Review of the Month May 2020 – Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)
It may be somewhat ill-advised to write a course review whilst sat in lockdown Britain. The absence of golf in my life for the past 2 months has added a rose-tint to every golfing memory, and therefore lesser courses may benefit from a kinder review than they might actually deserve. But there can be no doubt in Woodhall Spa’s place in the World Top 100. It really is a fabulous place to play golf.
It’s no secret that the Hotchkin course is known for its dramatic bunkers but simply knowing about them before you play won’t prepare you. They are truly terrifying. Large, deep, jagged, plentiful and cunningly placed. Tom Doak has certainly done a brilliant job.
But for me the most impressive thing about the Hotchkin course isn’t necessarily the bunkers. It’s how endlessly interesting and varied the course is, despite the fact it’s on land as flat as a pancake. There is not one hole where the green is noticeably above or below the tee and yet the quality of the routing, positioning of the bunkers and the shape of the greens more than make up for it.
It’s no doubt a tough challenge, but it’s a fair one. From each tee everything is laid out before you in plain sight. It’s up to you to choose a strategy and execute it. You will get the result your shot deserves every time.
I believe there are no weak holes at Woodhall Spa but there are certainly a couple that seem to stand out from the rest, in my memory at least. The 7th was probably my favourite on the whole course. A sweeping dogleg right par 4 with tall trees lining the left hand side and predictably enormous bunkers on the right. The braver the tee shot, the easier the approach.
12 was my favourite of the three par 3s and probably the most difficult too. You tee off through a chute in the tall trees towards a long, slender green guarded by three deep bunkers on the right and one outrageously deep bunker on the left. There’s nothing picturesque in the traditional sense about Woodhall Spa. No great vistas or perfectly manicured surfaces. But I think there’s a real rustic beauty to place and for me number 12 is the best example of that.
The final stretch is one of the best I’ve played and to be honest it could almost start on number 12. 13, 14 and 15 are all crackers but let’s focus on the final three. On the course planner 16 may look a bit dull. It’s dead straight and I believe the only hole on the course with no bunkers, but after having been beaten up for the previous 15 holes it’s a really pleasurable 2 shooter.
17 is a fabulous short par 4. Driveable for the bigger hitters but it’s one hell of a risk. Only a perfectly shaped draw will find the green, as the huge bunker lines the final 40 yards of the left hand side of the fairway.
Then to 18, a grand finale befitting this grand golf course. A long, straight par 5 that’s reachable in 2 if you can thread a drive between the various, angled fairway traps. I’ve seen photographs of how the hole looked prior to Mr. Doak’s remodelling and I think more than anywhere else on the course, this is where his work has made the biggest impact. It’s a tremendous sight from the tee and an utter joy to play.
If you’ve never played Woodhall Spa I believe it’s well worth the trip. Value for money is of course subjective and therefore probably shouldn’t affect the reviews on this site too much. But it’s worth saying that were this course in Surrey alongside the more famous heathland titans, you’d be looking close to a £200 green fee I’m sure. But here in the remote Lincolnshire countryside, a twilight round will cost less than 70 quid. If you can find a round of golf better than this for less than that, I’m all ears.
Review of the Month May 2020 selected by Editor-in-Chief, Keith Baxter, and sponsored by TaylorMade – click to read more about Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin). Photo courtesy of Woodhall Spa Golf Club.