Sean Arble nominated Temple Golf Club as a gem and it was added to the Top 100 website in December 2008. Sean’s original article follows:
Temple Golf Club was named so because The Knights Templar previously owned the land. As was often the case near the turn of the 20th century, the architect of choice often came from a trio of H.S. Colt, H. Fowler or Willie Park Junior.
Having designed two nearby famous courses, Huntercombe and Sunningdale, it was no surprise that Park Junior. should be selected to lay out Temple in 1909. The course was originally called the Temple Links for it was designed to play as an inland links and despite modern advancements in technology, the presentation of Temple is still characterised by the season. Being located on chalk downland it does offer a feel of links, but the commanding views of the Thames Valley surely give Temple a sense of place that is rarely matched.
The order of the day at Temple is balancing the long ball against the lay of the land. Many tee shots at Temple require the player to work down or hold shots into a slope. The fairways are generally broad and the rough light. As such, Temple can be described as a second shot course for shots can leak at an alarming rate if one doesn't earn the best angle of attack in firm conditions.
A great example of this type of design is the 7th. This fairly short two-shotter may indeed be driveable for some, but there is the risk of losing the drive down the hill right if one doesn't choose the correct line or shape of shot. That isn't to say Temple doesn't have excellent holes which require straight and true hitting. Numbers 9, 11, 12 and 17 are testament to this. In fact, the 11th with it's down and up nature and flanking greenside bunkers is reminiscent of later American holes designed by Tillinghast and Flynn, two of the more prominent architects who built championship courses during the height of the Golden Age of Architecture. All manner of shots and imagination are helpful when playing this decidedly hilly course.
No hole requires these skills more so than the 10th. Visitors may be excused for missing this par 3 for at first sight there is no hint that this hole exists. Upon further inspection the player will notice a marker post some way in the distance. Surely this couldn't be a blind hole when it appears that all can easily be seen from this vantage point? The writer has never seen a blind hole quite like it. After walking some 225 yards a hole containing the 10th green suddenly appears. It's a remarkable use of the land and Willie Park Junior must have found this green site irresistible.
Maxing out at a breath under 6,300 yards many will dismiss Temple as old fashioned and lacking in yardage. This, however, would be a mistaken description of the course. Temple has the virtues of being playable for all and an equal balance of challenge, beauty, fun and affordability. Like some of the other terrific hidden gems dotted throughout England, courses like Temple have their place in the game and should be cherished.
The most striking point from a golfing perspective at Temple is the number of holes that sit close to the edge of par.
Two par 3's measure 230+ yards whilst a third is played uphill at 213 yards. To offset this there are a handful of par fours that due to the fast running nature of this course can be either driven or neared by many.
All three par fives are not long either at around 500 yards. All in all, this creates exciting golf where several birdie chances can easily be created; either taken or missed.
Be warned there is also a more ruthless side to the course though with holes like the second, third, 11th, 15th and 17th providing a stern but fair challenge and stretching the course to a maximum yardage of 6,210.
Save for two short par 3's there is ample opportunity to run the ball onto the greens thanks mainly to the use of good quality fescue and bent grasses.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
I was fortunate to play Temple with Michael Barrett's Real Golf organisation laid out as near as possible to the original Willie Park Junior design by dint of the club cutting new tees next to the greens and playing with 80% compression balls.
Great fun and top quality, the greens have been reverted to bent and fescue, as evidenced by Lorne Smith of the excellent "Fine Golf" taking close up photos of the sward - Taliban golf !
Nice elevation changes, beautiful views along the valley, and sporting holes.
Highly recommended if in the area.
Over these five holes I tried to work out how many fairways I'd hit, but it was impossible because there was no definition between the short grass and the semi. The only difference between the two appeared to be the length of the meadow grass in each. The fairways had grass “soldiers” in them between two and four inches long amongst the short stuff, the semi's soldiers were between four and six inches long. The greens looked wonderful from 20 yards away, however as soon as we walked on them, it was clear something was wrong. Each green we walked on had it's own mixture of daisies, dandelions and clover, spread randomly across each surface. I never knew it was possible to have weeds that rolled relatively truly. Away from the weeds, we found the greens were made up of at least three sorts of grass (which is normal), but none had been cut, they were only rolled, and each different type of grass was a different length. Indeed I found one green had fairway style “soldiers” an inch long rolled flat. That would have been fine if all the greens had been the same. But when we got to the 1st we found a scar of bare earth and patchy grass most of the way across the front third of the surface and a fairy ring of bare earth and grass patches towards the middle. As for the pace of the greens, it was the first time I've ever found surfaces where it didn't matter whether a putt was uphill or down, it was much more important whether I was putting with or against the direction the greens had been rolled.
And so it carried on... some tees with no grass others four inches long, have I found fairway or semi? Do I have to putt over daisies or dandelions and which way's the surface been rolled. All this might be excusable if the greenstaff were having to use outdated or old fashioned kit. However halfway through the day, I found out that a members' whip round had raised £70k for new mowers and a tractor to help them out. I reckon these must be the sharpest bladed, cleanest machines in the South East, because there's no evidence they've been used. We did see two greenkeepers driving around the course at one point, but all they were doing was spreading a miniscule amount of sand onto the tees and the green approaches, a job which would really have made no difference to the course. Afterwards I was told that the course had “improved dramatically” compared with how it was earlier in the year!
This is all such a shame, because Temple has the potential to be a really good course; lots of slopes and elevation changes meaning you have to hit almost every shot in the book. There are lots of good holes here; indeed I even like the 10th with it's green in what appears to be a bomb crater. The clubhouse is well equipped and comfortable, and the members themselves have never been anything other than extremely friendly and welcoming. It's one of the few courses it's possible to turn up and get a game with no notice, and the pace of play is exemplary. However I believe that with competition from nearby clubs such as Henley, Huntercombe, Sonning, Maidenhead, or Flackwell Heath to name but a few, golfers may well decide to go elsewhere than Temple unless serious improvements are made to the condition of the course.