The 18-hole layout at Woolston Manor Golf and Country Club (previously known as Epping Forest Golf & Country Club) was developed by David Williams Golf Design, in partnership with Neil Coles & Associates, and the first tee shot on the course was played in the spring of 1994.
It’s said that there’s an entry in the Domesday Book of 1086 describing the former Woolston Hall Estate as “a small battlement” and the site of an old fort can be seen close to the 15th green, around five hundred yards from where the present-day entrance to the course is situated.
The River Roding meanders lazily through the property, coming into play on several occasions. Indeed, water hazards – in the shape of the river, small ponds and a few ditches – feature at more than half the holes on the course, presenting a formidable aquatic challenge.
Situated close to the M11 motorway, which allows very easy access when driving out from London, the course extends to 6,510 yards from the back tees, comprising a pleasant mix of open and tree-lined holes that are laid out across a mildly undulating, eminently walkable 200-acre property.
Notable holes at Woolston Manor include all four of the opening par four holes, followed by the 177-yard 7th (the only par three on the front nine) where the green is protected by a large bunker on two sides of the putting surface at this short hole.
On the back nine, the 12th is a tough par five, rated stoke index 1, followed by an intimidating par four at the 13th, where both the tee shot and approach are threatened by water. The round then concludes with a testing 342-yard par four, with wayward approach shots liable to end up in the lake guarding the home green.
Played it twice in the past week with two other low handicappers. We thought the layout was superb. Given the time of the year the greens weren’t amazing but that was to be expected. There is a lovely mix of hole types, with 12 and 13 being superb. The 18th is a great finishing hole and the clubhouse and pro shop well stocked. Overall I believe it is approaching the best layout in this part of Essex and just needs a little TLC on the greens to be a super course .
The course at Woolston Manor has not had as much attention and TLC that is required of a highly ranked county course in recent years. In saying that, a new management team are in place on and off the course and there is a strong plan in place to address the issues – this should be an exciting time for the club as the course potential is there, so watch this space. I would like to think that the only way is up here in Essex!
I first played here in the early days of the course opening back in the 90’s and playing recently reminded me that there are some very strong holes on the course. The 3rd is a hole that I like, a 400 yard par-4 with a ditch crossing at around 290. The 5th is the best pick on the front nine; a 500 yard par-5 with water in play on the left from about 150 yards out all the way to the green – some great risk/reward options. The 7th hole is a mid-length par-3 and at present this is a poor hole – two huge misplaced bunkers and gaps at the green where bunkers must be placed – sorry but the 7th is a design shocker! There is another issue re the par-3’s on the course; there are four of them and the lengths from the white tees are 177, 176, 175 and 172 yards to the centre of the greens – obviously pin positions can vary the hole length but these are all too similar.
The 12th is a massive par-5 and is a good hole, with a perfect bunker placed at landing point when laying-up before attacking the green over the River Roding. The 13th is the signature hole; under 350 yards and no bunkers (not needed here) and it is all about the approach, again over water to a near island green. The 16th is a candidate for the best hole on the course – a short par-5 (480 yards) and unlike many holes here, the seven bunker positions are just about perfect to come into play all of the way to the hole – very strong. The 18th hole is all about the approach – this hole is only around 340 yards, so pick your favourite approach length and play to there as the green is protected by a lake at the front left – this is a good looking hole and watched by many as the 1st floor terrace behind is a great place to see golfers end their rounds and to count how many balls end up in the lake.
In summary, Woolston Manor right now is an ok golf course with lots of potential. Conditioning and presentation along with addressing the misplaced bunkers must be treated as priority. As mentioned at the beginning, It feels an exciting time for the club and if the basics are right, the future should be bright.