Founded out of desperation for a place to play golf, West Hill Golf Club was born in 1910. In the early days of the English golf explosion women were often given the cold shoulder in golf clubs so Mrs Marguerite Lubbock took it upon herself to hire Scottish professional Cuthbert Butchart to design West Hill. Butchart was a well known club maker come professional from Carnoustie who had the misfortune of being in Berlin when WWI broke out. The Germans interned him for the duration of the war after which Butchart took up his old position as the pro for Berlin GC. Shortly thereafter he immigrated to the United States to continue working as a jack of all golf trades.
Centred on the A322 (Bagshot Road) between the Brookwood to West Byfleet train stations are four courses of a very high standard. Famously, three of the courses are often referred to as the 3Ws; Woking, Worplesdon and West Hill. The fourth course, New Zealand, is barely known in golf circles and I suspect the club prefers the relative anonymity. Of the 3Ws, West Hill is to some degree overlooked. Though in truth, the course is likely the most handsome, perhaps the most difficult and certainly the heathiest of the three. It wouldn’t be surprising to discover West Hill has far more heather than Woking and Worplesdon combined!
The total yardage of just under 6400 yards is relatively short, but par is a demanding 69 (five 3s and two 5s). West Hill does suffer slightly due to the poor use of a brook. Fully four holes play at right angles over the water; twice only a poor shot will find the hazard and on the 1st and 16th a good drive could easily find the blind hazard. At no point is the hazard used diagonally except on the fine 3rd and the brook is well out of play off the tee. Be that as it may, there are several very good and extremely attractive holes, none more so than West Hill’s well spaced set of long par 4s; #s 3, 6, 10, 14 and 18. The par 3s aren’t without merit. The 4th is a keeper, t
he 15th is much heralded, but the 7th is the hole which impresses me most.
The first is a very fine how do you do which sets the golfer up for a pleasant day. Approximately 215 yards from the tee the fairway dives sharply for 30 or so yards to eventually feed a brook. The approach up the other side is just as sharply uphill.
The second curiously features bunkers divorced from the heathery surrounds. The green, however, slides severely away from the fairway. In the main, the interest of West Hill’s greens lies with varying degrees of pitch rather than offering a rollicking ride as at Woking.
The third is the first among a generous handful of very good holes. From the daily markers the tee shot is blind, but two sets of trees provide ample opportunity to choose a line. The hole moves left to yet another front to back green.
Some bunkers have been reshaped....before and after.
The 4th is very pretty, but a straight-forward par 3.
The three-shot 5th is wide open off the tee except if you drive too far. There seems to be a proliferation of cutting off fairways at West Hill. In addition to the 1st and 5th, 16 and 17 also throttle the long ball. The approach cascades to a front to back green.
Blind off the tee, the 6th is an excellent long par 4.
The very good run of holes continues with the moderate length par 3 seventh. I heard 3000 thousand trees were removed from the course in the past few years. Judging by the many shadows cast across short grass, there is a long way to go with tree removal.
One of my favourite holes at West Hill, the 8th features diagonal bunkering. As one can readily see, the texture of West Hill is outstanding.
More evidence of simplifying bunker shapes...before and after.
In addition to several tilted greens, West Hill also has many tiered greens, the 9th being one example. The hole is located on the back tier which I suspect is very difficult to access in the summer months. In this case, the green also slides left toward the OOB.
The traditional out and back routing starts the journey home with a very difficult par 4, one of five over 400 yards in length.
More diagonal bunkers set well before the green with the added twist of a tree in the mix.
Being quite tight, the drive on 11 feels more constricted than most of the other tee shots. Although, the real issue with this hole is the nature of the green. I believe it is one of only two greens not protected by sand. I have no qualms with sandless greens, but then something must be present to create interest. In this case, the green seems a bit lifeless.
More to follow.