There are three fine 18-hole courses at Frilford Heath, the Oxfordshire complex up there with the best in England – first the Red, then the Green and finally the Frilford Heath Blue. That puts it in a very select group – the only real comparisons in England would be Wentworth, with it’s East, West and Edinburgh courses, Woburn, with its Duke’s, Duchess and Marquess courses, and The Belfry, which has the Brabazon, PGA and Derby layouts.
The Blue is the youngest of the three courses here and was designed by Simon Gidman, opening in 1994. It involved a reconfiguring of the Red course, from which it took a couple of holes. Some of the holes are in woodland, some involve streams and ponds while others are in open land, the eponymous heath.
It begins with a ferocious opener – a right-to-left dogleg with the prevailing wind doing anything but helping. Then the second is played over a stream with water left of the green. All in all, it’s a dangerous opening stretch that gradually eases and opens up.
A consistent feature of the Blue is the size of the greens, which are very large, and their undulations, which are more significant than on the Red. It must be said that Frilford Heath’s green’s were exceptional – true, consistent and smooth. Bravo to the greenkeeping staff.
The best hole could well be the par-4 12th. It’s a lovely hole, with shades of a modern links like Dundonald. You lay up to where the fairway runs out and if you’ve found the right position you will then have a clear view of the green to the right. There are no greenside bunkers, just grassy hollows, which are always an interesting hazard that give you a chance as well as a challenge.
You have to enjoy the challenges that are set both on and around the greens on this course. There is always something to make you think and chipping can be carried out with any of several clubs, as you see fit.
There is also a monstrously long par 5 – the 17th, which is the best part of 600 yards from the back tees. I don’t mind that, but why it needs to be 550 yards from the yellows I can less appreciate. Surely the average recreational golfer, playing from the forward tees, would gain more enjoyment from being nudged forward another 50 yards or so?
Or is it just me that likes my par 5s to be fun?
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