The early spring sunshine peered through the imposing Scots Pines, dappling the fairways and greens with delicate shadows and all was well in the world.
West Hill Golf Club was a perfect venue to resume my assault on England’s and Britain and Ireland’s respective top 100s after a winter break.
It deserves its place in both lists because of its beautiful course which is almost as gorgeous in the opening week of March as it would be with heather in bloom in August.
It also nods its head to some sporting history in its splendidly appointed clubhouse where the most scrumptious lunch is served.
West Hill is not an overly long course (par 69) but it certainly demands respect, particularly off the tee from which heather, sand, water or sometimes all three, await the errant.
While the flag can be seen from most tees, there are dips and rises which can also feed balls into the many ditches across West Hill.
The first sets the scene on all counts with an opener across heather before going out of view as it trundles down towards a slither of water which traverses a fairway, framed by pines. The subsequent approach is towards a green protected by bunkers on either side.
Because the ground was moist and the ball wasn’t running, our second shots required more oomph than they would later in the season and that was the story for much of the day.
That said, West Hill was in terrific condition, given the context that many courses have been closed because of the incessant rain over recent weeks.
And it does have holes which can bite – including the 458-yard, par-four third which demands a hefty carry over heather before veering down to the left.
Those who cut the corner and manage to fire over a brook to reach its green will have earned hearty applause.
There are five par-threes at West Hill beginning with the fourth and all require pinpoint club selection to avoid sand traps or worse.
I thought I had struck a handsome ball into the 13th only to find it lodged between newly planted trees and a recently erected fence just over the back of the green.
My plea for relief because I was up against a man-made structure was quickly dismissed after a phone call to the club pro who pointed out it was the boundary of the course.
My appeal had been a weak effort to save a round which had promised much but had exploded on the 11th, a splendid rising par-four which I had reached in regulation only to take, inexplicably, a further five shots before finding the cup.
Later, in the clubhouse I mused on whether the 1908 professional’s preserved mashie niblick, hanging on the wall, would have served me better than my 2022 putter.
Before the 13th is a smart halfway house dedicated to England cricketer Eric Bedser whose twin brother Alec was also a West Hill member for many years. Indeed, their portrait adorns the bar next to the aforementioned ancient club.
Back on the course, I think the final three holes are West Hill’s strongest stretch.
The 16th is another which drops down towards a small stream and then sharply ascends to a double-level green. I mucked it up after a rather pleasing tee shot.
The 17th offers a rather nice breather – a picturesque par-five which demands strategy but even short hitters could par and maybe birdie.
The home hole is a stunner with huge Ganton-esque bunkers protecting a slither of green, framed by trees to the left and the clubhouse behind. I was well-chuffed with a four.
I have yet to play the others of the famous three Surrey Ws (Woking is pencilled in for May) but they will do well to match West Hill’s wow factor.
It provided a super start to my golfing year. I would love to play it in summer.