You’ll find Heythrop Park in the charming Cotswolds, close to the market town of Chipping Norton and a mere fifteen miles to the north of bustling Oxford. At the centre of the 440-acre Heythrop Park Estate stands a grand Baroque-styled country house that was restored and converted into a luxury hotel and country club by businessman and former owner of Oxford United Football Club, Firoz Kassam.
Tom Mackenzie, of Mackenzie & Ebert Ltd, designed Heythrop Park, which opened for play in October 2009 and it’s routed through the leafy grounds of the stately Heythrop Estate.
With five sets of tees which stretch out to an impressive 7,156 yards from the tips, Heythrop Park is a course that will challenge the best while remaining enjoyably playable for the higher handicapper. USGA standard greens provide all-year-round consistency, and, with water coming into play on no fewer than eight holes, Heythrop Park will provide for an exciting and at times rather exacting day’s golf.
Heythrop Park Golf Club membership will be limited to 400 and the club are currently offering exclusive VIP tours of the golf course and the Health Club. If any one of the Top 100 team lived close by, we’d love to be part of one of the century’s most exciting English golf developments.
Finally, we’d like to mention “The Heythrop Challenge”. Archer Bridge is the name of Heythrop’s risk and reward 6th hole. Naturally, with “Bridge” in the name, water is the predominant feature. The Heythrop Challenge is to drive the green, 277 yards from the tee. You’ll have to carry the lake and stop the ball on the green. If you are successful, they will waive your joining fee for membership. Will you take it on?
Before taking on the first tee shot I would recommend spending a few minutes warming up on the excellent practice area. The main reason for this being the Jesuits graveyard on the left of the first fairway which combined with mature beech trees on the right puts you under pressure right from the off. The next memorable hole for me is the 4th, a good par 5 with three bunkers set at an angle across the fairway waiting to catch the misjudged second shot. An attractive stone wall runs along the right hand side for the full length of the hole. The fifth is a lovely hole, dog-legging right across a water filled valley, you must decide how much to bite off. A well struck shot on the tiger line may well challenge the green and set up a good birdie chance whereas the poorly struck ball could well be lost. The 6th is a real beauty and my favourite hole on the course. Hitting from on high again over water to a fairway running across you, you must choose your line carefully. The green nestles on the waters edge protected by an attractive stand of pine trees and with the grand old bridge situated behind this is one of the prettiest spots on the course. The 8th is a strong hole, dog-legging right and uphill; it requires two well struck shots to get home and the 9th is a pretty par three protected by water all the way up the right side of the hole.
The 11th is an unusual downhill par 5 which is unique in my experience. The safe option is to get as close as you can to the old skating lake in two before hitting your third over to the green which is tucked away to the left in woodland. Looking back up the fairway you get a wonderful view of the majestic old Hall. This is a tough but good looking hole and another of my favourites. The 13th is a picturesque par 3 running downhill to a green set beyond a small water feature and the 14th is a cracking par 5, initially uphill over a wall, it bends left all the way before leaving you a downhill shot to an attractively positioned green. The finishing hole is a poker straight par 5 heading straight for the main entrance of the Hall. There are no bunkers but the green is guarded by a series of grassy mounds and hollows.
The greens were in great condition for October and have enough contouring to keep you attentive throughout your round. If Heythrop continues to improve I can see it making a strong bid for an English Top 100 place sometime in the not too distant future. Brian W