The late great Severiano Ballesteros turned professional in March 1974 as 16 year old. Within a few years Seve was a household name finishing second at the 1976 Open held at Royal Birkdale and then carrying off the Dutch Open title three weeks later. The rest as they say is history, but only Seve could have lived it. Every professional must begin to earn their crust somewhere and In 1974 Seve made his professional British debut at the little known Coventry Golf Club (aka Finham). The winner of the Piccadilly Medal was Maurice Bembridge, a four time member of the GB&I Ryder Cup team at the height of his career. It would be interesting to know if Seve drew a cheque from the purse and if so, what amount.
Finham is one of the older clubs in the Midlands and indeed a past secretary is believed to have originated the idea of “bogey score” (the score a good golfer should earn) under the auspices of ground score. However, the current course is fairly new. Due to the construction of the A46 a large percentage of the original Tom and Harry Vardon course was lost. Fred Hawtree reconstructed a new course which opened for play in the early 70s. The R&A thought enough of Finham and its history of hosting professional and amateur events to designate the course a site for Open Championship Regional Qualifying.
The origin of the elephant and castle logo of Coventry is lost in the web of time. Not only does Finham use the city's logo, but Coventry City FC famously does as well.
The first hole heads downhill and features a blind drive, one of a handful on the course. At 450+ yards the hole is still fairly long despite its downwhill nature. The bunker scheme is fairly interesting as is the relatively small green.
#2 is also blind off the tee. The fairway is fairly narrow because of the turn distance and the land moving right against the grain of dogleg left. Below is the approach. This is part of the low area of the course so the apron doesn't release approach shots nearly as well as on the higher ground.
The short par 4 third is quite interesting because of the drive choice of laying up or driving over the trees. The 4th is another fairly short two-shotter. The OOB is used very well in creating a faux dogleg. Playing safely to the right leaves a rather daunting approach aimed direcly at OOB.
This bunker cutting off the direct line to the green is curious. I would have thought a Hogan's Alley would be the appropriate design intent for this hole.
The fifth introduces the set of short holes. If I am honest, other than the terrific 17th, the par 3s are rather mundane. Other than the 17th all have encroaching trees (a visual problem on much of the course) which don't enhance the holes in any way. #5 isn't a bad hole by any means, but more should be on offer. The three-shot 6th turns back on the 5th and is a terrific hole. The drive zone is actually quite narrow as the water behind the 4th green (where the trees are on the left of the photo below) is very much in play. The long uphill approach is far narrower than it looks as the OOB line looks miles from the green, but in fact it isn't.
The short 7th is a bit of a disappointment playing over a pond which isn't used well. The 8th legs sharply right and plays to a rather hum drum bunker left/bunker right green - a theme repeated too often at Coventry. After a rather awkward walk across the club drive the 9th comes into view - a very attractive hole with well placed bunkers.
The observant eye will pick up on the rig and furrow fairway. Apparently, this style of farming acted as a deterrant for German planes to land in WWII. Presumably this fairway corridor was re-used from the original design.
The 10th is a quite short par 5 playing to a green running away from the fairway. We then cross the River Sowe for two holes. Both are quite tight (a general trait of the best holes on the property) with a lay-up off the tee likely being the option of choice on many an occassion.
#12 offers the opportunity to drive blindly over the left trees.
The approach after a lay-up. Notice the very Colt-like mounding at the rear of the green and nearly every other green on the course.
We now cross back over the river for #13, a short three-shotter with OBB down the left and a sneaky blind pond jutting into the left side fairway. There is little room for error here, but I think Hawtree just about got the risk/reward balance right as he seemed to on many of the tight holes.
The third shot for the weak minded!
The rather curious looking 14th is a good hole. The bunker is a bit of a red herring as trying to drive over it may leave one in the trees or rough. Staying left is safer and maybe the better angle of approach. The short 15th is another disappointing par 3 crowded out with trees. The final par 5 plays far longer than the listed 515 yards as its uphill all the way. Fairway bunkers play a more prominent role than on most of the holes and as is the case with much of the sand, they feel a bit formulaic in their distance from the tee.
The penultimate hole can often be one of the best holes on the course and that is certainly the case at Finham. Visually, the hole looks to be a take on the Redan, but it plays nothing like its Scottish cousin. The two main differences are the front right drops off rather than providing a kick pad and the back section of the green is raised. Its a shame Hawtree couldn't have been as creative with the other short holes.
The home hole is quite a disappointing straight away affair of modest length.
Coventry was known to me for nearly 20 years as I knew an English chap working for Ford in Dearborn who sang its praises. Since that time a small number of people I met have played Finham, but ALL liked the course. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of Coventry, but I am only luke warm on the course. Too much of it seems forced to me. There is very little imaginative bunkering. The greens are generally without much interest. Many of the holes are of a similar nature. I don't by any means think the course is poor, but its far from the best of the Midlands. Maybe I am a minority opinion on this one, but at £50 for the green fee Coventry is not the sort of course I could recommend. 2011