The legendary J.H. Taylor designed the original course at Frilford Golf Club and this layout, the Red course, was subsequently modified by the club professional J.H. Turner. Not content with altering that course, Turner also established another 9-hole layout on an attractive tract of land nearby that was covered in gorse and heather. In the late 1960s, C. K. Cotton and associate Frank Pennink remodelled this nine and added another, forming the 18-hole Green course.
The modern day course extends to just over 6,000 yards, which is short by many standards. The only par five on the card is played at the right doglegged 495-yard 1st hole and there are four par threes, nicely spread out at holes 2, 6, 10 and 17, to give a par of 69. The loop from the 5th to the 13th occupies a separate part of the property, adding to the wonderful feeling of seclusion when playing those particular holes, in amongst the gorse and the birch trees.Feature holes include a couple of short pars at the right dog legged 9th and the 291-yard closing hole, where a closing birdie might be possible. Indeed, such a boost at the end of the round might just be necessary as the preceding trio of par fours (stroke index 6, 8 and 2) measure in excess of 400 yards, providing something of a nasty “sting in the tail” for the unwary on the Green course.
The Green course at Frilford is very agreeable to play, in the gently rolling Oxfordshire countryside. At just over 6000 yards from the back tees it does not need to be powered into submission, but more requires a high level of finesse to well guarded greens, most with many or some very large bunkers in attendance. It is the approach shots to these greens which is in my view the course’s biggest challenge.
The holes are well designed, and mainly framed by trees. A recent rejigging of their order which sees the former two closing holes now at the beginning of the round is a clear improvement. These opening two holes located at the front of the golfing complex are a very average par three and a short dog leg par four, and allow the golfer to play himself in without too much threat to his/her card. However the finish is now a brute with 3 demanding par fours each of over 400 yards, all requiring clean ball striking and/or a precise short game to make par. In between, the other par threes are all excellent, and some of the shorter par fours were great fun to play.
I played the more highly-rated Red Course at Frilford Heath about three years ago and prefer the nuances of the Green. Both courses are well maintained to a consistently high standard, even if the gentle flat parkland leads to a certain blandness at times.
I really like the Green course. It's much shorter than the Blue and Red, but also a lot more fun. Less drives off tees, more wedges into greens. Don't overlook it as the third course, but instead go and enjoy yourself and you won't be disappointed.
The club at Frilford Heath is strong, 3x18 hole courses and a new 6 hole academy course just open. Most 54 hole set-ups have an obvious order of the 1, 2, 3 of the courses but I am not so sure here. The Red course often appears highest in rankings but I was nowhere near as impressed as I was hoping with it being a current English Top 100 course. On a long July day I made it my business to have a good look at all three courses and it was the Green that came out tops for me. Yes, it is the shortest and yes it only has a single par-5 (1st hole) but it is the one that charmed me most, by a long way to be honest.
The shorter par-4’s of which there are nine under 380 yards are the holes where the total short length of just 6000 yards is most evident but those looking for what might be called regular length holes have the other nine which do just that. These include four par-4’s over 410 yards and the four par-3’s average out at 180 yards.
When judging a course, there has to be an element of ‘just a nice place to be’ and the Green has tons of that feeling all around the course.
The par-3’s at the 6th and 10th are very good looking holes; the 6th plays 152 yards from the white tee with great bunkering surrounding the green and the 10th 20 yards longer to an offset green with six more strong bunkers. The 12th hole; a 324 yard par-4 is very tricky – a fairway turning right and then a little left back to a green that is not easy to hit as there are mature tress all around.
The closing holes on the Green will give most a serious test, especially the big run from the 14th to the 16th – the course bites back here as all of these holes are 410+ yards. The 15th has a great dip just short of the green that we surely catch a lot of approach shots that are under-hit a little.
The par-3 17th is the only hole that could do will some thought in my opinion; just under 200 yards, uphill and just does not have the charm of the rest of the course. Options on the last hole – here is SI-18 and only 291 yards long with not a lot of problems really, just a sole fairway bunker at 250 yards on the right and three more by the long green, big chance to finish on a high.
Frilford Heath as a club, is one of the strongest in the south of England and has plenty to be proud of including the ability to maintain traditional values but also embracing the modern needs in golf. Recommended.
The Green course stands at just a smidgen over 6,000 yards at its maximum length but with a par of 69 is no pushover. And whilst there are several holes that require placement from the tee, usually just a long iron or fairway metal before a pitch or short iron into the green, there are holes such as the seventh, 14th and 16th; all par fours measuring over 440 yards. Couple this with a fine set and good variety of par three’s and you have a really nice balance and enjoyable course.
There are no real stand-out holes, that take your breath away, but I don’t mean that in a negative way. What you have here are 18 very solid golf holes and plenty of strategic value.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.