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  • Neil White

Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)

Updated: Sep 11, 2020

"You haven't seen anything yet, wait until the 12th", exclaimed our playing partner as I appeared as a mere speck against the backdrop of a giant dune in front of the 4th green at Woodhall Spa.

I was rather chuffed that I managed to send my ball up almost vertically to land within 10 foot of the pin. If I had sunk the putt, it would have been the best sand save of my life.

However, my adventure had nothing on the tales regaled by our delightful playing partners in a mixed open at the home of English Golf.

While playing a previous foursome on the aforementioned 12th, the chap had dumped his ball into the deep cavern and his wife had torn a knee ligament trying to heave it out!

Yes, Woodhall Spa's sand can certainly be a score wrecker or even prompt a hospital visit.

One of the favourite descriptions of the famous Hotchkin course is as 'a great test of golf.' I presume that the test is to avoid sand and heather in order to preserve sanity as well as build a decent score.

Both are devilish from the opening hole onwards, lurking menacingly to suck in errant shots or even ones which are initially thought to be accurate.

Of course, both Mrs W and I discovered our fair share but, on occasion, it would have been better to find ourselves with a good lie in the sand than the tufty stuff in which many of the bunkers are submerged.

Off the yellow tees, the Hotchkin is not an especially long course and holes can be conquered with accuracy off the tee and smart placement with shots into the greens.

The par-five 9th demonstrated a classic example of what can go right and wrong. My drive was short, so I tried to blast a three-wood over the giant bunker which stretches across the fairway. Big mistake. Three duffs later my hole was over. Fortunately, Mrs W showed how it can be conquered with a straight long drive, a meaty three-wood and a five iron which drifted in from the right and within ten feet of the pin.

I had a similar moment of glory on the par-five 13th when I landed my second shot in the centre of the green and recorded a birdie.

Ok, we played in near-perfect conditions but The Hotchkin rewarded concentration and the occasional bit of bravery.

However, even though the greens were far from their slickest, we struggled to interpret their subtleties - thus, a very good score became out of reach because of too many three-putts.

Oh, and because we struggled to avoid sand on the run-in.

This couldn't be much of a surprise on the short par-four 14th whose green is protected by bunkers which are akin to sentries at a fortified castle.

And then there is the 18th - our only no score. A dramatic hole which seems to have sand as far as the eye can see. We followed the lead of those who have found beaches popular during the Covid crisis and found five of them between us!

We were told by our playing partners that The Hotchkin had not been in as good condition as they had expected. I confess I did not find it as beguiling as St Enodoc was on our recent visit because I enjoy dramatic backdrops to golf holes.

However, we did have a thoroughly enjoyable round and, like many before us, we would thoroughly recommend playing here.

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