Jersey: An historic golfing island

The home of legends and fine courses

Clive Agran
Thu, 5 Jun 2008

  View of La Moye course

Gatwick to Jersey is the aeronautical equivalent of a modest par-3. No sooner have you teed up on the runway than you are replacing the flag on completion of the hole. Nothing is ever very far away in Jersey and so the drive from the airport to any of the courses barely gives you enough time to make the usual excuses about back pains or not having played for several months. From departure lounge to first tee can take as little as 90 minutes.

Though geographically only a hop across the Channel, Jersey is very different from the mainland. While it feels like it’s lagging a few decades behind the rest of the UK its old-fashioned values are evident everywhere - cars are driven less aggressively, doors are held open for ladies and fourballs let twoballs through with a genuine smile. And for those of us who can remember them, the nostalgic presence of pound notes reinforces the time-warp effect.

But whatever your age it’s unlikely you’ll remember watching one of Jersey’s favourite sons, the legendary golfer Harry Vardon. It was over a century ago that he clinched the fourth of his record six Open titles and was also the first Englishman to win the US Open.

Another Jerseyman, Ted Ray, won the title in 1920 and a third resident, Tony Jacklin, claimed it in 1970. The 1991 US Masters winner Ian Woosnam has also lived on the island for many years and currently commutes to the world's Seniors Tours.

It could be the air, the cream or possibly the potatoes that have helped the largest of the Channel Islands nurture such brilliant golfers, to which must be added the legendary Tommy Horton (67) who, having captured 23 titles, is the most successful golfer ever to grace the European Seniors circuit.

Another possible explanation for this plethora of talent is that this lovely island is blessed, not only with an enviably low income tax system but with some truly outstanding courses that bear comparison with anything on the mainland.

Clive's Five Top Courses

Royal Jersey

The Club where Tommy Horton was once head professional boasts a truly great links course overlooking Gorey harbour. With a statue of Vardon at the entrance and a stone commemorating Ted Ray on the 15th tee, the place is as steeped in history as the air is laden with the invigorating smell of the sea.

For most tee shots the recommended line is often a fort or mediaeval castle. Lower-handicappers take precise aim at a turret, while higher-handicappers are generally less specific about their intended target. Even if your drive is somewhat wayward, there’s a reasonable chance that a benign breeze will blow it back on line.

La Moye

Perched 250 feet above beautiful St Ouen Bay, La Moye benefits from persistent but fickle wind that ensures the course presents a fresh test every day. Perhaps the biggest challenge is to concentrate on your shot and not be too distracted by the spectacular views and pounding surf. Corbierre Lighthouse, La Rocco Tower and the tiny isles of Sark, Herm and Jethou are the landmarks to note on those rare moments when you’re not worrying about which club to choose or what line to take.

This is natural seaside golf at its absolute best with well-contoured greens, a generous sprinkling of strategically placed bunkers and gloriously springy turf. As you stroll up the 18th fairway towards the vast bowl that is the final green, it’s easy to imagine past winners of the Jersey Open like Tony Jacklin, Ian Woosnam and Sandy Lyle acknowledging the applause. The first two are already eligible to play in the Jersey Seniors Open, which is now a firmly established event, and Lyle will join them next year.

Before leaving La Moye, find time to enjoy the clubhouse and the splendid views from the lounge over the course and out across the Channel.

Les Mielles

Back down to sea level and almost directly below La Moye lies Les Mielles Golf and Country Club. Considerably younger than the two principal courses, this proprietary club may not be quite so rich in history as its more illustrious neighbours, but it has already witnessed some remarkable golf. Playing the 252-yard par-4 third hole in the 2002 Channel Islands Players Championship, Paul Simpson scored a two in the first round, a two in the second round and had a hole-in-one in the third and final rounds, leaving him seven under par for the hole. Your correspondent took precisely the same number of shots (five) playing the hole just once.

More believable, perhaps, is the story of another professional playing in the same competition, who walked in halfway through his opening round having run out of balls. Water is an ever-present and significant threat. Marginally less menacing are the flocks of geese, ducks, swans and other wildfowl that wander about the fairways.

If this tight and demanding course leaves you somewhat stressed, be sure to unwind on the adjacent miniature course. Called 'Breakers', it's crazy golf without the windmills. Instead, there are subtle borrows, fearful hazards and nightmarish slopes that create a fiendish challenge that is guaranteed to entertain even the sternest golfer.

Les Ormes

If you only have time for nine holes or, having deposited your life savings into an offshore account, you don’t have much cash left, then Les Ormes with its splendid views over St Ouen’s Bay, is a welcoming and modestly priced pay-and-play facility that’s far better than most.

And if you still haven’t completed your tour of Jersey courses, there’s yet another nine holes at St Clements and a 9-holer attached to the Wheatlands Hotel at St Peter, opened by Ian Woosnam in 1994.

Clive’s Five Top Holes

First at Royal Jersey

A splendid opening par-5 that’s made more difficult by the apparent magnetic attraction that the sea would appear to exert on the balls and the inevitable presence of fellow golfers milling around the tee. Before fixing your stare on the ball, note Mont Orgeuil in the distance. Ideally, you should be looking to thread a 3-wood between the German bunker on the seaward side and Napoleonic Fortification on the left.

View of Royal Jersey
A splendid opening par five that’s made more difficult by the apparent magnetic attraction that the sea would appear to exert on the balls and the inevitable presence of fellow golfers milling around the tee. Before fixing your stare on the ball, note Mont Orgeuil in the distance. Ideally, you should be looking to thread a 3-wood between the German bunker on the seaward side and Napoleonic Fortification on the left.

7th at La Moye

The lovely seventh perfectly demonstrates that a par-4 doesn’t have to be around 450 yards to be tough. Firstly, there is a daunting carry of about 150 yards off the tee, which is followed by a tricky shot to a long, narrow green up on a plateau. Always a tough hole in breezy conditions, which is about 364 days in an average year and 365 in a leap year.

5th at Les Mielles

Another comparatively short par-4 that is nevertheless a considerable challenge. A mid-iron off the tee in order to lay up short of the water leaves a substantial carry over the water for your second. A good fun hole that is fraught with danger.

9th at Les Ormes

The finishing hole on this delightful nine-holer, it's a particularly gorgeous par-3. The undoubted signature hole, it provides stunning views over St Ouens Bay as well as a final challenge before a well-earned pint.

17th at La Moye

An inviting downhill tee shot towards the Atlantic, sets up a demanding long second to a well-protected green that teeters on the edge of the cliff. Less than 400 yards off the yellow tees, it’s a lot tougher than it might at first appear and thoroughly deserves its low stroke index (4).

Clive’s Five things to do
after golf

*Watch the sunset with a pint in your hand overlooking St Ouens beach. Stare out over the Atlantic and after the second pint you should catch a glimpse of at least the top half of the Statue of Liberty.

Les Meilles
*Eat a fresh home-made cream tea or crab sandwich at the Hungry Man café in Rozel Bay after a walk along the North Coast

*Have your picture taken posing next to the great Harry Vardon outside the Royal Jersey Golf Club

*A further pint in The Farmers Inn in the hope you might bump into one of the regulars- local legend Ian Woosnam

*Stroll round the Jersey Shell Garden. The first shells were laid in 1957 and every year the garden has developed, including millions of shells formed into dozens of creatures from dolphins to doves. It's the largest shell garden in the world.



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