“There aren’t many good sixes, but that was a bad six.”. The words of Peter Alliss appeared to float from his house on the other side of the hedge at the side of Hindhead’s 16th. Yet another three-putt had cost me a rare decent score and I swear I could hear the great man’s famous description of Tiger Woods at the 2003 Masters on the cool spring breeze. Alliss loved Hindhead but his narration of the course on YouTube lulled me into believing that it would be calm or even gentle. Not a bit of it – a result at Hindhead probably deserves the backing vocal of an over-excited Brazilian football commentator rather than golf’s word-painter.
It is as quirky and difficult as any heathland course I have encountered and I absolutely loved it. The tone is set from the start with an intriguing par four, which demands a drive over heather before an approach into a green bent around to the right and protected by bunkers. That is a mere hors d’oeuvre before the second hole – a par five which literally prompted me to gasp “wow”.
From the elevated tee, the distant green appears to emerge between an escarpment and some houses and the fairway is out of sight. Thankfully, our group of top100 golf enthusiasts had been invited by a member who told us where we needed to plant our drives. I followed orders, played a second safely down the middle and then thought I had struck a perfect nine-iron to the back of the green. Nope. It was just off to the left. I subsequently misjudged the pace onto the putting surface and ended up making bogey.
I could repeat those words at least a dozen times during this review. Every occasion I thought I was in a good position, my ball would meander off the green or I would putt as if I had a mallet with a lead head in my hand. Nevertheless, I was in love with my surroundings. Two small deer lolloped across the fairway on the 4th, another hole which leads through the glorious high-sided valleys. Every hole on the front nine lives long in the memory but the Hindhead team are not resting on laurels.
We were among the first to play from the new tees on the par-three eighth, part of a decade-long fine-tuning of the course. Hindhead’s heather was not yet in bloom, so I can only presume how wonderful the ninth green will look in summer with purple leading up to it and the rhododendron and the wooden halfway hut behind it. Mercifully, the second nine was more profitable for my card but no less distinctive. The 12th was a super par-four with a six-foot drop-down directly in front of the green.
The 13th is a short curving par 4 and the big lads in our group narrowly missed the green from the tee. The 15th is an enchanting par three on which we almost witnessed an ace and then it moves on to the strong home stretch and the aforementioned 16th.
On the long 18th, I decided to plot my way down what my host then informed me was known as “old man’s alley”. I laughed and admitted that I am of an age which sense should prevail over valour. That mantra should have been adopted at Hindhead from the beginning because, beyond its great beauty, lays a devil to which the lilting tones of Peter Alliss gave little clue. Why it is not rated among the sand belt’s top tracks is a mystery to me.