On 30th July a group of Chilworth seniors made the 30 minute trip up the M3 to Dummer for a day’s golf around this Peter Alliss design, first played in 1992. The welcome was warm and so was the weather: several weeks of sun meant that both fairways and greens were fast and the rough was in high summer mode – tall, golden, and penal if you found it. After a coffee and a delicious bacon roll (one of the best I’ve tasted!) we made our way out to the first tee, with most of us taking advantage of the driving, chipping and putting facilities there to warm up before driving down the nice open expanses of the first, with the hum of the nearby motorway drowning any under the breath curses at fluffed tee shots.
The rather innocuous first tells you something about the nature of this course: fast running undulating fairways (this is chalk downland, after all) are bordered by dune-like mounds or hollows harbouring fierce grassy rough that is reluctant to release any ball that dares stray into it. There’s definitely a hint of the links about it and a suggestion that the straight-hitting percentage player will come out of the encounter rather better than a go-for-it big hitter. The 269 yard (yellow tees) par 4 second reinforces that message with the first of many otherwise reachable greens guarded by bunkers and a surrounding ditch. The 415 yard third introduces Dummer’s other major tactic, the dogleg, which features on a significant number of the holes, making short holes seem longer than they really are.
Off the yellows there is only one par 5, the last, and three par 3s, with a few tests in excess of 400 yards and what seems quite a lot of short par 4s, leading me to choose the 5 wood for many of my tee shots. The trio of par 3s consist of a 180 yard carry to a bunker-guarded green (the 17th), the obligatory hoof over a big pond (the 164 yard 5th) and the rather gimmicky 141 yard pitch over Hampshire’s biggest bunker on the 14th (and yes, it is a very very big sandpit). Ironically, I had to wait until the 535 yard 18th to experience the feeling that this was an genuinely interesting and well designed hole. requiring a wood down a fairway flanked on one side by trees and on the other by the aforementioned dunes, followed by a long iron over an elongated stretch of water and a short pitch on to a smallish well guarded green.
It’s certainly all very pleasant and well kept and, once the course opens out a bit around and after the turn, there are some fine views to be had, but I admit to quite a few moments of déjà vu as I teed off on yet another shortish dogleg par 4 trying to avoid the thick stuff alongside the fairway. Perhaps my impressions were coloured by having to wait to play pretty much every shot due to slow play up ahead and getting consequently hot and bothered in the midday sun, but I confess to coming away a little underwhelmed by the delights of Dummer. It certainly is no match for one of Alliss’s other Hampshire designs at Old Thorns a bit further east at Liphook.
Some pictures of the course may be found here.