This was my second time playing at Wilmslow, a course I enjoy very much. While some courses have one or two spectacular views or a totally unique “signature hole” I’d say Wilmslow strikes me as more of an all-rounder. It’s for the most part a parkland type of course with trees in play on most holes. But the playing corridors are often very, very wide making rough or slopes the main concern rather than worrying about trees trouble. And there’s a lot of up-and-down movement without having killer hills (thinking of Reddish Vale) or endless sidehill lies.
I do think one thing that stands out for me is the quietness and, if not quite isolation, the sense of separation that comes from the way holes wind in and out of the terrain and the trees. It’s not the sort of deep-woods experience where you never see other players or other holes. But for portions of the round you do tend to have your own piece of the course to play without feeling either hemmed in or exposed. Wilmslow for me strikes a balance between openness and separateness that feels just right.
Another thing that’s “just right” for my taste is the way dogleg holes are routed. Both the degree of curvature and the way some of the doglegs are routed over the slopes seem to be well thought out. The 18th hole is the ultimate example of a curving hole draped perfectly over a large hillside (and I’ll say the 17th and 18th together are a good a finish as I’d ever expect to see on a golf course) but other subtle examples include the 12th and 16th which have a very pleasing shape and play enjoyably to me. I don’t recall any sharp 90-degree doglegs or the dreaded “delayed dogleg” where short hitters like myself have to lay up with a second shot short of the turn.
Especially on the front nine, there are some examples of fairway bunkers that I term “Mastercard bunkers” after an old ad campaign on American TV whose tagline was “Mastercard, It’s Everywhere You Want To Be”. As numerous posts over the years on GolfClubAtlas have complained, the genuine cross hazard right smack dab in the fairway is a feature sadly under-represented on most courses nowadays. The bunkering is for me the standout aspect of the front nine at Wilmslow while I feel the back nine has several of the course’s most memorable individual holes. I should actually say the “back nine” memorability starts with the drop-shot Par 3 9th which is the first image that comes to mind when I think of “Wilmslow”.
The putting greens at Wilmslow do not appear particularly small in area but when playing shots from near the green I find they play smaller than they look, if that makes any sense. Perhaps I just have a habit of putting the ball in unfavorable spots but over the course of two rounds I have surely faced more than a few chip/pitch/bunker shots where hitting the ball onto the green was simple enough but getting it anywhere near the hole required great touch and precision. Which sort of sums up the course in my opinion. Generally plenty of room to play occasionally errant or ham-handed shots without draconian penalty but quite demanding of careful play if a good score is to be achieved. I always enjoy the type of course where it’s not difficult to play “almost to my handicap” yet those hoped-for truly good scores always seem elusive.