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Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
STRATFORD upon AVON GC: Winter Tour 2011/12 New
« on: November 13, 2009, 08:21:36 AM »
The club is located less than a mile from the centre of Stratford and quite close to the River Avon.  This is the third site for the SuA GC, the first location was at Wilmcote (a nearby village), famous as the home of Mary Arden (the Bard's mother) and Shakespeare's birth place.  The club next moved to the current site of the Welcombe, a large hotel and golf course complex and finally to the current site at Tiddington. Stratford is only just down the road from me, yet despite some recommendations it has taken me over 11 years to make the journey.  Sitting in the house before the game my fears of a flat course with a back and forth routing were heightened.  While "flat" is justly the first description which comes to mind, there is none of the back forth routing.  Hawtree and Taylor's 1925 design (constructed by Carter & Co) cleverly moved the two loops of nine to the edge and through the middle of the property to take advantage of the capricious nature of the wind.  Unfortunately, some rather pointless tree plantings have negated some of this design strategy. The greens were a bit too receptive, but it was a pleasant surprise to see tee shots bounding high in the air. Apparently, the course drains very well (indeed, I find it better drained than many a high profile heathland course) because there is a deep under-bed of gravel and sand.  In fact, during and after WWII, gravel was excavated from areas on and near the 10th, 16th and 17th holes. 

No discussion of SuA GC is complete without mentioning Samuel Ryder's long association with the club. He served as Captain and President and his association with the Ryder Cup may well be the reason JH Taylor helped design Stratford.  The club is proud of the association with Mr Ryder and a nook of the house contains interesting memorabilia of the man, the competition and origins of the club. 


#1 highlights a pattern of green-side bunkering left and right which is common at Stratford. 


The short 2nd is one of the superb set of par 3s. 


A closer look reveals hidden bunkers and the two-tier green.


The 3rd takes us to another two-tier green on the edge of the property.  #4 is a longish two-shotter which is very narrow due to trees pinching on the left and OOB down the right.  With the exception of the bunkering, the 4th green struck me as very Colt-like.  For sure, it wouldn't have not phased me at all if someone told me Colt designed Stratford. 

The 5th is another longish par 4 down the property line, but wisely OOB is not prevalent.  Instead, water awaits near the green.  There are many centre-line bunkers featured, though I don't think there were meant to be many wing bunkers originally.  A DRASTIC narrowing of fairways and tree encroachment have largely changed the nature of the bunkering scheme.  Interestingly, the style of the bunkers is not that altered from the originals.  Below is the approach to #5.


The short 6th looks as if it was plopped onto the landscape, but it is a very effective design.  As on a handful of other holes, the mounding/bunkering suggest a wide, receptive green, but this is not the case at all.  The green is actually quite narrow and perhaps 35 yards long.     




#7 is a rather straightforward par 5.  The eighth is a lovely short par 4 curling right around trees.  It is easy to hit into the left rough because the hole turns around the 210 yard mark. The "dead ground" concept is employed quite often at Stratford and the predictable result of coming up short is often evident.


The final hole on the front turns left and heads straight for the house.  Once again, the shaping for the green complex and slight angling of the bunkers suggests a wide green.  I think too the house encourages this false belief as it perfectly frames the green.

The back nine is far superior to the front.  Not only is interesting bunkering more in evidence, but also gravel excavation is more apparent.  I am a bit surprised the 10th green wasn't extended or shifted slightly to take advantage of the steep incline created by the excavation.  Just the same, this is a good par 3 whose green shape is yet again deceiving.


The 11th is a modest length par 4 turning right around, well nothing but a few scraggly trees!  I think the hole used to present a clear set of options as dictated by the green and the hole location of the day.  On the one extreme, a player could go well left to gain the angle.  On the other extreme one could go straight at the green, but likely would face an approach over the bunkers to a narrow green.  I surely would rather have seen a perplexing setup such as this rather than the arbitrary fairway we now see.  Still, one gets a sense of the option for the approach - especially into a hard wind. 


The par 5 12th is reachable, but dangerous.  Below is the approach after a layup. 


The next hole, a short boomerang sort of shape to the right is most odd.  The green complex is outstanding and very much like Prestwick's Sea Headrig, but like the 11th, trees block access to the best angle of approach.  I think this was probably a similar type hole to #11 with the full range of options off the tee until, the advent of trees.  Below is the approach after a lay-up.




The 14th is yet another fine short hole with a sharply raised green.  The final four holes feature three par 5s.  It is difficult to pull off that much big hitting in such a short space of holes.  I think the centre-line bunkering on all of these par 5s underlines this difficulty and perhaps it is a bit much.  However, the 15th is likely the best of the long holes. Centre-line bunkers menace the drive and the approach.




The final short hole is a dandy!  To the left is evidence of more gravel removal. 


The penultimate hole takes us over more gravel excavation and as is the case with all the par 5s, this one too is reachable in two.   


#18, as was pointed out previously, the bunkers and shaping intimate at a wide green when in truth it is narrow and slightly angled to favour an approach from the left. 


I am not sure what to make of Stratford.  I can't say I was disappointed because I didn't have high expectations going in.  The course obviously has some very good architectural elements in its favour and it boasts a few very good holes.  This is especially the case on the far better back nine.  The drainage is good and the greens rolled well given the weather.  Yet, something is certainly missing and it could simply be the flat nature of the site.  I hate to be picky, but it seems to me more of an appearance of elevation change could have been achieved if the bunkering was more high profile.  It is often the case that the bunkers fail to make a visual impact.  I also think the course would benefit from a handful of greens being on the wild side.  Perhaps too if the trees were cleared out a bit and the fairways widened it would also help make a difference.  Its frustrating to me because I think this site could and should yield a better product.  I would like to see the course in the summer, but at the moment, I wouldn't recommend Stratford unless one is visiting the town and keen to have a convenient game of golf. 

Ciao   
« Last Edit: November 29, 2020, 05:29:42 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

Paul_Turner

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: STRATFORD on AVON GC:
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2009, 09:04:19 AM »
Sean

Thanks for this.  Looking at the photos, I'm pretty sure many (all?) of those greens have been redone by Martin Hawtree.   Bunkers too.  It's very much in his style of remodeling: raised greens with those type of contours and the bunkers look dead ringers for his new ones at Copt Heath.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2009, 09:08:49 AM by Paul_Turner »
can't get to heaven with a three chord song

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: STRATFORD on AVON GC:
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2009, 09:26:22 AM »
Paul

I don't know if the greens have been altered, but they may have been.  I think some greens-side bunkers have been taken out, but there are no hollows left behind.  The bunkers have certainly had some fairly recent work.  Judging from the old photos, the look isn't drastically different, not enough to bother me anyway. 

Ciao   
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

Tony_Muldoon

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: STRATFORD on AVON GC:
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2009, 06:28:39 AM »
Thanks again Sean.

The underlying drainage is common to the sites selected for many courses where sandy loam wasn’t available. Walton Heath, Denham etc.  In fact Gravel extraction is one of the reasons for heaths existing. It reminds us that Golf was originally a winter game.


I’ve been spoilt of late and it’s hard to get excited by that suburban look, Trees and houses.

Look at the spooky trees in the pictures below. A few years ago the club must have realised they were getting to big and so they Polarded them (stripped all branches back to the main trunk).  This costly operation will have to be repeated every 5 years or so and the result here is the exact opposite of a “walk in the park”.


The final short hole is a dandy!


It’s a shame Dr Klein doesn’t post on here much now days but he put it best when he said if a tree is close enough to the course to need pruning its close enough to be removed.
on 29th May I am riding 100 Miles to help raise funds for Dementia Research. All donations are welcome.
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ridelondon-tonymuldoon

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: STRATFORD on AVON GC:
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2009, 06:38:49 AM »
Thanks again Sean.

The underlying drainage is common to the sites selected for many courses where sandy loam wasn’t available. Walton Heath, Denham etc.  In fact Gravel extraction is one of the reasons for heaths existing. It reminds us that Golf was originally a winter game.


I’ve been spoilt of late and it’s hard to get excited by that suburban look, Trees and houses.

Look at the spooky trees in the pictures below. A few years ago the club must have realised they were getting to big and so they Polarded them (stripped all branches back to the main trunk).  This costly operation will have to be repeated every 5 years or so and the result here is the exact opposite of a “walk in the park”.


The final short hole is a dandy!


It’s a shame Dr Klein doesn’t post on here much now days but he put it best when he said if a tree is close enough to the course to need pruning its close enough to be removed.


Tony

While the trees are overdone, the course is a rather tranquil spot for the heavily visited Stratford.  To the right of the photo you picked out are the backs of the posh houses lining both sides of a road perpindicular to the Avon - interestingly not blocked by hedges & trees.  I am not sure what is behind the spooky trees - I suspect a less salubrious batch of housing. 

I too am having a hard time getting jacked up for parkland golf.  There is no question I have become spoiled!

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

Norbert P

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: STRATFORD on AVON GC:
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2009, 12:18:39 PM »
Sean Robert, thou hast generously shared a fine script with wondrous stage production.    Hail !

 It looks to be a very pleasant arena for Hamlet and alas! poor Yorick.

Below is the apporach to #5.

 



I just finished reading a book about William Shakespeare by Bill Bryson.  Highly entertaining and illuminating - partly because he's such a mystery and his life has been pieced together so much by well, fudgy, dodgy speculations by historians.  Anyway, if Bryson wrote Installation Manuals, I'd buy 'em.



 
"Golf is only meant to be a small part of one’s life, centering around health, relaxation and having fun with friends/family." R"C"M

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: STRATFORD on AVON GC:
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2009, 05:05:53 PM »
Sean Robert, thou hast generously shared a fine script with wondrous stage production.    Hail !

 It looks to be a very pleasant arena for Hamlet and alas! poor Yorick.

Below is the apporach to #5.

 



I just finished reading a book about William Shakespeare by Bill Bryson.  Highly entertaining and illuminating - partly because he's such a mystery and his life has been pieced together so much by well, fudgy, dodgy speculations by historians.  Anyway, if Bryson wrote Installation Manuals, I'd buy 'em.



 

Slag

If you want to read a few fascinating and very well written studies of Shakes, drop what you are doing and head for Amazon now.

In Search of Shakespeare by M Wood

1599: A Year in the Life by J Shapiro

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

John Mayhugh

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: STRATFORD on AVON GC:
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2009, 02:31:47 PM »
Sean,
Thanks for another interesting photo tour.  Not only do I get to see courses I would never see anywhere else, but I also get a bit of a geography lesson.  I'm always having to look at a map and see just where the courses are located.

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: STRATFORD on AVON GC: Winter Tour 2011/12 New
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2012, 06:54:05 AM »
As there was enough about the course in my first go to create a mild interest I decided to take the Winter Tour to Stratford once again.  I can say I certainly liked the course more this time and that is probably down to a new colour sand for the bunkers.  It is much brighter and helps to create a presence the bunkers lacked previously, but I can't help but wonder if the club doesn't need to do a complete overhaul more along the lines of Little Aston.  I think the bunkers need to be bigger and bolder.  The potential for this course is great if the club could ever figure out they are halfway there because of the fine draining turf.  Anyway, I still wouldn't recommend Stratford unless one has the golf bug quite badly while on holiday,  but I hope the updated pix at least demonstrate the potential and that this course is far from poor.

Previous stops on the Winter Tour:

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,51420.0.html  Saunton West

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,51415.0.html  Saunton East

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,51321.0.html  Sutton Coldfield

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,32228.0.html  Huntercombe 

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,35648.0.html  Whittington Heath

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,40029.0.html  Edgbaston

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,50805.0.html  Sherwood Forest

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,32655.0.html  Woking

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,50427.0.html  Berkhamsted

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,46538.0.html  Coxmoor

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,37725.0.html  Temple

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,38973.0.html  Little Aston

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,30965.0.html  Beau Desert

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,33988.0.html  Notts

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,50088.0.html  The Old Course

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,50086.0.html  The New Course

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,50078.0.html  The Castle Course

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,30926.0.html  Kington

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,37526.0.html   Harborne

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,49998.0.html   Worcester G&CC

No future scheduled stops.

Ciao
« Last Edit: November 29, 2020, 05:35:12 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

Mark_Rowlinson

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: STRATFORD on AVON GC: Winter Tour 2011/12
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2012, 12:51:04 PM »
Another worthwhile exercise, Sean. Not every course can be a Doak 10 but we all know that we can still get a lot of fun out of most golf courses in the British Isles, however basic. If you look for the positives there are usually some to be found even on the humblest layouts. Keep up the good work! Mark.

Thomas Dai

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: STRATFORD on AVON GC: Winter Tour 2011/12
« Reply #10 on: October 06, 2016, 04:22:48 PM »
I recently had the opportunity to play at Stratford-upon-Avon GC and what a thoroughly nice private members course and club it is. A very nice clubhouse too, but like the course itself, not grand or flashy, more subtle and understated.

The terrain the course plays over is in general pretty flattish. However, there's lots more minor elevation movement than at first meets the eye on almost every hole and green. Dead ground here, dips and ridges there and all done in a rather gentle manner.

Many holes are doglegs, a couple quite severely so and there are numerous trees, but not excessively so, indeed some are rather nicely grouped or aligned. Many greens are slightly raised and nicely angled, the two tier par-4 13th green in particular being very angled.

The routing is nice in that it circles around and within itself so that not many sequential holes play in the same direction.

A slight downside imo would be the bunkering. Whilst the positioning is fine the bunkers simply look well, a little bland and unexciting.

One hole worth highlighting would be the short par-3 16th, played over former gravel workings to a small raised green. This hole is a right little rascal.

If I were to use two words to describe the S-u-A course (and club) those words would be 'sutble' and 'understated'. Nothing big and bold and brash and in your face, just subtleness and understatedness everywhere.

I really rather liked S-u-A GC a lot and look forward to returning.

Atb
« Last Edit: October 06, 2016, 04:30:34 PM by Thomas Dai »

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: STRATFORD upon AVON GC: Winter Tour 2011/12
« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2016, 05:22:50 AM »
ATB


Give us a shout when you return.  Being close to home and a county card course I am happy to return.


Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

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