Hockley Golf Club
Historic hallmarks of times past litter the course. In fact, 40% of the course is covered by two Scheduled Ancient Monuments or SAM's.
- Holes 15 through 18 once contained a Bronze Age Village.
- Holes 2, 4, 7, 13, and 18 give evidence of Celtic fields and their banks.
- Below the 9th green are the remains of a wealthy Roman villa including a mosaic floor.
- The perimeter of the former residence is also seen on the 7th and 11th holes.
- Sheep tracks from the Medieval Period can be found in front of the 6th green as well as the 7th, 12th, and 13th tees.
Golf Course Review
Hockley Golf Club is a chalk-downland golf course near Winchester, Hampshire. The course itself is located within the South Downs National Park. 28 species of plant species have been identified on the course in need of conservation. The whole golf course has been designated a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation or SINC.
James Braid's Influence
The James Braid design dates to 1914 when it was just a 9 hole course. Uniquely, Hockley Golf Club was busy during the war years and was extended to 18 holes between 1918-1920. James Braid made the course what it is today when he remodeled and lengthened the layout.
Challenges of Downland Golf
Downland golf is an acquired taste. Downland golf design begins at a disadvantage compared to dunes laden seaside links or heather-clad undulating pine forest... Sweeping vistas and sidehill lies are but two of its characteristics. Exposed to the elements it can lack intimacy and the option of leveraging the architectural dynamic of compression and release. It can be a repetitive endeavor especially if routing is out and back on a consistent grade.
Additionally, when the natural topography is featureless, an architect may be compelled to add too much. In doing so, the course can become artificial and contrived. Don't do enough and the golf course is featureless and bland. Downland golf is a delicate balance and one difficult to strike.
Hockley Golf Club's Architectural Highlights
The first 5 holes are genius. They provide the route through a valley to the tablelands above. The first 4 holes all play uphill in more or less the same direction but the elevation is gained elegantly. The 5th is a stout one-shot hole that plays uphill and allows access to the hilltop for the following 12 holes.
Hockley Golf Club's strengths are its green complexes. The 9th green is one of the best green sites I've seen inland and would be the pride of most links courses in the UK and Ireland.
The 12th has a glorious green site. The short carry is mandatory and anything but a controlled short iron will result in bogey or much worse. The minimal yardage and prevailing wind backing you mean trajectory and spin also need to be factored in. This design requires a shot not demanded on many courses.
The homeward stretch contains some very good holes as well. The 15th's quirky green front ditch (think St Andrews Old 1st hole), the one-shot 16th into the prevailing wind, and a strategic par 5 18th which begs you to take it on in two.
There is work currently ongoing. The changes appear to blend in well and don't disrupt the understated nature of the site.
Architectural Opportunites Abound
There are a few holes that feel like you're simply covering ground. In effect, playing three shots to get from point A to point B. The 11th is one example and the 14th is the other. They are both long three-shot holes measuring 553 yards and 545 yards respectively. The two holes are the longest on the course and lack the intrigue, suspense and interest so needed on three-shot holes.
The 13th is a bit of a conundrum and slightly awkward. Played as a dogleg until recently and now plays directly uphill as a short par 4 which lacks the strategy of a true half par hole.
There are some options that would break up those stretches along the perimeter of the course. There is more than enough land and green sites to accommodate changes that could be achieved with new mowing lines, tees, and some ingenuity.
Since playing, I've been thinking of options - it's an exciting possibility and a real exercise in contemplating routing. The key to it all is unlocking the flow of play on the 6th green, 7th tee, 13th green, and 14th tee. This is a pinch point, a congestion point, and ultimately forces a couple of holes that are not as good as the rest on the course... but there are solutions!
Another thought would be the strategic use of OOB. The hardlines created by the external boundary don't come into play on any of the holes. As such, this leaves strategic value on the table - unutilised.
Hockley Golf Club Summary
An overlooked, downland golf course in Hampshire. Royal Winchester, also a downland golf course, is just a few minutes away. As Hockley's most direct competition, Royal Winchester pips Hockley with an exceptional clubhouse and heritage... but a club's most valuable asset is its golf course and this is where Hockley Golf Cub excels.
How good is Hockley? I'm not a massive fan of downland golf but Hockley Golf Club opened my eyes to how good it can be. Hockley is good, indeed - better than most, and the highlights of the first 5 holes, the 9th green, 12th hole, and the closing stretch including 15, 16, and 18 make the journey worthwhile.
I have spent a couple of days contemplating the options for routing holes and utilising the best of the current layout. It could be good... very good. As it stands, it's worth a detour. With some creative tweaks, it could be one of the best downland layouts in England.
Hockley Golf Club - Videos
Featured Architect: Alister MacKenzie
As taken from his book, Golf Architecture, Alister MacKenzie felt the following were essential: The course, where possible, should be arranged in two loops of nine holes. There should be a large proportion of good two-shot holes and at least four one-shot holes. There should be little walking between...