Woodbridge Golf Club in Suffolk is a vintage heathland that has never looked better. It left Dan Murphy wondering why he had taken so long to return
The last time I was at Woodbridge Golf Club, just outside the very pleasant Suffolk town of the same name, was in March 2006. Or to put it another way, almost 15 years ago. It’s the kind of thing that reminds you that reviewing golf courses is very much like painting the Firth Road Bridge (albeit much more enjoyable) in the sense that once you’ve finished it’s time to start again.
I’m not complaining, you will understand, it just seems slightly embarrassing that so long can elapse between visits. I felt like someone who had been to Woodbridge quite recently and was returning to see the recent work I knew they had done for myself but in many ways this was more like playing the course for the first time.
In my defence, much has changed in recent years at a course that was originally designed by Davie Grant, updated by James Braid and since then been looked after by various members of the Hawtree family.
Martin has worked closely with the greenkeeping team to oversee a programme of gorse and tree removal that has lifted the course hugely in every respect.
Chatting to a couple of long-standing members, they talked about views they had almost forgotten existed being opened up again across Bromeswell Heath. They admitted that they were fearful of the extent of the plans when they first saw them but now acknowledged how much they have added to the course.
What can we expect from Woodbridge Golf Club?
At 6,300 yards and with a par of 70, this is a gloriously English example of inland golf. It’s the kind of course to convince you that heathland golf should be a protected species.
The turf is tight, firm and springy and the greens roll beautifully. I can’t prove it, but I strongly suspect that the lucky members enjoy better all-round playing conditions now than a few years ago thanks to the tree removal.
The front nine is the scoring nine – each of the first three par 4s is a birdie chance and there are also two par 5s to have a tilt at. The back nine is a different story – lots of substantial par 4s, a couple of testing par 3s and no par 5s at all.
Like all such courses, Woodbridge lets you know who’s in charge gradually and almost without you noticing.
The most testing stretch runs from the 14th to the 17th and comprises two long-ish par 4s either side of a tough par-3 followed by a dogleg with a blind tee shot and a second shot across a valley to the green. Survive that stretch and you might just finish with a pitch and a putt after a good tee shot on the 18th.
What were your favourite holes?
Highlights include the short par-4 4th, which wouldn’t be out of place in the Surrey sandbelt, and the fine dogleg-right that follows it, climbing gently uphill to an attractive green.
What really catches the eye at Woodbridge is how good hole follows good hole. The majority of them are pure heathland in nature – Woodbridge’s grasses and surfaces are the real deal.
For example, just look at the fine grasses and heather naturally growing around the bunkers. There are clubs up and down the country desperately trying to graft heather on to their bunkers to achieve that Golden Age look and it is often problematic, leaving unsightly bare patches. Not here though.
Tell us about your best bit…
I loved every minute but allow me to describe a highly unusual start that saw me birdie each of the first three par 4s – and none involved a long putt.
The only problem being that at the par-5 3rd in between them, I ran up an ugly snowman (as in, an eight). It all meant that I was level par after four.
Will you do anything different next time?
I’ll play the 3rd differently. Then again, it wasn’t like I meant to hit it into a gorse bush, then go into the heather, then duff a pitch off some soft ground. I’ll also appreciate that on both the the 14th and 16th, it’s wise to play well left off the tee to allow for the contours and shape of the holes.
Finally, where is Woodbridge Golf Club?
Woodbridge is halfway between Ipswich and the Suffolk coast. There is lots of good golf in this part of the world, and the courses play well all year round.
• NCG Top 100s: The best golf courses in Suffolk
To learn more, visit Woodbridge Golf Club’s website.
Have you played Woodbridge Golf Club? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me.
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