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Sean_A

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FRILFORD HEATH Red Course New
« on: September 08, 2014, 12:11:48 PM »
Designed in 1908 by JH Taylor, heavily modified in the early 20's and again in the early 90's, the Red Course has to a large degree lost its classic heathland feel.  It may not be the equal of the Green Course, but it is a very peaceful game just the same.  Amongst the several mundane holes are a scattering a fine examples which makes me wonder if the club didn't take things a step or three too far.  Is there a theoretical 18 holer on that property which would put the Red or Green to shame? 

In any case, the Red starts with four new holes, none of which are particularly inviting.  The course livens up on the 5th with a longish two-shotter which gently moves right around gorse and other assorted vegetation.


I liked the three-shot 6th quite a bit even though it plunges through a wide alley of gorse.  The bunker placement slashing through the fairway is much more interesting than the mainly boring left/right assortment of the previous holes.  The par 4 seventh spoons the 6th using gorse down the left as an intimidating feature, not a bad hole.  The final two holes on the rather mundane front side takes us back near the house.  That said, the 9th green/10th tee is in a very cooling spot and must be heaven when the temperatures reach unbearable mid 20s level. 

The back nine starts with a legger moving hard right (one of several severe doglegs).  The 11th is a more interesting par 3 than encountered on the front nine.  As on a few holes, the green is somewhat domed and provides for an interesting tee shot.  Next is for me, the best hole on the course.  A brutish 474 yard par 4 with a narrow, well protected green.




The next two holes offer a bit of a break being quite short 4s. 13 is very odd in that we drive between trees (and a stream) to the very edge of the fairway which turns almost 90 degrees left.  A good drive will leave a short approach to a green well below the driving area.  While 13 didn't impress me, the short 14th did.  We now seem to be well and truly back on sandy turf.  The drive is quite confusing with a well placed bunker darting from the left. 


The 15th hole too is a good one playing to a green near the Green's 3rd tee.  I was particularly taken with the 16th.  This drive and pitch hole features the best green on the course.  The drive isn't terribly demanding, but all sorts of trouble can be found around the green.  My back was starting to cause me grief so I eased a driver out to the 150 marker, a drive of about 175.  From my vantage point there wasn't any green, just a large fronting bunker.  I had no idea there was a big bunker left well below the surface of the green nor how close the hole location was to this perdition.  The two tier green is also very good.  The right side is raised and slopes away, shades of a another dome-like green.  I reckon technology has all but ruined the design effect of this hole.  Below is the view a good drive offers.



The far more interesting back nine continues to the 18th, a most attractive driving hole running along the clubhouse. 




As I mentioned previously, I will never be able to think of Frilford Heath (or Enville!) without imagining what a good archie could do with this site today.  The property is easily good enough to produce an unquestionably high quality design.  As the situation stands now, I am afraid the front nine of the Red Course and the rather average nature of the par 3s and 5s is too much to overcome.   2014

Ciao
« Last Edit: December 01, 2018, 07:34:33 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

Ed Tilley

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Re: FRILFORD HEATH Red Course
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2014, 01:31:55 PM »
I'm mortally offended with your write up of the course / club I grew up on >:(.

However, I can only disagree on a few things - the 13th for example is, in my opinion, an excellent hole. Having played it hundreds of times I know that you can just flick an iron up to a fairway that is incredibly wide. However, the further right you are, the longer, blinder and trickier the second becomes. You ideally want to be long and as far left as possible to give a view of the green - preferably a big draw. This brings in the trees to the left and if you're in there you're dead. The green is now effectively a dell green whereas it used to extend all the way almost from the top of the hill - about 30 yards long with some really funky pin positions. This is one of the many examples where I think the course was much better before the changes the club have made.

The changes they made in the early 90s were as a result of building the new Blue course, and made the course much worse in my eyes. They lost the old 2nd, 3rd and 4th holes and changed the 5th. The 1st hole now swings round to the left and is enclosed by gorse. The old hole swung slightly to the right, was much more open and had a lovely natural green. The new hole actually promised much but has never really worked for me.

The saddest thing was the loss of the 3 old holes, particularly the 2nd and 3rd. The 2nd was a devilish shortish par 4 swinging right over a hollow that is now the 18th fairway on the blue. The green was two tiered with a very steep slope. The new 2nd is a "modern" par 5 which doesn't quite fit (like the 3rd and 4th also) as it is built on land that used to be a pig farm and is not sandy at all.

The old 3rd was a fantastic hole - a 400+ yard par four doglegging significantly to the left. There were some big poplar trees on the corner that, in my flatter bellied days I always used to (try and) drive over. There was then an excellent 3 tiered green that led to some interesting long puts. This hole has actually been partially retained as the 10th on the Blue course. However, the tee is 100 yards to the right and is now a dog leg right. The trees on the right are much closer so you can't go over and have to go round. Most criminally of all though, they flattened the green so it is just a gentle back to front slope with no tiers. Why they did that is beyond me? The less said about the current 3rd the better - absolutely hate it.

The 4th was a nice mid length par 3 through some trees to a green just to the left of the current 5th tee. It wasn't the best hole on the course but had a much more natural feel than the current 4th. The 5th was a par 5 with the tee back to the left of the old 4th green - about 50 yards back and to the left of where it is now. There used to be a big cross bunker about 80 yards short - pretty much where the two bunkers in your photo are now (not the front right one which is also new). This was only taken out recently as it had sort of lost its relevance now the hole was a 4 - you couldn't drive into it and it didn't really effect the second. On the old hole, a less than average drive gave you a real decision to make as to whether you went for the carry.

The 11th used to be quite scary. Pretty much from the front of the tee to 5 yards short of the green was a sea of gorse bushes. These inhibited the view of the green - i.e. you could only see the flag. Also the green is now just a very flat raised green whereas it used to extend down the slope at the front for 5 or 6 yards. Now they have cleared the gorse and it is a pretty straightforward short par 3.

It is very interesting that you enjoyed the 12th. It was always a favourite of mine but I played it for the first time in a couple of years a few months back. I was absolutely fuming with the change they had made to the hole. What had they done - replaced the number 5 with 4! It was always a half par hole - just a good opportunity to pick up a shot. It just seemed to me to be symptomatic of what the club thinks is important - e.g. getting the English Amateur. Most of the members can't reach it in 2 and there are no forward tees, even in winter - unless they are planning to put them in. As you say, the green is narrow and well protected with a severe slope from back to front and drop off right - all very well for a 5 but a bit severe for a 470 yards 4.

I'm glad you liked 14 as this is my favourite hole on the course. Again a severe green but short par 4s should have severe greens - not long ones! 16 is much tighter than it used to be - where the sea of gorse is on the right used to just have the odd bush. It took away a bit of the fun for me as driver is not really a smart play anymore. The green is excellent - the drop to the bunker on the left is more severe than it looks on the photo.

17 is yet another example where the green has been made smaller and a tier removed. It is now flat and raised - previously it extended off the front down the tier for 7 or 8 yards. I don't know why they suddenly decided that tiers were bad but there is only really the 16th now when there used to be 5 or 6 tiered greens.

18 on both the red and the green are very nice holes. Unlike the 18th on the green this is a bit too long to drive (please don't ask me about my hole in 1 on the 18th on the green ;)). However, a big advantage is gained if you can a good drive away onto the top level. It is a bit scary though - my wild hook has been responsible for a few balls into the car park in the past.

Frilford is undoubtedly a great place to be a member - anywhere you can rock up at 9 on a Saturday without a booking and be round in 3 hours as a 2 ball has its plus points. It just could and should be, and in fact was, better.


PPallotta

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Re: FRILFORD HEATH Red Course
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2014, 01:48:29 PM »
Thanks Sean and Ed. It does look to be a wonderful member's club. As I was looking at the photos and reading your descriptions, however, something just didn't look/feel quite right, and then Sean wrote: "While 13 didn't impress me, the short 14th did. We now seem to be well and truly back on sandy turf."  And that was it. I know I probably can't "see" very much just from photos, but it sure did "feel" like one could tell how the soil influenced the design and the aesthetic, and that sandy turf (and/or its absence) does indeed make a difference in this regard.

Peter

Sean_A

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Re: FRILFORD HEATH Red Course New
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2014, 01:54:19 PM »
Ed

Sorry, just offering an opinion in a sea of opinions.

I wondered why the 11th was obviously neutered in front.  The green just stops unnaturally when it should extend down the slope.  The 17th too looks weird.  16, you are right, the photo doesn't show the depth of the left side bunker.

13 isn't bad. I sort of like the unintuitive line trying to get as close to the gorse as possible (through the fairway) for the relatively easy pitch down the hill.  I must say though, the cross bunker looks amateurish.  I think the hole could be visually improved quite a bit.

In the end though, I am sorry, but I don't think the current courses are the best that could be on this site.  There are now three averageish courses when I bet there could be one stonker.  Even with the three courses, it seems too much of character of the terrain has been knocked out of the designs.  I can understand the advantages of rolling up getting and game no matter what is happening,  but I don't think the courses would hold my attention as a member.  To each is own.  I wasn't bowled over by the Green, but I think it is superior to the Red.  I wouldn't mind seeing that course again sometime.

Ciao
« Last Edit: December 01, 2018, 07:36:36 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

Thomas Dai

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Re: FRILFORD HEATH Red Course
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2014, 02:14:58 PM »
I will confess to being a fan of Frilford Heath, well the Green and Red courses at least (I've not played the Blue, only walked it while watching long hitting juniors play it).

As I understand things from a good friend who was a longterm ex-member, the original holes numbered 2-4 and part of the 1st and 5th disappeared when the Blue course was created. I don't mind the revised mid-length par-4 1st and the long raised green par-3 4th but am no fan of the par-5 2nd or the par-4 3rd. The new 5th is fine and thereafter it's a thoroughly nice heathy, heathery, gorsey, tranquil course to play until the 18th, which I don't much care for. I can't put it into words but something about the 18th just doesn't work for me. You're spot on with the merits of the green slopes off in all directions par-3 11th plus the long par-4 12th and the very nice short par-4 16th, both of which have pretty evil/nice greens. I also reckon the long par-4 8th is a particularly fine hole and the short dog-leg par-4 13th and short blind par-4 14th are a little different, but no worse for it. As to the other holes I am generally quite comfortable with the variety and quality of play they provide.

As you eluded to in your fine photo-tour of the IMO splendid Green course, Frilford is a bit pricey. Maybe it's because of the closeness to Oxford but the Green Fees and County Card prices are a level above compared with elsewhere nearby. The clubhouse is pricey too - it cost me an arm and a leg for a pint of shady for my mate when we were there recently. Saying that I'd be happy to have Frilford as my home club.

As an aside, the Red course is used in early October for a preliminary round of the European Tour Qualifying School. Not sure what kind of scores are achieved, low ones no doubt coz "these guys are good" but a few days afterwards the club hosts an Open competition for amateurs played from the same very-back tees as the would-be tour-pro's and with the same course set-up including green speed. This Open Comp also costs less to play in it than it does to be a green-fee or County Card visitor. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink as a character in a Monty Python sketch says.

As a further aside I wonder how many other private member clubs (ie not those on local authority owned linksland) in the UK have 3 18-hole courses as Frilford does? Can't be many? Wentworth comes to mind. Any others?.

My preference at Frilford is the Green course. Although it's only 6,000 yds it's a tricky, cunning little course and when played from the back-tees is quite a bit more challenging than when played from further forwards (as it should be). I would see myself playing the Green more than the Red, although I do like the Red (I suspect I'd play the Red more than the Blue).

I believe at least one GCA poster is a Frilford member so I'd be interested to hear his take on the Red (and the Green and Blue courses too).

atb

« Last Edit: September 08, 2014, 02:53:27 PM by Thomas Dai »

Ed Tilley

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Re: FRILFORD HEATH Red Course
« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2014, 05:01:57 PM »
Ed

Sorry, just offering an opinion in a sea of opinions.

I wondered why the 11th was obviously neutered in front.  The green just stops unnaturally when it should extend down the slope.
The 17th too looks wierd.  16, you are right, the photo doesn't show the depth of the left side bunker.

13 isn't bad. I sort of like the unintuitive line trying to get as close to the gorse as possible (though the fairway) for the relatively easy pitch down the hill.  I must say though, the cross bunker looks amateurish as down the green.  I think the hole could be visually improved quite a bit.

In the end though, I am sorry, but I don't think the current courses are the best that could be on this site.  There are now three averageish courses when I bet there could be one stonker.  Even with the three course, it seems too much of character of the terrain has been knocked out of the designs.  I can understand the advantages of rolling up getting a game no matter what is happening,  but I don't think the courses would hold my attention as a member.  To each is own.  I wasn't bowled over by the Green, but I think it is superior to the Red.  I wouldn't mind seeing that course again sometime.

Ciao

Ciao

I was only joking! I also think the courses aren't as good as they should be - and that the changes have actually made things worse. The red is considered the best course by many members. I've always preferred the green, particularly the 9 over the road. In the old days you could park there and play that - I've spent many a happy summer evening there.

Sean_A

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Re: FRILFORD HEATH Red Course
« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2014, 04:14:09 AM »
atb

I only discovered on Sunday that Frilford is not member owned.  I think the chap said its family owned so the members have very little power.  This could be why the green fee is higher, this often tends to be the case for non-member owned clubs.  I was also astonished at the high annual dues and joining fee. 

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

Ed Tilley

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Re: FRILFORD HEATH Red Course
« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2014, 05:13:38 AM »
Annual subs are 2,100 and the entrance fee is 3,000. It's a massive amount and you really have to play a lot to justify it - I certainly can't even though I live 4 miles away. There are a lot of members though - I think there are about 1,200 full paying members with juniors etc on top of that.

Paul Dolton

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Re: FRILFORD HEATH Red Course
« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2014, 01:42:54 PM »
Hi All, I am a member at Frilford so perhaps can add to this thread.
Ed is correct when he mentions the quality of the holes we lost. The old 2nd and 3rd were very good. Both replaced with below average holes. These changes were made to accomodate the Blue course.
My overall view is the course has many solid, good holes but nothing outstanding. The best holes in my opinion are the 2nd and 16th on the green course. We do suffer from being on a mainly flat area . You don't really arrive on a tee and take a sharp in take of breath as you may do at say the 3rd at Camberley or even the 13th at nearby Southfield, now Oxford.
As mentioned it usually fast moving golf on the two ball course which is rotated daily.
The club is privatley owned so the 2100 fee contains a fair chunk of vat but yes its a heafty sub. But the playing surfaces are very good all year round.
The 14th of the red which Sean liked was in fact the original finishing hole when it was an 18 hole club. Also the 4th on the green was the 9th and in Darwins British golf clubs book is illustrated with a large mound in front of the green with a marker post on top. Ive no idea what happened to this as it now has a large hollow in its place !

Sean_A

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Re: FRILFORD HEATH Red Course
« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2014, 02:29:32 PM »
Paul

Can you run through, as much as possible, the original 18 holes?

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

Tommy Williamsen

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Re: FRILFORD HEATH Red Course
« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2014, 03:51:31 PM »
Annual subs are 2,100 and the entrance fee is 3,000. It's a massive amount and you really have to play a lot to justify it - I certainly can't even though I live 4 miles away. There are a lot of members though - I think there are about 1,200 full paying members with juniors etc on top of that.

You guys in the UK are spoiled by membership costs.  A club like Frilford Heath would be a bargain in the US. 
I played the Green years ago a thought it was very very good. 
Tom Williamsen
Where there is no love, put love; there you will find love.
St. John of the Cross

Adrian_Stiff

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Re: FRILFORD HEATH Red Course
« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2014, 05:44:34 PM »
atb

I only discovered on Sunday that Frilford is not member owned.  I think the chap said its family owned so the members have very little power.  This could be why the green fee is higher, this often tends to be the case for non-member owned clubs.  I was also astonished at the high annual dues and joining fee.  

Ciao
It is owned by a number of shareholders none of which have more than 8%, so it can run quite nicely on a democratic basis with a board of directors. There is close on 1,000,000 shares in issue, the shareholders get a dividend of about 15p per share. It is a very good way for UK golf clubs to be set up this way, with the joining fee being the buy in and the buy in/ordinary shares simply transferable. I don't know if there is a two way market for the shares or if the number of shareholders is shrinking or if you can buy them easily, most parcels are in the thousands though so it would be a fair amount to buy in.
A combination of whats good for golf and good for turf.
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Mark_Rowlinson

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Re: FRILFORD HEATH Red Course
« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2014, 06:47:45 AM »
I used to play Frilford occasionally in the late 1960s when I was at Oxford. You could always get a game, if you knew somebody with a car - and undergraduates were forbidden to keep cars in Oxford. It was invariably in better condition than Southfield or North Oxford. I don't remember the course well enough to comment on the changes, but as it was then (red and green) it struck me as a really good place to play golf, as was (and still is) Huntercombe. I don't know anything about the ownership of the club in those days, but it always seemed to have a slightly aristocratic air, as if those few members who were out that day had each brought their retriever. And after golf we always went to the Lamb and Flag (known as Dudleys) at Kingston Bagpuize for lunch - good game in season.

Paul Dolton

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Re: FRILFORD HEATH Red Course
« Reply #13 on: September 15, 2014, 12:13:05 PM »
Paul

Can you run through, as much as possible, the original 18 holes?

Ciao

The clubhouse was original across the road where there are nine holes of the green course. The nine holes there did no excist until later. The 1st was the green course 14th followed by the 15th.
It then continues cross country until the 7th which is green course 2nd and 8 and 9 are now the 3rd and 4th on green course.
The original 10th is red course 15th. then cross country again using some of the latter day greens but from different angles.
Holes 12, 13 and 14 of the red were i think 16 , 17 and 18 of the original.

I believe the club went to 27 holes by building the 9 holes on the same side of the road as the old clubhouse

Sean_A

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Re: FRILFORD HEATH Red Course
« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2014, 05:33:23 AM »
Paul

Thanks, you have confirmed for me that the original course had the makings of something special.  Although, it would be interesting to see where the original course went between the Green's 15th (#2 original) and the Green's 2nd green (#7 original).

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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