Gog Magog Wandlebury Course Feature Review
Review by Golfshake Ambassador Rob Treanor (13 Handicap). Images by Kevin Diss.
The Gog Magog Golf Club has achieved “Highly Recommended” status, as reviewed by independent Golfshake members. Having upgraded many features across the two 18-hole courses in consultation with designer Hawtree & Sons, Golfshake dispatched Ambassador Rob Treanor to assess how the “links on the hills” has evolved.
Gog Magog is a 36-hole championship standard venue sited just outside Cambridge City Centre. The dramatic chalkland hills make this a unique location, offering two very different 18-hole courses to experience. The club has been an Open Qualifying venue and plays host to a cohort of elite amateur events, including the annual Lagonda Trophy. The hilltop location and free draining, chalky terrain mean the courses are open throughout the year, offering an often windy, inland links test. Given the influence of notable Scottish architects when the club first opened in 1901, it plays not unlike the courses where golf was first invented.
Whilst the club and the original Old Course speak to the more traditional roots of the game, the introduction of the Wandlebury Course in 1999 offers a more contemporary challenge. At 6,735 yards, the par 72 Wandlebury features USGA specification greens and is longer and more modern in design than its older brother.
The fact that the Wandlebury is used as an Open Qualifying course speaks volumes about the quality of the design and the challenge it presents. To prepare for the test the club has outstanding warm up facilities; including an enormous driving range where play is from grass for three seasons of the year. There is also a comprehensive short game area with a variety of bunkers and plenty of space for chipping, plus each course has its own putting green.
Front 9 Overview
A generous opening par five takes golfers on an uphill climb to the summit of the terrain, after which a very appealing par four awaits. Whilst the second hole is easy on the eye and straightforward on the card, the fairway bunkers are well placed to collect drives which deviate from the straight and narrow. The fairway begins flat, though develops a progressive slope as progress is made to the green, whilst the surrounding trees also tighten to the border of the hole. Whilst it is stunning to look at, underestimate this hole at your peril!
The 4th is a magnificent par five which has commanding views over the surrounding Cambridgeshire countryside from the elevated tee. This hole very much welcomes the opening of the shoulders and there is even more room to the right than. Longer hitters will be able to attempt reaching the green in two, whilst most mere mortals will need to play down into the valley before hitting uphill to the elevated green. This is a thrilling and exhilarating hole to play; if the scenery hasn’t taken your breath away then the ascent to the green will certainly do the trick!
The 6th is a medium length par four which has a semi-blind drive over a plateau to a fairway, which winds gently to the right and downhill. A strong drive with a gentle fade will carry the plateau and benefit from a generous bounce forward. A short iron will then be enough to get to the long, thin green, though the slope of the fairway makes the stance a little tricky and adds a further dimension of challenge.
An element of golf is about escapism and being outside in beautiful places. In the Eastern corner of the estate we saw various types of deer, birds of prey and even a stoat. This supports the view that golf courses are excellent conservation areas which encourage and preserve our natural wildlife. Gog Magog has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and, with the natural beauty on offer, it is easy to see why. All this makes for a calming and relaxing experience out on the course.
Back 9 Overview
If you enjoy crushing balls as far into the distance as you can, then you will love the tee shot on the 10th! Played from upon high to a fairway which runs sharply downhill, the spectacular views are possibly the best on the course. If you get this shot right, then you will have watched your ball sail over the fairway bunkers and hopefully receive a generous bounce forward. Just a short iron will be required to reach the elevated green, though the thinking golfer will have checked the flag position from the tee to assess whether to play from the left or the right-hand side of the fairway on the approach.
After a long iron or hybrid from the tee on the 11th to reach the dog leg, the downhill approach shot is beautiful. The angle is slightly better from the right-hand side of the fairway to the green which waits invitingly; framed by the trees and landscape behind. This is a lovely hole, though it is fiercely guarded by bunkers throughout.
There is a real mixture of par threes, of which the toughest on the card is the 16th. At 187 yards from the white tees, it isn’t the longest on the course, but it is well defended and intimidating from the tee. The city of Cambridge can be seen in the distance as you watch your ball make the journey towards the pin, hopeful it will carry the sand traps to the front and hold the green, making for an easier putt.
The 18th can appear a frightful challenge when encountered for the first time. Stretching 464 yards from the white tees, it is daunting to discover it is actually a par four and not a par five! A good tee shot played downhill will benefit from plenty of roll which makes the task more manageable. It is equally relieving to know that the large clubhouse (which has recently been refurbished and extended) is within touching distance, to either celebrate or recover from the almighty finishing test!
There is an excellent variety of holes here, with doglegs which wind both ways, short and long holes combined with elevation changes up and down. The scenery is picturesque and equally diverse with some holes framed beautifully by trees and others offering commanding views into the countryside towards the city of Cambridge and, on a clear day even as far as Ely cathedral! Some of the most appealing shots are a handful of very rewarding driving holes where the ball is played from height down to an inviting fairway or green below.
The course has been designed to a very high specification and benefits from its location on the elevated, chalk-based landscape which is unusual for East Anglia. The superb practice facilities and high-end clubhouse make this a top-quality venue which is extremely enjoyable to experience.
There is something really quite special about this course. It is beautiful, scenic and peaceful; not unlike the city of Cambridge itself. Whilst the Wandlebury course offers a strong test, it remains honest and fair, rewarding good play and providing escapism through its wonderful natural setting. There is an ancient Egyptian proverb which says “a beautiful thing is never perfect”, though the alchemy at Gog Magog may well challenge this.
• Make use of the excellent driving range to warm up your driver and three wood, as good tee shots are essential.
• The course is cleverly designed, so work backwards from the green and identify the ideal line of approach which eliminates some of the hazards.
• Make time to enjoy a post round drink on the sun terrace whilst watching others finish their rounds!
Overall Rating – 9
Course (Conditions) - 9
Course (Hole Variety/Layout) - 9
Course (Green Condition) - 9
Course (Challenge/Difficulty) - 9
Club Facilities & 19th/Clubhouse - 9
Practice Facilities - 9
Friendliness/Hospitality - 9
Pace of Play - 9
Value for Money - 9
Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography
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