Woking Golf Club
If you've played Woking Golf Club you'll understand why it is constantly found among the top 100 golf courses in the country. The course design is both superb and strategic. The history? Palpable. It is one of golf's joy's to play the 4th, the birthplace of modern golf course design.
Virtually all of the prominent writers and architects universally sing Woking Golf Club's praise. Preeminent among them was none other than Tom Simpson.
- Woking Golf Club is the birthplace of strategic golf design.
- The centreline bunkers on the fourth.
- A model heathland course in all its brilliance on full display.
- It was at Woking where CH Alison climbed a ladder onto the roof of the clubhouse and pitched his ball onto the 18th to gain a half for the Oxford and Cambridge Golfing Society.
Golf Course Review
Woking Golf Club is somehow greater than the sum of its parts. The clubhouse is appropriate and modest. It lacks the grandeur of Muirfield and the benevolent neglect of Brancaster. Still, there is no better place than the veranda fronting Fourteen, especially when the Wisteria is in bloom. The golf itself is the ideal, Surrey heathland golf course. Not long, Woking Golf Club is stunningly beautiful. The wildly undulating greens, which are seen to be in permanently excellent condition, serve as its best defense.
Woking Golf Club’s Heritage
Due to the who’s who of golf’s golden age calling Woking Golf Club home, the history here is palpable. The course itself pre-dates golf’s golden age. Founded in 1893, Woking Golf Club was the first of the Surrey courses to be cut out of the pines and heather by prolific golf course architect, Tom Dunn.
Built to cater to barristers for weekend play, Woking Golf Club’s association with those of the legal profession continues to this day. With connections to Oxbridge and the golfing elite of the day, Woking Golf Club established itself as a mecca for forward-thinking design theory and practice. Stuart Paton and John Low were instrumental in transforming the course to its current self.
Woking Golf Club Highlights
The greens at Woking Golf Club are multi-tiered and perhaps the reason to visit the course as an individual keen to see its architectural merits.
The 4th is worth seeing because of its influence on the sider world of golf. Strategic golf design theory can be traced to a single, man-made, Principal’s Nose hazard complex in the middle of its fairway.
The emphasis on accurate driving is also a hallmark, as almost every hole rewards a good tee shot with a much more straightforward approach.
It is a two-ball course with foursomes being the preferred game of choice.
Woking Golf Club Hole by Hole Review
Woking Golf Club could be divided into two parts. The stretch from Three to Eight plays along the lower-lying part of the property. The first two holes and the last nine are routed on the property’s higher ground.
Woking Golf Club’s Outward Nine
Hole One – a warm handshake from an old friend is how Tom Watson described the first hole. Under 300 yards and downhill, the temptation may be to try to overpower it. Ease into the round with a gentle tee shot and don’t be long. The runaway, infinity green is best respected and played using the ground game.
Hole Two – Perhap’s Woking Golf Club’s best one-shot hole. The tees were initially closer to the first green. From this angle, it would have made the right pin utter folly to attempt to attack. Somewhat tamed by the backstop and the current right tee’s. With tree clearing underway, the second may well be one of the greatest beneficiaries.
Hole Three – From the elevated tees to the right of the 2nd green this hole is a cracker. The hole is a very slight dogleg from left to right with a hillside dominating on the inside of the dogleg. Anything short of the apex of the dogleg will not allow you a sight of the green. A lone bunker lies directly at the end of the fairway and before the green. Even a perfectly placed tee shot will not give you an easy approach. Anything long leaves a perilous chip with a typical Woking Golf Club green that runs away from you. Anything short will be in the bunker or repelled from the green. It is one of the most difficult second shots at Woking or anywhere for that matter!
Hole Four – The hole which changed inland golf and altered the collective thought of architecture theory. See The Fried Egg‘s article on the centreline bunkers and Evalu18‘s article on other aspects of its components.
Holes Five, Six, and Eight are all first-rate, two-shot holes — the sixth and eighth both benefitting from a beautiful stream that adds strategic value and food for thought.
Hole Seven – A lovely par 3 with an undulating green. It will reward the excellent shot, collect the good, and reject the mediocre. The mounds surrounding it are expertly hewn to leave a fine shot untouched, gather a good shot inward, and reject a mediocre shot outward. The use of mounding as opposed to a plethora of bunkers on this green complex is worthy of careful more flattery in the form of imitation.
The Curious Case of Woking’s Missing Holes
Holes Nine and Ten are the most maligned holes at Woking Golf Club and have the most turbulent of history. The silver lining is that from 1937 through to 1959, Tom Simpson and Stuart Paton designed two holes that to this day lie dormant. If restored, they would make the ninth the third par three on the front nine and second in three holes. The tenth would become an uphill par four with a centreline bunker complex instead of the current par three. (Visit Lee Patterson’s Golf Chronicle to learn more.)
The reason for the change was to obtain a Par 5 and in the pursuit, they created the current ninth. A year after abandoning the Tom Simpson originals, par was redefined and it was reverted back to a Par 4… To this day, Woking Golf Club has not re-instated the originals. Perhaps only after Alister MacKenzie‘s Sitwell green are these the greatest loss for golf during modern times.
Woking Golf Club’s Inward Nine
The tougher of the two nines, the inward nine at Woking Golf Club has some stunning features. The restored vistas from the eleventh tee provide views of virtually all of the first ten holes.
Hole Eleven – A well laid out two-shot hole, you must reach the apex of the hill to have sight of the green. The hole gently falls away from the tee and asks for a solid drive to what appears to be a narrow sliver of fairway. The tendency is to aim to the inside of the slight dogleg and high side of the slope. If you become a little too greedy, heather awaits along with a rather bleak angle over a bunker to the green.
Hole Twelve – The natural-looking green site on Twelve is draped exquisitely across the tumbling hillside. A four-tier, two-half, kidney-shaped green is nothing short of mesmerizing.
Hole Thirteen – A classic Woking Golf Club green. It appears mundane from a distance, but it is made of three distinct portions. Finding the green in two is no guarantee of par. Even finding the correct part won’t do that. Frank Pennink wrote it would be possible to have a nervous breakdown on account of Woking’s greens. Further, he said a surgeon’s touch is vital if three-putting is to be a rare complaint and not a permanent disease. Quite possibly, he had the twelfth and thirteenth in mind!
Back-to-back par fives are found at Holes Fourteen and Fifteen. Fourteen is a bite as much as you can chew tee shot. The more aggressive the tee shot over the heather and down the right will yield the option to go for the green in two if successful. The cross bunkers on the right will come into play for the layup of the mid to high handicapper and provide some visual intrigue for the more skilled player. They are reminiscent of the seventeenth at West Sussex and twelfth at Muirfield. A characteristic that makes the fourteenth so good for every class of golfer is the significant depression before the green. If going for the green in two, it comes into play. Played as a three-shot hole and it must be carried. Behind the green is a crowded veranda waiting for an opportunity for a hearty cheer or kind-hearted jest. The swale in front of the green is a design feature seen repeatedly at Tom Simpson’s New Zealand a few miles down the road. Perhaps it was Fourteen that provided the inspiration?
Hole Sixteen – The newest hole at Woking Golf Club from golf course architect, Tim Lobb. A short par three recently introduced is the first significant design change to the course in over fifty years. The green is small and undulating with nearly no flat areas, even for pins. The old sixteenth is to the right with the original green now used as a turf nursery. The green is severe and small with limited pin positions on the rear. An unenviable project (building greens at the Temple of Golf), it would appear this green will eventually benefit from some subtle tweaking.
Hole Eighteen – Woking Golf Club in a nutshell. Accuracy, not distance, is rewarded. The green is undulating using the natural fall of the hillside toward the pond ideally. The tree to the left of the green can block the aerial approach meaning any running shot in could easily find the pond. It is the perfect finish: not demanding but cerebral. It can determine a match and wreck a card if you’re not careful.
Woking Golf Club doesn’t have significant elevation changes within the holes themselves. What is given away on the third is regained on the ninth. The fairways are modestly flat, devoid of most micro-contouring. The greens make up for any lack, however. The greens are incredible. Multi-tiered and partitioned, they are works of art. Accurate, not necessarily straight, tee shots reward easier second shots to heavily contoured greens. The fourth is worthy of the pilgrimage alone.
The weak part of Woking Golf Club is the ninth. It doesn’t seem to fit, but they have the alternative carefully obscured by overgrowth. Even more remarkable is it is a Tom Simpson original. Tree removal, heather regeneration, irrigation, a forward-thinking keeper and secretary, and educated membership, Woking will continue to climb the rankings as it goes from strength to strength. Go deep with Evalu18’s synopsis on the missing Tom Simpson holes.
Woking Golf Club Reviews
Woking Golf Club - Videos
Woking Golf Club - The Story, Cookie Jar Golf
Featured Architect: MacKenzie, Alister
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...