At Stoke Park I felt there was a lovely collection of holes rather than a course with many outstanding holes. The flow of holes is very good with two consecutive holes of the same par with the two par4s that close the Colt (front) nine. The arrow straight opening par5 offers a gentle start, as you can recover from a poor shot, but it does at least get groups away quickly from the clubhouse. It is not until the Alison back nine that you experience flat, straight holes again. I had expected a lush and soft course throughout but was pleased to find it reasonably firm, making tee shot distance no problem (even I had just a wedge into the 5th), but accuracy more of an issue. Harry Colt was clearly a genius in picking the best golfing terrain, as the Colt nine is more undulating and varied than the Alison nine. Holes 6-8 are very good especially with the standout par3 7th with its green sloping back to water making a precise approach vital, with little bail-out room. The 9th has a difficult looking tee shot but its approach is truly sneaky with dead ground fronting the green that was not shown on the complementary course planner I was kindly given.The Alison nine starts with some charming views and some more dead ground and clever bunkering to fool the eye, but after playing holes 10-13 I was struck by the feeling that I have certainly experienced much more difficult courses with less illustrious reputations. It begs the question of whether or not a course needs to be manifestly difficult to be considered good. If you like a course with pleasant views and the odd touch of subtle design then certainly Stoke Park will certainly fit the bill. However, the course then shifts up a gear for the last five holes with a long, gently-curving par4 followed by more undulations, and an excellent par4 17th of some 400 yards with a diagonal stream crossing the fairway in the last 100 yards. Strolling up the 18th fairway on a glorious evening in late summer, delighting in the serene surroundings, I felt glad I had played it but I doubt I would pay the full rack rate green fee for the privilege.
Date: September 06, 2012