The Volkswagen Masters 2007 arrived at the London Club just three days after Sam Torrance became Bendinat London Seniors Masters Champion at the same venue. With the thick rough still in full force and the greens in beautiful condition the Heritage Course proved a tricky test for all competitors.
The Heritage Course is an unmistakable Jack Nicklaus design where intimidating water hazards and masses of deep bunkers await any wayward shot. The opening tee shot is a fair indication of what is ahead with monstrous bunkers to the right of a narrow fairway and thick rough accompanying more sand to the left. The 3rd and 7th are two particularly memorable par-3?s which utilise water to intimidate competitors. Intimidation is a common theme throughout the course as slopes leading to deep bunkers, deep rough and water are often in clear view while the fairways remain tucked away behind the punishing hazards. As always the course was in immaculate condition while the storm clouds above passed over with only a scattering of showers. The scene was set for a great day of golf as competitors battled it out to seal a place in the Volkswagen Masters UK Final in September.
With the rough so thick it was clear early on that keeping the ball in play was imperative to low scoring. Players who found the rough were penalised to the point that finding a bunker was a preferable option. It was no surprise that intelligent, accurate golf was rewarded as 2-handicapper Laurence Collier plotted his way round the course brilliantly. The Royal Eastbourne member shot a round of nett 69 to secure his place in the UK Final with a win in Group A. The days only round in the 60?s was achieved on Collier?s first visit to the course.
?I didn?t hit driver at all today in order to keep it out of the rough, I think most shots were dropped by going in the thick stuff,? said Collier.
Second place in Group A went to Gary O?Neill who shot an impressive nett 70 off a handicap of 7. Along with the second place competitors in Group B and Group C he received a TaylorMade RAC wedge.
The difficulty of the course was highlighted by the scoring in Group B and Group C. It would have been easy to admit defeat but players were rewarded for focusing on accuracy as a priority and resisting the temptation to attack the course. Group B was won by 11 handicapper Scott Benson. The Old Thorns member shot a round of nett 73 to win on count back from London Golf Club member Robert Taylor.
?I was pretty accurate today which was crucial as the rough is so penalising. I found it difficult to read the greens but I was generally happy with the way I played,? said Benson. ?This is the first time I have played here buts its lovely, a really nice set up and a very difficult golf course.?
Finally Group C winner was shell-shocked London Golf Club member Peter Ruffoni. The 24 handicapper shot a nett 74 to take Group C by four shots. After a nightmare start Ruffoni fought on to take the win. ?I started with a 10 on the first and thought things could only get better so kept on going but I am so surprised to have won,? he said.
Royal Cinque Ports member Michael Hedges proved that there is more than one way to avoid the thick rough and tricky greens with a hole in one at the 191 yard 17th.
All three winners qualify for the UK Final in September on the new Ryder Cup Course at Celtic Manor where they will compete for a place at the World Final in South Africa.
DATE: June 27
VENUE: London Golf Club (Heritage Course)
STATS: par 72, SSS 73, 6,771 yards
GF: fees available on application ? play only possible with a member
T: 01474 879899
Ranked No. 107 in the Golf Monthly Top 120 Course Rankings
This Jack Nicklaus design has the legend’s personality stamped all over it. Demanding powerful ball striking throughout, the Heritage Course (which also boasts an excellent neighbour in the form of the International) offers players the opportunity to be aggressive. However this strategy must be executed with care. Anyone who is not on top form from the tee will be punished as thick rough, frequent bunkers and well placed water hazards await.
Often described as an inland links, and featuring treacherous long, wispy rough, the 18th is a great finishing hole played towards the luxurious clubhouse. A lake on the left awaits pulled tee shots but even if you find the security of the fairway you face a tricky uphill second to a well-protected green.