HAYLING GOLF CLUB
his search for hidden gems around the British Isles, DOMINIC
PEDLER sampled the rejuvenated wonders of Hayling Golf Club,
a true links tucked away on a glorious stretch of the Hampshire
next time you venture out for a spot of Winter golf at your local
layout only to confront an assault course of mud, mats and temporary
greens, you might want to dwell enviously on the members of Hayling
Golf Club where even the ubiquitous 'preferred lies' are a thing
of the past. Winter greens and tees have similarly been banished
to history after a maintenance programme that has transformed the
natural linksland on this splendidly secluded Hampshire island into
among one of the finest playing surfaces in the country.
from 1883, Hayling GC has always been a favourite of seaside golf
fans over the years, seduced by its glorious location complete with
panoramic views over the Solent and the Isle Of Wight.
while the club has long boasted a challenging layout, meandering
through gorse and wild dunes in equal measures, it has also been
victim of the traditional links malaise of burnt fairways and dusty
lies, with any re-seeding panacea scuppered by the Four Winds that
invariably blow in this delightful corner.
1999 saw the completion of an irrigation system and re-turfing programme
that has restored virtually summer slickness to the greens and fairways
even during our February visit.
Chris Cavill has presided over the remarkable turnaround. "We
have a lot of visitors and societies who pay good money to play
at Hayling. We understand that they deserve the best," he told
Golf Today. "And these days the golf season is no longer just
The fairway at the par-5 14th winds around the marshy inlet
on the leeward side of Hayling Island.
months. There is pressure on greenkeepers to provide an excellent
surface almost year-round." Cavill's team has indeed been working
overtime to nuture the fine, close-cropped turf that now forms
an emerald carpet above the quick-draining sandy base.
aside from its vitas and condition, Hayling gets an instant nod
into any discerning golfers guide for a characterful layout that
constantly twists and turns over its 6,531 yards, providing each
hole with its own identity and set of challenges so often missing
on many an 'out-and-back' links.
all good entertainment, Hayling builds the tension beautifully,
starting with an exacting par 3, on the flatter ground near the
clubhouse, and building to a climax in the rollercoaster of humps
and hollows at the far end bordering Langstone Harbour. This latter
stretch starts in earnes with the 492-yard, par-5 7th which plays
as a stiff three-shotter into the wind. In true links tradition
many of the holes at Hayling have been colourfully christened and,
here, 'Death Or Glory' refers to an ambitious second shot that will
flirt with a gorse-covered ridge on which sits a WWII war bunker
(concrete rather than sand!). It's a proud reminder of Hayling's
wartime role as a decoy for nearby Portsmouth.
forget the R&A's convoluted new dictum on 'burrowing animals'. Until
recently, Hayling had a local rule giving you a free drop from a
bomb crater - though apart from a few still accessible to the 'seriously
divergent', all have now been filled-in.
eccentricities still abound at Hayling. Take the short drive-'n'-pitch
8th. A line of deliciously unkempt line of sandhills lies dauntingly
across the fairway at the 180-yard mark, forcing you to choose between
laying up with a mid-iron or blasting over the danger to the flat
land below. Beyond the the ridge lies the calm sanctity of the green
along with an old bell with which to alert your pursuers when you
have finished putting.
"Pan-Ko-Chai", by which the 10th hole is mysteriously named, is
apparently the Malaysian word for "Hell" and, as such, shares its
name wih the notoroius 14th on the Old Course at St Andrews. Reachable
in dry, summer conditions, any references to purgatory at this picturesque
short par-4 of 270 yards presumably decribe the perils of a pulled
drive which will find oceans of gorse.
The 11th green amid the rugged dunes adjoining Langstone Harbour
scenic stretch continues as we immediately turn towards the
sea and play to a plateau green 152 yards away. This 11th hole
is backed by startlingly white sand dunes on the adjoining beach
and, in the distance, the looming presence of the Isle of Wight.
Four guarding bunkers are visible from the
and a further trap lurks hidden, pin-high, on the left to catch
the pulled shot.
change direction once again for the Desert hole, widely recognised
as one of the finest par-4s in Hampshire. The distant green is partially
obscured by a protruding sandhill, tending to dictate a power fade
for your second shot to this 444-yard showpiece. The satisfaction
of a four here is perhaps only topped by finding your ball on the
green at the next, the notorious 'Widow' hole. Named orginally after
the 'clutches' of a foreboding bunker from which (on an earlier
layout) you had to escape, this memorable hole involves an uphill
drive to a marker post set on the highest point of the island (60
feet above sea level). Shades of Scotland's finest. Talking of which,
the nine-yard wide green at the 6th hole - dubbed 'Narrows' - is
surely more 'spatially challenged' than Troon's Postage Stamp.
has a fascinating history to match the authentic flavour of its
links. The illustrious names of James Braid, Harry Vardon and Bobby
Locke are among the past record holders and the card of Locke's
65, which he shot in 1959, still hangs in the clubhouse.
years on and the name 'MJ Blackey' peppers the boards and silverware
in the great white clubhouse which enjoys some of the finest aspects
in British golf. This particular local hero has now graduated to
rookie on the European Tour and Hayling members are charting with
pride the progress of their former club champion who once made it
(if only for a few hours!) to the hallowed handicap of plus-4
Meanwhile, back on the course, the rabbits (the animals not the
other members!) can now be counted in similarly rarified numbers.
After a virtual epidemic of recent times, the greenkeepers have
patiently logged the systematic eradication. Three years ago 200
turf transplants were required for the 6th fairway alone. Last year
that figure was down to four.
fact the only thing that the club can't control is the vagaries
of the coastal erosion at this western tip of the island. The problem
is not up to Brancaster proportions but, certainly, the Solent has
been encroaching steadily towards the 1st fairway and already claimed
part of the practice ground and a car park.
an ongoing problem," says Cavill who explains that the R&A has a
committee looking into this occupational hazard of so many of our
seaside courses. "Hayling Island used to be famous for its sandy
beaches - but not any more. The use of breakwaters would only push
the problem along the coast and we accept that the interests of
many other groups on the island have to be taken into account. We
are constantly looking for solutions but, ultimately, the effects
of nature are impossible to predict," he admits. The Hayling links
is indeed a shining example of nature in every sense.
Hayling Golf Club
Address: Ferry Road, Hayling Island, Hampshire PO11 OBX
Telephone: 01705 463712
Cross the main causeway bridge from the mainland and follow the
signs for West Town. Clear signposts will lead you to the clubhouse
on the south side of the main road leading west.
Weekdays £30 per round, £40 per day
Weekends:£40 per round, £50 per day (subject to restrictions)
Handicap certificate: essential
Societies: welcome Tuesdays and Wednesdays