I hope you enjoy reading through my “Pros Tips” which will help you negotiate your way around the picturesque and delightful Highcliffe Castle Golf Club.
You may play plenty of golf courses that are longer and more undulating but I’m confident you won’t find anywhere that will put a smile on your face like playing a round at HCGC will. You’ll play golf in comfortably under 3 hours whilst enjoying a warm and friendly environment where you can relax and take in the idyllic surroundings of Steamer Point Nature Reserve that runs adjacent to the course that I describe as.....
“A Little Gem”
Voted Dorset’s Friendliest Golf Club by Fire Radio 2020
Below is a quote by the late Professional, Commentator and Golfing Legend Peter Alliss, who after playing at Highcliffe Castle in the annual PGA Bournemouth Alliance meeting once said....
“The remarkable thing about Highcliffe Castle Golf Club is the fact that it covers less than 50 acres, but for all its small acreage, the course had a great deal charm and you needed to have quite a bit of skill to get round in a decent score. If you didn’t happen to be straight, trying to get close to the flags from the sides of those very small greens was not so easy!”
“I always think of these occasions with great deal of happiness. All the members had a smile on their face, so pleased and proud to be members of such an intimate club, surrounded as they were by “big brothers” who could blow loud trumpets but were unable to play with more harmony than those who played at Highcliffe.”
This gentle short Par 4 at 309 yards off the white tee will offer an opening birdie chance if the player is accurate with his/her wedge play. With large pine trees flanking both sides of the hole, an errant tee will be severely punished. The tee shot should be played to a maximum of 220 yards to lay up short of the deep fairway bunker nestled in the middle of the fairway. This will leave a straight forward 2nd shot from approx 100 yards or so to the fairly flat green. The longer hitters, if feeling brave may take this on bunker with the tee shot, however you better be very accurate otherwise one of the 4 bunkers perfectly positioned around the greenside area will gobble up your ball leaving a very tricky approach shot to the small green.
The first of Highcliffe Castle’s unique and demanding eight Par 3’s. This tough hole measures 167 yards from the white tee and is normally played into the south westerly prevailing wind which can add between one to three extra clubs depending on the wind strength and pin position. A ditch which meanders across the hole will catch the attention of the shorter hitter that’s for sure at approx 100 yards from the tee. The green itself was re modelled in the 1980’s to its design today. A large green of more than 30 yards from front to back is one of the biggest on the course. It has a large tier running through it which makes selecting the right club here crucial especially when the flag is on the top tier. The green is slightly raised so a miss either side will leave you a very tricky chip / pitch, but miss the green right at your peril as the OOB and woodland is in play. The two greenside bunkers will catch an errant tee shot. A par here for any golfer is no mean feat.
The longest hole on the entire course measuring 427 yards, and is Stroke Index 1. It’s a bruiser of a Par 4. The tee shot is played towards and over a mature oak tree which poses an intimidating target for most as the golfers look towards the fairway. Only the power hitters will take this tree on with their drive. Most golfers will try to navigate either left or right of it and play the hole as a par 5. The right side of the fairway is protected by a copse of very large pines which will block any view or shot to the green and a grassy hollow awaits an errant tee shot played down the left, which will leave a very awkward stance and lie for the second shot. A 5 on this hole is never a bad score.
A demanding Par 4 standing at 367 yards, it’s played into the prevailing wind which can play havoc with any sliced tee shot for the right handed golfers. The large copse of tall firs down the right side will feel like a magnet for you slicers as the ball often clatters into one of these established pine trees, leaving just a simple chip back out into the fairway. The second shot is played slightly downhill to a narrow green which slopes gently from the players right to left, it’s protected by two greenside bunkers positioned at the front of the green either side awaiting a wayward second shot. The green itself has some very subtle undulations leaving doubt in the players mind as to pick the correct line and speed. When the pin is positioned near either of the two greenside bunkers be sure to be accurate with your approach shot.
A good Par 4, the 5th measuring 345 Yards from the back tee will be played with a long iron or fairway wood to lay up short and left of the fairway bunker on the right side located at around 200 yards off the tee, which will leave a short pitch to set up a good birdie chance to a green which slopes from left to right. However with the nature of the long teeing area, if the tee is moved up and the south westerly is blowing, this could tempt some longer hitters the opportunity to get the big stick out and give the shoulders a full turn in the hope of reaching the putting surface although a straight drive is crucial as a slightly pulled tee shot for the right hander will find the established copse of tall firs blocking out any chance of being able to find the green in regulation and a pushed tee shot could end up in the fairway bunker or mounds that guard the right side of the fairway leaving a very awkward stance. The players will also notice a very tall tree approximately 60 yards short of the green which will play havoc with any tee shot pushed off to the right. A bunker positioned short right of the green protects any loose long drive or second shot and tall pines protect the left side of the green when the flag is tucked in this quarter. This green generally slopes from left to right with one or two really tricky pin positions so an accurate approach is crucial to set up a birdie chance.
A drivable Par 4 for some in length at 283 yards on paper, it appears a great birdie chance, however there are hidden dangers as you play this hole with a ditch running directly in front of the green and trees encroaching down the left side of the hole with the further you hit, the more they come into play and mounding all down the right side leaving a very awkward lie for the second shot with a fairway bunker tucked into the bank at 60 yards away from the green with a holly tree also guarding the right side of the fairway, so an accurate tee shot is needed here with a club that takes the ball around approx 200 yards. Be aware in the summer months and when the ball is running fast, that the fairway slopes away from the player towards the ditch so this tee shot must be controlled and lay back far enough to find a flat lie to be able to attack the pin if located on the lower tier. The short pitch short which will may be played off a downhill slope to a very long and an extremely narrow two tier green measuring over 40 yards in length but is only 12 yards in width and guarded by two small greenside bunkers either side. The pin position is crucial on this hole as when it’s positioned on the lower level the ditch which runs across the very front of the green will be very much in the players mind and in play so the approach shot needs to be played with accuracy and precision to set up a good birdie chance. This green has some lovely contours running through it, so short putts are often seen missed on this sloping green.
The 7th hole starts a run of three very interesting and demanding Par 3’s. Your tee shot is played directly towards the “old” castle itself, with only a very well struck mid to long iron or hybrid will be good enough to find this large two-tier green which is guarded by natural mounds and 4 well positioned bunkers all ready to catch an imperfect tee shot. Once on the green you’ll be faced with some very subtle undulations. A par here is no mean feat.
Arguably the hardest hole at Highcliffe Castle and the longest par 3 measuring 245 yards off the white tee. It’s played with the prevailing wind coming in from the left. The ideal line off the tee is aimed towards the large oak tree in the distance behind the green near the clubhouse. A large grassy hollow has to be negotiated off of the tee for the shorter hitters with the sensible and prudent way of playing this demanding hole is to play it as a short Par 4 with only the very aggressive long hitting golfers that are brave enough in choosing to go for the small target with their tee shot. Many a good score has been thwarted playing this hole. The target is surrounded by two large bunkers which sit short left and right of the green. With OOB lurking only feet from the right edge of the green for those thinking of going for the green with their tee shots, this will surely be in their thoughts. Once on the green, the green itself is fairly flat so a Par can be achieved although most will be very happy to walk off with a 4.
This is the shortest of these three consecutive Par 3’s and is positioned directly in front of the clubhouse and proshop, where it feels like many pairs of eyes are burning onto the back of the player when they take centre stage and step up to play their mid to short iron towards this two tier green. OOB lurks to the right for any right handed player who may have the J Arthurs so care must be taken here. Consider taking one more club than you think especially when the pin is on the top tier. With the prevailing wind coming into you and slightly from the left, is hard to judge with a large group of pines directly behind the back of the green causing the wind to swirl around the greenside area so a shot played in low and controlled into the wind here would be beneficial and will help find the green in regulation. Most will come up short here, leaving a tricky chip. Whilst miss left or right at your peril as this will normally lead to a bogey 4 and a really tricky up and down to save your par. When the pin is located at the bottom of the tier beware of going long onto the top level as this will leave you a devilishly tricky downhill putt.
You start the back nine with a strong Par 4 which on paper looks a birdie chance measuring only 318 yards, however accuracy here is at a premium as the tee shot is played through a small opening between the trees left and right of the fairway. It requires precision as it’s the tightest tee shot faced so far. A miss left will end up in trouble and possibly a lost ball or a chip back out on to the fairway at best as you’ll be totally blocked out by the large fir trees which line the left edge of the fairway. Miss right and you’ll have to negotiate the large firs that border the 10th and 13th fairways. The green is heavily protected by both fairway and greenside bunkers. Find one of the fairway bunkers which sit approximately 50 yards short of the green and you’re faced with the hardest shot in golf...that 50 yard bunker shot, not for the faint hearted...This can lead to a bogey or even worse. A straight true tee shot will leave you a straight forward second shot to one of the flattest greens on the course. A birdie chance awaits if accurate.
A testing Par 3 at 142 yards with a large bunker which sits across the whole fairway which foreshortens the hole. There is plenty of room behind the trap to land your ball and run it onto the narrow green but the tee shot must be straight as waiting either side are two small bunkers which will test even the best to be able to get up and down from. A wayward tee shot with missing the green on either side of these two bunkers coupled with Highcliffe’s legendary small mounding around the greenside area will leave you an almost impossible task of getting up and down for your par.
This very demanding Par 3 set at 242 yards is a fantastic golf hole and the envy of many other local clubs. The tee shot is played between two large groups of firs which sit 50 yards in front of the player. Many a good hit has found wood here leaving a 2nd shot of 200 yards or so to a green entrance that’s less than ten yards wide. Two deep bunkers are neatly positioned left and right at the green so miss the green pin high on either side will leave the player another really tough task of even finding the putting surface let alone a chance to save par. The green sits up like an up turned saucer which in the summer is a very intimidating target indeed. A par here feels like a birdie and at least one shot or more gained on the field
Following from the very demanding 12th comes arguably the tightest tee shot on the entire course. With the championship tee set back near the trees, you’ll look down the fairway to find a bunker left and right at approximately 220 yards off the tee with a gap of around 15 yards between to find the fairway. Either side of these, you’ll face groups of established fir trees awaiting a loose tee shot. The green is long but very narrow and will prove very difficult to find even from the middle of the fairway. Care must be taken when the pin is positioned at the back as the nearby firs that lurk at the back and more trees and scrubs will gobble up any ball going long or left of the green. A par here is a very welcome score.
324 yards Par 4. This hole on paper gives the long hitters a chance to open the shoulders up try to reach or get close to the green with a true straight hit of 300+ yards although any slight left to right spin imparted on the ball and the trees which hug the right edge of the fairway coupled with a slight camber also going this way, the ball can easily find trouble. Most will bail out left here and guard against and play away from the OOB which runs down the length of the hole on the right. A couple of strategically placed fairway bunkers lye await of a slightly off line tee shot. So take care to select a club that your confident with when laying up into the fairway. The green itself slopes gently from left to right and care is needed when the pin is positioned on the right side of the green. 3 putts are extremely common on this hole.
Another demanding Par 3 played slightly uphill to a green that you can’t quite see and into the prevailing wind. Take one more club than you think as many will come up short on this 182 yard hole. The camber falls from left to right so play your tee shot just left of the pin and let the contour do the rest. A bunker sits short right which makes for an awkward shot and over this right of the green sees some thick dense rough which will test the elite players control out of. A par here is always welcome.
Risk and reward at 292 yards, this is a great match play hole which faces the player. It’s completely straight and drivable for the long hitter although will you take the risk? With OOB lurking down the entire right edge of the hole and literally feet from the right edge of the green and dense undergrowth down the left side so only a straight tee shot will set up a Birdie or possible Eagle chance. The prudent play is to lay up with an iron to your chosen yardage which will need to negotiate two fairway bunkers which sit left and right. This will leave you a short pitch shot played to a green which slopes left to right and towards the OOB. With the pin positioned on the right, care must taken to keep the ball left of this tempting pin. A deep greenside bunker awaits left of the green for any shot pulled guarding against going OOB. A definite birdie chance here if you have what it takes.
A signature hole of Highcliffe Castle measuring only 119 Yards, is the shortest on the course but looks can be deceiving and club selection here is paramount. The tee shot requires accuracy to the highest degree as played over a copse of gorse, a cavernous greenside bunker short of the green towards one of the smallest greens you’ll ever see. This unique bowl–like green measures only 18 yards from front to back and 15 yards wide. It has a moat like grassy mound and hollow circling the entire green, so choosing the right club here is crucial as the wind can play havoc with the mind when selecting the club for this crucial shot. Many a time the golfer will look bewildered here as their tee shots don’t find the target. Hit this green and it will undoubtedly set up a much deserved birdie try, but a miss on any side and an almost certain bogey cannot even be guaranteed. A truly fantastic Par 3 which you’ll look forward to playing again and again.
The home hole at just under 350 yards it demands both accuracy and length if you’re going to finish with a par 4. Another tee shot which requires precision to find the narrow fairway between two sets of trees flanking both sides of the fairway. Any sliced tee shot will find deep trouble and a shot pulled left will almost certainly lead to a dropped shot with a chip back out onto the fairway. There are two large deep faced fairway bunkers at approximately 250 yards out from the tee on either side which lay in wait of any shot other than a perfectly positioned straight one with a gap of a mere 15 yards between them will test any nerves that may be gangling on this last hole. Take dead aim at the clubs flag pole for both you tee shot and second which must negotiate two further greenside bunkers and mounding all around both sides and back of the green including the Captains charity bunker which guards the right side of the green. It’s not unheard of that a second shot can even go OOB over the green so care must be taken when selecting the club for this the closing hole. Two straight hits on this hole could set up an outside birdie chance but realistically a par 4 here will be greatly received to end a memorable round.