Huntercombe - Oxfordshire - England

Huntercombe Golf Club,
Nuffield,
Henley-on-Thames,
Oxon,
RG9 5SL,
England


  • +44 (0) 1491 641207

  • Ms. J. A. Dawson

  • Willie Park Jr.

  • Ian Roberts

Huntercombe, along with Willie Park Junior's other groundbreaking masterpiece, Sunningdale, opened in 1901 and sparked a revolution in inland golf design. Walter Travis commented “I consider that Huntercombe is easily the best laid course that I have ever played over anywhere”. Harold Hilton agreed, “in links architecture his two great creations have been Sunningdale and Huntercombe and of the two I am distinctly inclined to look upon Huntercombe as the greater effort of the two”.

Bernard Darwin was greatly impressed with the course and wrote: “Although Huntercombe is still a comparatively young course, there is an agreeable quality about the golf that, for want of better word, may be called, very respectfully, old-fashioned. Exactly how this impression is produced upon the mind is hard to say. Perhaps it is that some of the approach shots have to played over cross-hazards, although those are not constructed after the old rampart pattern; perhaps it is that there are no deep and desperate pot-bunkers dug very close to the holes, or it may be the abundance of the whins, which somehow remind one of the unsophisticated golf upon the common. At any rate, the golf of Huntercombe has a very engaging character of its own; it is good without being too strenuous for the reasonably light-hearted player. Yet this cheerful person must not imagine the disaster cannot overtake him.”

Like most heathland courses, trees have invaded what would originally have been open land, though Park would certainly recognize much of his handiwork if he were to walk the course today. As one would expect from an older course, which has had few revisions, Huntercombe is on the short side at approximately 6,300 yards. The course stands nearly 700 feet above sea level, one of the highest points in the Chilterns and it is easy to imagine how wind would have played a significant role in stiffening the challenge. The few bunkers employed have in the main been placed to offer the golfer a choice of playing heroically or safely. As an alternative to bunkering, Park dug many hollows throughout the course which greatly effect the decision making of golfers. Not unusually, a road, The Ridgeway, one of the oldest roadways in Europe, divides the course. Unfortunately, the increase in traffic these recent years has precipitated the club to recently alter the 6th by planting trees down the right and filling in one of the hollows on the left side of the fairway.

Despite the great success of the course, due to financial difficulties caused by the failure of the planned real estate development, Park lost a substantial amount of money. However, high profile work continued to come Park’s way. His talents were further utilized for many more marquee designs; amongst which were Notts, Formby and Worplesdon. Ironically, the early financial difficulties Huntercombe suffered may be the very reason that the course is for the most part preserved. Unlike Sunningdale, Huntercombe is just far enough removed from London to have effectively become an historical footnote in golf architecture. Huntercombe fails to make any modern best of lists. Even Tom Doak didn’t visit while researching architecture for the launch of his career and subsequently, Huntercombe does not earn a mention in the first edition of the Confidential Guide. More is the pity because Huntercombe exemplifies concepts which were previously the domain of links golf. Variety, use of natural landforms and strategic merit are features which made the course justly famous over 100 years ago and continue to satisfy members and visitors alike today.

Article by Sean Arble

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Reviews for Huntercombe

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Description: Huntercombe Golf Club is just far enough removed from London to have effectively become an historical footnote in golf architecture. Rating: 4.7 out of 6 Reviews: 10

Having not heard much about this course, I walked away hugely impressed with the Willie Park Jr creation in the Oxfordshire countryside. It was a delight to see how a talented 7-man green-keeping team can preserve a hidden gem that offers very firm bouncy playing conditions, incredible land formations, enormous grass craters and just 13 bunkers.

A 130-yard par 3 opening hole leads you towards the spectacular Huntercombe Golf Course - Photo by reviewer downhill second hole that requires you to play down the right hand side and carefully judge the downhill approach, allowing for a big bounce and release to the green that sits below the fairway.

The adventure continues with the hugely contoured third and fourth greens. I honestly put the 4th green among the top 10 most impressive green structures I’ve seen around the world. Four different distinct putting platforms blended together. The green is much bigger than you’ll realise. On first glance, you initially see the upper platforms, but as you get closer you discover a much larger dance floor. The 8th green also deserves a shout out with its distinct two tier structure with a wide narrow shelf providing a wealth of brutal pin positions.

The hospitality and overall experience is just as superior as the hugely underrated golf course. I often found myself making positive comparisons with Sunningdale (Old). I strongly encourage golfers to make the effort and add on an extra day to a London golf trip.

5 / 6
Huntercombe
June 01, 2018


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When the alarm went off at 3.30am yesterday morning I did question my sanity as I dragged myself out of bed, staggered into the shower and then jumped into the car for the 200-mile drive to Nuffield for a 7.30am tee time. Maybe I should have stayed locally the night before? Nah. I like a challenge.

Huntercombe 18th green and clubhouse

Huntercombe has been on my to-play list for decades since Darwin first wrote about it, “once the home of Willie Park, and the pet child among all his golf courses”. I reread the mixed bag of reviews posted below and wondered why the reviews for such an icon are so few and far between.

Modern day architecture pundits wax lyrically about Huntercombe and I was intrigued by Tom Doak’s assessment in his latest edition of The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses: “Modern designers would benefit from seeing how to create interest with sparse bunkering and a quirky, cunning set of green complexes… It reminds us more of Garden City Golf Club than any other course we’ve seen, and deserves to be better known than it is. Hopefully, one day they will gain permission to cut down the trees… opening up the long views of the countryside from the hilltop setting...”

When I pulled into the near empty club car park at 7am, the Red Kites were soaring overhead and the sun was shining. There is no indication whatsoever that the club is set on a hilltop. Glimpses down the avenues of trees suggested a flat parkland setting.

Huntercombe Golf Club 17th green

Grant Stewart the Course Manager greeted Fergal and I on the first tee. Poignantly Grant recently moved here from Sunningdale, so his connection with Willie Park continues. After the chat we were off. A short par three to start with a green of enormous proportions set the scene for the morning.

There’s nothing to get too excited about at Huntercombe. There’s no signature hole, there are no thrilling elevation changes to add drama, there’s no water and there are only thirteen bunkers (and three of these front the raised green on the quirky short par four 17th). Instead you encounter one solid but unassuming hole after another.

Huntercombe Golf Club 4th green

The excitement and interest centres on the greensites. Each and every green has complexity, either on the putting surface itself or at the surrounds. We were both wrong-sided on the outrageous two-tiered 4th where, if you end up on the punchbowl-like right hand side, it’s nigh on impossible to avoid a three putt. There are not many courses that I can recall which have such an amalgam of fascinating greens.

Grant caught up with us midway through the back nine and we talked about the greens and he also told us that he’s already removed 400 trees and pointed proudly to the reawakening of a long view. Many hundred more trees could easily be removed without compromise and this course would then comfortably be a very strong contender for the GB&I Top 100.

As it stands, Huntercombe is unpretentious, engaging and a genuine throwback to the Golden Age. It’s a club I’d love to join if I lived around the corner. It’s a course I’d like to get to know more intimately. It’s an understated charmer and in my opinion currently too low in our English Top 100 rankings.

5 / 6
Huntercombe
May 10, 2018


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James Reader
May 10, 2018

Couldn’t agree more. I also played Huntercombe for the first time yesterday - at the other end of the day, on a lovely spring evening - and loved it. Definitely among the most interesting set of greens I’ve ever seen, certainly outside a links course. Why, when Willie Park was showing how to do it over 100 years ago, have so many courses with flat and uninteresting greens been built since? Huntercombe shows how an otherwise unexceptional hole can be transformed into something wonderful with a bit of imagination at the green.

I had the pleasure of playing Huntercombe on a temperate, sunny day in mid-April 2018. Fortunately for me, this perfect day was described by many locals as "the first day of Spring", since it was preceded by weeks Huntercombe Golf Course - Photo by reviewer of wet and chilly weather. Course conditions were surprisingly good, considering the lack of recent sunshine. There were a few soft spots in the otherwise lush fairways, and the greens lived up to their excellent-but-tricky reputation. I would describe the course as more parkland than heathland, as trees lining the fairways were much more of a shot-making and scoring factor than the modest patches of yellow gorse (which might be more prominent later in the summer). The level of challenge was perfect for my low double-digit handicap. A highly recommended course, and a convenient ~90 minute drive from LHR airport.

5 / 6
Huntercombe
May 08, 2018


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Lovely course with huge character and charm. The grass hollow features are a welcome change to the standard bunkering seen at the majority of courses with superb greens that are very challenging but in perfect condition. Every hole was enjoyable and varied with excellent par threes. The layout and overall feel of Huntercombe is unlike any other course in the county and it's easy to see why it bears a resemblance to the likes of Sunningdale. Will certainly be returning in the future.

5 / 6
Huntercombe
June 09, 2017


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After playing 36 holes in an open competition at Frilford Heath I decided to quickly dash across the Oxfordshire countryside to Huntercombe for an evening round rather than sit in what mostly likely would have been rush hour traffic on the M40.

It was a trip I’m glad I made although the course wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

The Club say on their website it is ‘one of the finest inland courses in England’. Unfortunately, I didn’t necessarily come away agreeing with this statement, however, there is no denying this is a course I would urge anyone to experience.

Huntercombe, located several hundred feet above sea level, is unique and different in many ways as well as it being a historically important golf course. Laid out in 1901, by twice Open Champion and creator of the Old course at Sunningdale - Willie Park Junior, what was then a pure and open heathland course helped shape the future of inland golf design over the next three decades.

Over the past 100 years or so this very natural course has changed little from its original design. However, today’s course is a much more claustrophobic affair with the majority of holes venturing through dense woodland and undergrowth. The course also played much softer than I suspect it did a century ago.

The two stand-out features at Huntercombe are the many amazingly brilliant putting surfaces that can only be described as tricky and quirky in equal measure, and the presence of several strategically placed grassy hollows in lieu of bunkers.

Huntercombe is a course I most definitely appreciated, and one worthy of further study, but sadly not one I fell in love with like I hoped I might.

Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.

4 / 6
Huntercombe
March 23, 2017


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Huntercombe is like going back in time, a traditional natural course largely unchanged where you can stroll round in 3 hours. Course condition was very good; although winter rules were on we had no need as the fairways were that good. The greens were definitely the feature of the course with fantastic shapes and contours, and of good pace and in excellent condition; as good as any I have played this year and it's November. Loved the natural features, with the hollows and humps and isolated gorse bushes. After the first couple of holes the course seemed pretty flat and without much elevational change there did seem to be a lack of variety of holes (although all holes were solid enough and certainly not poor). My personal favourite was the dog-leg par 4 5th, and the 18th up to the clubhouse was a nice finish. All greens were interesting with the big step in nr 8 and general surrounds to nr 17 of particular note. Maybe not demanding enough to improve all aspects of your game, however a delightful place for a friendly game of golf with excellent greens. Nearly a 5 ball but not quite. Definitely worth the visit

4 / 6
Huntercombe
November 03, 2016


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Huntercombe is indeed old-fashioned. I wouldn't want to be an "artisan" seeking entrance to the members' club house, for example, and woe betide you if you wear shorts with short socks. That aside, the course is old-fashioned in the best sense. The first is a short par three which involves popping your ball over a large gorse patch, which is surprisingly unnerving! Many of the deep grassy dips which dot the fairways have now got gorse bushes in them, so they are to be avoided like the plague. There are a few two tier greens, one of which is very extreme - if the hole is on the top tier and your ball is on the bottom one, judging the whack you have to give it just to climb the mountain in front of you requires considerable judgement. And the greens are pretty quick, even in early Spring which is when I have played it. Being on the top tier and having to putt down to the lower one is a tough ask too.Above all, I think you would call the course charming rather than demanding. It is not very long and it is pretty flat and many of the fairways are quite generous. But one time I played it the wind was blowing and that made it a much sterner test. On the charming front - twice when I have played it, there have been a couple of members out in front of me with their dog, an old Labrador, trotting along beside them, lying down patiently when waiting for them to play and then heaving himself to his feet to trot off again. I didn't notice any dog poo, so they must have cleaned up properly!
4 / 6
Huntercombe
April 14, 2010


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Stumbled across this course when most others were closed due to bad weather. Phoned on route while heading south, we were told to turn up whenever. Th pro was very welcoming mentioned they were quiet so to enjoy a coffee before we went out.Friendly staff in the club house happily looked after us.Got on the 1st tee two members arrived behind us we offered to let them tee off 1st but they told us to carry on.The course was in superb condition, even more so considering the general weather conditions.One of the most enjoyable rounds I have had.Will be booking another round with my mates again so we can enjoy it in the summer. The only critisism I would have is that they do not allow fourballs out.
6 / 6
Huntercombe
November 04, 2009


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Harrison Brown
January 07, 2013
Having no 4 balls is a positive, this is a match play golf club, the best type of golf. If you've never played foursomes match play you are missing out on one of the best formats in golf. And plus you can play 36 in a day in less than 7 hours with a lunch break in between, try doing that at the so called new super courses, The Oxfordshire, Celtic 2010, The Players Club (joke course) etc
If it’s charm you‘re looking for then Huntercombe will tick the box. For those interested in architecture there’s much to learn from the tricky and treacherous greens, which have always been fast when I’ve played here. This is one of England’s olde worlde classics and won’t suit all golfers, as museums do not thrill everyone. Take your fastest golf shoes to Huntercombe as the members fly round and seemingly can’t wait on the course for too long as they are afraid their red wine might go off. Sub three hour rounds for a two-ball are commonplace. I’m personally a fan of the course but a number of people I know think it is a bit mundane with few standout holes. I think the par threes are excellent but the greens are simply sublime.
5 / 6
Huntercombe
September 24, 2009


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Played here back in Feb and the course was in fantastic condition. Great greens which are very hard to read. Lots of gorse around here and many undulations in the fairways. A good test of golf.
4 / 6
Huntercombe
June 03, 2008


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