Downland golf is a genre of its own and is greatly enjoyed by many - Hockley Golf Club in Hampshire is a fine example
Hockley Golf Club Course Review
I was chatting to colleague Jeremy Ellwood recently who told me that he knows of quite a few people who are not enamoured with downland golf. We figured that for them, perhaps it had to be pure links or maybe heathland. If that is the case, we agreed that they are missing out on a type of golf that is full of joie de vivre.
The conversation reminded me that I had just a few photos from an off-duty visit to Hockley Golf Club near Winchester. This is an extremely friendly club which I have mentioned in passing before, and whose downland course I very much enjoyed playing the Summer before last. Dating back to 1914, it was redesigned a few years later by James Braid and it is very much his influence that endures.
Four par 4s open the round and these wend their way up the hill providing a stiff challenge. Play to handicap here and you set yourself up for a good score. Almost at the top, you turn back to the right and play a lovely par 3 across the side of the slope.
There is an unusual double green at the 6th which is shared with the 13th, and plenty of variety between the two as you play on more level ground. It is also quite exposed up here which means that the payback for the lovely views is greater mischief from the wind.
I particularly liked the par-3 12th - no distance at all but protected short and left by bunkers, and on the right by a fall-off area leaving a delicate chip. Only a wedge from the tee, I managed to run up an easy five.
In normal conditions, the par-5 14th becomes tricky with a cross breeze, and the closing four holes all play into the wind. The general rule here will be to take more club, especially at the 15th where a valley of sin fronts the green.
Seventeen is an excellent two-shotter, running along to what looks like an infinity-green, with the closing hole (and distant M3) falling away beyond.
The club is not resting on its historic laurels and further improvements are regularly made to the course which is kept in tip-top order. Looking back at my scorecard, I can see why my host was so disappointed by my performance - ten pars off my mid-teen handicap eased me to victory against the Centenary captain, Stephen Moore. Which reminds me, I owe him a game!
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Rob Smith has been playing golf for 45 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly for over ten years, specialising in course reviews and travel. He has now played more than 1,200 different courses in almost 50 countries. Despite lockdowns and travel restrictions in 2021, he still managed to play 80 different courses during that year, 43 of them for the first time. This included 21 in 13 days on a trip to East Lothian in October. One of Rob's primary roles is helping to prepare the Top 100 and Next 100 Courses of the UK&I, of which he has played all but seven and a half... i.e. not the new 9 at Carne! During the 2021-22 review period, Rob played 36 of the Golf Monthly Top 200. He is a member of Tandridge Golf Club in Surrey where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at email@example.com.
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