Positioned in the middle of a horseshoe of where the M3 and the M27 motorways collide, Stoneham’s location is an odd one. You wouldn’t choose to build a golf course in an area surrounded by such traffic, but considering that the club was established in 1908, I think we can safely assume that the course came first. Fortunately, you don’t hear the motorway traffic, but the heavy construction traffic that you meet on arrival isn’t something you can avoid. The club embarked upon a major remodelling project in 2012 which is now thankfully close to an end. The practice area is still under major renovation, but there was minimal disruption once out playing the course.
To my untrained eye, Stoneham visually appears to be more naturally a parkland course than heathland. This could be due to changes the club have made over the years, but recent enhancements to the course’s appearance by introducing strips of heather, particularly around the bunkers, are starting to change the appearance.
Whilst I enjoyed the opening stretch of holes, it’s from the par five 6th where Stoneham starts to shine as you play across the part of the course that takes you furthest from the clubhouse. After the charming approach to the 6th, two consecutive par threes arrive immediately thereafter, the 7th being brutally long, and the 8th, with a wooden trestle bridge over a valley to a heavily bunkered raised top green, the prettier of the two short holes.
Stoneham’s a rolling course with most holes playing downhill or up and across valleys and it’s during this middle stretch of the course where the topography is at its most distinct. The 9th is another cute hole, at 383-yards, this might not seem like a driveable green, but if you catch the downslope correctly in firm conditions, your ball will just run and run. 11 and 12 continue this splendid run of holes; the former being a par four over a stream within the same valley that was encountered earlier, again to another one of those plateau greens, and the latter being a reachable par five with a beautiful, heather topped cross bunker and a green that falls away heavily to the right hand side. After the acutely strategic tight and blind short par four 13th with its angled green, the last noteworthy hole is the 14th. Not long for a par five at 481 yards, it’s played to a steeply banked humpback fairway that’s like someone threw a grassy tablecloth over a whale.
It's been four years since I previously played at Stoneham and the improvements are significant, this has been time and money well spent. Whilst already ranked fourth in the county, I could see Stoneham climbing the Hampshire rankings as more people get to enjoy the finished product.
Date: August 08, 2019