4. Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)
LOCATION: WOODHALL SPA, LINCOLNSHIRE, ENGLAND
DESIGNER(S): HARRY VARDON (1905), HARRY COLT (1914) , S.V. HOTCHKIN (1925), TOM DOAK (2016-PRESENT)
Perhaps the greatest skill in renovating a golf course is knowing where to draw the line. Without a heavy dose of self-restraint, a little nip-and-tuck to roll back the years can easily turn into full-scale face lift. When architect Tom Doak was brought in by the club to upgrade Woodhall Spa’s iconic Hotchkin course, his main brief was to preserve the integrity of the course for future generations of golfers, restore the original heathland persona that had been somewhat diluted over the years and rework the bunkers so they are easier to maintain. There was just one stipulation: do so with a light touch.
Doak’s three-year refurb started in 2016 and will be completed later this year, most likely in the late summer. As part of the refresh, a huge number of trees have been removed, not just to open up the vistas across the course, but to restore the importance of shot placement. The organic encroachment of trees over the decades changed the character of the course, eventually placing too much emphasis on straight driving as opposed to shaping shots off the tee in order to create the correct angle for approaches into greens. While Doak’s changes to what many already believe is Britain’s best inland golf course thus far have been well received, opportunities to rise higher in the ranking are limited given the quality of the competition.