Stoneham Golf Club is a Willie Park Junior course built in 1908 on lovely piece of land that was formerly the old deer park. The hills take the player on a continuous rollercoaster, which leaves the player guessing which way he will be aiming next. The routing is most unusual in that the front nine rings the property counter clockwise and the back nine essentially works clockwise inside the front nine loop with a few back and forths to add variety. The effect of the routing leaves the player gauging the shifting wind on nearly every hole and is very reminiscent of Muirfield though I believe the unique Stoneham routing predates Muirfield’s loop within a loop design.
The strength of Stoneham is the two shotters. All ten provide interest and fun. The best of which are 4, 11, 13 & 15. The 13th is most unusual because the player faces a blind drive (due to the hills there are many obscured view tee shots) and a sea of trees in the distance. There is no obvious place to aim, but the player is aided with the knowledge that a good strike, which manages to find the right line, can reach the putting surface of this 273-yard hole. However, there is the difficulty of a very narrow green and wonderfully placed bunker to the right of the green. This crafty little hole is a marvellous example of how to defend a course at the green.
The par fives are also strong. With the longest being 516 yards from the medal markers all are reachable, but play longer than the card suggests. Additionally, there is an element of risk/reward on all five three shotters. The 14th is perhaps the finest example. The tee shot is downhill and moves left to right. A good drive allows the player the opportunity to go for this green in two, but the fairway is uphill, moves severely left to right over humpty bumpty land and finishes in a hollow which leaves a blind approach. One needs to keep well left and use the contours, but there is a hidden bunker on the corner about 25 yards short of the green. Finding this hazard leaves an awkward length bunker shot to a green which moves away from the player. It’s difficult to find a more satisfying par five in which the land is used so expertly.
Stoneham is every bit as good as many of the well known Surrey courses and one gets the impression that being located in Southampton has kept this club a hidden gem. Golfers who admire a clever routing and great use of the terrain should be beating the door down for a game at Stoneham.Above article was contributed by Sean Arble.
We played Stoneham on a cracking day in June and were really impressed by what was an excellent track. We were lucky enough to see some wild deer and also lucky enough not to see any adders.
A delightful elevated tee box greets you off the par 5 first in front of the clubhouse looking out to a relatively blind shot towards the fairway and some fearsome looking bunkers. If you remain safe from your tee shot, the hole is eminently scoreable as its a nice ambient winding hole which doglegs left and meanders down to the hole. What we did notice was how quick the greens were! I must say the greens were very pure and a pleasure to putt on, but they were quick.
The second is a tough par 3 with trees both left and right providing a natural amphitheatre for the green which looked inviting.
The 3rd is a superb par 4 where the fairway slopes dramatically upwards giving you a nice hearty walk and doglegs left with the fairway sloping to the right.
The 4th is a stunning long par 4 which slopes steepwards down all the way to the hole with a brook running along the bottom of the fairway as you get closer to the hole. The brook and the sloped fairway have you procrastinating over the tee box club selection.
The 5th is a short scorable par 4 which doglegs right and fairway bunkers make you think about which club to hit off the tee.
The 6th is a nice par 5 that drifts to the left, leaving a lovely approach shot to a green that's protected by a dip beforehand. The 7th is a daunting long par 3 well over 200 yards and whilst I'm not a fan of very long par 3s, it is still a good hole and works well within the course. 8 is a tricky par 3 which is well protected by bunkers and 9 is a straight par 4. 10 is a longish par 3 with a big slope to the right. The 11th is a belter. It doesn't pay to be too long off the tee as the fairway slopes down into a huge valley style ditch with the green on a plateau above. The green slopes from back to front to add to the fun. 14 is a lovely par 5, 16 is a brilliant short par 3 with magnetic bunkers and a good matchplay hole and the last hole is a nice par 4 which doglegs up a significant slope left towards the clubhouse and a fitting end to a thoroughly enjoyable round of golf.
The course is going through a regeneration project, part of which is updating the bunkers to give them that natural heathland look and they did look stunning. There was no adverse impact on our round from the project and we thought the course was tremendous. There were many mutterings of "I would love to play this course again". There is no one who I can imagine wouldn't enjoy Stoneham.
Is there a course in Great Britain that has a more striking and varied collection of holes than Stoneham? I don’t think so. I should confess that Stoneham has, and always will have, a special place in my heart. I caddied for my father here in 1989 in the Pro Am and when the last team didn’t turn up I found myself teeing it up the day after I received my first handicap. Playing with Gary Stubbington, a Hampshire legend with a dream of a golf swing, the secretary of the HPGA and the assistant from the shop, still an amateur, we shot -19 and we won! So I was hooked on the game and went home with a 12 inch TV with remote control.
The last 25 years have not been kind to Stoneham. Thatch, encroaching woodland, lack of water and lack of investment took their toll. However, things have very much changed for the better. The bold and progressive work that started 2-3 years ago under the guidance of an enlightened management and expert green keeper is starting to pay off handsomely. Massive investment is underway and the work that has been undertaken on the clearance of encroaching woodland and the world class new bunkering will re elevate Stoneham to the position it rightly deserves. The greens have returned to their challenging best. True and fast. The undulating ground remains as inviting and enticing as it always was. Every hole is so different from the last but the language is the same. The finesse and intricacy with which the bunkers have been renovated and renewed will stand the test of time for generations to come. The shaping and aesthetic is world class.
The par is generous at 72 for just 6400 yards however I can imagine that being stretched comfortably in years to come. Every shot at Stoneham is inviting and requires thought and skill. It is a fair course that can reward and punish in equal measure. Consider the Men’s open in August to challenge Hampshire’s best or don’t hesitate to take your society. It’s viscerally memorable. But I can’t guarantee you’ll go home with a telly.
Stoneham is a great course which was in in really good condition. The greens were curvy, fast and true. The layout is well thought through and the changes in elevation are well worked. Very few blind shots and none to greens. An all-round good test of your golfing skills in every department. It’s clear they’ve done a tremendous amount of work on the course and that has come to fruition. I look forward to going back at some point and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. You might want to book a buggy if you’re knees are knackered otherwise fit and healthy people will enjoy walking.
Stoneham’s biggest asset is undoubtedly its superb routing over adventurous terrain which ultimately lends itself to some unique and brilliant golf holes.
And with well over 3,000 trees recently cleared the beauty of the property can now be showcased properly which also goes hand-in-hand with greatly improved playability and better ground conditions.
Add into this a restoration of every bunker back to the original vision of the course designer, Willie Park Jnr, and it’s clear to see that this is a course heading in the right direction. A prime example of this is on the opening drive where the golfer is now greeted with three staggered, heather topped bunkers that not only look attractive but improve the strategy compared to before.
The course is not a true heathland in the strictest sense but definitely plays more heath than park and with rough management and heather regeneration in full swing it certainly leans more towards the former. Indeed, at times there is a real feel that you playing on the Surrey-Berkshire sandbelt, admittedly not too far away up the M3 motorway.
The aforementioned routing firstly takes us around the outer perimeter of the course on the front-nine with the inward-half located in the middle of the undulating property. The energetic topography is constantly used to maximum effect throughout.
A fairly unusual feature is that the course has five par 3s and five par 5s. This gives the course a little bit of a staccato effect with par. You must wait until the third before you play a par four whilst from the sixth you never play two consecutive ones! For the most part I quite liked this although there were times when it didn’t quite flow right.
If we’re discussing the best that Hampshire offers then Stoneham is right up there. Taking away the links at Hayling (always a tricky comparison) there is very little between the inlands treats of Blackmoor, Stoneham, Liphook and North Hants. My personal preference is that running order but Stoneham arguably has the best property of the quartet and if it owned the greens of Liphook then it would be a clear winner. Blackmoor strikes the perfect balance for me and has just a touch more strategy to pip its neighbours but we really are splitting hairs with all four.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Played a golf day here in May. Course is well laid out with some good par 5's. Think the course needs to decide if it's a parkland or Heathland as a lot of random patchy of heather have been planted. Greens had good coverage but were like putting on Velcro and were amazingly slow! All in all a good course but would choose one of the other Hampshire ones such as Liphook, Blackmoor or North Hants
I played Stoneham for the first time yesterday and was impressed, despite the club being slap-bang in the middle of a £1m course improvement programme. Many of the bunkers are currently out of play and they are being professionally refashioned in a style to which Willie Park would be proud. See the Course Manager’s blog for more details. Thousands of trees have been felled, allowing heather regeneration, and many more are still to be axed to enable the full return of this classic layout to its heathland origins.
The routing over tumbling, hilly terrain makes for a thrilling round. Playing off the back tees (less than 6,400 yards) didn’t feel short, or easy. There’s a seamless flow from hole-to-hole and each is different and many are exciting (except perhaps for the unprepossessing long par three 7th).
The club has ambition to become the premier golf course in Hampshire, an accolade it once held before things started to unravel decades ago. Once the remedial work is completed, my feeling is that Stoneham will give the quartet of currently higher ranked Hampshire clubs a run for their money.
It would be unfair to rate Stoneham based on what I saw yesterday, as work is very much in progress. Keith Baxter