It’s early on another stunning summer morning.
I’ve just finished a hotel breakfast overlooking the pitch at MK Dons, surrounded by mechanics from Ferrari, in town for the British Grand Prix along the road at Silverstone.
The day has begun in the sportiest of ways. Surely a good omen for a trip to one of the UK’s top golf venues?
Woburn is a name that resonates with all golfers of a certain age. In my formative years it was the annual venue for the British Masters which at the age of 7, I thought was the fourth major – US Open. US Masters, British Open, British … it kind of made sense.
In those days it was The Dukes course which played host to the best. While the Duchess course here is also steeped in history and reputation. These days, however, it is Woburn’s Marquess course which is represents the sternest test here – it has hosted four British Masters tournaments since opening in 2000, regularly been used as an Open Final Qualifying venue and has twice hosted the Women’s British Open since 2016.
From the moment you enter the forest that engulfs this estate, you get the sense you are in for something special. The clubhouse is modern and bright. The welcome is warm and my bag is taken away with moments of pulling up in front of the clubhouse.
The layout at Woburn is excellent. The practice putting green and extensive chipping area is a bump-and-run from the pro shop and changing area. The range is vast and gives you the option of hitting from mats or turf. There is an even bigger practice area across the small road that runs between the clubhouse and 1st tee should you so wish. But the bottom line is that there are no excuses for a golfer to reach the 1st unprepared at any of Woburn’s golf courses.
And so to Woburn’s Marquess course. And what a course. What a thing of beauty. The 1st hole is as gentle as it gets, a drive and a wedge to a flattish green. Things soon pick up, however, and what quickly becomes clear is that this is a golf course which rewards the golfer who plots and thinks his way around rather than one who simply hits and hopes, not least because of the vast and undulating greens which ran as true and fast as any I have ever played in the UK. Granted, Open Qualifying was to be held the next day, but at the time I visited they were running 12 on the stimp metre – my late Grampa would have said it was like putting on glass and have meant it in the best possible way. The greens are fabulous.
There are so many memorable holes on Woburn’s Marquess course that it seems unfair to pick on only a handful. The 2nd is short a dogleg par-5 that vaguely reminds you of the 13th at Augusta. The long 7th with its split fairway is a brilliant risk/reward hole and will be one you remember long after you leave this place. The short par-4 12th with its island fairway. The fantastic par 5, 15th and the 18th with a fairway bunker that demands a long straight drive. I could go on.
Woburn’s Marquess Course was designed by Peter Alliss, Alex Hay, Clive Clark and Ross McMurray and the quartet have taken all the elements which made the original courses here so wonderful and added still more. The natural wonder is quite something too. The 200 or so acres of trees which embrace the Marquess from first to last include pine, sweet chestnut, oak and spruce. But if you look closely you will also find rare species such as yew, beech, rowan and even Corsican pine trees.
Each hole is its own amphitheatre, cut off from the rest. It adds a serenity and stillness to the place. And with verdant greenery all around, it has led some to draw comparisons with a golf course which hosts The Masters each year. We certainly fell in love with this golf course and would highly recommend it . It does have an unmistakeable whiff of Augusta about it. More than enough to make it feel special and to draw us back time and again. It may just have the some impact on you too.
Perhaps it was fitting that a day which began with Ferrari, ended up on a Rolls Royce of a golf course.
Here’s all you need to know.
- Best hole: The 9th – 441yd Par 4. This is another beautiful hole to look at it. A long straight drive will leave you around 160yds to the flag but take more club than you think you will need, to find a green that sits atop a ravine and that is guarded by two bunkers that gobble up anything short and right. Long and left will leave a tricky chip back down the hill. Par is a very good score.
- Hardest hole: The 14th – 230yd Par 3. Further than it looks and harder than its par. The 14th is a brute of a par-3 and requires a long iron or wood to get you anywhere near. Clever bunkering captures plenty of balls and if you manage to evade those, you will have a very tricky putt from a three-tier green. Good luck.
- Longest hole: The 15th – 558yd Par 5. A really brilliant par-5 that rewards the golfer who plots his way down the hole. From the elevated tee, you can see the many bunkers that challenge your drive. The second shot must be guided carefully down the fairway to avoid more bunkers and should leave you with a wedge or a short iron in to a shallow green that slopes wickedly.
Phone Number: (01908) 370756
Designers: Peter Alliss, Clive Clark and Alex Hay.
Where it ranks: Ranked 37th in England by Top 100 courses.
Length: 7,214 yards from the back tees. Par 72.