Woburn - Duke's
Updated: May 14
What was my take home from the Duke's at Woburn? The aroma of the towering pines, the immaculate tee boxes, the stunning clubhouse or the pristine greens?
Of course, all of the above but they were all outweighed by the magical healing powers of marmalade on the halfway house’s sausage roll.
Beaten to embarrassment by the first nine on this picturesque Buckinghamshire beauty, I was in desperate need of revival.
Then I was infused with the unique zing from the exotic-tasting pastry-based product and my never before-seen shank disappeared, my drives gained 50 yards and my putts became ten times more accurate.
In the footsteps of one of Seve’s great victories, I had needed an A-game and a dollop of local knowledge from the start.
I had neither and that was particularly evident on two of its picture holes – the 3rd and 5th.
The former is a short, very attractive par three which demands accurate club selection from an elevated tee down to a green which slants from back to front.
I made the schoolboy error of not trusting my Garmin and overshot by a couple of yards. Our hosts then told me my chip back on to the putting surface was the trickiest shot on the course. Suffice to say I finished with a five.
The fifth is an extraordinary par five with a requirement for the second shot to hit the tiniest slither of fairway otherwise trees await on the right or a grassed crater lurks on the left.
But the par-three 6th tops them both in the fiendish league – anything short disappears down what can only be described as a chasm to the front centre and left of the green. Overhanging trees and a deep bunker mean that there is no chance of a par from this hollow grave.
These holes and my sudden shank knocked the stuffing out of me and my mood failed to improve until the mid-round snack.
Thereafter, Woburn’s length really kicks in.
With silver birch, horse chestnut trees and the pines lining each fairway, the only hope is to hit long and straight.
My playing partners, who had consistently found the secret to do just that. warned that the 14th was a particular monster but, by now, the mystic sausage roll was fully digested and I could no longer be intimidated.
In other words, Woburn Dukes can yield decent scores if you hit the ball properly.
Its greens are as good as I have played on so far this year but some have tiers with flags placed just beyond them, so, what initially appear to be good chips can easily bend away from the target.
The fairways are tight but, except for the aforementioned 5th, do not require a maths degree to hit the right spot.
And the setting is supreme. The avenues of trees, kites flying above, well-behaved dogs accompanying owners on the way round and even a baby deer skipping joyfully.
Before and afterwards, the facilities are top class – from the pro shop to the outside drinks and eating area to the range and putting green.
But none have quite the rousing effects of the halfway house.
Now I just need the secret recipe to get my game going for the remainder of the season.