Founded in 1907, Ogbourne Downs Golf Club is the seventh oldest golf club in the county of Wiltshire. It was originally established as North Wilts Golf Club and located to the north of Chiseldon, where Ernie Foord, the Burnham & Berrow professional, set out a 9-hole course for the members.
Twenty years after its formation, the club decided to move to Ogbourne St George, changing its name to Swindon Golf Club at the same time, and the newly fashioned 18-hole course was formally opened by Admiral Luce, vice-president of the Wiltshire County Golf Union, on 23rd March 1929.
F. G. Hawtree, founder of the British Golf Greenkeepers Association, and five-time Open Champion J. H. Taylor designed and built the course. Their partnership began in 1922 and lasted nearly two decades, during which time they built around fifty courses and remodelled another fifty, including Royal Birkdale.
It’s testament to the handiwork of Hawtree and Taylor that, despite a number of minor modifications made to the course down the years, the layout, which still remains beautifully draped across the Marlborough Downs, is largely the one set out by their esteemed company almost a century ago.
Today, the course extends to just over 6,400 yards from the back markers, playing to a par of 71, with fairways routed as two returning nines over two hundred acres of free-draining downland. Thanks to the undulating nature of the terrain, golfers are afforded wonderful views of the surrounding landscape.
The first seven holes climb gradually to the highest point on the course before the long par three 8th and downhill par five 9th brings golfers back to the clubhouse. The inward half begins with another par five at the 537-yard 10th and this hole leads to a lovely long, two-tiered green that slopes from back to front.
The longer back nine features a testing trio of holes halfway from home. This “Amen Corner” starts with the 431-yard 13th, rated the toughest on the card, and ends with the 202-yard 15th, requiring an all-carry tee shot across a small valley to the green. In between these two holes, the par five 14th is regarded as the signature hole on the course.
Measuring 558 yards from the tips, the hole slides downhill and left from the tee, along a little valley towards a lightly bunkered, slightly raised green that falls away on all sides. This hole might seem rather innocuous at first glance but its stroke index rating of 3 is one that’s well merited.
The club, which became Ogbourne Downs in 1995 to give it a clearer identity, has played a prominent part in promoting Wiltshire golf by staging many county events, providing numerous county officers and developing local golfing talent like club professional and former Curtis Cup player Claire Waite.
More than a little surprised to see this the review for Ogbourne Downs. I too am a member but not in my wildest dreams could I consider Ogbourne worthy of a five ball rating; assuming six balls are for the real top courses then five balls must be for the next tier down and Ogbourne is I'm afraid nowhere near that and is not even a gem. It is a typical traditional downland Wiltshire course and is nothing remotely like an inland links course. It is certainly windy and has lots of slopes and because it is on chalk and drains well which is of great benefit in the winter, making it more playable than most; I have often found the course and the greens actually play better in the winter than the summer when the greens are often slow. I would say that Ogbourne was probably at it's peak in the late 70's/80's when the greens were hand cut and very good, however I would say that in the last 10 years condition of the course has been average at best.
A lot of the holes are average and short by modern standards and as for calling 13-15 Amen corner go and play Saunton West 10-13 off the blues and then you are talking. Hole 13 is very bland with a wide open fairway (must be about 100 yards including the ridiculously short semi) and whilst the tee shot on the par 5 14th (down the valley) is probably the best shot on the course it's not exactly a classic hole; the greens on 14 and 15 were relaid a number of years ago and did not improve the holes.
Having read the previous review I went and played Ogbourne on 16/09/2018 and have to say the condition of the course was very poor, possibly the worst I have known and there seemed to be a general lack of care. Bearing in mind it was a medal day, the course should have been near it's best and it was very very disappointing. Greens were very poor. Bunkers were appalling, some were full of stones, some had far too much sand in places, non-existent raking etc. I disagree with the other review and think Ogbourne is not well bunkered; they may be penal at times but this is more due to poor construction and lack of the correct sand depth than anything else. Some years ago a lot of the bunkers were replaced and remodelled and the course has ended up with a number of flat non-penal modern style bunkers (for example on the 3rd) which are out of character with the type of course. So I'm sorry to disgree with the previous review but for me Ogbourne has always realistically been an average course, but current condition I'm afraid leaves it in the poor category
I am a member at Ogbourne Downs and I’m also very privileged to have played many of the Top 100 courses. I am a real fan of links golf and love naturally presented courses like Rye and Royal Cinque Ports. Ogbourne is laid out over the free draining chalk of the Marlborough Downs and definitely has the feel of an ‘inland links’.
The fairways are tight, firm and generally sloping – it’s unusual to have a totally flat lie. The greens are pretty small and well bunkered meaning you will often not be on all the greens in regulation, so your short game will really be put through its paces. Like a links course, the wind has dramatic effect – it’s not unusual to be faced with a two or three club wind.
The course is in two loops of nine that gently make their way uphill with the Par 5, 9th and Par 4, 18th coming back down towards the clubhouse. The general wisdom is that you make your score on the front nine then hang on over the back nine. The short Par 4, 3rd and 6th presenting decent birdie opportunities but the testing Par 4, 2nd and 5th are no pushover and the 206yd Par 3, 8th will certainly grab your attention.
In the middle of the back nine is our very own ‘Amen Corner’. 13 is a brutally long uphill Par 4, Stroke Index 1 that always seems to be into wind! 14 is the signature hole, 558 yards of glorious Par 5 that sweeps right to left down a long valley to a green that runs off in all directions, worthy of its Stroke index 3. The final hole of the trio is a 202yd all-carry par 3 that goes at right angles across the valley. If your card is intact by the time you make the 16th, it’s a pretty tough run to the clubhouse.
Downland is a unique landscape that’s found in the south of England and the free-draining nature of the chalk means that Ogbourne is never closed due to rain, in fact the only time is not open for plays is if it’s too foggy or there is snow lying on the course. As members, we can play all year around, it’s great for visitors too – even if all of the surrounding courses are closed, you can pretty much guarantee that Ogbourne will be open and super playable. It’s probably one of the best winter courses within a 30 mile or so radius.
If you are in the area or even if you are driving down the M4 (it’s only 10 minutes from J15) it’s well worth a visit, you won’t be disappointed (but make sure you bring your short game).