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.
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Willie Park Jr. was born in Musselburgh, the second of four sons of (Old) Willie Park, four-time Open Champion. Young Willie won the Open twice himself, becoming one of five Musselburgh men to do so.