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Liphook

Yardage
6301
Par
70
SSS
70
Built
1922
Architect(s)
Arthur Croome, Tom Simpson, john Morrison,
Nature:
An historically important heathland, Tom Simpson designed course with heather and running fairways.
Location/Address:
Off the B2070 from Liphook A3 Jnt. GU30 7EH
http://www.liphookgolfclub.com/home
Secretary
John Douglass
Telephone
01428 723271
Professional
Ian Mowbray
Green Keeper
David Murdoch
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liphook golf club, tom simpson, poa annua, finegolf, finest courses,
liphook golf club, tom simpson, poa annua, finegolf, finest courses,
liphook golf club, tom simpson, poa annua, finegolf, finest courses,
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Access Policy:
visitors welcome
Dog Policy:
Well-behaved dogs welcomed
Open Meetings:
Pearson Trophy - July
Fees in 1960s
50p
Fees today
£67 - 2015

Review

Liphook has played an important historic role in inland golf course design, attracting leaders of the game to its membership that offers a dry, running, well-draining, sandy-soiled heathland paradise.

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Beautiful heather at Liphook

In recent years trees have encroached and the abundant heather has suffered but a successful heather regeneration programme is in progress. I am told that there have been ‘business’ pressures to speed up the greens and provide manicured, lush striped fairways, (there is also a new water irrigation system being considered), which has collectively influenced the club towards an agronomic policy of favouring annual meadow grass (Poa annua) greens. Cut low, these do indeed putt fast but as they require fertiliser, pesticides and lots of water inevitably become soft and receptive, particularly outside of the drier summer months.

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Croome/Simpson bunkers short of 6th green

I enormously enjoyed my recent round, played 48 years after my previous one, the first six holes being played with a recent captain.  He was to witness my low four iron into the sixth green which pitched and stopped dead towards the front of the green with the pin at the back.

I learnt my lesson and for the rest of the round fired my irons to pitch right up at the pins, achieving some enjoyable birdies that to be truthful flattered the quality of my game!

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Tom Simpson

With this in mind I am most pleased that one of Liphook’s members with an interest in Tom Simpson and his courses and writings, has penned for FineGolf some fascinating background information on Liphook and Tom Simpson and before giving my own comments, I give below his thoughts. It might be titled ‘The importance of firm greens to golf strategy’:-

 “The course at Liphook was designed by Arthur Croome and the first nine holes were opened in 1922. The full eighteen was opened the following year with an Exhibition featuring Arthur Croome, Roger Wethered, Cyril Tolley and Charles Ambrose. The 1st tee was originally located a short walk from the Wheatsheaf Public House – now known as the Links Tavern – but was relocated to its present location when the clubhouse was constructed after World War II.

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A 1930s photo

Aside from the minor alterations required by the relocation of the 1st tee, the routing has remained as originally laid out by Arthur Croome. Although he was in a business partnership with Herbert Fowler, Tom Simpson and J F Abercrombie for a time, Liphook is the only course attributed to him.

Tom Simpson (regarded as one of the most creative architects of the ‘Golden Era – 1900 to 1935 – Strategic School’ with Cruden Bay, New Zealand, Hayling, Ashridge, Chantilly, Ballybunion, Carnoustie-where he created Hogan’s Alley- Morfontaine, Royal Porthcawl, Muirfield and d’Hardelot among many of the courses across the world he influenced in addition to designing private courses for three Rothschilds) was one of the first members of the club, and it has been suggested that he moved his family to Liphook to be near the course.

He was deeply involved with the course for many years and served as Chairman of the Green Committee for a time. (He was succeeded by Phillip MacKenzie Ross.) It was during this time that he made various alterations to tees and greens, including constructing the mound short and left of the 9th green which at one time dominated play of the hole. (This mound is known as Simpson’s Folly.)

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Hump behind 10th green

He believed that full use should be made of the natural mounds so frequently found on heathland, but that where such mounding was not present it should be added, and he applied this principle liberally at Liphook, with the effect being, a “hiding” of the horizon on certain holes. Occasionally the mounds are bold, as at the tenth, eleventh and twelfth, but more often are subtle, like those at the back of the fourth. It is sometimes difficult to judge, when looking into one of these mounds, whether the approach shot should be pitched/run into a green that is slightly uphill or slightly downhill. When putting, the effect of an error, where the latter is the case, can be quite a long return putt!

Minor adjustments to the course were subsequently made by Ken Cotton and Donald Steel; and although further alterations have recently been made by the current Course Manager, David Murdock MG, it is still appropriate to refer to Liphook as a Croome / Simpson course. (M.S.J. Morrison designed the current 18th green, and revamped the current 1st green when the 1st tee was relocated.)

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John Low

The inspiration for the design of Liphook can be traced further back into the past to the highly influential though not generally well-known ‘Father of the inland Strategic School’ John Low, who gained his grounding in the fundamentals of the game at the Old Course at St. Andrews. He was one of the very first to write on the subject of Golf Architecture, and his thoughts in this area would have been well known to Arthur Croome from their conversations at meetings of the Oxford and Cambridge Golf Society. John Low was the first Captain and Arthur Croome the first Secretary of the Society. It is quite likely that the basic principles underlying the layout of Liphook came from this association and during discussions late into the night during the Society’s various “tours”.

Tom Simpson did not gain a Blue when he read Law at Cambridge and was elected as an honorary member of the Society much later, after having achieved prominence as a Golf Architect. After University he was a barrister for a time and became a member of the Bar Golf Society with many “home” matches being held at Woking where John Low and Stuart Paton were based and this provided the occasion for discussions on the subject of Golf Architecture.

It is not surprising that Simpson and Croome saw “eye to eye” on many issues concerning Golf Architecture and in particular concerning “strategy”.

There are two fundamentals of golf architecture that stand out in Tom Simpson’s writings and would have received much attention during the time when he influenced the design of Liphook. He expressed the first of these in the following:-

“It is important that the course should be a good course from the point of view of playing golf, but it is infinitely more important that it shall be satisfactory from the aesthetic point of view. Unfortunately work that is artistic costs much more than work that is necessary merely from the point of view of the game.”

He addressed the second principle when he stated that there should be a need for as much or more mental agility than physical effort, and this was to be achieved by designing a course that was

“strategic” rather than “penal”.

Tom Simpson defined strategy both in words and in his numerous sketches, illustrating again and again the need for the player to place his drive near a “hazard” if he is to be able to reach and remain on the green (on a two-shot hole). The player who did not place his drive correctly could perhaps still reach the green with the second shot, but the ball would not remain on the green. The emphasis on strategy was highlighted when he stated:-

“No tee shot can be described as good if the proper place to be is in the centre of the fairway.”

 

A new FineGolf article by Paul Gray explains this aspect well.

Tom Simpson, along with Herbert Fowler, Harry Colt, Phillip MacKenzie Ross, J F Abercrombie, Alistair MacKenzie and others of the Strategic School spent considerable mental effort designing holes and courses with “strategy” in mind, but much of their work has been neutralised by “improvement” in clubs and golf balls, brought about by engineers and technicians, unregulated by the authorities, and importantly by modern greenkeeping practices, and in particular by the advent of the “receptive” green whose influence is so often ignored by modern golf writers and media.

This loss of strategy is particularly evident at Liphook where there was limited possibility of lengthening the course and where the greens have become more “receptive”. It is now difficult to identify a hole at Liphook where a drive to the centre of the fairway is not a good one, in that it is possible to reach and remain on the green with the second shot.

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Simpson’s Folly bump at 9th

A good example is the 9th where the strong player can carry Simpson’s Folly and still remain on the green”. END

With this as background, the following are my impressions of the course after having seen it again after all these years.

There are many idiosyncratic holes at Liphook that remain in the memory. The second’s drive has to be almost ‘cut’ to stay on the fairway to give a glorious long blind approach over an old raised road.

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Par three Third hole

Plenty of club is suggested at the uphill par three third, though the bump-and-run from the back is tricky downhill.

Between the fine, long two-shotter fourth with its masterpiece of a green with the small back humps giving the illusion of a slope from back to front and the now extended par five fifth, one has to negotiate the main road which is simpler than the return under the railway bridge at the fifteenth.

Simpson and Bernard Darwin (an honorary member here along with the Wethereds) loved the original fifth hole describing it as similar to the seventeenth at the Old course of St Andrews. The reason being that before it was decided that length was needed to be added to give a ‘championship’ credential to the course, this was a long two-shotter with the approach ground and green sloping off to a road bordering the right of the green and a “Road Bunker” across the green on the left.

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The fifth green

I have to admit that two 110% shots gave me the opportunity to miss an eight foot eagle putt but I suspect that Simpson in the days when the ball was not hit as far as it now is, would consider that this hole has not been improved for most recreational players.

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Drive at the sixth

My fun drive at the dogleg sixth was over two sentinel oak trees which I hope are kept trimmed in the future! The two left-hand bunkers shy of the green I am told closely approximates the original style of Croome/Simpson.

A classic raised green par three seventh with plenty of fall-off and deep, heather-topped bunkering left and right, was spoilt by its sogginess.

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Drive at the eigth

As was the eighth which, if requiring a ‘running’ ball, would have been considerably more testing as the approach would be easiest from the left of the fairway (rather than the middle) which used to require not running into the heather, where there are now some flatish new bunkers.

The ninth as already mentioned, is a wonderful hole needing the drive to be kept on the right of a fairway that slopes left, to avoid Simpson’s folly, though nowadays with the receptive green this need is somewhat neutralised.

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Buriel mound behind the 11th green

I am told the par three eleventh with the fir tree ancient burial mound behind, was designed to be played from the left-hand tee, giving the opportunity of a run-up shot to a well-defended, pinched green. The new longer white tee from the right requires a fully flown ball from a lower angle and as I had by now warmed up and was hitting the ball reasonably straight, by the time of this hole it was only a question of deciding on length through the air to stop the ball near the pin.

Apparently Simpson said that there was only one bad hole on the course, the twelth, which had a lack of strategy and only required a straight slog up the hill. David Murdoch has, however, added interest by remodeling the drive bunkers to be at an angle.

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Approach to 13th green

Hole thirteen used to be a two-shotter (bogey five) requiring a drive to be kept on the left of the fairway so as to give an easier risk/reward second to a difficult to hit green with a side-sloping approach in front of a crested site. Now with a long walk back to the par five tee, the second shot is a lay-up or, if one is long enough over a heathery stream, leaving a simple pitch to the subtle green with many interesting pin locations.

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plugged ball on 14th green

There is a deep swale on the left front of the fourteenth green and fall-off all around. The big-hitting boys can drive this 344 yard hole across the strong dogleg (as Laura Davies did in 1982 when an amateur) but most will lay-up to the left of the new trees and then float in a high wedge to take out all of the trouble. My ball actually plugged on impact.

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Over the quarry to the 16th green. Train behind

The fifteenth and sixteenth are shortish, good, strong right-hand and then left-hand doglegs. The fifteenth with an uphill drive has an interesting deep green and the sixteenth’s second shot has to be played over a quarry from a high fairway to a green nestling below. Both of these pins would have required more imaginative shots if the greens had been firmer.

I am not sure why the trees behind the slightly uphill seventeenth par three green have been allowed to grow up and screen the southern sun but the tee shot across ridged heather is a fine mid-iron and its semi-blind nature was praised by Bernard Darwin.

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Clubhouse behind 18th

John Morrison’s new eighteenth is a fitting 460 yard finishing hole with a well bunkered fall-off on the right of a two tiered green under the eye of the iconic single-story timbered clubhouse.

This is a club with a membership and officers who are proud of their heritage and their wonderfully designed course sited across the Sussex/Hampshire border. Still with predominantly fescue grassed fairways, the walk is a beautiful delight and as Peter Alliss said in the 2004 ‘Liphook story’ history book, the club “is a haven for those who care about golf. Long may the club and its members enjoy its unique standing.”

We have much reason to thank the many families who originally owned pockets of the land that the club has been allowed to acquire.

I finish with another note from the ‘Liphook Story’ history book. There was a time after the 1976 drought when the agronomists STRI recommended a dose of lime for the fairways but luckily Jim Arthur was at hand to resist this mistake and his policy of aeration and little fertiliser ensured a successful recovery. It is typical of a well run club to use the best advisors.

 

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments

On June 24th, 2015 Bill McBride Said:

I thought Liphook was superb when we played there twice in the 2012 Buda Cup. Such great variety of holes and a good walk through rolling terrain. The walk across the high speed road from 14 green to 15 tee is one of the most frightening in golf! Otherwise Liphook is one of my favorite inland courses in the UK.

On June 26th, 2015 Paul Chapman Said:

Having started my golf at Liphook as a caddy in 1961 and remember the course then, I was disappointed to hear the criticism of the receptiveness of the current greens. My recollection was how defensive the course made players as all of the trouble was at the back of the greens. (Ed. what an interesting design remark, for the then firm running surfaces). The layout has changed little and the greens are generally less receptive than other courses of a similar nature, but are regarded by many to be the finest putting surfaces in the South of England. (Ed. undoubtedly many south Easterners are more used to and enjoy 1980/90s ‘target-golf’ greens, though up the road at Hankley or over at Littlestone very much firmer, finer greens can be found)
Interestingly I played with Laura Davies in the mixed open in 1982 and the quote that she drove the green at the 14th, I recall that it carried the trees but was way left of the green!
I would suggest a visit to Liphook well worth the money and unless you play the course in the middle of winter you will not find over receptive greens but even then an outstanding surface.
Fifty five years on and still a member I still find Liphook to be a great challenge unspoilt from its original design and still maintaining it’s heathland characteristics.