Played by NCG: Frilford Heath (Blue)
Reason for a Frilford Heath (Blue) Golf Club review
You know the drill – we shortlisted both the Red and Blue courses at Frilford Heath for our England’s Top 100 Courses ranking list. I had played the Red a year previously but had never had the chance to see what the Blue was all about.
Where is Frilford Heath Golf Club?
Frilford Heath is in Oxfordshire, equidistant from Abingdon and Oxford.
There are three fine 18-hole courses at Frilford Heath – first the Red, then the Green and finally the Blue. That puts it in a very select group – the only real comparisons in England would be Woburn, with its Duke’s, Duchess and Marquess courses, and The Belfry, which has the Brabazon, PGA and Derby layouts.
What to expect
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.
That would 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.
My best bit
I am always pleased to emerge from trees to more open land (especially in the autumn when the former territory is invariably damp) so I relished the likes of the 7th, 8th, 11th and 12th holes.
What to look for at Frilford Heath
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?
When I go back
I’ll make sure I don’t miss the par-5 15th in the little hollow short right when the flag is front right. One minute I thought I might have an eagle putt and the next I had the most ticklish of chips, which I predictably bludgeoned 30 feet past. When I return, armed with the knowledge of this hollow’s location and existence, I will have no excuse. It’s a typically clever and subtle hazard.