote Steely Dan "You wouldn't know a diamond if you held it in your hand". Read the review by Jim McCann for a golfer's perspective.
ewjh
February 03, 2012
How very quick some golfers are to immediately blame greenkeepers for a bad round/experience, based on absolutely no knowledge of the subject. I am a head greenkeeper of many, many years and this is typical of the uneducated comments made by arrogant golfers who know nothing of the amount of science involved in greenkeeping. The, 'cut the grass shorter and the greens will be faster' mentality. I came from Surrey to play the Hotchkin the same week and the course was exceptional! Courses are prepared for the season at the start of spring, largely dependent on a 'typical' wet and warm period to follow. This spring was hot and incredibly dry from the very time all the vital work was carried out. The greens staff at Woodhall Spa had done an exceptional job adapting their strategy when many, many others failed to do so. Furthermore, the extra grass was, more than likely, an attempt to alleviate the symptoms of stress placed on the plant by such a prolonged, dry spell. This will have helped prevent them losing their greens for the whole summer. Maybe they considered this more important than your one particular round. And no, 'putting the irrigation on' doesn't solve this problem. Irrigation water is too cold in spring to instigate growth, resulting in a wet surface that not only doesn't aid growth but will later encourage the development of undesirable grass species and turf diseases. But I wont bore you with the science, you probably wont understand! Why not go away and see if you can educate yourself before you criticise a fantastic course and insult what is, undoubtedly an excellent greenkeeping team that must have been very well selected, paid, trained and managed.
Hugh
February 04, 2012
Greenkeepers get paid for doing a job, golfers pay to play golf courses and therefore have every reasonable right to expect the greenkeepers to have done their job. It's arrogant for a greenkeeper to think otherwise.
ewjh
February 04, 2012
The greenkeepers did their job. In the spring and summer imparticular, the condition in which a course can be presented is dictated by the weather. The weather last spring was freakish to say the least and the department did an excellent job to produce a course playing as brilliantly as it did. If more golfers took time to understand why a course is not in perfect condition all the time, their attitudes to greenkeepers would greatly improve. I was a single figure handicap golfer for many years before taking up greenkeeping and was embarrassed at the time by members blindly blaming greenkeepers for course conditions when they had no grasp of any facts. Anyone with a genuine love of the game surely has enough time to listen to the factors influencing course preparation? I guess not, some people just like to complain because something is anything less than unattainable perfection. They could have had 200 greenkeepers and the greens would have been in the same condition. A golf course is a living organism it tells you what it needs. Not the other way round. What produces a fantastic result one day/week/year can have a huge detrimental effect the next. Learning to adapt, as they did, is all that can be done. I can perfectly accept remarks saying the course was a disappointment for the reasons given above because a golfer has paid their money. Fine. I don't doubt this was true. But blindly blaming greenkeepers for it when they presented the course as well as any greenkeeper in the world could have, is pure ignorance
Anthony Daniels
February 06, 2012
ewjh, I wrote the above review and I appreciate your comments in respect of why the grass on the greens may have been longer. I actually found your explanation very interesting and wasn't aware of the reasons prior to reading your post. Therefore, I could accept that I may have been ignorant in this respect. However, to call me arrogant based on a few written words is surely way over the top (although I realise you are not the only person in this posts who seems to have formed a very inaccurate portrayal of me as a person and golfer!). You also assumed (wrongly) that I had a bad round and was blaming this on the greens staff. This couldn't be further from the truth. I played okay. My point was that the condition of a course ranked so highly was not what I would have expected and certainly didn't compare with other courses I've played which are ranked similarly. As I say, I was very interested in learning a bit about why a particular course may be presented in a certain way. The best thing about this website is the wide and varying opinions that different people have in respect of the various courses. These opinions should not, however, lead to personal attacks and conclusions being drawn as to whether any given reviewer may be a nice person or not.
Hugh
February 06, 2012
It’s nice to receive a lecture in agronomy but most golfers are not that interested in the science. They pay their money and then expect reasonably fast and true greens. If Woodhall planned to leave the greens long and fluffy then surely it would be reasonable to make the customer aware beforehand and perhaps offer a reduction based on the fact they are not up to scratch for whatever reason? Most golfers will accept general conditioning issues but it is really disappointing to make the effort to travel, take the time out and pay good money to play an alleged top course only to find that the greens are slow, fluffy and you have to bash the ball at the hole. In any case whatever happened to the art of watering the greens? Surely sprinklers could have been used to alleviate the “freakish” conditions assuming you are blaming the dry spring for the poor greens? The more likely reason for the slow greens was that on Monday 11th April they hadn’t been cut since Friday.
Keith Baxter
February 07, 2012
I’d like to thank everyone for responding to this review. In fairness to the reviewer and Woodhall Spa, I’m now drawing a line under this. If however, you’ve played the Hotchkin course recently then please post your own player review and share your on-course experiences through that process. Keith Baxter - Editor
Robert Smith
Played here over the week-end of 16th/17th April and came away a little disappointed. Sure, it's in a beautiful setting, and the welcome we received from everybody was great. But too many bunkers. Far too many. As another reviewer states, you could take away half of the bunkering and still be left with a fantastic, but fairer, course. I've played Chart Hills in Kent, a course renowned for it's large number of bunkers. But at least you can see where they are. The fairways, especially on the front 9, were very scruffy, bare in places. They improved a little on the back 9 though to be fair. Greens were quite slow compared to the greens on the Bracken course, thankfully they didn't have the humps and hollows though! A nice course, yes. But not, in my opinion a GREAT one. I didn't walk off the 18th thinking "I must get back here to play again one day" as I have done at other, lesser known courses. Shame. It may not be the best course I have played, but it was certainly the toughest with all those bunkers. And I didn't really find that many of them!
April 20, 2011
6 / 10
Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)
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AJ
April 21, 2011
So whats your point about the bunkers then if you didnt find them ? Did they put you off ? Do you not find it exhilarating to stand on the tee and know you need to hit a great drive to avoid the hazards ? I suggest playing it again with a different mindset.
Joey
April 21, 2011
I must agree with AJ, the predominant features are there to see. The fun is avoiding them! They are some of the most amazing hazards to be found anywhere in the world. I would never criticize a course that is only charging such a nominal fee to enjoy it!
Robert Smith
July 26, 2011
The fact that I didn't find that many of them doesn't mean there aren't too many. It just seemed to me to be "tricked up" by the large amount, some that were really unnecessary. One hole in particular had a deep pot bunker literally 50 yards in front of the tee in amongst deep heather. OK if somebody has hit a bad tee shot penalise them. Put them in the heather. But why have a great big pot bunker in there too? If it were a par 3 I could possibly understand it. But on a long par 4?
Jim McCann
If the Old Course at St.Andrews is rightly regarded as “The Home” of Scottish golf then the Hotchkin at Woodhall Spa deserves the same title for English golfers - it’s such a lovely setting in rural Lincolnshire for a national golfing treasure and the course deserves to be played at least once by each and every EGU member.

I was a wee bit concerned as I walked onto the 1st green to see a couple of very Woodhall Spa Golf Course - Photo by reviewernondescript small mounds defining the rear flank of the putting surface (who in their right mind ever thought they might add any strategic value or aesthetic quality to the hole?) but from there on it was top quality design all the way to the end. Very like Sunningdale in places, with severe carries across heather on several tee positions, the Hotchkin course is a wonderful layout that will keep you engaged for every inch of the 6519 yards that you’ll play from the yellows. Some seem to think that’s too short – not for me it isn’t when cavernous bunkers abound on every hole. I thought I’d seen it all by way of intimidating sand traps when I played Ganton a few years ago; well, those were mere sand pits for kiddies compared to some of the monster bunkers here – not quite sizeable enough to take a double decker bus but a few of the larger, grass-ramped specimens could comfortably hold a single deck minibus.

The three par threes vary in length from 143 to 187 yards from the regular markers and they’re all excellent short holes, especially as two of them (holes 8 and 12) play slightly uphill from tee to green. If you’re looking for affordable, top quality golf then you’ll be very hard pressed to pay a better value green fee than that charged here. I echo an earlier review from someone who called Woodhall Spa a place “for proper golfers” – how very true. Jim McCann
April 04, 2011
10 / 10
Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)
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Andrew Whiteley
I played The Hotchkin twice on 1st November 2010, having first carefully examined all the reviews to date. My expectations were high due to high ranking; 4th England, 14th British Isles and 45th in the World. I travelled over 200 miles to get there and believe me I wanted these claims to be true. The greeting and friendly service from all the staff was 1st class. I teed off and walked up the first to be met by a poor quality fairway. It’s fair to say it had been hollow tined but I allowed for that at this time of year. It was bear in many places and just had the feel that it had been played to death. However, the greens were in very good condition As I continued through 4 holes it slowly dawned on me that this may not be all its cracked up to be. It’s flat, well of course it’s flat it’s Lincoln, but I just expected to be blown away by the quality and lay out and I wasn’t. The par 3s holes 5 & 12 some of the best I’ve played and I found the back 9 more interesting and pleasing to the eye. It’s a tough test of golf which demands solid accurate ball striking. Penalties are severe and you can really rack up a number if you pay a visit to the heather or the huge bunkers. The 2nd round I joined another guest who played off 2, he had played many quality courses around the country. He also agreed that the Hotchkin wasn’t as good as the rankings suggested. We both gave it a 7/10. I’m a 5 HC and I played close to it so please don’t think this review is because I hit a high number. Indeed it is a good course with some particularly beautiful holes but if there are only 44 courses better than it on the planet I’d be very surprised. If you play expecting a good quality inland course you won't be disappointed. But I just felt it was good but not great.
November 02, 2010
6 / 10
Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)
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Simon
November 03, 2010
Nice review - I am planning on playing up there next April and will have similar high expectations given its ranking, good to see a balanced review irrespective of your good scoring. Simon
Andy
November 03, 2010
Further comment from initial reviewer, I wouldn't put anybody off playing The Hotchkin. Maybe it was the time of year that led to the poor fairways? The price is a steal, if I lived closer I'd play it a few times a year. I found it a bit short off Whites the main bunkers were around 230 mark and my drives were carrying them. Maybe off back blue tees it would have been more interesting?
Edgaras
November 08, 2010
That's a very fair review. I played the course on 5th of November and I totally agree with the reviewers opinion.
AJ
December 29, 2010
Play it off the medal or blue tees in a competition and get back to me. I had the same experience when I played it off the yellows. Its an excellent golf course, definitely one of the best in the UK.
Simon Chitty
What a fantastic course, played it y'day, an exceptional test of golf, the greens I thought were some of the best I've putted on and I play on a links course down in Kent. I would say it's one of the most difficult courses I've played, most shots not hit 100% will be penalised. I came expecting to be dissapointed due to the high ranking but left thinking that is the finest inland course I've played. Well worth visiting.
October 12, 2010
10 / 10
Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)
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I played the course twice this week on consecutive days and what a difference a day makes ! First impressions off the yellows I was expecting more, second impressions off the medal tees I'm hooked let me have another go, its that good a test. It really is a contrasting two nines, one open to the elements, the second harder to read as the trees block the wind. The heather is thicker, the ground lusher on the back nine, lots of carries, and invisible bunkers to be avoided. Shot selection, execution and then reading the subtle greens. Its not necessarily all about aesthetics, although it is beautiful, its natural heathland golf as intended. Dont expect a perfect lie on the well used fairways. This is a real test that will stretch even the good plus player. Try it off the medal tees 6921 yards, par 73 SSS 75, dont worry about the length the course runs, much more satisfying than the yellow tees, and you wont reach the trouble when you hit a decent drive ! dont forget your lobwedge :-)
September 25, 2010
10 / 10
Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)
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Greg Krieger
Although I didn't count the bunkers I agree with the review below. This is an indistinct course distinguished by some deep bunkers. It blends pleasantly with the flat landscape but is surely overrated in the top 100. How it can be above North Berwick, Hillside and Formby to name but a few is astonishing. If you think I'm links biased it's not as good as Woburn, Gleneagles (any of them) The (controversial) Belfry. Play it, but don't rush to get there.
June 09, 2010
6 / 10
Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)
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Dan
June 09, 2010
Well this is obviously the course for differences of opinion ! I loved the course and whilst one might argue the merits vs courses that one likes I would say that the quality of the course is undeniable. I can't wait to play it again and its isolation adds to the charm like Silloth.
dan
June 10, 2010
Apologies, i ran out of battery. I was just going to say that I would accept only King's at Gleneagles above the Hotchkin, but as for the Belfry...! Formby, Hillside and North Berwick West figure highly in my 'list' too, but Woodhall Spa felt just 'different', whether it is the unpretentious yet charming town (formby village without the airs and graces), the folly, the WWI style bunkering (or not being next to Birkdale !) but it stretches away from those we have mentioned. Plus I lipped out for a birdie on SI 1 off the yellows, which felt like plenty enough golf (Driver, 3W) thank you very much !
Dave Nimmo
July 12, 2010
Played the course on the 9th of July, huge dissapointment. I can't remember one hole which was distinctly different from any other. It was all much of a muchness, the Bracken had far more stand out holes. It was like a desert and the greens were barely alive. The sand just caves in on itself and was knee deep, my friend from NZ was laughing that it was meant to be in the top five. I agree it was tough, but there was nothing to take the breath away. Pretty boring knocking a four iron off every tee!
Paul Frust
November 11, 2010
Dave Nimmo - dont think you know what your talking about....Both Lee westwood and Sergio Garcia rate this course as one of the best in the UK....Its a real test of golf.
Duncan
September 11, 2011
A 4 iron off every tee? Afraid to take the driver eh? If Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia say The Hotchkin is good, that's good enough for me. I play this course regularly and the dry spring summer didn't do it any favours, it is now fantastic, two very different courses and challenges. Ask yourself if this course was near you wouldn't you join?
John
The Hotchkin is undoubtedly an excellent course but I would be reluctant to describe it as a 'great' one. It's defence is its bunkers. I counted 111 of them and without half of them it would be a much easier test. If you are a good bunker player the course would lose a lot of its challenge. If you are not then it is a nightmare. For me a great course requires different hazards - bunkers, water, tight driving lines, greens with subtle borrows, short par 4's and at least one monstrously long par 5. In other words a variety of challenges. The Hotchkin is mainly defended by sand which limits its appeal as far as I am concerned. Three weeks ago it was in immaculate condition although the greens could have done with a cut. They were true but too slow for a 'championship' course.
May 31, 2010
6 / 10
Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)
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steve
May 31, 2010
your idea of a great championship course is just that,your idea.what makes a course great is its uniqueness and woodhall has bunkers yes,which are unique.you played it off the yellows i presume because if you had played it off the back tees you would have found out about the heather carries and the tightness of the course and its different challenges.you are of course well entitled to your opinion.
Andrew
June 02, 2010
The problem with this review is not the opinion but the disparity between expressed statement and fact. The reviewer states "For me a great course requires .... short par 4s,and a least one monstrously long par 5. In other words a variety of challenges." Holes 10, 15 and 17 measure 338, 321, and 336 yards. The 9th is 584 yards. The 7th is 470, 13 451. The par 3s are 148, 209 and 172 yards. This is not variety ? "The Hotchkin is defended mainly by sand ......" No mention of heather-lined fairways or carries from the tee. I have played many rounds here. The Hotchkin is a strategically designed course requiring all 14 clubs in the bag. It fully merits its reputation and ranking. See the review of 20 January for a more accurate appraisal.
MikeM
I got there last Friday afternoon where we played the Bracken course at Woodhall Spa (which should be a hidden gem as you really need your A game around the greens) stayed overnight at the Woodhall Spa Hotel (Great room, Dinner and Breakfast included) then on Saturday morning played the Hotchkin Course which was absolutely great, but increadibly tough. A bit of room if you are off line the first couple of holes, but then to the end of the round it really tightens up with bunkers galore. Only issue was that the greens were just plugged. Well worth the trip from London and I am planning on getting there again this year.
April 22, 2010
10 / 10
Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)
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Blake Norton
What a great golf course this really is!! As low handicappers we asked the pro if we could play off the whites. He didnt advise it but as we were cat 1 golfers, he allowed it. Glad we did play off these as the white's were "nudged" quite well forward. Anyway, onto the course everything about the place was different class, from the driving range to the putting green to the memebers. It is a course were you have to "plot" your way round, you cant always hit driver off the tee because it can get so tight it has to be seen to be believed, and if you go in them bunkers then nevermind bogey you can be looking at double easily!!! I thought Ganton had bunkers but these put Ganton to shame!!! Holes wise there is really to many good holes to pick out but there really wasn't a weak hole on the course apart from a couple of par 3's, but if we had played them off the back trust me they wouldn't have been weak!! The greens were immaculate and quick for end of January. The fairways and tee boxes were also exceptional. Afterwards, an ex-captain came over and was very pleasent and asked us how we found the course etc etc.. A really nice touch to an excellent day out at Woodhall Spa
January 31, 2010
10 / 10
Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)
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