It is a traditional club steeped in history but also provides a fair test of golf and recent work to the bunkering at this West Yorkshire course has given it a pleasing facelift.
The front nine at Woodsome Hall is the pick of the two halves. Not only is it played through the most picturesque part of the course but it also serves up the best holes. It's a tough start though with pars your friend at the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 8th.
The drive at the first can be intimidating because it is right in front of the imposing 16th century Grade 1 listed clubhouse and adjacent to the putting green where everybody will pause (and watch) whilst you hit your opening tee shot. I'm seen many golfers fluff their lines on this opening handshake with the course.
The second is a tough uphill par four and is followed by the best par three on the course where a long iron is usually required to find a small circular green, with a subtle ledge running through it, and bunkers lying in wait on either side for anything short. Recent tree clearance has enhanced this hole significantly.
The fourth is also a very fine hole which has an angled green sitting perilously close to a charming stone wall that if breached is out of bounds; here you must try and work your ball in from the right and a lateral miss on either side is likely to lead to a bogey.
Holes five, six and seven place a premium on accuracy rather than length and are perhaps the best chances to steal a birdie on the front side. The fifth is played to a raised green whilst a stream must be avoided at the next and the short seventh is all about distance control. The beautiful building and garden you will spot behind the seventh green is a dormy house to accommodate visitors wishing to stay in the splendid grounds.
Meanwhile the eighth is an excellent, albeit daunting, hole. The main reason it is so good is that it sits right on the edge of par. At 474 yards it plays as a long par four but the incline up to the green and the camber of the fairway, which takes your ball away from the ultimate target, in reality make this hole a par five for most golfers. Add in out-of-bounds to the right, two water hazards to hurdle and a taxing double-tiered green and this ranks as one of the toughest holes I've played.
If the almost inevitable dropped shot comes at the eighth then, like many good courses, the opportunity to recover is immediate. The par five ninth isn't without its dangers but it is reachable in two for longer hitters and offers the chance of redemption although the long, narrow and sloping green keeps you honest until the end plus a small brook (now quite a large pond as of Spring 2020) could spell disaster for those who risk going for it in two but don't quite make it.
The back nine at Woodsome Hall doesn't quite keep the momentum going and is probably the main reason this course doesn't have more notoriety although there is still plenty of good golf to come.
The 10th is a flat par three surrounded by mature trees and so is the final short hole on the course which comes at the uphill 13th; both play to a similar yardage. The two holes in-between are both short-ish par fours where the result of your approaches isn't always evident until you walk on to the greens. The 14th is an uphill par four, improved much with the new bunkering, and where straight hitting is required.
There's nothing wrong with this run of holes from 10 through to 14, which take you to the highest point on the course, but they lack the sparkle of their preceding counterparts and the climb from the 12th tee to the 14th green is a tough one.
One thing for sure at Woodsome is that everything is set up for a dramatic finish over the closing stretch. The 15th is a potentially driveable par four but where bogeys can easily be made from just 20 yards short of the green, quite often the case of being 'too close'. The par five 16th is an odd hole which has a 90 degree dog-leg and means those cutting the corner successfully can reach with a short to mid-iron. A new tee has lengthened the downhill 17th but with a tail wind and firm conditions it's possible to leave yourself only a short chip and run second shot to a basin green and an approach which has a wicked slope from left to right. The final hole is not long at around 350 yards but with out of bounds, multiple bunkers and trees it's a tricky conclusion to a very enjoyable course.
Woodsome Hall is at its best on a glorious summer's day when all the flora is in full bloom and the course is playing lush but firm.
The greens are just about perfect; there is good variety amongst the many breaks and swales where leaving yourself above the hole can result in a daunting putt. There is a good mix of holes too with several birdie chances along with a handful of more challenging holes.
It's also worth noting the excellent practice facilities available including an indoor centre above the pro-shop.
It's a long time since I've walked off a golf course and been as impressed and surprised, compared to what I was expecting, than at Newbiggin.
A family holiday brought me to Whitby Golf Club. After stuffing myself with fish & chips, losing most of my money on the penny slots and catching umpteen crabs in the harbour it was time for a round of golf!
Planning a round of golf in late October can be a dicey affair, especially in my home county of Yorkshire where the vast majority of courses are built on heavy soil or clay, so it was very refreshing to discover when venturing down south how well East Berkshire played at this time of year.