Little Aston Golf Club is set in 176 acres of tranquil, mature parkland in the former grounds of Little Aston Hall. The club is hidden away on the edge of exclusive suburbia, eight miles north of Birmingham city centre. “A pleasant park course of excellent turf,” wrote Bernard Darwin in Golf Between Two Wars. “This is the kind of golf course which an eighteenth-century English gentleman would have approved.” wrote Patric Dickinson.
Harry Vardon reputedly laid out the course in 1908 for ten guineas. He had a charming and elegant piece of parkland to work with and succeeded in creating probably the best and toughest true parkland course in England. As it turned out, Vardon had created a course with long and challenging carries that ultimately proved too hard for the members, so Harry Colt was summoned to make the course friendlier. Mark Lewis (the club’s professional for over 40 years during the first half of the 20th century) must also be credited for taking Little Aston through to maturity.
The course is always well maintained and even in the winter it plays well for a parkland layout due to its gravel base and the club is justifiably proud of the quality of their large greens and of their trademark Colt bunkers. The undulating formal tree lined fairways ensure that you get a private and picturesque walk in the park.
Above all, Little Aston is an honest golf course. There are no tricks, and everything is clearly laid out in front of you. The first two holes are fairly ordinary but at the third, things start to get better with a testing short par five that cajoles you into opening your shoulders. There are a number of good golf holes here at Little Aston but it will take two or three rounds before you really begin to appreciate this golf course. It is therefore feasible that you might come away disappointed after playing here for the first time.
Little Aston has hosted many important amateur and professional events, including the British Masters, held here on five separate occasions, most recently in 1969.
Birmingham isn’t at the top of the list for golfing breaks, despite the fact that there are notable golf courses in this area, including Beau Desert, Whittington Heath and, of course, the Belfry. But if you do decide to visit this area, make sure you play Little Aston. It’s one of the best courses in the Midlands.
"It's a very good course but I'm not sure it is worth £105 a round," said one of my playing partners as we neared the end of our round at Little Aston.
This was the most expensive so far during my challenge of playing the top 100 English courses and the first time that value-for-money had been in question.
To be fair all other rounds (see my previous reviews) have been discounted either because I was playing just after the Covid lockdown was lifted or I was in a competition.
But my mate felt that we were paying for its Little Aston's position, cheek-by-jowl with some of the most fantastic properties in the Midlands, as opposed to the course's wow factor.
I wasn't so critical. Little Aston is a pretty track. Its fairways are cut majestically with consistent lies and its greens are pacy and tricky (although the toughest was on the beautifully manicured practice area where I nearly lost a ball in the flower beds).
And quality play can be rewarded with good scoring. There was only one hole which none of our party hit in regulation.
But it is true that there are no startling views from the course which is hidden away, even from the nearby mansions, by attractive tree lines (I thought they made the short 9th particularly pleasing on the eye).
There are also a couple of handsome water features which can be easily avoided but add a pretty dimension.
It did seem to me that there were a couple of stroke indexing anomalies - especially the 4th which has to be the most straightforward stroke index one I have ever played, standing out particularly when compared to the 10th, which is S.I.3 but is 125 yards longer.
I disagreed with my pals who questioned the variety of holes. I thought there was plenty of interest and they would have prompted me to have to go through most of my repertoire had I been playing anywhere near my 12 handicap.
And I ought to give mention of our welcome. Covid restrictions were sensible and unobtrusive and the professional was very friendly, giving clear instructions as well as a shot-saver and a money-holder as a souvenir.
My mate would argue that the problem was, we weren't left with enough spare notes to put in it.
So was it worth £105? I reckon £80 would have been more than enough but I still enjoyed a beautiful day.
In the midst of a private estate that oozes wealth and greeted by a clubhouse that has a grand feeling of tradition, you can tell you’re somewhere classy when you arrive at this sought-after Midlands golf club. And welcoming you before your round is without doubt, the most inventive practice green I’ve come across as it loops and bends around beds of flowering shrubs. Due to the clubhouse closure during these Covid-19 restricted times, I can only imagine the fun that could be had on a lazy afternoon with putter and pint in hand.
The course itself is a very pretty, mature tree-lined parkland and whilst I’m not typically a lover of parkland courses, Little Aston is certainly one of the better that I’ve played. The Colt bunkers are creatively built and well positioned, many of which, with their clean smooth lines, pop up above the ground. Whilst unmistakably parkland, there are also patches of heather, most notably on some of the par threes such as the long 9th. And as you’d hope with any top inland course, you’re also presented with immaculately kept, slick, sloping greens.
The course itself is very pleasant, the holes having varying degrees of modest elevation change, but it’s generally an easy walk. The club must have a good tree management programme for the fairways are kept at a fair, bordering on generous width and trees are thinned out meaning balls are easily found and escape shots are often available.
I did feel that the course got off to a relatively slow start albeit with no obvious weak holes, but it wasn’t until the 6th that any of the holes particularly caught my eye, for the 6th is blessed with a nice ridge of heather that cuts diagonally across the fairway before opening up into some fairway bunkers. The back nine is definitely the stronger of the two nines and the 10th for me was probably the best designed hole on the course. Here you’re faced with a decision on the tee as to which side of the tree to angle your tee shot, then what follows is a fairway that chicanes its way up to the green. I also enjoyed the holes where water comes into play on 12 and 17, the former a pretty par five and the latter a peninsula green that plays left to right from the tee due to the skewed teeing ground. 14 is another good hole, a tempter of a doglegging short par four but with a tricky green and trees to block out the direct approach, so only the foolhardy would go for this one, whilst the par five at 15 is another excellent hole where the fairway is blocked with mounds and bunkers before a well constructed tiered green. Otherwise, most putting surfaces are graded but not severely contoured, so a good iron player should be aiming for a position below the hole if birdie opportunities are expected to present themselves.
Overall, Little Aston’s current Top 50 England ranking comes across a little generous, maybe reputation has a part to play here. But it’s a very enjoyable location to play your golf amongst the isolation of some beautifully wooded suburbs, but to be considered the best parkland course in the country, I’m probably left wanting a little more; personally I feel it lacks sufficient elevation change and stronger architectural features for it to achieve that status, but it’s still a grand day out and one that I’d recommend.
I have played here twice this year after making the decision to ‘tick off’ another Top 100 Course not too far from home. I played at end March and then again in June.
To be honest the course grabbed me more the 1st time than the second, partly because whilst the weather wasn’t great in March, the course was in excellent condition for the time of year and partly because of the amazing bunkering, which I found on many occasions. What made the bunkers stand out was the quality and consistency of the sand, and it’s the 1st time I have ever taken a 5 hybrid from a bunker and nailed a 165 yard shot from one onto a green!
The course has pretty wide fairways to what I am used to at my home club, so it encouraged me to relax and as a result I hit pretty straight all day.
The greens again were true and quite quick for end March which again gave you confidence when putting.
The 1st is a gentle opener, but followed by a long uphill par 4 and then 1st of the par 5’s down a hill and back up the other side of the valley to a large and relatively flat green. A nice if yet unspectacular start to the round.
The par 3’s are of good quality, my favourite being the 13th, with great bunkering to catch wayward or short shots to the right. I loved the 17th with a semi island green (surrounded on 3 sides by water) although I ended up in it on both rounds!
The 18th is a little bland for a finishing hole.
Loved the quirky putting green where you can play a little match before setting off, or even after a round.
On arrival the 1sdt time we were greeted in person by the pro and shown our table to have our breakfast. Really nice touches and great attention to detail. The fact that it is located behind a very private estate of expensive houses gives it a real quality feel.
The 2nd time was less over whelmed as the fairways were still playing ‘catch up’ from the heat of Summer 2018 and it made me realise I had been over critical of my own course, as this is Top 100 Course and not in any better condition.
That said it is a great course and combined with Beau Desert makes for a quality overnighter in the Midlands.
Mixed reviews, parkland, parched fairways .. was I going to like Little Aston ?. Answer is Yes. Despite the spell of dry weather the greens were really very good, hand cut and without blemish. The course is obviously parkland but because of the dry conditions played more like a hard running heathland course. A thinking persons course with noticeable strategic fairway bunkering (Colt's influence ?) which certainly made one think about the tee shots. The huge cross bunker at 14 undoubtedly catches many drives of the first time visitor (including me) and there was a similar cross bunker short of the 18th green which I also fell foul of. I didn't think there were any poor holes but maybe no stand-out feature holes. The short par 4 4th was an odd stroke index 1 and I thought easier than the short par 4 14th which was stroke index 16. The 9th was a nice looking par 3 and this led you into a more testing back nine with much variety, including lakes at 12 and 17 (arguably the best hole) which once again need thinking about. So where does the course rank ?. In places reminded me of Whittingham Heath, not as interesting as Beau Desert and in my opinion falls just behind the surrey heathland courses such as Camberley Heath and West Hill. Overall a strong 4 ball for me
A course that clearly divides opinion ! I can see where some of the negative reviews generate from as the first 4 holes are bland - the par 5, 3rd hole is awful with trees encroaching everywhere. The course seems to be between genres in that it is described as parkland but the better areas of the course have a heathland feel such as holes 6. 7, 9, 10, 13 and 15. These are both the most aesthetically pleasing holes and the best designed (the 9th and 10th are top, top holes) . If I could play God for a moment, I would dispense with a couple of thousand trees and plant gorse / heather and go for a pure heathland look ( retain trees yes but keep them 50 yards from fairways). The design is good enough to support the change and it would then sit just below the Ws. It would take all the controversy out of the rankings debate. As it is, it is no better than a 4 ball and in some ways lucky to be on the top 100 list, especially when manifestly better courses such as Gailes, Parkstone, Sherwood Forest, Southerness, both Archerfields and Rosapenna (OTM) don't make the list.
Having read some mixed reviews I nearly didn’t play this little gem of a course. I have nothing but praise for the course and the Pro who was very helpful.
The course was in excellent condition for the time of year. I have recommended the course to my friends and would play it again without hesitation.
Well worth a visit if you are in the area. A great parkland course which is well bunkered off the tee.
Having previously only played holes 3-11 in what can be described as some of the worst weather conditions i ever have, i finally returned yesterday and am very pleased I did.
This course is an exceptional parkland course and i dont understand some of the negative comments. The back 9 is simply sublime, every single hole tests a different aspect of your game, and despite the greens being quite 'soft', they still ran very true and i can only imagine that in the summer the will be like glass.
The par 5 are brilliant here, especially 3 and 15, whilst the par 3s are also glorious.
you could argue that 18 is one of the weaker holes on the course.
I agree that the course is a level below Notts/Woodhall etc but these are heathland courses. I think its comfortably a better course than Blackwell, and is on a similar level to the 3 Ws in Surrey
Little Aston is a traditional golf club that exudes excellence both on and off the course.
There are several bunkers strategically placed throughout the 18 holes. I didn’t count them all but I suspect it will be close to 100 in total. You may think this is a bit excessive but virtually everyone helps dictate play to all standards of player. Add to this generous fairways, with varying degrees of width, and it means there is usually an option to bypass the hazards if you so wish albeit, and as it should be, making your next shot much harder than if you tackled the hazards head on.
As a result of the numerous sand traps, both fairway and greenside, placement is often crucial from the tee and missing the green on the wrong side is usually damaging for your scorecard. There is a nice variety of holes and thus you are asked to work the ball both ways from tee and fairway.
Driving the ball well at Little Aston is only one piece of the jigsaw but probably the most important. If you find a bunker from the tee-shot it is unlikely you will be able to reach the green in regulation as they are quite deep and many have high lips.
Meanwhile the putting surfaces are large and although they do have some significant breaks and borrows it often doesn’t feel that way due to their size and the gradual nature of the slopes.
Having played most of the top courses in the West Midlands I would personally place Little Aston behind Beau Desert but just ahead of Enville and Blackwell. One thing for certain is that if you like high quality, well-manicured parkland golf in a tranquil setting with lots of strategic options you will love Little Aston.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
My friends and I are working our way through the Top 100 and I have played at least half of them. I'm not sure how Little Aston made it into the Top 100 in England let alone Britain and Ireland. It was a pleasant afternoon but nothing more than that. Without the bunkers the course would be nothing at all and the stroke indexes (or is it indices) didn't appear to make any sense at all. We played Beau Desert the next day and I am pleased to say that Beau Desert is a proper golf course. My rating would be even lower if it reflected the facilities too. The Club doesn't allow people to eat on the terrace and so we were asked to walk through the changing facilities to eat in a small dingy room elsewhere. We didn't stop for a drink afterwards because of the poor facilities. I am sorry, Little Aston, but we will not be returning.
Totally agree. There are some strange ratings in this top 100 but this one really takes the biscuit. A glorified, members parkland course with small elevation changest and few memorable holes. Its saying something when the best part of the experience is the child friendly practice putting green.
As a midlands course, its ludicrous to rate iit so close to Hollinwell and above Luffenham Heath and even Blackwell. A total mystery why it is rated so highly.