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Isle of Wight Golf Courses

A light-hearted look at the by a local who has played them all.

To avoid being accused of favouritism, alphabetical is the order of the day.

There are eight golf courses on the Island where it is necessary to carry more than a wedge and a putter. These are Cowes, Freshwater Bay, Newport, Osborne, Ryde, Shanklin & Sandown, Ventnor, Westridge. (I am only aware of two with web sites at present).

Freshwater Bay and Shanklin & Sandown are 18 hole courses, the remainder are 9 hole courses, with the exception of Ventnor which has 12 greens. The downland courses in particular, can be very interesting in the wind.

Cowes - 9 Hole
A gentle, down-hill par 5 greets the unsuspecting visitor to Cowes Golf Club. This is a relatively flat, park-land type course with easily reachable out-of-bounds on many holes : all down the right on the first, into the local High School. You need a pretty good shot to get out-of-bounds on the second, but, believe me, it can be done, and is pretty easy on the third. Once you get past the fourth, your worries are over, for a while, you are now playing up and down the middle of the course, just watch out for the water. A severe hook off the eighth will probably break a green-house, but there are no worries on the ninth, assuming you are the right side of the trees of course, and not in the water. I haven't even mentioned the bunkers, you can actually see some of them from the tee.
If you want to combine a gentle walk with a good test of golf, this one's for you.

Freshwater Bay - 18 Hole
I've heard Freshwater Bay Golf Club described in many different ways - "Plenty of wide open spaces", "Hard work but good fun", "Impossible", "Not as easy as it looks". Sounds like a fairly typical golf course, doesn't it?
Starting with a slightly up-hill par three, with the flag visible, but not the green, you are immediately lulled into a false sense of security. The second fairway slopes to the right, the third is an almost blind par three and then you head up-hill. The fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh (fist half) and the first part of the eighth to a slight extent, are all up-hill, some with right-to left sloping fairways. This course is built on chalk downland, hence the variations in slope, but the drainage is superb and I have never played on anything other than excellent greens.
The real character hole on this course is the fourteenth, a down-hill par three. Down-hill doesn't state it really, the ground falls away rapidly.
If you enjoy a good challenge, or if you are not too straight off the tee, this one's for you. Given a nice day, the golf doesn't matter anyway, the views are pretty spectacular.
Visitors are always welcome, but tee times are slightly restricted - best check with the club for further information on this point.

Newport - 9 Hole
Another downland course, with six of the holes pretty flat, one downhill, one uphill and one across a valley. Four dog-leg par fours, one straight par four uphill, one slow left-to-right par five and three par threes go to make up a tricky nine holes, with out-of-bounds in one or two unexpected places (check the card). Not a lot of room to stray off line on some of the holes and widely regarded by non-members as a tight course. A course where a little local knowledge can be very valuable. You may well do better on the second nine.
If you are on your own, you probably won't be for very long. Strangers are very often invited to join members in a round. This is a friendly club.

Osborne - 9 Hole
A beautiful parkland course, set in the grounds of Osborne House, the Island home of Queen Victoria, right up until her death in 1901. Many trees grow within the bounds of the course and mature oaks abound.
When a member here, it was a local joke that mine was the only subscription which went entirely to the up-keep of the rough. I am reliably informed that the fairways are excellent, I may find out one day. The rough, on the other hand, is well known to me. I could write pages about it. Suffice to say I would rather have been on the fairways.
The first and second are flat, par four and par five respectively. The third is a par three to a right-to-left sloping green, tricky to stay on. Up-hill drive and a flat approach to the par four fourth, straight drive and turn half right to get on the fifth. The sixth is a nice par three, into a saucer surrounded by bunkers at front and sides. The seventh, the elephant hole - narrow downhill drive, slight turn right, up, over and down to the green - par four. Called the elephant hole because of a brick lined hole in the ground, just right of the green (and right in line when driving from the eighth tee) - supposedly the washing pit for the elephants which Queen Victoria kept at Osborne House. A local historian has suggested that there never were any elephants at Osborne House, but it's a nice story any way. Believe what you wish. The eighth is an uphill par four with the ninth a good right-to-left dog-leg, flat par four, back to the club-house.
The grounds of Osborne House could be mistaken for a wild-life sanctuary and it is quite common to see red squirrels, both on the ground and in the trees.

Ryde - 9 Hole
Another lovely park-land course, tighter than Osborne in that there is an out-of-bounds fence on the right of most holes, but this course has very little long rough. There are four par threes in the nine holes, two easily reachable, and the other two should be. (I believe there are plans to lengthen one of these holes to make it a par four). The character hole is the seventh, and the character builder is the eighth. The seventh is a good par three, green above tee, but played across a valley with a stream running through the bottom. A deceptive tester to a two-tier green, bunkers right and left and an almighty slope if you are short - sounds like fun? The eighth, drive back across the valley. OK, you just went the other way with a six iron, so what's to worry about? You've got a wood or a long iron - easy. Many a round has died at this point. The horses in the field on the right take it in turns to either eat, or ball watch. Theirs is a precarious existence.

Shanklin & Sandown - 18 Hole (Known locally as Sandown).
More of a heath-land course, with gorse, bracken and heather, this is arguably the top golf club on the Island. The terrain would seem to be a natural golf course, although it was in fact built on Lake and Blackpan Commons - originally grazing land - and the layout of the course has changed quite a bit since World War I. For instance, the present 14th, 15th and 16th are later additions, the course boundary being the back of the 13th green, 3rd tee and the right of the 17th. There was once a hole from (roughly) the present 10th tee, down over the sand-pit to a green the other side of the track. Nowadays you cannot see anything in that direction except trees.
Sandown has just about everything - par three over water - par three to a narrow green on the side of a hill - par four over a valley and two bunkers to reach the fairway - blind drives - longish carry drives - up-hill holes - down-hill holes - bunkers - trees - gorse - rough (some with heather) - elevated tees - pro's shop and a first class club house, where a good lunch can be purchased. Well worth the slightly higher green fee.

Ventnor - 12 Hole
A downland course, with six of the first nine holes on a slope, left to right going out and the reverse coming back. Two of these are only played once, since additional holes and greens were built a few years ago. Instead of playing the ninth as a dog-leg, play straight on to the new green. The tenth and eleventh are new holes, one out and one back to the club-house. So instead of the first being the tenth, second time round, it becomes the twelfth and hence the two holes at the far end of the course are not played during the second nine. Confused? Ventnor makes good use of different tees for the second nine holes - this can make them play entirely differently.
I introduced a friend to this course one day in October - it was a bit foggy. He swears to this day, that there is no course there at all - that we were just playing to the same flag from different directions. Go and see for yourself - it's well worth a visit. It's not easy to find, so get good directions and if necessary, get a local to draw you a map.

Westridge - 9 Hole
This one could be a long story. I'll try and keep it a short and as accurate as I remember. The course was originally planned around the same time as the Tesco store (just across the road) was planned. For some reason it was slow off the ground. The driving range was built (on the old Ryde airport), but no course, for quite a few years. Then a few mounds appeared and the course began to take shape, but still not a lot of activity.
Within the last few years a brick building was erected, which now houses the best selection of golf equipment on the Island. The course is made up of mainly par three holes, but don't be put off by this, you'll need most clubs in the bag and sometimes you'll wish you had an axe too.
Turn up at any time, pay your green-fee and away you go. If it's busy, buy a bucket of balls and hit 'em down the range. It'll get your swing going and kill a bit of time. An excellent venue for learners and relaxed experts alike. Just remember that there's no such thing as an easy golf course, unless YOU make it that way.



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