Modern golf began has many of its roots here on the Isle of Wight as one of the oldest golf courses in the country, The Royal Isle of Wight Golf Club, once resided at the Duver at St Helen’s.
Founded in 1882, the course was the Royal Golf Links for many years and was responsible for much of the development of the modern game of golf. At one point it challenged the pre-eminence of St Andrews as the source of the authoritative rules of the game, even forcing changes in some of the St Andrews rules.
Members ranged from Queen Victoria ‘s family, including Edward VII and several European princes and monarchs, to celebrities such as the actor David Niven. Queen Victoria ‘s youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, who was Governor of the Isle of Wight for many years was a President of the Club until her death in 1940.
At its height the club boasted 11 Internationals and one of the club’s members, Horace Rawlins, was the first winner of the US Open in 1895. The club closed in 1961 since when it has been managed by the National Trust as an open space, but you can still see the old clubhouse on the corner as you drive onto the Duver (now available to rent as holiday accommodation).
With this prestigious golfing heritage it’s not surprising that there are eight golf clubs on the Island to choose from, all with different attractions. Pars range from 58 to 70 and cater for all abilities up to County Championship standard. Many courses welcome visitors and provide hire facilities and there is also a floodlit driving range at the Westridge Golf Centre.
Freshwater Golf Club is a seaside links style golf course that is 5,725 yards long, par 69, providing a challenge for golfers of all abilities. With its exposed location on the chalk downland sloping down into Freshwater Bay it boasts beautiful views across the English Channel and a particular challenge on a windy day.
The site, owned by the National Trust, is a SSSI and a European Special Area of Conservation, home to many rare and endangered species of flora and fauna. “The sea from every tee,” is its boast.
Ventnor Golf Course, founded in 1892, is now the oldest course on the Isle of Wight. High above Ventnor on the downlands with panoramic views across the surrounding countryside and the English Channel, it is unusual in that it is a twelve-hole course, alternative tee boxes on several holes providing variation on the back nine. The overall length is approximately 5700 yards, SSS 68 par 70.
Newport also has its golf club on the chalk downs, high above the capital town, giving views to Portsmouth on one side and Southampton on the other, and is a “challenging golf course built by golfers for golfers.
“We believe we have in our 5th followed by the 6th one of the best two back to back holes in golf,” say Newport Golf Club who were founded in 1896. Its length is 5579 yards from the white tees and is 68 par.
Shanklin and Sandown Golf Club, founded in 1900, claims that its 5th and 13th holes of its County Championship Course are “two of the best you will enjoy anywhere in the South of England. Although not excessive in length, the beautiful heath land course is more difficult than its length implies. There are some strong slopes and gradients, with gorse, tree and shrub lined fairways making accurate driving and careful club selection essential for successful scores.”
It also boasts Golf Pro Peter Hammond who after a highly successful amateur career in golf qualified as a PGA Professional, and became Club Professional at Sandown and Shanklin Golf Club in 1990.
Cowes Golf Club, is “an oasis of peace” on the outskirts of Cowes with fantastic views over the Solent and although nine holes, the course with alternate tees presents a challenging 18-hole test. The course was designed by Hamilton Stutt, a local golf course architect, famous for designing exciting courses across the world making the most of the natural terrain.
Osborne Golf Club, is in the grounds of Osborne House and was formed in 1972 from Osborne House Golf Club, which was established in 1904. The club is a nine-hole golf course, 6358 yards from the Championship tees (SSS70), 6129 yards from the normal play tees (SSS69) and 5758 yards from the ladies tees (SSS72). It is a parkland course with several woods and copses with views out over the Solent.
Originally founded in 1895, Ryde Golf Club, was located at Westridge but moved to its current site on the outskirts of Ryde, overlooking the sea, in 1923. It offers an excellent nine-hole course layout, with some alternate tees for the second nine, and one alternate green, providing 18 holes of challenging golf with a par of 70. The challenging 2×9-hole, 5,772 yards, par-70 parkland course is characterized by some tricky par-3s and provides a real challenge for golfers at all ability levels – especially in windy conditions.
At Westridge Golf Centre, you can try the Island’s only ‘pay as you play’ golf course, which currently has nine holes and with another nine holes due for completion Summer 2013, and a 16 bay floodlit golf range fitted with powertees. A practice putting green and bunker can be used by visitors and players have the choice of paying every time they play, buying a pre-paid loyalty card entitling a certain amount of rounds or becoming a full playing member.
For more information on these courses check out their websites – all welcome visitors and many have special deals available.