Isle Of Purbeck
By the ‘flaming sword of Haile Selassie’, I declare the fifth hole at Isle of Purbeck the most dramatic I have played in the top 100 quest so far.
The mystery over why the revered Ethiopian emperor’s ceremonial weapon hangs in the clubhouse is matched by why this picturesque course has been allowed to decline.
Selassie died in 1975 and I can well imagine that the Isle of Purbeck was a rare jewel back then.
Sadly, it is no longer and, while the views over the sea are outstanding, its fairways are unkempt and greens are scratchy.
This is a huge pity. With love, this could be in England’s top ten but it seems more likely to drop out of its top 100.
There is no doubt that the over-riding memory of this Harry Colt-designed track is the vista across the Dorset coast.
We were there on a wonderful summer’s day when we could see for many miles and the backdrop is most stirring on the 4th green and from the fifth tee.
The latter is an incredible hole which doglegs sharply from left to right after a tee shot onto a slither of landing area. A hit too far finds gorse and anyone being too ambitious by trying to cut off the corner is likely to find a valley of sand and stone.
The putting surface is perched on the cliff, making full use of the dazzling scenery.
The fifth comes after quite a strange opening which sees the second hole wind back to the club house and a walk across the car park before the short par-four third.
We had witnessed the perils of the second while having our pre-game lunch but learned little. It is a long par four to an elevated green which was pretty tricky to read.
This wasn’t helped by the surface which, in common with all on the day, was lumpy with a surprisingly long grass cut.
Meanwhile, the fairways contain barely a blade and look as if they would take some very serious work to put right.
This is particularly evident on the 12th which conjured thoughts of a soft black moonscape.
If they could be reclaimed, there are holes on the Isle of Purbeck which could be classics.
These include the 8th, a bending par five which requires some precise hitting to prevent the ball from sliding into trouble.
Ditto the 10th, curiously named The Narrows despite not being narrow at all. In common with several holes, it has a blind tee shot and a bush to the right of the target which draws in overstruck approaches.
The 11th begins the section of the course which feels more like parkland and is a splendid par three over unfriendly terrain. It is called The Island but isn’t on an island.
The 13th is an interesting hole across a brook (for once, its name Dyke suits it), and then up to another highly-placed pin.
The most perplexing is the short 18th, stuffed between the first and the 8th (we witnessed a row when a chap coming down the latter played the wrong ball!). I would say it is the least impressive home hole I have played anywhere.
This rather sums up The Isle of Purbeck… grand unfulfilled promise.
As well as the course needing attention, the clubhouse is well populated but feels dated (there is even an empty cigarette machine) and the practice area appears a tad unloved.
But here’s the rub. Our rounds cost just £26 each. They will doubtlessly be the cheapest visitor rounds on the whole top 100 odyssey.
So, in terms of value for money, it would rank very highly. But maybe there needs to be an analysis of the club’s economics because visitors will surely be dissuaded from a trip to the relatively remote spot if the basics are not sorted out.
I live in hope. As Haile Selassie said: “Who can foresee what spark might ignite the fuse?”