The country estate of Orchardleigh – which includes a large Victorian mansion, an island church, boathouse and a number of other listed outbuildings – is the setting for an 18-hole golf course that was designed in the mid 1990s by Brian Huggett in conjunction with Peter McEvoy.
It’s an idyllic setting for weddings with the little Church of St. Mary accessed by a small bridge over a lake but for those more interested in playing golf, the parkland layout here offers a really decent test on a site where other water hazards come into play at half a dozen of the holes.
The front nine are laid out on flatter land to the west of the clubhouse and the 414-yard 6th is the hardest hole on this circuit, with out of bounds to the left of a fairway that leads to a two-tiered green. The back nine occupies more undulating terrain and the uphill, right doglegged 14th is a tough nut to crack on the inward half.The course was constructed within an established estate and the maturity of the setting contrasts well against the modern, target golf design of the holes where greens have been built to USGA standard. Originally called The Park, that name was dropped when proposals for a second 18-hole course fell through.
Playing parkland courses in the depths of winter is never ideal but we decided to take a look at the leafless skeleton of Orchardleigh last month after a spell of dry winter weather.
The setting in the heart of the 500-acre gated Orchardleigh Estate is gorgeous, but you wouldn’t want to be dropped off at the gates, as you’d be faced with a two-mile walk from the public road to the clubhouse. I can’t think of any entrance drive in the UK that’s longer than Orchardleigh.
Unfortunately the course left me more than a tad uninspired. The fairways looked lovely, but the ground was incredibly sticky considering the preceding weeks of dry weather. The fact that the tees on every hole were playing off mats, which were at least 20 yards in front of the ladies tees, did not help one eyeota.
The bunkering is pretty decent and some of the holes are good, but too many are humdrum.
Maybe in the summer when the leaves are out and the course is presented at its verdant best, my opinion might be different.
I’m glad I played Orchardleigh but it failed to get my golfing juices flowing despite an enjoyable round in pleasant winter weather.