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.
Date: January 10, 2020