While inspecting the boards one will notice three clubs claim Southfield as its home turf. The oldest, Oxford University GC, was formed in 1875. The course is most convenient for student golfers as the spires of the university are not much more than a few miles distant. From the 4th tee Magdalene College and Radcliffe Camera can just be seen across a long valley. Unfortunately, modern expansion has somewhat obscured the view, but it can hardly be surprising since the course is on the Cowley side of what can generally be considered the middle of the city. Oxford City GC (1899) is the mainstay club with the most members by quite a margin. Making up the trio of centenary clubs is Oxford Ladies GC (1901), one of the oldest women's clubs in England.
Golf was played in the Southfield area from as early as 1873. The original course was primarily located in the marshes below the hill on which the course is now located. At some point James Braid was involved in a redesign and then in the early 1920s H.S. Colt significantly re-worked the course. It is thought some of Braid’s work remains, but to what degree is unknown.
The course starts out rather modestly until we reach the knob to knob third where the player must drive toward a creek far below the tee then approach up a steep slope. The following three holes are well designed and the highlight is the elephant's graveyard fairway on the 6th. The next purple patch begins at the 12th, a short hole on a bluff with the creek below on the left. The thirteenth plays over Hogley Bog, recently named a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and to an angled green falling away on the right. The compelling golf continues up to the 17th, another of Southfield's alarmingly good par threes. Like the 3rd, and holes 11 through 13, the penultimate hole makes good use of the creek which must be traversed. The green too is exceptional, sitting on a natural plateau with its two tiers side by side.
If Southfield has a weakness it lies with the long holes, but its cracking set of par threes and clutch of fantastic par fours more than compensate. The turf is generally good, there is enough movement in the land to make golfers create shots, natural hazards are abundant without being onerous and the greens are often in fine nick. Colt was proud of his creation and thought Southfield should “in time possess a very popular inland course which will afford a first-class test of the game.” If one is making plans to play golf near Oxford, Southfield is an ideal complement to both Temple and Huntercombe.
Above article by Sean Arble
Bernard Darwin commented as follows in The Golf Courses of Great Britain, “there is at Southfield a pocket of sand, a golden jewel set in the midst of Oxford clay… The ground, too, is pleasantly, in one or two instances almost too steeply, undulating, and Mr. Colt has used it very skilfully to produce some eminently spectacular holes and some highly exhilarating shots from pulpit tees. Whether the more venerable Masters of Arts find it to their taste I do not know, but as a training-ground for slashing undergraduates it is admirable.”
In 2012, after being know as Southfield for 66 years, the club changed its name to Oxford Golf Club in recognition of its Oxford city centre location and the reality that the golf course is home to three centurion golf clubs: Oxford University Golf Club (1875), Oxford City Golf Club (1899), Oxford Ladies Golf Club (1901).
In July 2012, John told us that the “18th hole has been re-constructed as a water hole. The green is approached over a pond – just reachable in two by long hitters but a challenge to reach in three by the more average golfer. This reconstruction makes for a most exciting and testing finish”.
Situated in the middle of Oxford, the golf course has a wonderfully spacious feel on an undulating site perfect for the game. Sure enough, access by car through the City is long-winded, but once there the golf is very interesting and hugely entertaining. Harry Colt weaved his magic back in 1922 so the Club is fast approaching a Centenary that the warm welcome and excellently maintained parkland lay-out richly deserves.
The greens are simply magnificent, they are fast, smooth and have plenty of intricate slopes to overcome. Certainly on a second round you would know the right part of the greens to aim for, leaving the ball in places which makes the putting more straightforward with uphill rather than wicked downhill putts. I was warned of this in the Pro Shop before we started, but it wasn’t until my dribbling four foot downhill putt on the first green went five foot past that the message sunk in. Apparently an aspiring Pro Golfers tournament is due to take place for 2 days after the weekend, the instruction had been to prepare slick greens!
The main strength of the course is its 5 par threes, with the 3 on the back nine all memorable. The 12th is a Colt masterpiece and documented in the Course Guide as being one of Henry Longhurst’s favourites. This 196 yard hole plays
over a valley to a sloping green with a large grassy bank to the right and a yawning abyss and inevitable lost ball to the left. Another long par three follows at 15, downhill through a gap in the trees to a long narrow green, this time a steep-sided one. The final par three at 17 is a much shorter hole over a valley and brook to a raised three-tier green, with the pin for our game proudly sitting on the top tier which was a ledge where it was devilishly difficult to land let alone stop the ball. There are thrills and challenges aplenty on these holes.
The opening two holes and shorter par fours, particularly those around the middle part of the course, also provide varied and exciting tests, and in my view it is only the longer holes that let the course down. Back-to-back par fives at 9 and 10 are straight, flat and rather dull, and the Stroke Index one hole at 3 also disappoints. On this hole after a long downhill drive short of a brook which is present on a number of holes, the golfer is faced with an unforgiving steep incline to reach a green largely obscured by bushes and trees on the left. In my view this par four is seriously tough but more of an ordeal than a challenge.
The course ended in fitting style with its best long hole, a shortish par five at 18. The green is in front of the clubhouse and is surrounded by water on three sides with a cascading fountain to the front. Very good golfers can reach this good-sized green with two mighty blows, but the mid-handicapper after two fair shots would still require a nerveless pitch of up to 100 yards to reach safe ground. This is not always that easy when you are trying to protect a score, or close out a tight match.
Oxford golf course is well worth the trip for the travelling golfer, who will surely long remember the experience.
Haven't played Oxford for a while (infact it was known as Southfields back then) but I did recall it's fairly central Oxford location, hemmed in by houses and not particularly easy to get to. Played in the Winter pairs open and it was well run with the office very helpful with the booking. It is sometimes quite difficult to judge a course fully during winter, especially with fairways still recovering from last summer, a reasonably muddy course, fairways not really defined and forward tees. However it would be true to say that the greens were very very good and of excellent pace, and that is in February !. An older style traditional course and it's difficult to think of stand-out holes, although in fairness we were off yellow tees; I thought the 2nd and 11th were quite nice par 4's but if I had to choose my favourite hole it would be the 12th, a 190 yard par 3, slightly downhill with significant right to left slope on the green and generally pleasing to the eye. I have always felt the finish (maybe from 16 in) let's the course down. The 17th is in theory a good short par 3 across a valley, however the tee shot is looking straight at some real ugly buildings which rival the impact of the eyesore building at Royal St David's !; it feels like an infill hole and I know it's not really a bad hole but for me it's so aesthetically unpleasing I would happily walk past it to the 18th tee. The one obvious change since my last visit is on the par 5 eighteenth, where the green is now mostly surrounded by water; not a bad hole but the water just feels a bit out of context to the rest of the course. Overall the experience was more positive than negative so worth playing. Star of the show was definitely the greens !
Oxford Golf Club, formerly called Southfield and designed by Harry Colt in 1922, is an interesting parkland course situated close to the historic City Centre.
Surrounded by residential and commercial buildings it is packed tightly into an undulating piece of land that at times delivers some high quality golf. Despite the proximity to suburbia for the most part you have the feeling of being deep in the countryside.
We confront the best golf at the short holes. Four of the five are very good and if the remainder of the course lived up to their billing you would hear a lot more about this 6,318 yard, par 70 layout.
The greens, which hold a lot of interest, were in superb condition. Most of them slope quite significantly but the 2nd, as it falls from front-to-back, the 5th, which has a pronounced step in it, the 6th, a more wibbly-wobbly affair, and the 17th are four that stand out from the rest.
In summary the set of short holes at Oxford saves it from being just another run of the mill parkland course. It could just do with a little bit of TLC, and a chainsaw, to highlight some of its many features.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.