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Sean_A

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Oxford's Little Gem - OXFORD GC New
« on: January 30, 2010, 07:31:58 AM »
While inspecting the boards I noticed that at one time three clubs claimed this course as its home turf.  The oldest, Oxford University GC, was formed in 1875. The course is terribly convenient for student golfers as the spires of the university are not much more than a few miles distant.  However, several years ago Oxford GC moved to Huntercombe.  Oxford City GC (1899) and Oxford Ladies GC (1901) make up the final two of the trio of centenary clubs.  After some discussion with a few members I gleaned that Oxford is not a golf club in the traditional sense.  It is rather more of a holding company which maintains the house and course.  The two clubs appoint directors to the company to ensure all is well and their views are properly (and I suspect roughly equally) represented. 

Golf was played in the area from as early as 1873.  The original course was primarily located in the marshes below the hill on which the course is now located.  At some point James Braid was involved in a redesign and then in the early 1920s HS Colt significantly re-worked the course.  It is thought some of Braid's work remains, if true, likely in the form of  few fairway corridors.  However, it is safe to say Oxford can be attributed to Colt and it is a course he surely would have been proud to call his own.

The first two holes play down a left to right slope and are a gentle introduction to the round.  However, both have greens which ride hard down the slope and it is easy to imagine three-putting.  Approach to #2.




The difficulty increases dramatically on the 3rd.  The water is reachable, but takes a very powerful drive to clear.  It is glaringly apparent that trees are a serious problem at Oxford.  On several holes lines of approach or tee shots are overly dictated.  From personal experience, there were three shots from the middle of the fairway or the tee I couldn't hit - and it wasn't terribly windy.  Speaking with an old-time resident of Oxford it is clear this wasn't the original intention.  The hill was once a vast open landscape. The approach is to a very small target considering the steep bank that must first be negotiated.  Looking back toward the tee.




Oxford is blessed with a terrific set of par 3s the first of which is the 4th.  From the 4th tee Magdalene College and Radcliffe Camera can just be seen across a long valley. Unfortunately, modern expansion has somewhat obscured the view, but it can hardly be surprising since the course is on the Cowley side of what can generally be considered the middle of the city. The hole heads in the same southeasterly direction as the previous three holes with the wind off the left.  The putting surface leans deceptively to the right despite the high pad.  Notice how the green is an extension of the ridge flowing into it from the left. 


The following two holes run back and forth and are of a similar distance at just under 400 yards, but they play completely differently because of the lay of the land and the change of wind direction.  Joy of joys, these bunkers were reinstituted since my last visit.  Hopefully other bunkers will be restored, but it would require tree removal to do so.
In this instance, the bunkers work well in tandem with the sunken front of the green in making it difficult to ascertain just where the hole is. 


A closer look at the green.


From the tee of the 6th it is hard to tell just how much of an elephant's graveyard the fairway is.  Below is the approach.  In retrospect, it may be best to lay back to about 150ish and avoid an approach from the dip.  Most of the greens rely on sloping one way or another.  In keeping with the rolling nature of the fairway, this green has more internal contours.


The next section of six holes is the weak point of Oxford.  None of the best holes are in this stretch and we walk directly passed the 12th tee to reach the 7th....#7 transitions the game back to other side of the creek with a short par 4.  There is an upper and lower tee to hit across the valley formed by the creek.  While being considerably shorter from the lower tee I much preferred the look because the avenue of trees such as on #3 isn't quite so apparent.  The uphill approach makes it difficult to gauge the deceptively long green.  A visually curious hole, the 8th doesn't set well to my eye.  I suspect this is not a Colt original and may have been built when a short hole between 5 green and 6 tee was taken out of play for reasons unknown to me.  From the nature of the land one suspects the hole plays far longer than its listed 152 yards (praise be to daily tees).   The centre bush too adds to the uncertainty though I am not sure if this is either positive or negative.  An element I am sure adds nothing to the hole are the trees. 

The purple patch had to eventually come to an end and it does with the back to back par 5s of nine and ten.  While neither of these holes is poor, one can't help but get the impression they serve to eat up much of the least inspiring terrain.  Still, the 10th green complex is vintage Colt despite the dreadful backdrop of trees. 

Matters improve with the blind drive 11th which once again crosses the creek, but some of the best golf is yet to come.  Well routed courses such as Ballybunion bring the golfer back to the prime golfing country on more than one occasion.  Colt wasn't lucky enough to have the Atlantic Ocean as a near neighbour, but he was still able to route Oxford in such a manner as to revisit the dramatic ground near the creek numerous times on holes 3, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 17 & 18.  Perhaps the most thrilling of these holes is the fairly long par 3 12th. The water is to the left and well below the hole which plays on a bluff shared with the 6th hole.  However, the deep ravine cut by the water is the primary hazard.




The 13th plays over Hogley Bog which is one of the better examples of a calcareous valley fen in southern England and has thus been deemed a Site Special Scientific Interest.   One can readily see the choice off the tee to be bold right or safe left. 


The approach off a sloping right lie complicates matters.  Many of the greens have shrunk over the years.  A closer look suggests this green at one time came much further out and created a more angled effect than what we see today.  The front right bunker motif seems to be repeated too often and I suspect Colt is not entirely responsible.  Still, this is a grand hole which is one of the many highlights of the course.


A dead straight par 4 with a raised green similar to many others on the course, the 14th is compromised by trees.  The shaping of the hole provides for a dramatic effect which is mostly negated by trees.   The green complex reveals just how much earth was moved in making this green and several others.  Despite the trademark Colt framing mounds, one can readily see the similarity to Fowler's work at Beau Desert. 


#15 is a lovely par 3 much in the same style as the previous hole, but this green is cleverly benched into the hill on the right.


The final par 4 can catch the golfer unaware with its demands.  At 393 yards, uphill and with a sharp depression shy of the green, the 16th stands out as one of the best holes on the course.  Recovery is no easy matter.




The penultimate hole traverses the creek bed (which presumably is underground or perhaps diverted some time ago) and is yet another superb example of using the terrain to full advantage.  Perhaps the NHS had the fabled Pink City, Jaipur, in mind as its inspiration when building this section of the Park Hospital For Children!  Luckily the hole is good enough to overcome the backdrop.


How the hole looked as Colt envisioned it.


The home hole is a reachable par 5 which was the best three-shotter on the property until the club added a pond near the green (shades of Camberley Heath!), but it still lacks the element of class which good long holes possess.  Despite the less than ideal set of par 5s I am mildly impressed with the course as a whole.  The cracking set of short holes and clutch of fantastic two-shotters more than make up for any deficiency Oxford may have.  For sure, if trees, many trees, were removed, and the bunker scheme reconsidered, I believe the course could be greatly improved.  The bones of an exceptional course are there.  Its unfortunate that the club is moving in the opposite direction and is planting rather than removing trees.  The turf is generally good, there is enough movement in the land to make golfers create shots, there are abundant natural hazards without being oppressive and the greens are in very good order.  True, at just under 6000 yards from the daily tees Oxford is short on yardage, but increasingly I am finding more and more time for this sort of course.  If one is making plans to visit or play golf near Oxford, and one should indeed make time to see this wonderful university city, Oxford is an ideal compliment to both Temple and Huntercombe. 2018

http://golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,46177.0/  Reddish Vale

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

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

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

Ciao
« Last Edit: December 23, 2019, 12:59:07 PM 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

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - Southfield GC
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2010, 07:53:14 AM »
Thanks Sean, I used to play it several times a week. I can't wait for the rest.

Sean_A

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - Southfield GC
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2010, 02:12:27 AM »
Thanks Sean, I used to play it several times a week. I can't wait for the rest.

Mark

Believe it or not, I am told many trees were taken out.  Do you notice a difference either way from your days?

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

Adam Lawrence

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - Southfield GC
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2010, 04:04:55 AM »
I'm glad you liked it Sean, as I'm thinking about joining.
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Mark_Rowlinson

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - Southfield GC
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2010, 06:05:30 AM »
Yes, Sean, the trees have grown a bit. The hospital wasn't there behind the 17th. The 13th in those days played over allotments. I once got a two on that hole. The drive at the 3rd was somewhat more open. Older members who remembered the war years said that some of the Americans soldiers and airmen who played here had been pros before the war. Several were known to have driven the 3rd! I couldn't guarantee to clear the stream (although I once ran the ball over the bridge) and from a downhill lie short of the stream the second shot was very tricky, trying to get the height as well as the length. So often I ended up half way up the bank from where it was easy to amass a big score. The 12th, too, could be a killer if you missed the green, and I often did. There was a bunker front right of the green which prevented you running the ball onto the green from the higher ground on the right. There were a lot of interesting greens with tricky approaches.

Tom MacWood

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - Southfield GC
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2010, 09:21:45 AM »
Excellent photos - I'm pretty sure this was a completely new golf course designed by Colt. Here is a blurb from 10/19/1921.

Neil_Crafter

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - Southfield GC
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2010, 04:54:03 PM »
Tom
Nice BD snippet. Certainly sounds like BD was describing a completely new course in the offing.
Nice tour Sean, interesting green complexes.

Tom Birkert

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - Southfield GC
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2010, 05:23:23 PM »
I think the 3rd hole there is ridiculous. In order to be able to go for the green you have about a 10 yard by 20 yard area of fairway to play into. The trees on both the left and right block too much of the playing angle. It's crazy.

The 7th is also compromised on the drive by trees, especially from the higher tee.

John Mayhugh

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - Southfield GC
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2010, 07:46:19 PM »
Thanks for making me hate our winters even more.

Another great winter tour profile, Sean.  I really like the looks of a lot of those greensites, especially the 12th.

Mark_Rowlinson

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - Southfield GC
« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2010, 11:09:47 AM »
Don't worry, John, we in this part of NW England had a golf-preventing fall of snow this weekend. I played mostly in the winter at Southfield and it was perfectly presentable almost all the time. And it was there, on the 9th fairway to be exact, that I discovered that you can lose even a bright orange golf ball in newly falling snow because as it rolls it gets coated in white snowflakes and becomes invisible. i suppose it was some form of empirical science from which I learned something, but what a waste of a golf ball!

Sean_A

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - Southfield GC
« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2010, 01:51:38 AM »
Yes, Sean, the trees have grown a bit. The hospital wasn't there behind the 17th. The 13th in those days played over allotments. I once got a two on that hole. The drive at the 3rd was somewhat more open. Older members who remembered the war years said that some of the Americans soldiers and airmen who played here had been pros before the war. Several were known to have driven the 3rd! I couldn't guarantee to clear the stream (although I once ran the ball over the bridge) and from a downhill lie short of the stream the second shot was very tricky, trying to get the height as well as the length. So often I ended up half way up the bank from where it was easy to amass a big score. The 12th, too, could be a killer if you missed the green, and I often did. There was a bunker front right of the green which prevented you running the ball onto the green from the higher ground on the right. There were a lot of interesting greens with tricky approaches.

Mark

Allotments on 13?  Where the bog is? 

Tom B

Yes, if I had it my way, nearly all the interior trees would be taken out and a new bunker scheme put in place.  The 3rd should be a really fun hole, but the narrow corridor spoils it to some degree.  There is however, one large old tree on the left I would keep.

Anyway, the course really surprised me.  I didn't expect it to be worth a look, but I was well off the mark.

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

Mark_Rowlinson

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - Southfield GC
« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2010, 06:38:57 AM »
Sean, yes. I think they were quite run down by then - I played it 1967-70 and went back once since, probably in the 80s, but I can't say that the allotments were still there by the 80s. These are very valuable photo tours and I like the way you link us to your other ones. Mark.

By the way, you should look at Lindrick winter deals for next year. I think a fourball plus breakfast was 99 this year - just under 25 each! It's well drained and plays well in winter.You could take in Coxmoor and Hallamshire, too.

Sean_A

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - Southfield GC
« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2010, 05:42:58 PM »
Sean, yes. I think they were quite run down by then - I played it 1967-70 and went back once since, probably in the 80s, but I can't say that the allotments were still there by the 80s. These are very valuable photo tours and I like the way you link us to your other ones. Mark.

By the way, you should look at Lindrick winter deals for next year. I think a fourball plus breakfast was 99 this year - just under 25 each! It's well drained and plays well in winter.You could take in Coxmoor and Hallamshire, too.

Mark

I am interested in your take as to why these tours of the wee courses are valuable.  Could you please indulge me? 

I tend to enjoy the smaller courses more than the big occasion venues, but this means suffering through perhaps more mediocre architecture than I would like.  It is, however, fantastic to stumble over the surprises and most certainly Southfield qualifies as such.

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

Mark Pearce

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - Southfield GC
« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2010, 03:41:44 AM »
Sean,

I'm the wrong Mark but your tours have identified to me some courses I would probably never have played and now would do.  The best example for me is Kington, which I would never have heard of but now can't wait to get back to.  My mother lives near Oxford and Southfield would never have been on the map, but now is.  I think they also serve to highlight the quality of some of the "lesser" work done by British pre-war architects (and Colt in particular, who seems to have a legacy of so many unsung but fine courses).

Talking of unsung Colt courses, when will your tours take in the North East, if ever?
In July 2022 I will be riding 3 stages of the Tour de France,  in the Alps, to raise money for the William Wates Memorial Trust which is dedicated to providing opportunities for under privileged young adults.  To support the Trust, please visit https://fundraising.wwmt.org/fundraisers/MarkPearce/rid

Ed Tilley

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - Southfield GC
« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2010, 07:25:35 AM »
I live about 15 minutes from Southfield and used to play it quite often as a kid. I played it again about a year ago - for the first time in about 15 years and enjoyed it. It's a fun course with a fair bit of elevation change. It's certainly not as good as some other courses in the area (Huntercombe, any of the 3 courses at Frilford Heath) and I would hesitate to recommend anyone make a special trip. However, if you're in the area, you will enjoy it if you play it.

Mark_Rowlinson

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - Southfield GC
« Reply #15 on: February 03, 2010, 09:36:26 AM »
Sean, I like your tours because you have a keen eye for the detail of golf course architecture, you describe it well and with lots of interest, and you know how to photograph a couse to illustrate your point. If I haven't been to a place it very likely encourages me to visit. If I have been to a place it's nice to know what somebody else thinks about and a much of the time you confirm my own opinions. In the case of Southfield it is gratifying to learn that my memories of it are pretty well spot on - senility may be just round the corner but it's not quite here yet. Mark (the Cheshire Mark).


Sean_A

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - Southfield GC
« Reply #16 on: February 03, 2010, 12:55:49 PM »
Sean, I like your tours because you have a keen eye for the detail of golf course architecture, you describe it well and with lots of interest, and you know how to photograph a couse to illustrate your point. If I haven't been to a place it very likely encourages me to visit. If I have been to a place it's nice to know what somebody else thinks about and a much of the time you confirm my own opinions. In the case of Southfield it is gratifying to learn that my memories of it are pretty well spot on - senility may be just round the corner but it's not quite here yet. Mark (the Cheshire Mark).



Markx

Thank you!  Though I thought you might say you use the pix for research/compare&contrast.  I didn't mean to look as though I was fishing for compliments.

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

Richard Muldoon

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - Southfield GC
« Reply #17 on: February 03, 2010, 04:55:32 PM »
Ed,
I'm interested that you think all of the 3 Frilford courses are better than Southfields.
I've only played the red a few years ago and didn't think it was anything special. I have heard that while the green is relatively short it is the best of the three and that the blue is a 'championship' type course and not really heathland in character.
I think I will have to get back there soon.

Sean,
enjoyed your write up and I am always amazed at what you pick up on just one visit to a course.
I passed the web link to Dave and he in turn passed it on to the Secretary  who was most impressed with the write up and the web site as a whole.

Richard

Mark_Rowlinson

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - Southfield GC
« Reply #18 on: February 04, 2010, 06:24:02 AM »
Long ago I used to play the then two courses at Frilford from time to time, but you had to know somebody who had a car and could take you. The Red was generally pretty good with some really heathy holes, cross-bunkers and so on. They had to redesign some of it when they built the Blue. The Green was a good companion and no less interesting for its being shorter. I went back about 1999 when the Blue course had been opened. I fancy that the Red and Green were both much more watered than they had been in the late 60s. They didn't seem so heathy. The Blue was a great disappointment. It was characterless. Ideally, golf at Frilford was combined with a meal at Dudley's at Kingston Bagpuize - game and home-brewed beer.

Ed Tilley

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Oxford's Little Gem - Southfield GC
« Reply #19 on: February 04, 2010, 07:39:28 AM »
Ed,
I'm interested that you think all of the 3 Frilford courses are better than Southfields.
I've only played the red a few years ago and didn't think it was anything special. I have heard that while the green is relatively short it is the best of the three and that the blue is a 'championship' type course and not really heathland in character.
I think I will have to get back there soon.

Richard

Richard,

I don't think any of the Frilford courses are anything special - I just think they are all solid courses and better than Southfields.

The Green is definitely my favourite course of the 3, and is probably the most 'heathlike' course. It is very short (6,000 yards) but is tight and has a lot of charm .The 9 hole stretch from 5-13 over the road are an absolute delight - I've spent many a happy summer evening there.

The Red is longer than the green but still retains some of the heathland feel. This is the course that normally hosts any amateur events that the club holds. As Mark says, the first 5 holes were redesigned to accomodate the new Blue course. This was a great shame as holes 2, particularly 3, and 4 were some of the finest on the course and the replacements are not as good. However, the back nine remains an excellent stretch of golf.

The Blue is completely out of character with the other two courses and is the least played of the 3 by members. It was built in the 90's on an old pig farm and is 'modern' with a number of water hazards. It is described as a 'Championship' course which always puts me off. There would have to be a big queue on the Green or Red course for me to play the Blue although it still has some enjoyable moments.

When I have finally given up cricket and my kids are a bit older I will become a member at Frilford again (my Dad is still a member) - it's not cheap so you have to play a fair amount to make it worth it. With 3 courses (one of which is always a 2 ball course) you can turn up any time you want and be pretty much guaranteed a speedy round.

Ed

Sean_A

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - Southfield GC
« Reply #20 on: November 19, 2010, 06:26:25 PM »
Take a look at the updated review.  Southfield is certainly casting a spell over me which I find hard to resist.  I often find neat little things on return visits and for sure the surprise of this game was the imaginative greens that nearly without exception had interesting little twists and turns, not terribly unlike Swinley Forest's greens.  This course is the epitome of  a hidden gem.  

Ciao
« Last Edit: November 19, 2010, 06:31:35 PM by Sean Arble »
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

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - SOUTHFIELD GC (Redux)
« Reply #21 on: November 20, 2010, 03:15:24 PM »
Sean, thanks for the tour, it certainly looks like a hidden gem.  The mounding similarities to Harborne are striking.  I guess the parallel nature of the holes didn't detract?
can't get to heaven with a three chord song

PPallotta

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - SOUTHFIELD GC (Redux)
« Reply #22 on: November 20, 2010, 03:29:51 PM »
Sean - man oh man, Mr. Colt sure mustve had a heck of a lot of Talent, because he sure couldn't have spent much Time at each the (dozens and dozens of) courses he designed iin England.

Thanks much for another excellent tour.

Peter

PS - My old boss is now Canadian Consul General in Detroit. I believe the CG's official residence is in Grosse Point. Gotta go over to see him and your old stomping grounds.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2010, 03:31:30 PM by PPallotta »

Sean_A

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - SOUTHFIELD GC (2010/2011 Winter Tour)
« Reply #23 on: November 22, 2010, 01:59:15 AM »
Pietro

Yes, a guy like Ross gets stick for his operation, but I have increasingly wondered about Colt's.  It shouldn't be a surprise that given his work load that similar design concepts and shaping pop up again and again on Colt courses, but for some reason Colt doesn't have this reputation.  Then again, like Ross, perhaps many folks find Colt courses infectous and don't mind.  This sort of "flaw" is more a consequence of our ability to travel and see so much these days and an issue of success. 

Ciao
« Last Edit: May 06, 2018, 06:47:28 PM 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

Sean_A

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Re: Oxford's Little Gem - SOUTHFIELD GC (2010/2011 Winter Tour)
« Reply #24 on: July 09, 2011, 02:23:29 PM »
Have a look at the recent update of photos.  We visted a few weeks ago on a terrific weekend 25 price after 2pm.  The greens were some of the best I have seen this year.

Ciao
« Last Edit: May 17, 2017, 02:54:33 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

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