QUEENWOOD - 16 POINTS
Of all the different courses I've rated this has to be the hardest to score. The experience was just unforgettable. The condition of the course was magnificent, the hospitality the thing of dream. However, technically the course was good but not great and I just can't put it up there with the other English 17, 18 and 19s. But boy, if you ever get the chance to play there you should drop everything and go.
The course opened in 2001 as a high-end, members only course. There are few others like it in the UK - maybe only The Wisley and Loch Lomond. You can only play with a member and there are only a few hundred of those - the joining fee is said to be several hundred thousand pounds. The area around is famous for some of the greats of English golf - Sunningdale, Wentworth, Walton Heath, St Georges Hill and it takes quite something to take them on.
In some ways Queenwood has absolutely succeeded. The service is the best I have seen anywhere. The staff greet you in a very friendly way, not feeling of being intimidated by staff looking down at you as you are not an A-lister. Clubs are whisked away and the next time you will see them is when your caddie is inspecting them next to the driving range. The clubhouse is opulent without being oppressive and it really feels like it is a place where people come to enjoy their golf - not just look the part.
The range was amazing. The only other person there when we were on a Wednesday morning was Andriy Schevchenko who was launching them away. There were piles of prov1s awaiting us, as well as our caddies alongside.
Now, a word on caddies. Truth be told, I really am not a huge fan. I find that often they try to help too much and that only puts me under more pressure which is usually the last thing I need - my game can be a little fragile at times you see! These were great. In our fourball, two of them had been on the European Tour full time before so they had seen it all, including many pro-ams with dodgy swings. The yardages were great but it was on the greens that they came into their own.
To the course. The thing to call out above all else is the conditioning. The tees and fairways were immaculate but oh, the greens! They were the as good as anything I had ever played on. They have been put in to USGA standards as many tour pros are members here. Now, I've heard about 'USGA standard tour greens' before. They have those at the PGA Course is Gleneagles and they are nothing to write home about. Here though is simply a different class. They were running about 10 on the stimp on a cold April day and were just incredibly true. On a couple of holes I had downhill, downwind putts and they were just breathtaking to play on - Augusta-like I was told by someone who had played in the Masters there more times than once. The caddies really helped massively on the greens - probably worth half a dozen shots to me overall.
So, there it is. An amazing place, in great condition, with fantastic service. However, the course is perfectly nice but it's not a great. It has a bit of everything - while it's predominantly heathland in nature with well bunkered greens there is water in play too on several holes. Intelligently placed but it feels a bit weird given the area around. This is definitely a second shot course. Off the tee it is fairly wide open and I don't think I lost a ball all round but the second shot is where you have to really think. Listen to the caddies on a line to go for and you will enjoy it all the more. The layout is really enjoyable and there's nothing brutal about it at all - as a member's course you won't do better.
Thank-you Queenwood. I'm not sure I will ever get to return but it was an amazing experience.
BOOKING THE COURSE
It's not one you can call up and get a tee time I'm afraid. Play is only with a member and there are no exceptions. If you are absolutely determined to get a round there then one tip I would have is to set an google alerts for 'Queenwood Golf Charity Auction' as you will see that sometimes members auction off a round for a charity. You will play with the member who auctioned the item but that could be interesting in itself!
A hard one given the difficulty of getting on. I stayed in the Premier Inn in Woking (not many people playing at Queenwood say that I bet!) which is under an hour from central London on the train and it was a short taxi to the course. You could very happily do it in and out of London for the day without any problems.
If however you do get a tee time and want to add some other courses to a trip I would say that St George's Hill and the Sunningdale Old and New would make for a pretty tasty trip.
Phone: +44 (0) 1932 454500