Occupying an enviable perch above Chichester on the West Sussex Downs,
Goodwood offers the very best of British refinement – and its sporting heritage extends
beyond horse racing and motoring to quite magnificent golf.
Richard Gillis reports
Marital guilt doesn’t come any heavier
than midweek golf just as the weather
starts to turn, the long-overdue spring
sunshine greeting me as I cracked open
the front door. Leaving the house with
golf clubs on a school day is never easy
but, hey, this is work, and I’m a professional.
However, in such circumstances, a ratlike
cunning is essential. Much preparation
has been laid, with sentences including
the dreaded, ‘I know, it’s a pain and
I’m really sorry. But, really, I have no
choice...’. As I move toward the door, my
clubs bang against the bannisters in the
hall, spoiling what I’d hoped would be a
seamless, quiet exit.
‘Where is it you’re playing?’ I’m asked
as I shuffle out the front door.
The answer to this question does nothing
‘Goodwood’ I say, avoiding eye contact.
‘It says I’m due to meet at The Kennels’.
This last bit was a pathetic attempt to
play down the sheer luxury that I know
awaits me for the next couple of days. It
The door slams behind me with a menace
I’ve not heard since the opening credits
The Kennels is where the members of
Goodwood Golf Club hang out. The phrases ‘understated elegance’ and ‘freshly
chilled’ are appropriate here.
It was originally built in 1787 to house
the hounds belonging to the third Duke
of Richmond (given the size of the place,
he must have really liked dogs). To get
there, you drive through the grounds of
Goodwood House, which as the club’s literature
puts it, is “one of the finest stately
homes in the country, has been the
home of the Dukes of Richmond &
Lennox for over 300 years”.
He originally bought Goodwood as a
hunting lodge and subsequent Dukes
enlarged the existing Jacobean house to
create the imposing residence we see
today, “set in mature parkland against
the backdrop of the Sussex Downs.”
Golf is one of three things for which
Goodwood is famous. The other two are
horses and cars.
As you play the front nine, you get a
regular glimpse of the racecourse that
holds the ‘Glorious Goodwood’ Festival.
And as for the cars: this summer marks
the 20th anniversary of the Festival of
Speed (12-14 July), one of the world’s
most popular motor sport events, while
September sees the unrivalled occasion
that is the Goodwood Revival (14-16
Sept), a nostalgic mix of
historic racing and aviation.
Classic cars and
their famous drivers line
the halls of the clubhouse.
There are two courses
– The Downs and The
Park. I played The
Downs, generally regarded
as the ‘championship’
test at Goodwood, and it
was everything I anticipated
it to be. The day
before my visit had seen
rain of Biblical proportions,
but, such is the quality of the
drainage hereabouts, the course was
turned out in tournament condition, the
fairways and greens in fabulous nick.
The Downs is a gem, hardly surprising
given it was originally a James Braid creation,
the man who gave Carnoustie and
Gleneagles to the world.
There’s no time for complacency off
the first, a par three that requires a solid
mid iron to find the safety of the putting
surface. The second is equally tricky,
demanding a pinpoint tee shot down the
left side of the fairway. Hit it too far and
you’re in all types of gorsy hell. Get it
right and a dish-like green is waiting for
your second in the valley below.
The need for accuracy off the tee is
reinforced over most of the front nine.
The trees that line the fairways look
beautiful but are unforgiving to the wayward
drive. But then, the golf is just part
of it. The views, particularly from the elevated
sixth tee, can take your mind off a
bad start. Looking south toward the
Solent and the Isle of Wight is visible
beyond the spire of Chichester Cathedral.
Then, as you follow the snaking 7th
fairway toward the green, you make out
the oasis of meat pies that is Goodwood’s
halfway hut, run by the imaginatively
named ‘Halfway House Ken’.
Ken takes photos and decorates his hut
with them. These are divided in to two
strands: celebrities and dogs. Naturally,
Goodwood is both dog and celebrity
friendly, allowing both species to run free
and untethered along its fairways. This
tradition goes back to the early days, when
King George VI was hitting it around these
same fairways. Today, he is famous as the
stammering royal played by Colin Firth in
the film of The King’s Speech. You wouldn’t
want to be behind him when he was
ordering his chilli con carne.
These days, Half-way House Ken’s
gallery features fewer Kings and Queens
and more of your footballer/pundit/all
round entertainer types. Alan Shearer,
Kenny Lynch (what does Kenny Lynch do
by the way?) and what looks like the entire
Watford front line of the 1980s vie for
attention. It also poses one of golf’s great
questions: is there any course in Britain
that Jamie Redknapp hasn’t played.
After the round, the fun really begins.
The restaurant at The Kennels is top
notch, but we chose to eat at The
Richmond Arms, a bar and restaurant
within the Goodwood Hotel.
There are worse places to be on a
balmy summer’s evening. But keep it
under your hat.
Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine