A beautifully presented layout on the Hampshire side of the border with Sussex, Liphook is as pleasant a place to play as could be imagined. Liphook epitomises a certain type of course that English golf does uniquely well – not much over 6,000 yards, fairways lined by pines and heather, a collection of interesting and often quirky holes and rarely a dull moment.
Intersected by the B2070 and the railway line, Liphook is not as idyllically rural as it once must have been but it’s a piece of land that is pretty much hemmed in on all sides meaning that any attempts to lengthen it significantly would be futile. It would also deprive Liphook of much of its charm.
Designed by Arthur Croome – his sole contribution and all the more notable for that – and assisted by Tom Simpson, this is not and never should be championship golf. Rather it is a collection of pretty and often challenging holes unburdened by convention.
It is also a course that has changed significantly over the years. Since Croome and Simpson’s work was unveiled in 1921, a new 1st and 18th were introduced in 1946, the work of John Morrison. Mackenzie & Ebert are the most recent architects to have made serious alterations.
“It is exceptionally dry in winter, but happily there is something about the black sand on which it lies which prevents it burning too badly in a hot summer,” wrote the author, architect and noted amateur Frank Pennink in 1962.
“Liphook is one of two courses in the south of England of which Bobby Locke thinks most highly, and on which he plays regularly when in this country (the other is Hankley Common).”
It’s when you cross the railway bridge and head to the 7th tee that you first see the changes designed by Mackenzie & Ebert. If you are expecting the friendly short par 3, you are in for a surprise.
You see the par 3 to the right but you actually play the par 5 instead, with the tee in Hampshire and the green in Sussex and a stream in between.
The main changes revolve around routing the course to play the holes inside first and then move to the holes on the outside, which changes the location of the road crossing.
Once you’ve played the 7th you walk across the old 14th fairway and head to a gem of par 3 8th from a raised tee to a green surrounded by trees and a deep nasty bunker on the right.
The 9th is a short dogleg right hitting from a tee surrounded by trees. If you miss your drive right you may get lucky to find a gap in the pines but if you catch a branch or mis-hit a pond will collect your ball.
If you go past the pin when the hole is at the back of the green, you can only pray your chip hits the flag and does not end up running down the green due to the steep slope.
The par 4 10th is a beauty and the favourite of a lot of members, with water to the left and a bunker to the right. As you hit your long iron to the old par 3 11th green, you need a well struck shot to find the undulating putting surface.
The new 11th is now a par 5 with three good shots needed to find the green. Once that’s done you can breathe a sigh of relief as you get to the short par 3 12th, having first seen it as you stood on the 7th tee.
Holes 13 and 14 are unchanged, other than the hole number, but the discerning golfer will welcome the missing gorse bushes to the left of the 13th and will not enjoy the run-offs and the dell to the left and long of the green.
The 15th is now a straight risk and reward hole with a quarry to the left and bunker and trees to the right.
A sensible layup off the tee will leave a short iron to the green or you can go for glory and hope the tee shot is behaving.
The 16th and 17th remain unchanged and the new blue tee on the 18th presents a very different view for your tee shot and, as you climb up the hill, the familiar clubhouse welcomes you.