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Sean_A

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Another Colt: SANDWELL PARK GC New
« on: July 11, 2010, 07:01:51 AM »
West Bromwich is likely more famous for its industrial heritage as part of the Black Country and its football team than for its Colt designed course.  Sandwell Park is located not more than 100 yards down the road from The Hawthornes, home to West Bromwich Albion FC, one of the founding members of the Football League and newly promoted to the Premiere League.  Sadly, the last time the club won any silverware was in 1968, when under the guidance of Alan Ashman the club claimed the FA Cup. 

A “garden variety” nine holes built in 1895 was the original course for Sandwell Park.  In 1897 the club moved and built nine holes on the Sandwell Park Estate (now called Sandwell Valley), home of the Earl of Dartmouth.  In 1905 the estate was described as more like a wilderness than anything else and it is still easy to see why as the back nine ventures onto some incredible terrain. In 1912 HS Colt’s radical redesign was opened.  Since this time some changes have been made to accommodate the rapidly growing urban area which now engulfs the course.  The M5 is hard to the west and its drone does detract from the pleasure of the game.  Electrical pylons marching through the back nine necessitated some changes.  One positive outcome of this development is the wonderful smell of baking bread wafting across the 10th fairway from the nearby Allied Bakery. 

Sandwell Park is a difficult course to get a handle on.  The two nines are wildly different in character with the front being in general visually quite tame and the back nine impressing me as much more intimidating.  Oddly, despite these obvious differences, the front does have a few greens which after playing one does realize are far tougher than they appear.

The first takes us between the parking lot and practice area hard down the left, trees on the right and curiously a blind burn at the bottom of a gentle hill lurks - not my favourite sort of opening hole!  Notice the high green pad on the left.  This offers an indication of the up and down nature of the course and the difficult to read greens which await.


The second is a tight drive hugging the side of a hill.   


The green runs away from the fairway and due to the obscured view it is very difficult to choose a landing zone which must be short of the green and on the high side of the fairway.  This hole encapsulates why a keen course can be far more challenging than target golf. 


The third slides deceptively to the left.  This green is one of the more perplexing on the course.  It looks bland as the bread baked nearby, but the run from right  to left is cleverly disguised.


#4 is a superb par 3 which comes back on the 3rd.  Consequently, the experience of the previous green causes trepidation when looking at this mad sloper.  I know, I know, trees are a serious issue at Sandwell. 


We now play back to back par 5s, neither of which is really exciting, but they aren't bad holes.  Imagine the scale of these holes when trees didn't block the interior views! 


#6 from the Pulpit tee.


I would mention that the green for this hole is immense and sloping very strongly left to right - though it doesn't appear that way in the photo. The thought of golfers trying to get close to some of these hole locations must have made the green keepers chuckle. 


The wee 7th is a cracking one-shotter.  It seems to play downhill, but that is a deception due to the sunken green.  The hole plays uphill and drops near the green; superb use of the land to create visual disonance.   


The short par 4 8th is another choked by trees, taking away the visual relief of the left side of this left to right fairway.  One can see that coming in from the left is dead. 


The side finishes with a rather bland par 4 which holds little interest.  Additionally, the back nine gets underway with an equally unimpressive par 5.  However, we now encounter a run of holes the like of which I have never seen from Colt.  The 11th is a drivable blind par 4 with bunkers cutting off access from the left.  A short diagonal bunker cuts in from the right wich the photo below depicts. 


A closer look at the green.


The par threes are a good set, but three play severely downhill.  To me this is a weakness as I am not overly thrilled by drop shot par 3s.  The 12th however, has a sting due to the green sloping right.  I mean it slopes as the ball creep right of this hole location is at least five feet if putting from 15 feet.  Once again, the green keepers were having a laugh!  Notice the shaping to the left of the flag.  Its a shame foliage masks the lovely effect the mounding would have had when this hole was originally built. 


The 13th is every bit the heroic hole that Calamity Corner is and it has a wonderful name to match - Wheerisit!  If one hopes to earn a clean four he must take on the corner bunkering and yet still be mindful of the jungle on the other side of the fairway. The fun doesn't end with the drive. The obscured and slightly downhill approach must be judged to perfection.  A deep hollow protects the right and more jungle is on the left.


Folks may be wondering why in the heck there is a guide post to the rear of the green.  The valley is far deeper than it appears in the photo, however, a big drive leaves a clear view of the green which like many, slopes away from the player.  Not to harp on the subject, but the scale of this course must have been tremendous back in the day and it is tragic the trees have robbed the golfer of this aspect of architectural genius. 



We now come to a hole that is far wider than it appears off the tee, but that doesn't stop one from being intimidated.


Could this have been a sky-line green?


The 16th, Peter's Folly, so named because Peter Alliss took a treble bogey in a match to commemorate the opening of this hole.  I suspect this is one of the changes made due to the installation of the electricty pylons.  Originally, the hole had sand surrounding the green.  It probably proved to be the case that in keen conditions there needs to be a kick in area short of the green to have any hope of playing this severe drop-shotter successfully. Once again, trees are a menace to not only the beauty of the hole, but some of its playing charactersitics as well. 

This most unusual stretch of holes concludes with the penultimate hole.  Trees block the view of the right half of the fairway, but the danger of the ravine on left is readily apparent.  Why a club would choose to Augustafy a teeing area with a narrow shoot of trees is a question for the ages. However, the approach is a cracker!


Similar to the ninth, the 18th, or the aptly named Gooin Wum, is not what we had hoped for.  It isn't an easy hole by any means, but the huge cross bunker guarding the viciously left to right sloped green left me wondering why the holes around the house aren't improved in some way for they surely let Sandwell down. 

My first instinct it to say Sandwell isn't really worth a visit, but as I stated earlier, the course is hard to come to grips with.  Sandwell strikes me as somewhat unusual for Colt and serves as a reminder that he shouldn't be pigeon holed as a designer.  For these reasons, I am going to hold off on any sort of rating because I don't really have a sense for the course.  I need to see Sandwell again.  2010

Ciao
« Last Edit: February 01, 2017, 04:37:31 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Mark Pearce

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Another Colt: SANDWELL PARK GC
« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2010, 08:09:24 AM »
Sean,

I see what you mean about the back nine looking different to much of Colt's work.  As it happens, though, I played at Tyneside Golf Club yesterday, a Colt course which has the distinction of having had Willie Park as pro.  It's on very steep land in places by the banks of the Tyne (and is next door to Close House - from some holes I was able to get a view of the course Scott MacPherson is building there on a very significant hillside) and has a number of holes which have some stylistic similarity to those holes on the back nine at Sandwell Park.  In many ways, I feel about Tyneside the way you do about Sandwell.  It's not a course I would strongly recommend to visitors to the region (Colt did better work at Brancepeth and Northumberland) but I always enjoy my games there because the good holes more than make up for the mundane ones on flatter land at the top of the hill.
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

John Mayhugh

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Another Colt: SANDWELL PARK GC
« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2010, 10:01:53 PM »
Sean,
Well, if this tour doesn't turn someone into a chain saw fan, nothing will.

There are some magnificent looking holes there.  I love the look of the second hole.  How long is it?

The 4th & 7th are excellent. 

PPallotta

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Another Colt: SANDWELL PARK GC
« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2010, 10:40:56 PM »
Sean - thanks; even without seeing the pixs that was a good read. I've read your reminder not to pigeon-hole Colt before. If you ever get a chance, I'd really appreciate and benefit from an article by you - something along the lines of "A "typical" Colt course" that gave your usual very clear descriptions of 18 holes of your choosing from various Colt courses. I think that would be great.

Peter

James Boon

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Re: Another Colt: SANDWELL PARK GC
« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2010, 03:58:59 AM »
Sean,

I've not played Sandwell, so haven't much to add, but it looks more interesting than I expected it too for some reason? Anyway, thanks for the tour!

Cheers,

James
2022 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Reay

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

Paul_Turner

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Another Colt: SANDWELL PARK GC
« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2010, 06:48:35 AM »
I thought it was a decent course.  I liked some of the holes much more than you did, Sean....like the 5th (and 6th) which I thought was a cracker with that severe green complex.  You were right that the 16th is new.  The practice hole (would have been the 10th) was the hole replaced and is still a ncie up hill par 3.
can't get to heaven with a three chord song

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Another Colt: SANDWELL PARK GC
« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2010, 06:58:18 PM »
Tucky

The 2nd is a bout 410 yards.

Pietro

I wouldn't know where to start with a Colt eclectic 18 - a huge task considering how prolific the man was.  

Paul

Yes, I think Sandwell is at the very least a decent course, but I am not sure how good it is.  I am still rattled by the movement of the 3rd, 4th and 12th greens.  I would like to go back some time and just kick shots around and see what develops. 

My favourite holes are 7, 11, 13, 15 & 17. 

Ciao
« Last Edit: July 12, 2010, 07:00:09 PM by Sean Arble »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

PPallotta

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Another Colt: SANDWELL PARK GC
« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2010, 11:14:38 PM »
Sean - understood, but just to be clear: I meant YOUR 18 ecelectic-but-worthy-Colt holes, from the many courses you've played. Your personal pov would be comprehensive enough for me.

Peter

Paul_Turner

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Re: Another Colt: SANDWELL PARK GC
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2010, 05:54:44 AM »
Sean

I loved the 17th, great use of that depression.  I agree re the 9th, nothing much going on there but quite liked the 18th with its old fashioned cross bunker.  They do have terrible tree issues there, bunkers and mounds in the trees.  The 6th has bunker shells in the left hand trees and would have looked amazing with all the trees gone.

Of Colt's courses, Sandwell reminds me most of Manchester.  They were built at about the same time and the terrain and features (greens, shaping, bunkers) are similar.  Although overall Manchester is more undulating,  like the back 9 at Sandwell and is probably slightly better.
can't get to heaven with a three chord song

Thomas Dai

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Re: Another Colt: SANDWELL PARK GC
« Reply #9 on: October 02, 2014, 02:46:02 PM »
This thread is now 4 years old but I'm bumping it as reading it inspired me to make a thoroughly pleasurable recent visit to Sandwell Park.

Harry Colt must have been really delighted the first time he saw what a wonderful undulating piece of heathland he was being given to work with, and boy did he do a good job. It's damn fine now, but it must have been fabulous once-upon-a-time, before industry and population increase intervened and expanded around it because these days Sandwell Park is not in the most salubrious setting being extremely adjacent to the M5 motorway and with a large bakery and other industrial units close by and with a few electricity pylons around, but jeez, what a fine test of golf and thinking it is.

I would not consider it as good as the wonderful Beau Desert but, and admittedly after only one play, I would place it a notch higher than the likes of other near Birmingham heathland favourites such as Enville's Highgate course and even, and this is rather hard to type as I am a big fan of it, but higher even than Colt's lovely Whittington Heath. There are many very fine and testing holes at SPGC incorporating some gentle to look at but treacherous to chip onto or putt on Harry Colt green complexes.

The course played with excellent true rolling speedy greens and with springy fairways which were a joy to walk on and hit shots from. Some tree work has been going on but seemed mostly of the trimming rather than removal variety. The tees could be a bit flatter with a few less trees immediately adjacent to the line of play (eg right of the 17th tee) and the bunkers a bit tidier, but these are probably manpower and thus money issues and may not be easily achievable in the present financial climate.

If you are driving North-South or South-North and as you do so go past the west side of Birmingham I suggest you could do worse than drop in for a game. I doubt you'll be disappointed, especially as it'll cost you only £25, yes only £25!, midweek on an English County Card and not much more than that as a full green-fee.

In case you you like to see more of the course and environs here's a Bing sat-map - http://binged.it/1E5PvPI

I took some photos to enhance what have been posted above and will post them in a day or so.

atb

« Last Edit: October 02, 2014, 04:51:55 PM by Thomas Dai »

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Another Colt: SANDWELL PARK GC New
« Reply #10 on: October 02, 2014, 04:40:31 PM »
atb

I guess I never made it back to Sandwell, but oddly enough, there is talk of playing it tomorrow!  Not sure yet, but I wouldn't mind seeing Moseley again. 

I am glad you liked Sandwell.  There are some good holes, but I am as yet undecided about the course.  For me its definitely a notch below Harborne, Edge and Whitty, but I can't quite figure out why I think this. 

I like the smell of the bakery though!

Ciao
« Last Edit: June 03, 2021, 03:30:59 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Thomas Dai

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Another Colt: SANDWELL PARK GC
« Reply #11 on: October 02, 2014, 05:09:23 PM »
Sean,

A good coincidence then! I'm still to play Harborne and Edg', hope to do so before the weather breaks or else it'll be next year, so can't compare them with SP. I'm a WH fan but think that SP is a tougher test of golf, more undulating and more longer approach shots into the greens. I reckon a players hcp would be a fraction higher at SP than at WH. I still think WH is lovely though.

BTW, I'd welcome your thoughts on Stourbridge, all on sand and quite tight. I really rather liked it when there recently. 'Curious' history and interesting routing/acreage too, see recent separate thread for more. Maybe not up to the level of WH or SP but thoroughly pleasant and good price £ wise too. Their planning on holding some Winter Open Comps too apparently, which shows their confidence in their course.

atn
« Last Edit: October 02, 2014, 05:12:04 PM by Thomas Dai »

Thomas Dai

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Re: Another Colt: SANDWELL PARK GC New
« Reply #12 on: October 03, 2014, 05:16:00 AM »
Here are some photos to enhance those already posted.

I haven't provided a photo of every hole, just a few sample holes with photos taken from different angles in an attempt to show various features.

First however, a couple of general observations -

* Noise. To the west of the course is the M5 motorway. Noisy traffic 'buzz' was apparent on the 1st and 2nd holes but then not noticeable until the 8th/9th and 18th. To the south is mainly the bakery/industrial units. But apart from the 10th you don't really notice this much (there is some screening). To the east is a large cemetery/graveyard and to the north is Sandwell Nature Reserve/Park, an extension of the courses heathland landscape. Overall, apart from 3 holes, the course - very surprisingly - played rather tranquil, even serene.

* Trees - There are indeed lots of trees. With a couple of notable exceptions, like the tight driving avenue on the 17th tee, the trees are okay. I wouldn't want anymore planted, but I wouldn't necessarily wish to see massive tree clearing take place either as I reckon massive tree clearing would both increase the noise and reduce the feeling of tranquility. For the most part, each hole feels quite separate to the others and you don't really see many other players on the course, which is rather nice.

Photo time.

Below - the very nice downhill par-3 4th hole - plays 200 yds from the white tees. Treacherous green, looks pretty flat, almost inconsequential. Should know better when playing a Colt green - "looks inconsequential" usually means nasty, but in a nice way. A mass of small ripples and tiny shelves move across the green from back-left to front-right.


Same 4th green photographed from the 3rd fairway.


The green at the uphill par-5 510 yd 5th hole. From the fairway the slope-off at the front seems small. It isn't. The 5 ft putt in the photo was holed but numerous attempts to re-hole the same putt again all rolled off the front of the green as did putts from the back of the green. Great pin spot or rogue pin (?) as the green would not have been originally designed for modern mowing speeds.


Same 5th green but from a wider angle and further showing the drop-off at the front.


Below is the the 520 yd downhill par-5 6th hole photographed from back-right. A bit like the green at the par-3 4th hole this green slopes heavily from back-left to front-right and has a multitude of small ripples and tiny shelves flowing across the green. Gentle but also evil, in a nice way.


Here is the green at the 160 yd par-3 7th hole. The green in this little dell. The first photo is taken from about 30 yds short of the green on the conventional line of play. I did notice hidden in the trees on the 'other' side of the previous green a now redundant tee which if used would make the par-3 6th hole play very differently as shots would come in much more from the left, over the left-side bunkers and down the bank rather than along the little valley as at present. The second and third photos, one from taken the front, one taken from the back of the green are an attempt to show the angle from the redundant tee.





A curious hole now, the short semi-drivable 300 yd par-4 11th, which I haven't photo'd, so I'll copy Sean's photo from above to illustrate here, is an odd hole. Normally short par-4's have nasty/evil/vile but still lovely greens. The 11th doesn't, it's really very bland. Rather odd. I wonder if it was altered at some time?


Here is the par-3 12the hole. 190 yds downhill. Lovely green. The gully to the left is a nasty spot from which to attempt a recovery shot. The green slopes heavily left-to-tight and falls off at the front. Not so obvious from the tee is that from where the pin is positioned in the photo the putting surface drops away to the rear quite appreciably. The fourth photo is taken from the right side near the 13th tee.





Below are two photos of the left side of the green at the 390 yd uphill par-4 14th hole. No need for words, the photos say it all really.



Two photos to give an indication of the undulating nature of the land. These two photos are both of the 400yd par-4 15th hole. In the second photo the putt from the front of the green broke a curvy 8 ft.



Lastly, taken from the patio at the rear of the green at the 390 yd uphill par-4 18th hole. One evil/nice green this. Slopes appreciably from left-to-right (as you play it) and falls off to the front. You could sit on the patio for a long, long time waiting for someone who's hit the green in two shots to only two putt. The 1st tee is to the left in the photo.


One feature of note at Sandwell is the number of greens that slope downwards from front-to-rear - 1st, 2nd, 7th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th all do this. Is this a Colt speciality?

£25 midweek on a English County Card!! - that's an absolute steal for a course of this quality.

atb

« Last Edit: October 28, 2014, 05:42:58 PM by Thomas Dai »

Tom Kelly

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Re: Another Colt: SANDWELL PARK GC
« Reply #13 on: October 03, 2014, 05:29:25 AM »
Yet another course oozing potential.

Mark_Rowlinson

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Re: Another Colt: SANDWELL PARK GC
« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2014, 05:50:17 AM »
Nice to see this again plus the extra photos.

Tree clearance: you might well find that some of the trees have preservation orders on them - I was discussing this very matter with the greenkeeper at Prestbury only yesterday. These TPOs are often put on by well-wishing outsiders, nothing to do with the club and they are well nigh impossible to have removed.

Mat Poade

Re: Another Colt: SANDWELL PARK GC
« Reply #15 on: October 03, 2014, 07:22:31 AM »
I was contemplating playing Envilles lodge course in a few weeks (not played either of the 2 courses). But seeing this is tempting me to play Sandwell again. I remember the 4th at Sandwell having a very tricky green.

Hmm tough decision.
Enville, Sutton Coldfield or Sandwell.

I'll let the father-in-law decide.

Marty Bonnar

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Another Colt: SANDWELL PARK GC
« Reply #16 on: October 03, 2014, 12:22:05 PM »
To anyone who's played both. Is the seventeenth a pretty good facsimile of a reverse pine valley sixth?
Cheers,
F.
Assembled in Michigan from foreign parts.

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