It is rare indeed that a course of Remedy Oak’s calibre opens these days and rarer still that such a place lives up to its billing. You can expect to hear plenty about this special inland layout to the north of Bournemouth, on the Dorset side of the border with Hampshire, and the reality justifies the hype. Designed by John Jacobs in 250 acres of mature – ancient, even – woodland, it is a place where spectacular natural advantage has combined with generous owners to create an exceptional experience.
It has a feeling of refined class from the moment the imposing gates silently part and you make your way through a property where silence is broken only by birdsong and the occasional rattle of Titleist against pine. In places, Remedy Oak is not unlike Loch Lomond and is surely at least the equal of the Marquess course at Woburn.
A modern take on the woodland theme, it is to Jacobs’ great credit that while this is a 7,000-yard championship layout designed to stand the test of time, it is perfectly playable (from the right tees) for the average player.
Every stretch of testing holes is broken up by something more manageable and in an era when to design a short par four seems almost to be an admission of weakness, Jacobs obliges with two examples.
Remedy is all the better for it – allowing the brave player the chance of a birdie on a risk-and-reward basis is to be applauded. Especially after the first five holes, which form the toughest stretch on the course.
It has a feeling of refined class from the moment the imposing gates silently part and you make your way through a property where silence is broken only by birdsong and the occasional rattle of Titleist against pine.
Beginning with an opening hole that plays uphill all the way and consequently much longer than its yardage, the 2nd is a dramatic par 5 that sweeps downhill and left. From the right tee shot, the green is in range but since it lies on the far side of a sizable body of water only the strongest will take it on and succeed.
If there is to be a criticism of a stunning hole, it is that the lay up leaves a short-iron third from a hanging lie over water – never the most appetising of lies.
Once the green is found, it will already be clear that the surfaces here are smooth and frighteningly quick in places. Like the 1st, the 3rd is also substantially uphill and although the opening short hole features an elevated tee, at 240 yards most will be removing a headcover of some description before attempting to find the green.
The testing opening quintet concludes with another par 5, although this one relies more on a variety of water hazards and marshes rather than sheer length to intimidate.
Respite, though, is on hand. A solid drive over the brow on the 6th should not be too far from the green, and you would be well-advised to take maximum advantage because the next hole is among the most testing on the course.
A dog leg to the right, playing up the left makes the hole longer but also offers a flat stance and the most appealing angle to a green across the valley. Finding the green in regulation is quite an achievement.
Temptation is the key to the 8th, another short par 4, this time downhill and over water. By setting the yellow tees at just 260 yards, Jacobs has ensured that club players have the chance to go for glory and it creates an exciting hole and a likely talking point afterwards.
The nine closes with a par three before a long-ish walk – and not the only one here between holes – to the long and awkward 10th. The difficulty here is hitting your drive far enough so that the trees on the right do not block your shot to the green. Since this is likely to be played with a wood or long iron, further complications are hardly required.
The pretty 11th is a short hole with a green alongside a pond short and right while the 12th is a birdie chance from the front tees. Curiously, the 13th is Remedy Oak’s shortest hole yet features the largest green – stretching some 52 yards from front to back.
After this begins the finishing stretch, and a long par 4 to a fairway banked from right to left. Walk through the trees and prepare yourself for what is surely Remedy Oak’s finest moment – a quite stunning par 5 that slides from left to right and with a green on the other side of a stream.
Think of the famous 13th at Augusta, but shaped in the opposite direction. At only 500 yards from the tips, the green is often in reach with the second shot. But it will need to be an exceptionally good one to set up an eagle putt – just as it should be.
The finish here is surprisingly quirky for a modern design.
The 17th is a par 5 that climbs over the brow of a hill. A marker post is in position for the second shot but with a bunker in the middle of the fairway some 60 yards from the green it is a hole you need to have seen before to know how to tackle.
The same could be said of the last, which is of modest length and a right-angle dogleg. An accurate fairway wood or hybrid leaves a wedge over water to the green. Slightly fiddly, it is not what you would necessarily expect from a closing hole on a course of this type.
It does, however, neatly illustrate the welcome variety and individuality of the design, which makes Remedy Oak somewhere that should certainly be added to any self-respecting golfer’s must-play list.