With Windlesham Golf Club just having celebrated its 25th anniversary, a couple of founder members return to see how the club has developed since those early days - and were impressed by what they discovered
Windlesham Golf Club in Surrey has just celebrated its 25th anniversary. I was a founder member and my nephew was a founder junior member. Neither of us having played there for about 20 years — I gave up my membership when I moved from the area — we returned to see how things had changed.
Windlesham Golf Club now has an impressive clubhouse and course. The former is after some rebuilding and refurbishment. The latter is partly a result of it, literally, just growing up.
The layout now nestles into the landscape rather than looking slightly imposed upon it as brand-new courses can.
The parkland track was created from farmland. Trees and vegetation have grown, and parts are now genuinely beautiful, such as the approach to the 17th green.
The drainage problems of the early years have become, I am told, a thing of the past and the course was indeed in tip-top nick. The colourful plantings around several tee posts were a nice touch.
Tweaks have been made to the design to good effect. Some ditches have been covered over, although half of the long holes still feature water hazards, streams or ditches running across the fairway.
Bunkers have been replaced reshaped and resited. The course was designed by Tommy Horton and either side of the 18th green had been bunkers shaped as a T and a H. These have now been refashioned in more conventional shape.
The 12th, a right-angled dogleg, has lost its ditch at the junction of the L shape. In its stead are two bunkers, which soften the hole elegantly.
The 8th is a clever short par 4. The slightly raised green is wide but shallow and now defended by bunkers front left and right, rather than one central one as before.
The 8th was always one of my favourites, mainly because I often scored well there. The 4th was another favourite hole and on our revisit I wondered why.
It is an undramatic par 3 to a long green with a bunker to the right of the green. My nephew provided the solution — sited in a corner of the course it was flanked by mature woodland and so had the best ambience of any hole during our membership years.
The 300-yard 16th is to a shallow kidney-shaped green behind a bunker. But unlike the 8th, which has space behind the green, behind the 16th green is a thick hedge. Off the tee you have to decide whether to boom a drive or to lay up short of the narrow stream just over 100 yards out.
The nines were flipped towards the end of my time as a member. But they have long since reverted to their original order, with the 1st again the 1st.
This is a fine and demanding opening hole, a 445-yard par 4 played to a fairway which disappears over the brow of a hill down towards a lake in front of, but set slightly back from, the green.
To take on the green with your second shot normally requires a shot from a downhill lie over water. It is stroke index 3, so another option for most of us seeking two Stableford points is to lay up short of the lake on a flat area and then chip on.
This lake has to be crossed also on the 9th. This provides the most intimidating tee shot on the course as the carry is 210 yards against the prevailing wind and through a gap in the trees.
Membership numbers are now increasing at Windlesham Golf Club, after some lean years. The course’s new owner puts this down to “a continuous programme of improvement.”
The way that the club and course at Windlesham Golf Club has been developed is clearly proving appealing to others as well.