Hayling Island Vs MCC
Is this one of the most underrated and underplayed links courses? No question that this is proper links golf. Does the fact that that it is, relatively remote, from a neighbouring links course mean that it is under appreciated? I think so. There are times when one could easily have come here but instead headed onto a pair or more of courses for a weekend destination or mini break. But I urge you to make the effort because you will be rewarded.
I played in an inaugural match for MCC Vs the club and we had a cracking day with views stretching from Bembridge to Portsmouth and the hills beyond. It is on the sea with it’s own sailing club. Proper one club upmanship! As much wind as you like, good bunkering, plenty of gorse and sandy undulations meeting excellent greens. The new green keeper hadn’t seen rain since he was appointed so the reservoir was doing it’s duty and the course played well on minimal rations. With it’s military connections, not least harbouring Special Forces in the last war, there are strange constructions around the place; an odd piece of a Mulberry harbour, a couple of pillboxes and a gun battery foundation, all add to the magic of the place.
I am not generally a fan of a par 3 opener as it can wreak havoc with starting times. But this is a lovely hole that gives you a chance to gauge the wind speed and direction because you will be up against it if you don’t make it your friend for the next few hours! On match day it was an easterly. I suspect that like most UK courses it was designed for a westerly but I have been amazed, over my lifetime, how much more prevalent an easterly is over the summer months. This can play tricks with the stroke index. An opportunity my partner and I were ill equipped to overcome against a couple of very straight hitters who knew their course and their strengths. Had we still been live up 17 and 18 it would have been an epic struggle back to the club house
At the second and third holes the newcomer will have to work hard to find the right lines from the tee. In dry conditions, and due to the flat landscape, there was much less definition between rough, fairway and the ideal line but despite this, and a bad back, I only lost one ball I would expect to have found. This is proper links land with a few blind shots off the tee and fairway but none were unreasonable. The turf itself is springy and lets you run the ball through to the green and you can rely on the consistency of bounce and roll with the shorter approach shots. There are mountainous dunes in places, classic holes and challenges abound. There is even an extra hole should one hole be out of play. Inevitably there are a couple of weaker holes but the best half dozen would not be out of place on a top twenty course; for my money 3, 6, 7, 9, 12, 15 and 17 in reserve!
Our noble, non playing, skipper appeared by the 13th green with a bootful of cold beer to counter act the heat and cheer us on. We got the next hole back but the beer was losing it's effect by the next tee and we fell further behind thereafter.
The clubhouse nods to Birkdale and is well apointed and furnished with an active and jolly membership . The land was originally owned by the Sandeman family and the hospitality given was equal to the spirit of the original owners. This enabled us to recover ourselves somewhat from the less digestible result of the match.