Golf Course Review of The Wisley Golf Club
The Wisley Golf Course
Reviewed by Ed Battye -
Quick Summary: Three loops of exclusive, tranquil golf
Our 5 Star Rating: 4.2
The Wisley is a very exclusive private member golf club located in Surrey and is played solely by the 700 shareholders (and their invited guests) who have purchased a stake in The Club which opened for play in the early 1990’s.
Situated close to the Royal Horticultural Society’s Wisley Gardens this Robert Trent Jones Jnr layout, his first in the UK, has a rich, kaleidoscopic floral feel to it. The 224 acres that the 27 holes are laid out over is predominantly flood-plain flat with most of the shaping having been formed by moving earth already on the property, most notably by the creation of many man-made lakes and ditches, now the habitat of swans, other wildlife and several of my golf balls.
One of the things I truly love about golf in the United Kingdom is its accessibility. From Muirfield to the local municipal virtually all golf courses can be, and regularly are, played by all types of golfers. There might be limited tee-time availability and the cost may be restrictive in some cases but there is nearly always opportunity to follow a booking procedure and peg it up wherever you wish. There are a handful of venues, following a similar model to the United States, which do not permit this and are effectively closed doors to the general golfing public. This is one of them. I’m not just saying this because I have been fortunate enough to play here but spending a day at The Wisley makes me realise that there is a place in the British golfing landscape for venues such as this, so long as they remain in the very small minority.
The three returning loops – Church, Mill & Garden – are set out in distinct areas of the property and rarely intermingle with each other. In terms of quality there is very little between the threesome and a clear consistency. My personal preference was for the Church then the Garden and lastly the Mill but there wasn’t much to choose between them all. The Church and Garden tied in a little bit better because the putting surfaces are the same and are somewhat different to the Mill, not so much in style but certainly in visual appearance and presumably grass type or at least age.
There are standout holes on each nine. The second on Church is a daunting par-five with water running the length of its 534-yards along the right whilst the next is an attractive par-three, again over water. I lost count of how many times water came into play (too many for sure) and this, along with several strategically placed bunkers, is the main defence of the course. The water hazards are actually larger, and closer to play, than they initially appear because all the bankings feed down towards them with little to stop a ball containing any sort of momentum. The eighth is a fun, driveable par four on the Church nine which I particularly enjoyed and the green on the ninth is also quite funky; long, thin and undulating.
Indeed, the greens throughout are varied and contain some lovely borrows, just the right amount really. They were running at 11 on the stimpmeter during my visit and they had to be given due care and attention but once you got the feel for them they were a dream to putt on. You knew if you’d made or missed a putt long before it got to the hole, they were that pure. You could tell that the greens-staff could easily ramp them up a notch of two as well if required.
The Garden nine begins with a bang in the shape of a slinging par-five to a brilliant water-fronted green. The third is a stunning short hole too whilst the last is a dramatic finisher. In contrast to the other two nines the Garden has most of the trouble down the left so it may be favoured by faders!
The Mill course takes a little bit of time to warm up but once it does it is very good. The last four holes are a super run with a brace of par-fives, a short hole sandwiched in-between and the taxing last that plays up towards the clubhouse terrace.
The Wisley compares well to other modern inland courses in the UK. Unlike some there is a heartbeat to the course, a purpose and it even has a bit of soul. It’s a colourful place both on and off the course.
Although many have now moved up the road to Queenwood a number of Tour Professionals are attached to, and regularly play, at The Wisley. It’s just about the closest thing they will get to a tournament style course in the UK and the conditioning is nothing less than what you would expect from a tour venue. Upon reaching my drive my caddy took great delight in pointing forwards 50 yards and telling me where Ross Fisher or Paul Casey would have driven it to from the very back tees.
A number of Premier League footballers are also members here, many of them from Chelsea, who have their training base just up the road in Chobham.
The Wisley has a vibrant feel to the place, offers first-class service
and whilst I’m always happiest on a rugged, windswept links most days of the
week an opportunity to play here should not be refused.
Club Website: www.thewisley.com
Tournaments: Open golf competitions at The Wisley Golf Club.
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