More than just stunning views

Isle of Purbeck

Isle of Purbeck Golf Club

Date Reviewed
May 5, 2017
Reviewed by Ed Battye
The Isle of Purbeck is often noted for its glorious 360 degree panoramic vista over the nature reserve that its engaging holes have been thoughtfully etched through. The views are indeed superb yet the course is every bit their match.

The course is unquestionably of its own character, it cannot easily be stereotyped into “links”, “heathland”, “parkland” etc… as we often like to do. This is its ace card.

Founded in 1892 it is such a natural layout and plays across the topography beautifully. The terrain, in the heart of Enid Blyton country, is ideal for golf; naturally undulating, fast, firm and exposed to the wind. At times it plays like a links with the ground game the preferred way to approach many of the greens. Other times you should use the lofted route as you play to raised greens or have to carry greenside bunkers. Many times the choice is yours. The key to all this is that there are options and you must work the ball, often thinking outside the box.

The routing is beautiful and takes us on adventure around what can only be described as a wondrous property; sand, heather, gorse and bracken abound with the sea visible from virtually all parts. Wherever you look the landscape appears to be painted with every colour of the rainbow.

The first three holes are an innocuous, but at the same time pleasing, start to the round traversing sloping ground. This trio of par-fours all offer something slightly different and allow us to get warmed up for the meat of the round.

The skyline green at the fourth raises our senses and is the first of a dazzling set of short holes. The sandy ninth is pretty as a picture but devilishly tricky in a cross wind whilst the brilliant 11th requires bravery, ability and a probably dose of good fortune. The one thing you must do here is avoid the gathering crater bunker short and left, meanwhile, the mammoth green slopes away from play and is incredibly difficult to hit and hold. The final short hole comes at the 15th and this 187-yarder has an excellent green complex with subtle undulations delving this way and that.

Back to the fifth and this is a true all-world hole. Whatever words I write in this paragraph will not do justice to how sensational this 404-yard par four is. The view from the high tee, located on top of an ancient burial ground, is to die for but the hole plays so good too with the drive towards a partially hidden, cascading fairway simply thrilling but then you must figure out a way of how to approach a green that appears to be set out on a peninsula surrounded by heathery-clad bunkers and the sea! In their Centenary Book The Club describe it as an “exciting hole of ravishing beauty”. I think I’ll just go along with that.

Whatever hole were to follow would never be able to compare and this is true but the par-five sixth is still a fantastic hole as it climbs and swings back up through a valley flanked with swathes of heather and which culminates in a brilliant raised green complex.

There is only one other three-shotter at the Isle of Purbeck and this comes quickly afterwards at the eighth and is another slinging hole with an air of grandeur and scale to it; width and spaciousness but danger lurking on both sides.

As for the remaining par fours there is huge variety yet a cohesion which ties the course together. There are copious amounts of heather and gorse acting as a backdrop to the 10th and links lovers will enjoy the semi-blind drive at the 12th where there is just a marker post to guide you.

The course limps a little bit over the line with the 17th and 18th – both shortish two-shotters played to raised greens - but that doesn’t take much away from a sensationally distinctive golf course.

The wind element means that the par 70, 6,295 yard layout can play to just about any number.

The bunkering is a bit hit and miss both in style and placement (it’s not a course that needs many bunkers in truth) but with the club now under relatively new ownership hopefully this is something that will be addressed sooner rather than later whilst I know they are working hard to improve the quality of the putting surfaces which I’m told have been poor over recent years (they were actually “ok” on my visit in May 2017).

Isle of Purbeck is far from perfect, has its flaws (although the site has enourmous potential) and not everything is rosy. That said, I can forgive it its weaknesses because there are so many high points and the ‘joy to be alive’ factor is unbelievably high when playing here.

The Dorset heathlands are lovely, pretty and conditioned better but if I had just one round in the County I would perhaps choose here.

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