Queenwood Golf Club, 2001
Arch, David McLay Kidd
Playing up to the patio of the clubhouse, only the boldest will try to
reach this par-5, #18, in two when the pin is on the left
The Queenwood experience is certainly unique. I have shared the practice facilities, some of the best in the world, with Darren Clark here on multiple occasions, and rubbed shoulders with other London based tour pros like Graham McDowell and Adam Scott in the magnificent clubhouse. One of the most exclusive clubs in the world, British Royalty have been denied membership multiple times (fact). Because of its location amidst Wentworth, Sunningdale, Woking, and more, the relatively young course has had to hold its own in order to survive with its Surrey address. With intricately shaped bunkers lined with purple heather, imported gorse and towering pines setting the scene, the course plays around a few ponds and has some gentle elevation changes. I'm not afraid to call this David McLay Kidd design the prettiest inland golf course I have ever played.
While Queenwood may not be the best of the heathland bunch, the designer Bandon Dunes has built some more good golf holes here, at his first course in the UK. Although not as good overall as Bandon, the greens here are great fun. Often sectioned to play as small targets within each individual putting surface, the greens here are kept at some of the fastest speeds in all of Europe. With limited rounds and a high maintenance budget, the course is also known for its manicured look. Don't let the frilly bunkering, flowering yellow gorse, or one of the five ponds blind you, Queenwood is good and fun, but the overall experience is better than the architecture.
#3 is a beautiful short par-4, but at 325 yards, a long-iron off the tee to
avoid the bunker and 9-iron in, this hole lacks in strategic interest
The best part of the routing is the collection of long holes. At par of 72, Kidd has built three par-5's on the back, and five overall (same goes for the par-3's). The architect eases into the round with the emphasis on club section rather than ball striking giving golfers a chance at par on #1. Not the best of the lot, the tee shot has been reworked under Kidd's supervision, and is a nice way to start the round. I really enjoy the downhill #9 and #13 which leaves you with a blind approach if you don't lay-up in the proper position. #18 also has some nice design elements giving players some risk reward opportunities for matches coming down to the wire.
My favorite hole on the course, #13 has pretty bunkering
and tall pines, but if you don't focus on your second shot,
you wont be able to see your target on your next.
Most of the members I have asked will tell you #16 is their favorite hole on the course, which is not a surprise at all (see photo bellow). Somewhat reminiscent of Bay Hill's #18 with its green wrapping around the far end of a pond, driver is not the normal play off the tee here. Turning left at the water, most will run out of room on a straight line if they play the #1 wood from the tee. Some players may try to take on the hazards down the left with a drawing fairway wood trying to shorten the water carry, but if you are willing to be bold on a relatively short second shot good scores are manageable on this heavily slanted back-to-front green. The fairway wraps all the way around the pond if you really want to stay dry, but chipping across this green isn't much easier, I've seen balls end up in the water from left and certainly above the hole.
The approach to #16 is so beautiful you might think you are in a dream,
until you four-putt this very difficult, very wide green!
Queenwood isn't the first place I would go looking for a game of heathland golf. An entirely unique golf experience, the Surrey layout is bit of mixed bag. If you are lucky enough to get offered a chance to play behind the locked gates, I definitely recommend it, if for nothing else, the beauty and pace of play, which is always great because you are almost assured to be one of the only matches that day. The course has seen some changes since its opening and should be about to reopen after complete re-grassing of the greens. I look forward to my next round here, if I haven't been banned for writing this review!