If you like tradition, then steer clear of the Oxfordshire Golf Club. If you are seeking excitement, this might be the course for you.
The prolific golf course architect Rees Jones designed the Oxfordshire and the course opened for play in 1993 after significant earth works. Jones is big in the States, and has designed many courses, including the redesign of the South course at Torrey Pines and Bethpage’s Black course, host of the 2002 US Open.
The Oxfordshire is laid out on fairly flat and uninspiring land, built in an American style to extremely high specifications with sand-based greens and tees. Ostensibly, it’s a tournament course with good vantage points for spectators. The B&H International Open was held here on four consecutive occasions (1996-99). Ames, Langer, Clarke and Montgomerie were the respective winners. In 1996, Laura Davies won the Ladies’ English Open here too.
We wouldn’t recommend the back tees (7,200 yards) for the average golfer. The yellow tees (6,300 yards) probably present a more enjoyable challenge. With well over 100 bunkers (some of which are huge), and four man-made lakes, this is a serious test. If you are striking the ball well, you’ll be OK. Otherwise you may find it a bit of a slog, especially if the wind is up.
The 8th is a hazardous par four measuring 390 yards that doglegs around a lake. The green is sited on an island peninsula where a sentry oak stands guard. The 17th is the Oxfordshire’s nerve-racking signature hole, a downhill par 5 with a right to left dogleg. A huge lake runs all the way down the left of the fairway. The green is opposite the lake. The safe but longer route is to play around the water, but if you’re feeling lucky, you could go for it across the lake with your second shot.
At one stage the course was open only to members and their guests. Now visitors can get on by simply paying a green fee. We think that the Oxfordshire (in a similar vein to the Belfry) is a great competition course and well worth playing, but only if you go for it on the 17th.
The Oxfordshire is owned by Leaderboard Golf Limited, which also holds the property of Dale Hill Golf Club in East Sussex.
I wasn’t supposed to like The Oxfordshire. But I did. The traditionalist in me shouldn’t really warm to this big and modern, Rees Jones designed tournament-style course that is essentially a manufactured Americanised layout.
There are a handful of gigantic, man-made lakes and linear mounding to accommodate spectator viewing as well as the inevitable long walks from green-to-tee to make room for the five sets of tees and buggy paths. It’s a par 72, 36 each side, two loops of nine, with the obligatory four par-threes and four par-fives dah, di, dah, di dah…
However, I found enough engaging holes to come away quietly impressed with what The Oxfordshire offers. Sure, it isn’t to my personal taste but I can see why it is a popular venue, especially for professional golf competitions, and I have a lot of respect for the test it provides.
I think the main reason I enjoyed The Oxfordshire, unlike some other similar venues, is because the course does ask some fairly interesting questions. Admittedly there are no easy answers but you are presented with choices. Not always, but several times it gives you options as to how to play the hole and offers reward for those risking, and pulling off, the harder shots.
Water comes into play on almost half the holes. None-more-so dramatically than at the fifth, eighth, 10th, 11th, 13th and the 17th where you must cross (or at least flirt dangerously with) the hazards in order to get your ball onto the green. There are no shades of grey at The Oxfordshire; you’re either wet or dry.
I’ve played half-a-dozen courses in this county now and the challenge and style of course at The Oxfordshire is unique to the area. You know exactly what you are getting here and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else, which is all credit to the venue.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
I have to say my visit to the Oxfordshire left me quite underwhelmed. A clubhouse that doubles as a hotel is a little "soul less". The course itself, well if you are a fan of longish open field "mounded and moulded into stadium type" courses then this might be for you, but not for me. It plays well and the course is well maintained with large fine greens but it feels like the clubhouse, soul less and personally I look at every lake and see it has been dug so they could place some mounding onto the otherwise flat farmland.