North Hants Golf Club is located at Fleet on the western edge of the glorious sand belt, which cuts through Surrey, Berkshire and Hampshire. This delightful heathland course is set enchantingly amongst stately pines and silver birch trees and, naturally, heather and gorse abound.
The club was originally founded in 1904 and James Braid, the designer, described the course as, "most sporting and interesting". But the plans were ambitious: North Hants was to be more than just a golf club. This was one of the first projects to create an American-styled country club and the clubhouse provided excellent facilities, while high quality tennis courts and croquet lawns attracted Hampshire's high society.
In 1913, the course was re-shaped by Harry Colt for the princely sum of £25 and in the 1930s, Tom Simpson made further modifications. Sadly, the tennis and croquet sections of the North Hants Club did not survive the Second World War and the land formerly used for these sports was transformed into one of the country's first golf practice grounds.
Following Donald Steel's modifications to three holes in 2001, today's course now measures 6,565 yards from the tips. Although it's not the longest course, it does represent is a real challenge. Accuracy from the tee is an essential ingredient because most holes are set between avenues of trees and you'll need to find the correct part of the fairway to attack the generous but well-protected greens with your approach shot.
Donald Steel's protégé Tom Mackenzie redesigned the par five 3rd hole in 2019, allowing it to be split into two holes when required, 3a and 3b. This was done to facilitate planned work by the local water authority which would result in the 15th hole being taken out of action for a period of time.
North Hants was used for Final Qualifying for the 2004 Women's British Open and the club also stages an annual amateur competition called the Hampshire Hog. Michael Bonallack won the inaugural 1957 event, but failed to defend his title the following year. 22 years later, in 1979, Bonallack returned to reclaim the title. Sandy Lyle and Gordon Brand Jnr. have also emerged as subsequent "Hog" winners.
Undoubtedly, North Hants has a fascinating history but it would be remiss of us not to mention the club's most famous son - Justin Rose. In 1995, at the tender age of fourteen, Rose won the Hampshire Hog with a record score of 134. When he turned professional in 1998, Rose was still a North Hants junior member and now, he's an Honorary Member. No doubt each and every club member follows his progress with great interest.
North Hants is a course I’ve been meaning to play for years and I recently played here. One word immediately comes to mind. Charming. It’s not the longest course on paper but it didn’t play short for me and the finishing handful of holes are a stern challenge. With pleasant elevation changes and a programme of tree clearance which is successfully encouraging the heather to return, North Hants narrowly misses a 5-ball rating from me, but only just. It’s almost as good as the three W’s and has a touch of Walton Heath and West Sussex about it. A fantastic new clubhouse, good practice facilities and more heather will surely see North Hants become more widely recognised as one of the sandbelts many very good courses.