There can be few finer places to be on a weekday lunchtime than tucking into the famous carvery at West Hill before tackling this storied Surrey heathland. Once you turn off the busy A322 near Woking, just beside the railway bridge, another world is yours – West Hill really is a retreat from all that is frantic in modern life. Like so many of our great courses, it has undergone recent renovation, although nothing too arresting on a layout that has remained virtually unchanged since its creation just over 100 years ago.
Rather it has benefitted from the love and attention of a new course manager who has improved the conditioning as well as overseen a programme of woodland management.
Talking of management, it is fitting that the welcoming secretary here is Gina Rivett since West Hill was originally created because one Marguerite Lubbock, unable to join existing clubs in the area on account of her gender, decided to commission her own.
A Carnoustie man, Cuthbert Butchart, was the club’s architect and first professional with Willie Park Jr and Jack White (Open champions both) responsible for the routing.
Pretty and undulating with a stream crossing several fairways, West Hill is perhaps best known for its quintet of short holes. These range from 149 to 211 yards with the latter regarded as the pick and demanding an accurate long iron or wood to a green protected on both sides by sand.
The strongest hole may well be the 3rd, played parallel to the railway line and a meaty 465 yards from the back tee. It calls for a drawn tee shot to set up a long approach to a green that slopes from right to left.
More typical though, on a course that is a shade under 6,400 yards, is the 16th, the tee shot played downhill and laid up in front of the stream to set up a short iron to a well protected green.
The last hole climbs gently uphill towards the clubhouse – shades of the 18th at Little Aston – and a closing par is a highly satisfying way to finish before enjoying a drink on the patio and contemplating a return to the real world.