Set within the beautiful private Harleyford country estate, which dates back to the 12th century, Harleyford Golf Club enjoys a magnificent setting on the north bank of the River Thames, where the fairways nestle in a generous 160-acre tract, close to the impressive Grade 1 Listed Georgian Manor House and its riverside moorings.
It really is an idyllic spot for golf and it’s here in the mid-1990s that Donald Steel’s design company was tasked with laying out eighteen lightly bunkered fairways in a natural parkland setting that’s blessed with good drainage, allowing play to continue even after the most persistent spells of heavy rain.
The course measures a healthy 6,714 yards from the back tees, playing to a par of 72. With greens constructed to USGA specification, putting surfaces are generally in excellent shape and despite the tree-lined nature of many holes, playing corridors are wider than expected so it never feels overly restrictive at any point.
Notable holes include the toughest on the front nine, the right doglegged par four 7th (“Ratty’s Retreat”) which plays to every inch of its 467-yard measurement from the back markers, and back-to-back par fives around the turn at hole 9 (“Plantation”) and 10 (“Toad Hall”), where either hole is capable of yielding a welcome birdie.
The signature hole arrives at “Chalkpit,” the 176-yard downhill par three 12th. A severely sloped green fronts a prominent chalk bank at this unique hole, with protecting bunkers positioned short right and left of the putting surface – avoid the sand off the tee and stay below the hole to have any chance of carding a par or better.
Harleyford is a very pleasant modern design routed across an interesting and undulating piece of land. Mature trees line many of the fairways on this 20-year-old course giving the impression that the course is much older than its tender years. After a gentle start there are two strong par-3s at the 3rd and 6th, both are well defended by bunkers and you would happily take par on either. A good looking par-5 greets us at the 5th before reaching the memorable 7th, "Ratty's Retreat", a long and tricky par-4 which doglegs right down a hill. The 9th, another good hole, is a short but dangerous par-5 where accuracy is paramount. There are a number of excellent holes on the back nine and the 11th certainly belongs in this category as a long drive up the left is needed here to open up a narrow sloping green. The spectacular 12th, probably the best par-3, is a played over a valley to an attractive green nestled in a chalk pit, three bunkers and a stream will gather anything coming up short. After the difficult uphill 13th we come to two short par-4s with bags of character and no guarantee of achieving par. The 14th should be simple enough, although being long with your approach could be problematic, whilst the tricky 15th, "The Temple", is tree lined all the way and a little beauty. The 18th provides a tough finish to a very enjoyable round. Brian W