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« on: June 11, 2011, 02:12:14 PM »
Malvern Water is justly renowned the world over. The Holywell has been a source of bottling since 1622 and it recently grabbed the local limelight by re-opening bottling operations, albeit on a modest scale. Schweppes made the local water famous in 1851 by supplying water for the Great Exposition. Luckily for the locals, there are some seventy sources dotted throughout the Malverns and on the many commons in which it is free to bottle the water for personal consumption.

Less known in the area is the golf course. In 1879 Worcestershire Golf Club was founded and the members played a course laid out on Malvern Common. It was on this course that as a boy Harry Shapland Colt cut his teeth as he lived a short walk away. Colt would also play while on holiday from Monkton Combe School near Bath.  When the club were set to build a new course, Colt, a member of the club for over 30 years and a highly respected architect did prepare a report for a new course. However,  once it was discovered that Mackenzie was invited to make a plan it would seem Colt got the hump and in 1926 resigned his membership!  The club engaged Dr A Mackenzie and in 1927 the newly designed course on the lower slopes of the Malverns was opened. This course, however, was short lived. The advent of WWII saw the MoD compulsary purchase nine holes to make way for a military hospital. Thus in the early 1970s Hawtree added nine holes. There are some holes which reveal the superb skills of the good Doctor, but unfortunately the course suffers very badly from tree encroachment and a lack of cohesion. The course is roughly 50% Dr Mac and 50% Hawtree. Holes 7-10, 14, 15 & 18 are Dr Mac originals.  All of these holes are good with 7, 8 & 14 being exceptional.  Holes 2-5, 12, 13, 16 & 17 are Hawtree originals.  These holes are clearly not of the same quality as the Dr Mac examples, but 2, 5 & 12 have great potential if trees were removed. 

The opening hole is a rather timid affair being a reachable par 4, but not without some interest. Below is a close look at the green. One can immediately see how the trees stunt the visual impact of the green site.

However, it is on the steeply uphill second hole where the problem of trees is glaringly obvious; it would seem to all except the membership. There isn't much more than 25 paces between trees. This is a shame because there is a lovely stream (which comes into play quite often) and a few supreme trees which could be utililized in presenting the handsome greensite in its best light.

In this picture it is plainly obvious by the orientation of the bunkers that the open play was to the right and the bold play down the left, threatening the stream and likely later the tree.

A look at the greensite without the interference of trees. Subtract the trees in the background and this wonderful view is likely much more what Hawtree had in mind.

The par 3s at Worcestershire are surprisingly average and most are congested with trees so I will spare the audience a look at the 3rd. #4 should be a rollicking good fun par 5 that is once again hampered by trees. There is OOB all down the left and a poor angle from the right so why plant the trees?  If one hits a cracking drive he can have a blind go at the green which is tucked between the OOB line and water.

Trees have been cleared and a new bunker scheme employed on the short 5th. It doesn't look quite right, but the hole is good. The 6th, while quite tight, is nonetheless a sound hole. Water pinches both edges of the fairway at the driving zone.  I think a left greenside bunker was recently removed. One can see how the land kicks right taking any shots from the left of the fairway that way as well, but the green moves subtlely left.

Behind the green.

The next is the third short par 4 on the opening seven holes. The green is the first we encounter which was allowed to run a bit wild. Anything above the hole has the full might of the Malverns shoving to the front of the green. The drive is more open than it appears, but I still don't understand the reason for all the trees, especially down the left since that is where the water is. There is also a very unpleasant clausterphobic feel around the tee. The views are better from the men's tee, but I reckon the ladie's tee brings the crossing creek into play.

The green doesn't in the least look intimidating from this distance, but it is quite harsh.

The 8th is easily the best short hole on the course. The bunkers have been reconfigured. There used to be two on the left.

The front nine closer is a dandy.  The green mimics the shape of the fairway by continuing to bend right to left. Like the 2nd and the previous hole, its refreshing to play to a green site not surrounded by a green wall. I also note that a new fairway bunker was recently built at about 275 yards out; in firm conditions this bunker will be much more in play than many think.

#10 is another good hole heading straight up to the Malverns and consequently plays far longer than its 400ish yards. However, trees still lurk down the left blocking the view of the stream.  The approach after a perfect drive.

We now play three back and forth holes which all play against the natural lay of the land and are completely lacking in space for this type of hole.  Clear most of the trees and none of these holes are poor.  Emerging from the forest, the 14th is a great hole. It swings hard left with yet another stream at the low point of the fairway, then heads uphill to a wickedly sloped and contoured three-tier green. The lower left front section was recently added with the adjacent bunker.

A look at the green from mid-right.

Behind the green.

The downhill 15th is a decent enough par 3, but the following two par 5s are simply poor holes.  Both holes give a huge advantage to big hitters by design.  The 16th turns at a very awkward distance; many cannot reach the corner.  The 17th features fronting water which greatly increases the advantage of long ball hitters and leaves a dead boring second shot for everybody else.     

The home hole is VERY tight, but very short. The green is the most severe on the course and I dare say if running at 9, this green would be unplayable. As it is though, its great fun. One would never guess the severity of the back to front slope from this photo and members take great delight in watching the action unfold from the patio.

By all means visit Malvern. It is a captivating town which retains an element of Victorian flare. By all means, visit the ultra cool St Annes Well Cafe and sip the nectar the Queen swears by. By all means, climb the hills and take in the views, they are worth the considerable effort. The course too is making great strides with recent tree clearance, but there is a long way to go.   The greens too have improved immeasurably and it goes without saying that the 14th, one of the best holes in the Midlands, is better for the new work. Let us hope the membership grabs the bull by the horns and embarks on a plan to attack trees...the course deserves it.  2023

« Last Edit: October 02, 2023, 05:22:56 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2024: Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Blackmoor, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend, Winterfield & Alnmouth


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Re: The Worcestershire GC - Where is the Course?
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2011, 02:34:08 PM »
Sean - It is very typical of 80% of UK courses. Committees have decided their course should be an arboretum. That aside Worecestershire looks nice but could be bettered with a bit of saw work. I have seen some dreadfull tree planting where the original work (first planting) has been crushed by some picklehead that thinks the course is better narrower. Some horrible trees from the secondary plantings can often obscure the architects original intent, perhaps masking an important view that the architect saw as important. Perhaps as architects we should supply a users manual.

Worcestershire looks good nick, I get mixed up with Worcester and this one.
A combination of whats good for golf and good for turf.
The Players Club, Cumberwell Park, The Kendleshire, Oake Manor, Dainton Park, Forest Hills, Erlestoke, St Cleres.


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Re: The Worcestershire GC - Where is the Course?
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2011, 06:50:31 PM »
Thanks for the quick tour of Worcestershire - at least what I could see apart from the foliage!
Adrian, also typical of a lot of Australian courses - and the US too. A worldwide blight.

Both Colt and Mackenzie were invited to submit to design the new course and Mac won out, mostly I think because his estimate of cost was lower. In reality this estimate was well exceeded and when the club complained to Mackenzie he apparently informed him that it wouldn't have if they hadn't tinkered with his design so much!

Tim Martin

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Re: The Worcestershire GC - Where is the Course?
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2011, 07:30:35 PM »
Not to be redundant but its the trees man. In the second photo what appears to be a good hole is compromised by the tree that looks to be in the middle of the fairway. Plenty of potential if a team of arborists swoop in and do what they do.


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Re: The Worcestershire GC - Where is the Course?
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2011, 09:53:01 AM »
I believe the composer Sir Edward Elgar was once a member.

John Mayhugh

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Re: The Worcestershire GC - Where is the Course?
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2011, 01:45:38 PM »
Shocking how anyone could think most of those trees belong.  So many really good green sites otherwise. 

1, 8, & 9 all look really good.  The green on 14th seems great.


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The Worcestershire GC - The Course Is Being Unveiled...Slowly
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2016, 06:43:49 AM »

See the updated pix.  Some progress is being made with trees, but as with many things in life, it takes time.

« Last Edit: June 07, 2017, 05:11:07 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2024: Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Blackmoor, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend, Winterfield & Alnmouth


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Re: THE WORCESTERSHIRE GC - Is Being Unveiled...Slowly
« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2017, 05:12:20 AM »
Thought I would pull this thread up to match ATB's thread.  Jeepers, the more I think of Malvern the more I am convinced it is a very good course if not for the trees.

New plays planned for 2024: Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Blackmoor, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend, Winterfield & Alnmouth

Thomas Dai

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Re: THE WORCESTERSHIRE GC - Is Being Unveiled...Slowly New
« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2017, 11:18:20 AM »
Later addition -

Later edit - here are a GC-Atlas IMO piece about the old MacKenzie green and the history of the club and a condensed version of the story as published in GC-Architecure Magazine issue 59, Jan 2020 -
and ...

Later edit - for a podcast discussion about the history of the club and its links with the likes of Sayers, Paxton, Rolland, Brown plus Colt, Mackenzie, the effect of WW2 etc see episode 203 of the CookieJar podcast -

Sean's edited introduction does generally correspond more to how the course is viz-a-viz MacKenzie and Hawtree, although the current 6th green is MacKenzie (it was his original 1st green), the 11th hole is an all Hawtree hole and Harry Colt lived in Malvern as a young child rather than just visiting during prep school holidays.
As mentioned in the other thread, 1927 was when MacKenzie's 18-hole course opened and was played as he designed it until WWII when circumstances intervened and 9-holes only were then played until 1972.

As to the current 18-hole course, the conditioning of which is outstanding, there are indeed a lot of trees these days, but as we know, some folk like trees and some folk don't, which is important at a member owned private club such as WGC. Some trees have however, been given a decent trim recently (Sean's photos are pre-trim).

Here is a montage of photos of the original 1879-1927 course on Malvern Common, the course where Harry Colt learnt to play. The routing changed a few times - 9-holes initially below the railway lines, then 18-holes above/below and yes, over and between, the railway lines. There was also a 9-hole 'Ladies Course' plus a separate Ladies Clubhouse. Even after the Club formally moved to the new MacKenzie course golf continued to be played on the Common until circa WWII.

Here is MacKenzie's 1927 course routing, built from new on a farm a couple of miles away from the original course on the Common.

Below are montages of some of the MacKenzie holes that were in play from 1927 to WWII

First montage - 1st tee, 2nd green and 8th green
Sccond montage - 9th green, 10th green, 11th green in distance and 13th greenThird montage - 14th green, 16th green, 17th tee and 2x18th greenAnd this aerial photo shows why the course was cut back from 18-MacKenzie-holes to only 9-MacKenzie-holes from WWII until 1972 - the US 55th Army General Hospital camp, after WWII used for other military purposes.This is the present 18-hole course - a combination of MacKenzie and HawtreeFor cross reference purposes, the other thread mentioned, about the lost/rediscovered unused for 78 yrs MacKenzie green is -,64557.0.html - there is also a summary of the clubs eventful history here -

Edit - 2018 - Here are some recent photos of the course -

Below - a moody scene looking down on the course from the ridgeline of the adjacent Malvern Hills during the exceptionally dry summer of 2018. Where once there was an open aspect course there are now mostly significantly tree lined holes.

Below - Two photos of the short par-4 1st hole after some rear tree clearance and bunkering upgrades

Below - the severely uphill par-4 2nd hole. The once central greenside bunker is now positioned to the left side

Below - par-5 4th hole. A ditch has recently been installed in front of the green to alleviate storm water runoff from the hills and to improve safety for the immediately adjacent public footpath. Also show in action (in this instance for photo purposes) is the recently installed new irrigation.

Below - the par-4 7th hole as seen from the fairway and the rear right side. This is a very severely sloped double-tier green.

Below - Three photos of the 8th hole. Firstly from the tee, then from the rear of the green and finally from the left side. Alister Mackenzie really did design some cracking par-3's

Below - the par-4 9th hole

Below - par-4 9th hole at left, par-4 10th hole at centre, rear of par-4 14th green in the foreground

Below - the par-4 9th hole at right, the par-4 10th hole at centre and the par-4 11th hole at left

Below - Three photos of the highly regarded par-4 14th hole

Below - the par-3 15th during the exceptionally dry summer of 2018. The rear of the green has recently had a stream re-opened and some tree clearance undertaken. The flag in the second photos is actually on the 17th green.

Below - Two photos of the par-5 17th hole

Below - Three photos of the par-4 18th. Short on the card, uphill and narrow with an evil/wonderful green. A hole not to be taken for granted.

During a recent course visit a celebrated GCA poster described the courses conditioning as "outstanding". A comment much appreciated when relayed to the Course Manager, his staff and the main club committee.


Later edit - a 1927 painting by Rowntree and a photo taken from the same location in 2018.

« Last Edit: October 02, 2023, 10:44:52 AM by Thomas Dai »


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