Played by NCG: Tadmarton Heath
Reason for a Tadmarton Heath Golf Club review
You’ll be pleased to know that the season for reviewing courses ahead of England’s Top 100 Courses 2018 is almost over. Because the answer to this question is in danger of becoming repetitive. But you’d – rightly – be cross if we started ranking courses without playing them first, wouldn’t you?
Where is Tadmarton Heath Golf Club?
Tadmarton Heath Golf Club sits above the town of Banbury, in Oxfordshire. Despite its rural location, it is within a few miles of the M40.
What to expect
An absolutely delightful old school heathland. I’d never been before – and what I found was exactly what I hoped but dared not to expect.
Taddy, as the locals call it, is a shade under 6,000 yards even off the back tees (though a couple of new ones are currently under construction). However, the par of 69 includes just a solitary – and quite stunning, see below – par 5. That makes it play a little longer than you might expect but it certainly gives you a chance if you are prepared to risk the gorse and some severe bunkering, both of which factors defend it very well.
Because the fairways are so firm and springy, a good drive will always be rewarded that little bit more. Factor in a bit of wind assistance and the big hitters might realistically have a tilt at as many as six of the par 4s. They will have to be very accurate though if they are not to come to grief. Almost every hole is beautifully framed by the irregularly shaped bunkers, some of which have wonderful sleepered faces.
There are also some very difficult par 4s here – like the 4th, 9th, 12th, 13th and 17th.
Taddy is never less than interesting, and the turf here is fantastic both to walk on and to strike your iron shots off.
I’d describe it as quintessentially English – with a pretty stone clubhouse at its centre.
That would have to be the par-5 5th. You drive to the crest of a very gentle slope, which seems to go on forever towards a green that is sneakily well bunkered. It won’t happen very often, but should you hit the right shot, it is possible to chase it on from miles short, threading its way between the bunkers. With a generously wide fairway, and playing pretty much dead straight, it’s actually an untypical hole in some respects. It’s also pure.
My best bit
I also loved the short par-4 8th, mainly on account of the simple perfection of the bunkering. The ground and hole both move from left to right, and you sense that if you land your drive in the right place there’s the chance of a very helpful bounce round the corner, the inside of which is inevitably protected by a bunker.
However, play too safely up the left and there is another hazard, just waiting for your ball to trickle into. The green itself is fast, sloping and firm, which means you will have to judge your pitch skilfully. I managed to hit a drive that flirted with the right-hand bunker and bounded past it to leave a straightforward pitch more or less up the green.
What to look for at Tadmarton Heath
You have to enjoy the sporty nature of so many of the holes at Tadmarton Heath Golf Club. It always feels like a birdie might be around the corner, but so often the result of pushing too hard is a momentum-halting bogey – or worse. A great example is the 295-yard 15th. The fairway is like an island in a sea of gorse so it is a brave golfer indeed who takes aim at the green.
When I go back
I’ll need a new strategy on the 17th. I think this might be the hardest 365-yard par 4 I have ever played. It follows a steady curve from left to right and the fairway takes the form of a corridor. Worse still, the prevailing wind is from the right. That means you are driving towards trouble and being pushed further that way. If I arrived on the tee with some sort of a score going, I would seriously consider a mid-iron, then a prod and finally a pitch to the green as a way to avoid risking disaster. It must be a great matchplay hole because just about any score could win it.