High class parkland golf can often be hard to come by but at Wildernesse we find a prime example of a mature, manicured and well-presented golf course.
Immaculately conditioned this beautiful parkland/woodland layout is not overly long by modern standards (6,539 yards, par 72) but requires absolute accuracy both from the tee - in order to find the heavily tree-lined fairways - and also when playing into the fairly small yet sloping greens.
Wildernesse, founded in 1890, is a real test of your iron-play and putting - precision is very much the order of the day. It's no surprise the course has hosted many notable competitions including Regional Qualifying for The Open and just prior to my visit it had staged the Kent Amateur Championship. It's unknown who the original architect was but James Braid made some changes and had an influence in the 1920's.
There is very little repetition which I often tend to find on similar style courses and therefore it has a nice flow.
Give me a rugged, wind-swept links any day of the week but of its ilk Wildernesse is what many parkland venues should aspire to be.
The course gets off to a fine start with the modest opener being a perfect getaway hole although one shouldn't underestimate the two-tiered green when playing to a back pin. An approach from the left is favoured at the second as it is at the third which has an excellent green setting raised up to the right.
The fifth is a drop-dead gorgeous par three (added by Braid) played to a brilliant green complex with a sharp drop to the left.
And so the round continues with one good hole followed by another. The two sub-340-yard par fours at 7 and 8 work well together with both having excellent greens for this length of hole.
At the conclusion of the front nine we must cross a road to play four holes on the opposite side. Here we face a pair of short holes sandwiching two par-fives. This section of the course does break the momentum a little but Wildernesse continues in the same vein of requiring accurate play although the two long holes do offer the opportunity to be a bit braver with your drives.
The closing stretch also contains some interesting golf and culminates with a sharp dog-leg hole which plays towards the inviting clubhouse in a fashion not dissimilar to Sunningdale.
It was pleasing to see lots of tight, short grass around the greens giving the golfer many options on how to play recovery shots from the surrounds, many of which have some considerable run-offs.
The bunkering is also very easy on the eye with sharp, clean edges which again add to the high quality feel of the property.
A visit to Wilderness, which is a very member-orientated club, wouldn't be complete without a drink on the patio which overlooks the 18th green and has a glorious long view back up the fairway.
I visited as part of the National Club Golfer Top 100 Golf Courses in England. The ranking was last done in 2017 when Wildernesse was ranked 94 and I don't see any reason why it should not be knocking on the door once again in 2021.