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.
Date: May 30, 2021