The Buckinghamshire Golf Club is situated close to the charming and historic town of Denham and it's a big golf course, designed by a big golfer – former Ryder Cup Captain, John Jacobs. The Buckinghamshire stretches out more than 6,800 yards against a par of 72.
This elegant course opened for play in 1992 and it’s set in more than 200 acres of mature parkland. They planted thousands of indigenous trees during the building of the course and they encourage wild flowers to grow in the rough, including meadowsweet and primula – it’s certainly a pretty place.
Jacobs has created a very natural looking golf course that harmonises with its surroundings. Additionally it is an exciting, surprising and challenging layout. But at the same time, golfers of all abilities will enjoy it. There are numerous large teeing areas to choose from and the huge greens are exceptionally receptive, fast and true – amongst the best in the area. Plenty of water instils uncertainty, waiting to swallow the wayward shot.
Great holes are many, but amongst the best are the 7th, a long par four with a ditch dissecting the fairway 200 yards from the tee – a stream then cuts across, 60 yards short of the green and to the right of the putting surface lurks a pond. The 8th is a quirky but thoroughly entertaining hole – a short par four that sweeps all the way round a lake, leaving a very nervy approach shot across the water.
There is no doubt that the Buckinghamshire is a classy golf course. John Jacobs said: “I believe we have created a golf course which contains interest and beauty for golfers of all levels, providing either a challenge or a gentle walk round”. We agree with Jacobs – the Buckinghamshire is delightful.
A major bunker renovation was completed under the stewardship of Tim Lobb in 2017, where the area of bunkers was reduced by more than 50% while making the sand hazards more prominent.
I first played the Buckinghamshire on the last day of October, 1995 and returned several years ago before the bunker renovation that occurred recently. I was hesitant to go back but made the return visit when a game I had set up fell through. On my first visit, I was an expat two years into what would become a five-year stay. I was reviewing the club and course to determine whether I should join as at the time it was relatively easy to become a member as long as one could pay the fee. After playing it, I decided against it despite the lovely clubhouse as I decided I would rather spend my time traveling to play courses rather than spend the majority of my time playing one course. I was impressed with the course and club but felt it was not the best use of my “golfing” time while “temporarily” living in the UK.
After my second visit I confirmed I had made the right decision. Much like the Oxfordshire, this feels like an American style golf course, despite being designed by John Jacobs. Mr. Jacobs did a nice job with the routing, bunker placement and shaping of the greens. For the very good players (Ladies European Tour is located here) this is a nice club. However, I am not sure playing here often would improve one’s game as the green complexes and wide fairways are rather straightforward. I do not think there are many, if any, places on the golf course where one might get a lucky or unlucky bounce. The golf course is very much “what you see is what you get.” The majority of the bunkers when I played it were relatively shallow. The one positive comment is that the greens vary in size and are smooth, although less undulating than other places as their breaks are more subtle. To a certain degree, despite how pleasant it is to walk the course, it is an uninspiring golf course due to the flatness of the land and the very generous width of most of the fairways. It has no real quirks or points of real interest. There is nothing unique here. One will not get a tricky lie or a bad stance. I read the comments where the amount of land dedicated to the bunkers has changed which has made them more prominent but I honestly did not think the previous size that I played was an issue.
My overview of the course is not to suggest that it is not worthy to be a member here or to play here as a visitor. It is different to many of the courses surrounding London and the clubhouse is so nice, it is a good location, that it is a nice club. It has more length than many of the nearby courses for those who can hit it far. But if one can join one of the fifteen-twenty other historic/great clubs in the area, they are a better choice. Indeed, I would rather join a course such as Beaconsfield.
There are some nice holes on the course. A brief summary follows:
1 – par 5 505/481 dogleg right with a pond on the right for the drive. I did not like the hole as a par 5; felt it would have been better as a par 4 given how short it is. It has a nice green sloped right to left.
2 – par 4 375/352 – it’s an okay hole but thought it would have been better without the tree on the left side of the green.
3 – par 3 212/197 – okay hole but again I wondered why the trees were so close on the left side of the green. There is a nice fall off left of the large green.
4 – par 4 447/424 – dogleg left. This is a nice golf hole due to the bunkering and the slightly raised green.
5 – par 5 482/480 – if it were a par 4 it would be the best hole on the golf course due to the cross bunkering and deeper bunkering near the green. As a par 5 it is average.
6 – par 4 354/331 – not much to it other than the narrowness of the front of the green.
7 – par 4 413/387 – Best hole on the golf course due to the ditch crossing the fairway, the bunkers just beyond the ditch, and the pond right of the green continuing to behind half of it. I wondered again why the tree line was so close on the left side of the green.
8 – par 4 – 363/332 – long hitters will go right at the flag while shorter hitters get to play to the right and then go over the pond to the green. It’s an okay hole but not unique. I do not know why there is a bunker at the far end of the fairway for those playing right of the water. A better choice would have been to let balls roll out in taller grass.
9 – par 3 – 165/134 – strongly disliked the look of the hole due to the trees pinching in. The hole feels disconnected to the rest of the course. The green is nicely elevated and well defended with three surrounding bunkers but visually it did not catch my eye.
10 – par 4 430/413 – dogleg right with trees coming into play down the right, and an approach to a skinny, elevated green. It is a good hole.
11 – par 5 504/476 – despite the fairway bunkers to consider on the drive, it is not interesting.
12 – par 4 429/392 – second best hole on the golf course due to the ditch that comes into play for the approach shot and the pond to the right of the green.
13 – par 4 448/409 – third best hole on the golf course as a dogleg left
14 – par 3 178/153 – nothing here of real interest other than the elevated green slanted back to front.
15 – par 4 382/351 – an above average hole as a sharp dogleg right. It does have a nice split green with three bunkers fronting the green. One can easily cut the corner on his hole.
16 - par 3 190/158 – an okay hole playing slightly uphill
17 – par 4 470/430 – decent hole due to its length and the placement of the tree on the left side of this slight dogleg left. It plays uphill so you almost need one more club. It has a good green.
18 – par 5 533/501 – can a hole be any sillier than to have a tree in the middle of the fairway? I have seen this on too many courses and I do not understand why any designer thinks this defensive element is interesting or fun. The eighteenth could be the best hole on the golf course due to the excellent green complex comprised of a pond to the left, three fronting bunkers and an undulating green. But due to the tree, I disliked it immensely. Someday there will be a golf committee who removes the tree which would make the wonderful green complex much more compelling. Ugh.
Overall length is 6880/6401 although I think the back tees can likely go beyond 7000 yards.
In rating this course, the question is the same as I posed during the review of The Oxfordshire which is does one rate the course knowing that Americans and people traveling from other countries would not go out of their way to play here. If landing at Gatwick or Heathrow, a golfer will likely go straight to one of the more historic and well-known golf courses rather than play an American style course. Indeed, even someone who lives more than a few hours from London would not travel to play this course. Yet locals around London should play it at least once. It is a good course for the members but one’s game is unlikely to improve here due to the lack of challenge other than putting. People who play it often might rate it higher and I would not have an issue with that.
The Buckinghamshire promises much; nice entrance, nice clubhouse with patio facing putting green and chipping areas. The opening par 5 is interesting with water down the right and the second hole is a good looking well bunkered shortish par 4. A few ok holes follow and then the best stretch on the course, holes 6 to 8, all very different par 4's. The 7th is an excellent hole with water everywhere including two cross ditches so you need to plot your way down the fairway and then avoid the pond extending all the way around the right hand side of the green. Having avoided the water on 7 you stand on the 8th tee and stare across the lake to the green on the farside. Knock it down the fairway on the right hand side it seems wherever you end up the second always has to carry the water; good hole reminds me of one on the 2010. After this excellent stretch the course doesn't really deliver (although 12 is a very good hole) and the early promise does not seem to continue through the back nine as it reverts to a typical modern layout (in places a bit like Bowood in Wiltshire). Course condition was very good with tricky greens and good looking bunkers; my only gripe would be the wide fairways which gave little advantage to accurate driving. Just sneaks into the good category for me, but not top 100.
The clubhouse and surroundings were immediately impressive, yet I wasn’t sure what to expect with the course when I noted the venues ranked ahead of it in the county and my concern with the fact that I had no choice but to play from the forward yellow tees. The greens were in excellent nick, though the fairways were understandably soft and mucky due to recent heavy rains.
On the opening tee shot water is in play to the right of the par five 1st’s fairway. If I was a golf course designer, I think I would try to avoid this scenario, but nonetheless it makes for a challenging opening hole and the pick of the par fives for me (see below for my controversial opinion on the par five 18th). The 2nd is a birdie chance of a par four and the 3rd is a flat but long par three with bunkers right and a hollow to the left of what is quite a big green. The 4th is a tough slight dogleg left par four with threatening fairway bunkers and a downward dip towards a slightly elevated green. The par five 5th is index 14 but I found it the easiest hole on the course, reachable in two and a great birdie chance notwithstanding the deep bunkers at the green. After five holes it struck me how open the course is, as apart from the obvious traps and hazard on the first, offline drives are not necessarily punished for the lower handicap players.
However, the next four holes change the theme and put a premium on hitting fairways off the tee. The par four 6th is straight and sub-400 yards, yet there is trouble all around by way of bunkers, vegetation and an ivy clad wall to the right of a tight green entrance. The following three hole stretch is one of the best you will play, starting with the strategic index 2 par four 7th, which features a fairway guarded by a creek crossing it and two bunkers on the right, then an approach to a green protected by a lake on three sides and tree trouble on the left. The 8th is the signature hole on the course, a par four that is driveable from the forward tees – mostly carry across the lake with a little bit of bail-out fairway space before the green, but the standard route for most players is around the lake with a tee shot to the right of the fairway and approach over the water. The outward nine concludes with the enclosed par three 9th in front of the clubhouse, its elevated green guarded by three bunkers. Whilst it is a nice hole, it struck me that the river just to the right of the green could have been brought more into play.
The 10th is a long and demanding dogleg right par four with imposing trees on the right side of the fairway to tangle with slightly pushed tee shots and a pond short right of the green, albeit not really in play for better ball-strikers. The narrow and elevated putting surface is tough to hold with a deep bunker hugging the right side. The par five 11th offers some respite, despite the strategic fairway bunkers it is not the longest and is also open enough to allow a chance to recover from any wayward tee-balls or second shots. The 12th and 13th are two strong par fours, both over 450 yards from the tips, the 12th more or less straightaway with a creek a few yards short of the green and a threatening lake to the right of the green. The 13th is a tight sweeping dogleg left with two imposing fairway bunkers on the left side amidst probably the most enclosed wooded setting on the course. On the par three 14th you find yourself at the outer reach of the course alongside the rail track, the primary complications being the slightly elevated green with one bunker in front and a fall-off to the right.
The homeward stretch begins with the dogleg right 15th, which I considered a birdie opportunity despite its index of 9. It is under 400 yards and the corner can be cut to leave a wedge to a large and receptive green. The par three 16th is nicely framed by trees on either side and is played marginally uphill. The 17th is a long and difficult uphill par four, veering around to the left, and requires two solid smacks to find the green in regulation.
And so to my controversial assessment of the par five 18th. I grew up playing on a course that has two huge trees bang smack in the middle of a fairway and a similar size tree middle-left of another green blocking the route to back hole locations. Perhaps I am scarred by this, but either way I am not in favour of trees existing in the middle of fairways. The 18th at The Buckinghamshire is a magnificent long par five with intrusive bunkering on the fairway and three more bunkers around an undulating green, with a dangerous pond on the left side of it. That all sounds great, but approximately 130 yards from the centre of the green is a huge old tree positioned bang smack in the middle of the fairway. Course designer John Jacobs might disagree with me – I would have moved the tree!
Overall the course has a flat and open feel to it for the most part and is not too difficult from the yellow tees. It is obviously a different story from the black tees at 7,100 yards, although big hitters will not always be punished for finding rough off the tees. 7-8-9 is a particularly enjoyable three hole stretch and 12-13 two very solid par fours.
Pick of the holes: Par Three – 9th // Par Fours – 7th & 8th // Par Five – 1st
I thought maybe the Misbourne and Colne rivers would feature prominently during my round here the other day but, thankfully, water only ever came into play at a few of the holes during my round. Actually, the main hazard to avoid at The Buckinghamshire is sand, in the shape of the newly revetted bunkers that now lie in wait to catch errant golfers off the tee and around the greens.
Architect Tim Lobb and contractor Profusion Environmental have just installed a new irrigation system and renovated all the bunkers on the course, an upgrade that has reduced the overall area of sand on the course from more than 14,000 square metres to less than 6,500 square metres, and this redefinition of the hazards has dramatically improved their visibility.
Set within a large 200-acre parkland property, the course is certainly spacious, with lots of fairway width on most of the holes to accommodate even the most wayward golfers who like to spray their golf ball around. With regular gents tees measuring just under 6,300 yards and a SSS of 71, one less than par, it’s a pretty user-friendly course that shouldn’t unduly punish you.
After a solid start to the round on the opening three holes, the course steps up a notch at the 4th and 5th. The conspicuous new bunkers are really impressive here, giving maximum fairway and greenside definition to holes occupying one of the flatter parts of the course. Things get even better at the 6th, where a large patch of gorse to the front right of the green partially obscures a wonderful three-tiered putting surface.
Holes 7 and 8 are really tough: intimidating ditches cross the fairway at the landing area and in front of the green at the former, and a small lake lies between tee and green at the latter. The safe way to play the 8th is to use the fairway to the right of the water then go for the flag but big hitters will be tempted to take the risk/reward option and aim for the sliver of a fairway that leads to the green on the left side of the lake.
The back nine didn’t quite live up to the high standard of the outward half, though I did like the par four 12th (with its putting surface positioned behind a stream), the uphill par three par three 14th (and its pronounced back to front raised green), and the right doglegged 15th, which is played to a terrific two-tiered green.
There’s no getting away from the fact that the 25-year-old Buckinghamshire – which is also the Ladies European Tour’s HQ – is a rather corporate-orientated operation but don’t let that put you off as it’s home to a very enjoyable 18-hole layout that’s nicely routed across a pleasant parkland landscape. It’s also managed by owners prepared to heavily invest in infrastructure improvements that will see the course prosper well into its next quarter of a century of play.