Review for Heythrop Park

Reviewer Score:


I Played Heythrop Park on Monday 25th October. What a day it turned out to be. After the heavy overnight frost had cleared, a glorious autumn Cotswold day followed with little wind, blue skies and vivid autumnal colours. A few practice balls were hit off pristine, tightly mown grass (yes no mats) and then it was across to the practice green to gauge the dance floor. Well, I had to retrieve my first putt from 15 feet past the hole and I’m so glad I spent a few minutes on this practice green, as I would have been in all sorts of trouble out on the course. These were the fastest and truest greens I’ve putted on all year. The last time I experienced greens this good was at the Grove.

The on-course experience is one of interest because the topography is good and the holes are so varied. The first hole takes you away from the manor down one of the impressive, long, tree-lined avenues. I imagined this avenue being used in bygone days by the galloping postman delivering mail to the manor on his trusty steed. The course is understated, despite the arboretum through which you play and the backdrop of the house. Tee boxes are tightly cut and defined by the thicker grassed, apron-like surrounds. There’s thankfully an absence of the paraphernalia that clutters many resort courses (ball washers and gaudy signage etc). The simplicity appears elegant but when you look carefully, buckets of money has been spent here restoring the estate and creating the golfing playground that navigates Cotswold stone walls, a carp lake, a Victorian skating pond and even a Jesuit cemetery.

Much settling in is still needed at Heythrop, the course was only seeded 18 months ago and there is a battle with thuggish grasses that spring up where they shouldn’t. The light bunkering is styled in a manner that may turn out to be excellent but left me wondering. The group in front let us through because they were searching for a lost ball in the thickest grass I’ve ever seen surrounding any greenside bunker. There is still plenty of work required to resolve a few drainage issues, especially on 5 and 6 which are routed over and around the fishing lake. But it’s the playing surfaces that impressed me the most.

The greens were good. There are a few odd patches of rogue grasses that are being removed, but overall these were fast greens that must have been running at a minimum of 8 on the stimp when we played here in late October. The tees are good too and the fairways look mature beyond their years. If the club can keep these playing surfaces at this quality, I have no doubt that Heythrop will be a course and a facility that can be compared alongside the Grove. If I had to choose between the Grove and Heythrop, I’d probably choose Heythrop because it’s more natural as a course e.g. it hasn’t been forced into the landscape, it has more memorable holes and finally it’s set in tranquil and beautiful surroundings. If I lived around the Oxford area I’d have it on my list of courses to play regularly.

Date: October 28, 2010

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