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  • Neil White


Updated: May 3

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Why does a medal card wreck so many of our rounds?

Most times I play I score more than 30 Stableford points and on my recent top 100 travels, I have even brushed 40 a couple of times.

But I deliberately avoid stroke play because the quest is meant to be a labour of love, not torture.

However, my first visit to wonderful Worplesdon was for the annual Press Golfing Society medal meeting (thankfully, the only one on our calendar).

And the inevitable happened - after a very decent first nine during which pars abounded and birdie chances were earned, I scored a NINE on the par-five 11th and that was that.

The disintegration began.

Of course, my own golfing ineptitude should not distract from the quality of my first visit to the third of the Surrey sand belt's famous three Ws.

Worplesdon was in terrific condition at the end of a very wet March. Breathe this quietly, but better than its neighbour West Hill in the corresponding week last year.

I have only played Woking in the summer and, consequently, think any comparison would be unfair.

The welcome at Worplesdon is top-notch. We noshed on a splendid bacon roll and cup of coffee and dumped our bags in the impressive changing room before moving towards the tee with a sense of trepidation, given the apocalyptic weather forecast.

Thankfully, the deluge must have circled us because only light drizzle dotted the pond on the 10th and otherwise there was nobody to blame for poor form but ourselves.

In fact, Worplesdon was bearing early gifts - at least for my compadre.

He nailed a birdie on the first hole - an uphill par-four with typical Worplesdon bunkers on the left and right of the fairway and in front of the green.

It would not be the last time that I would discover that finding the course's sand would inevitably cost a shot.

The opening green also set the tone in terms of its speed - very quick for the time of year. Indeed, the consistency throughout the round was a credit to the club.

The greens are the course's main defence. Many of the putting surfaces have at least two tiers and are defended by false fronts. The penalty for not attacking the flag could be a three or even four-putt.

I learned this tough lesson on the uphill par-three fourth, a picturesque hole in front of the clubhouse, after hitting what I thought was a fine tee shot and then falling short with consecutive putts.

My game started to come together on the fifth - a terrific hole with heather down the right-hand side and a treacherous sand trap on the left. Precision is required off the tee on every hole at Worplesdon and I was rewarded here.

This sixth is a par-five of less than 500 yards with a slight uphill gradient off the tee before a steep downhill one towards the target. Better players will have no trouble reaching in two and even I was a whisker from a birdie.

The short seventh has the Worplesdon hallmark - it looks benign from the tee but has a huge green with wicked undulations and defiantly refused to give up a birdie even though my tee shot landed 12 feet from the flag.

The ninth is a beautiful left-to right dogleg with water on the right and trees on both sides of the fairway.

Unfortunately, the poor light on the day means the photo doesn't do it justice.

My compadre and I were on a roll by the time we reached the tenth tee but he regaled a tale of a previous collapse from this point onwards.

No ill seemed to be in the air when we both found the green over the gorgeous pond although the portents began to be unfavourable when I bottled a downhill putt and finished with bogey.

This was a mere hint of the chaos to unfold on the 11th where I avoided the unfriendly bunker down the right by wildly splaying my drive into the heather down the left.

At this stage, I had not lost my head, so chipped 100 yards down the fairway only to strike my third shot into a rather large fairway sand trap.

Again I took my medicine only to see my approach go wide and find a knot of heather on the greenside bunker. I could only stub the ball into the sand before finally arriving at my goal.

I don't recall writing about a horror hole on travels before but this was really galling because it not only set my score back but the disappointment caused my round to collapse.

Thankfully, I could still appreciate the quality of the back nine which presents many exciting challenges and chances.

The par-five 12th offers both if the three bunkers to the right of the fairway can be avoided off the tee. The left-to-right sloping green filters the ball towards the hole if an approach can weave its way between the banks and bunkers surrounding the green.

The short holes are Worplesdon's highlight for me - always a picture, framed by heather-bordered bunkers and with large intimidating, tiered greens.

The 13th is the top of the pops - only 140 yards but with sand at the front and sides and with a run-off over the back.

The 16th pushes it close with heather and traps down the left and right with a slither of access to an uphill green.

I thought I had hit a sublime shot over the false front only to find my ball at least 30 feet short of the target,

While my round had fallen away, my pal was hanging in there, On the 14th it was literally by hook and by crook because his tee shot was going out of the course but smashed into an oak tree and diverted back over the stream into the fairway bunker.

His fun continued on the 15th - a par-five which again looks easy and suddenly isn't because of tight out-of-bounds on the right and a stream which he found on the left.

Somehow he maintained a fighting chance of glory, even after finding water again among the trees to the left of the 17th before gathering himself for the classic finishing hole.

This is the longest par-four on the course and its stunning angled green with its superbly manicured bunkers is set against the lovely sunken clubhouse.

Over a pint of London Pride, roast dinner and fruit salad and ice cream I wistfully pondered (moaned like an idiot) over glories that might have been.

But the truth is, it was only my golf that disappointed because Worplesdon surely didn't. It is a heck of a course and club.

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