Of all the classic Surrey heathlands, the comparisons between which being an occupational hazard for any self-respecting golf magazine, we can perhaps agree that Worplesdon is the prettiest. But then again, the members of Hankley Common and Woking, to name but two, would probably have something to say about that. As ever, unanimous agreement is unlikely, especially in such a subjective matter as this. And with so many fine courses to the south and west of London, all within an hour’s reach of the capital, it is inevitable that the arguments should continue indefinitely.
What is beyond doubt is that they collectively form some of the finest – if not the very best – inland golf that Britain and Ireland has to offer.
Above all, their appeal is timeless, and none more so than Worplesdon, which is surely one of the most charming clubs you could care to visit.
Things are different here from the moment you arrive, indeed as soon as you enter the gloriously haphazard car park that it seems no one ever bothered to finish, preferring perhaps to concentrate on the main reason for visiting Worplesdon – the course.
The feeling of wellbeing and detachment continues in the welcoming clubhouse and then on the 1st tee, which enjoys an inviting elevated position from which your first shot of the day can be struck.
And then you have the consecutive par 5s on the back nine that can have you dreaming of a winning score, before the rather less accommodating finish most likely dashes such hopes.
The club, near Woking, dates back just over a century. The story goes that a gentleman who owned a large estate employed JF Abercromby, a scratch player, as his private secretary.
He wanted a golf course and Abercromby obliged. Then Willie Park Junior, notably responsible for Sunningdale among many others, came along to construct the greens and bunkers.
What a tremendous site they had to work with. Mostly heathland, occasionally garden-like and even, for one hole only, featuring a pond, Worplesdon is the dictionary definition of the perfect members’ course.
There is more of a feeling of space than at its fellow Ws, Woking and West Hill, albeit that Woking is actually a longer course at present.
Yet there is certainly scope at Worplesdon, should the club so decide, to lengthen several holes considerably. To host a top-class amateur event that might well be deemed necessary but, on the other hand, its current 6,450 yards prove ample for all but the very best.
There is barely a single hole less than excellent, but the stretches in the middle of the front nine and the start of the back nine are probably the pick. Taken as a whole, Worplesdon seems more than the sum of its parts, which is another way of saying that this is a course that is consistently very good.
It begins with an attractive par 4 and a downhill drive which is followed by a more exacting uphill approach to a large, sloping green.
The 2nd is considerably more testing. The drive is blind and with the course boundary on the left and the fairway sloping from left to right, only the most accurate of tee shots will be in prime position for the approach.
The first hole that really catches the eye is the par-3 4th, played uphill back towards the clubhouse to a green on a perfectly natural shelf.
The 5th is also outstanding, a great swathe of heather in front of the tee. The further right you aim to cut the corner on this dogleg the more of it you have to carry. With tall pines on either side of the fairway, there are shades of Sunningdale here.
The 9th is shaped in a similar fashion, but this time a pond guards the angle of the dogleg, with a hollow to the left of the green providing further subtle but effective protection.
The short 10th is played over water. It is undoubtedly attractive, if out of character, but after crossing the road Worplesdon is revealed at its very best. Here the fairways are generous, heather abounds, the holes seem on a bigger scale and the fairways are firm and bouncy.
The renowned 11th is an outstanding par 5 and it is worth dwelling a moment on the tee to take in the surroundings, a blend of huge trees, blooming heather, distant bunkers and perfect, springy fairways.
The next is also a par 5 and also a fine hole, though at 470 yards on the short side by modern standards. As elsewhere, there is plenty of room to add a new back tee without changing the angle.
There are some fine short holes here, but the 13th is surely the pick. Slightly uphill, the large green is effectively an island surrounded by sand, with the bunker on the left the deepest and most dangerous.
As a par 4 of over 450 yards, the 14th is certainly worthy of its stroke index of one. Its true par is somewhere between four and five but it is amazing the psychological difference between standing on the 12th tee (some 20 yards longer) and this one.
On the former you dream of an eagle putt, here the threat of an ugly double bogey looms large. It is back across the road for the final four holes, starting with a downhill par 5 bordered by some exclusive Surrey real estate.
A birdie is especially timely because the last three are all testing. The fifth and final short hole plays longer than its yardage, demanding a high-flying shot in, and the 17th, while less daunting, is a hole where a par four is an excellent score.
The tee shot at the last is blind so aim at the flag pole (which appears to be a little left of centre) and all will be revealed. In the prevailing wind the hole plays shorter than its yardage might suggest and the green is relatively generous.
You can relax afterwards while debating the respective merits of the ‘three Ws’ (a well-known voice does so on the right) in an old clubhouse of rare charm.
Be sure to cast your eye down the honours boards, where the names of the great and the good from the amateur game over the years can be found. All discovered this corner of Surrey for themselves and most returned again and again to enjoy its special atmosphere.