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Royal Worlington & Newmarket Golf Club possibly has the finest nine-hole golf course in the world. It was certainly an incredible achievement to fit nine holes onto such a tiny piece of sandy ground and it's the only nine-hole course ever to have been voted onto a Britain & Ireland Top 100 list.
This is a classical golf course, often referred to as Mildenhall and it’s the home of golf for undergraduates at Cambridge University. The turf has all the qualities of a seaside links, free draining and springy.Bernard Darwin loved Worlington and in his book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, he wrote: “Worlington is not unlike Frilford in appearance, being extremely solitary, flat and sandy, and dotted here and there with fir trees. There are only nine holes, but of these several are really excellent, and none can fairly be said to be dull.”We agree, it is an engaging little course, but make sure you bring your best putting game – the greens are the highlight.
Tom Dunn, who laid out the course in the early 1890s, reputedly said:“God meant this land to be a golf course”. Some thirty years later, Harry Colt lengthened it and little has since changed.Jo Floyd holds the course record. In September 1949, he went round nine holes in an incredible 28 stokes. He holed his second shot at the opening par five for an albatross two; this obviously lifted his spirits for the rest of the round.
Three and four-ball play is not allowed at Worlington, foursomes and twosomes are the order of the day. Whatever you do, do not let this traditional approach put you off playing this historic nine-hole course; it offers the ideal golf day, especially if you can safely negotiate the infamous short 5th hole.
“One may reach the green with a pitch from the tee,” wrote Darwin, “but what a difficult pitch it is. The green is something in the shape of a hog’s back; immediately on the left of it is a stagnant pool of water, and on the right is a stream, complicated by overhanging willows. To reach the green is one distinct feat; to hole out in two putts, when one has got there, is another.”The stagnant pool has long since gone, there is a grassy hollow there instead, but it’s still one of the toughest bunker-less par threes in the land.
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Average Reviewers Score:
Looking at the various reviews of the course since 2004 on this site, opinion is very much split about RW&N. I have had this on my want-to-play list for a long while mainly just to see which way my own thoughts would go. After playing hundreds of courses around the world, I hope I have a fairly balanced view now, so here goes…… oh dear! I have to say I am not a fan and am severely under whelmed by the nine holes. The opening hole is a non-descript par-5 with very little to be excited about – The 2nd hole I quite liked, 224 yard par-3 with a very tricky green – The 3rd is a short par-4 which is ok but the club website says about the hole, “surely one of the best golf holes anywhere” – sorry but whoever wrote that needs to get out more! Another par-5 at the 4th which is much better than the 1st hole but still fairly average. The par-3 5th gets many positive comments and yes, the green site is strong and will catch out many approaches but is the hole that good? The 6th hole is probably the pick of the bunch; a 460 yard par-4 and a decent hole – another par-3 at the 7th, which is just average at best. Turning back towards the clubhouse at the 8th tee and another tough par-4 which is ok and then the final hole is a short par-4 turning right and a nice looking hole but as a challenge against par, not that tough really. The club will complete 120 years of history in 2013 and there are many tales to be told, plenty in their centenary book, “The Sacred Nine” – which is a good read. The club has to be respected and connections to nearby Cambridge University remain strong but if I am reviewing just the course, then I am very disappointed. Also in a direct comparison with the 9 holer at Reigate Heath in Surrey, Worlington is a long way behind in my opinion.
The best 9 hole course in the world? That is some claim. I am the boy who likes to write his reviews sunny side up, a boy with a half full golfing glass But even I can’t agree with that hyperbole. Sure, it is nice in places, and it has the best greens that I have putted on all year, but if we are talking about 9 hole classics Worlington is not a patch, in my opinion, on Traigh or Cruit Island (thanks Jim for stealing my thunder). What is undeniable is that the place has a class and quaintness all of its own, a course that marches to the beat of its own drummer and I loved that.. I am not one of those reviewers who were disappointed by the fare on show as after reading James Finegan’s piece on Worlington in his book, All Courses Great and Small, the course turned out exactly as I expected, with the celebrated and devilish 5th the star of the show. I cant gush about RW+N but I would like to thank it for providing a relaxed environment, in first class surroundings with extremely polite and courteous members and staff who welcomed us with open arms , and this is why I would recommend it as a perfect venue for a corporate day out.. So although I can’t subscribe to it being the best 9 hole course in the world I can show my appreciation, that I was allowed to be a member for a day, and for that, I am very grateful. MPPJ
The 9-holer at Mildenhall is a personal favourite of architect Tom Doak (whose rare “Confidential Guide” book was sitting in the bookcase across from the serving hatch in the clubhouse) but, for me, the course offered no more than a fairly routine game of parkland golf – except, that is, for the greens. The putting surfaces were absolutely fantastic; as good as any you could expect to find anywhere. I know greenkeeper Bob Gee – with 49 years of service – is no longer at the club but his legacy lives on with the new man in command, Jonathan Kitchin, and he, assisted by Master Greenkeeper consultant Gordon Irvine, prepares greens that are an absolute joy to putt on. The upturned saucer on the 2nd and the 3-tiered example on the 5th were particular stunners but great greens (or even, dare I say it, the design talents of Harry Colt) don’t guarantee a great course, and RW&N can only be classed as rather average in that regard. Then again, I get the feeling the course is actually secondary to what really matters here; it’s more about the cosy wee clubhouse and the friendship and fraternity of the members that use it. Nothing wrong with that, of course and I’m sure the people who front up here regularly don’t give a damn whether they’re playing a highly regarded course or not (even if a recent framed golf magazine certificate with the course ranked 99 in GB&I was on display in the changing rooms). Mildenhall didn’t exactly get my pulse racing the same way that other 9-holers like Traigh in Scotland or Cruit Island in Ireland have done in the past but maybe the more sedate setting of this English gem (compared to the wild, rugged beauty surrounding its Celtic cousins) played a part in dulling my level of appreciation? Jim McCann
"The best nine-hole course in the world", if this is repeated endlessly does it become fact ? Has anyone seen a list of the other contenders for this position ? Any number of the top ranked comparable courses have superior nine-hole stretches. An average course elevated in the rankings due to sentimentality and history. In reality not top 200.
A bit short and yes the condition is not first class as this a small club with limited resources. But that isnt the point - this is an old world club and it is meant to be scruffy
The reason it is rated is that it has possibly the most magnificently designed greens in the UK - and it does. The fairways are fun, but it is the approach shots into these greens that makes this one of the best courses on the planet - if you do not have a great iron game and the imagination to use it, then dont come here.
This course is rated as the best 9 hole in the world. That happend long before this web site was built or magazines became popular. If you go to this course you have to go with a very very open mind .......... it is an inland links, it is little more than a field (a small one at that) with some very very well designed old fashioned holes.
The reason why it is so highly rated is that it is such an amazing collection of golf holes in a field. Only the 1st disapoints IF you value old fashioned links ..... just expect little ...... understand tradition and you will understand why this is rated so highly ... 2nd, 3rd, 4th .... oh the 5th ... 6th and 8th are all great great holes.
Just remember to step back (if you like that sort of thing) a hundred years when you play it.
You have to get the point of this place. The design of many of the holes are magical for such small course/field. Just the par three's alone make it magical
The course has some interesting holes and was in fairly good condition. I was blessed with beautiful weather on my visit and the round was enjoyable.
But - it did not in anyway meet the expectation I had having read many of the rave reviews the course receives. I was left bemused at how it rates as highly as it does - the only rationale I can think of is the course's age and the "Royal" in the title.
This is nothing more than a good, solid course (and 9 holes at that) which is over-priced (and I don't mind paying high fees normally) and with a membership base stuck in a time-warp.
I have played many of the Top 100 courses and I think this probably least deserves the recognition. Take the "Royal" away, transfer the course to Scotland or Ireland and I would be very surprised if it was even mentioned in these reviews.
This course is subtle. It is an inland links of the traditional kind. It ignores the world of manicured fairways and pristine bunkers. Only the greens are perfect. It has not changed since the day it was built some 110 years ago.
All that is it's charm and it's strength. I have played it many times and it still ranks as one of my favorite places to play. From the quirky little club house to the immensely tough second and the drivable 9th it is an amazing little gem squeezed into a tiny plot of land.
If you want to play golf from a hundred years ago and appreciate historical quirkiness rather than granduer then I recommend you play this course.
It's sad to see such a traditional and genuinely honest course receive such as the previous comments. I've played this course on many occasions and it may not be the most manicured, it's definately not the longest and it's certainly not the best, but it is a great nine-holer. Try playing to handicap here - that's a real test. Combine a morning's golf at nearby Gog Magog (Old course) with an afternoon at Worlington...top stuff.
Really disappointing. Having heard fantastic reviews and received a very warm welcome we found the course to be in poor condition and lacking the attributes one would expect from a top 100 course, evidenced by the fact that we only played 9 holes. The 5th is the best hole by far on the course but the rest, unfortunately, didn't impress.