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Sean_A

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Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC New
« on: October 13, 2015, 09:08:24 AM »
Harry Colt designed so many courses in the United Kingdom that it easy to overlook a gem or two. Set in the Hampshire downlands deep in the Test Valley, Leckford Old Course is one such example. Designed in 1929 near the end of Colt’s heyday (with help from Morrison?), Leckford Old exhibits all the charm and guile normally associated with Colt projects.  From the back tees the yardage is about 3150, but the lack of length is not in the least a drawback due to the exemplary use of the land to create variety.  From the valley holes, 1, 2 & 9, to the transition holes 3, 4 & 8 to the high holes 5-7, the offering is tidy, not least because of the highly engaging greens.  The terrain too is decidedly enticing, even if a bit ornery in places. 

The aspect of the design which greatly impresses is the benched greens.  One normally associates benched greens with sharp lines, not so in the case of Leckford.  Colt gracefully shaped the 3rd through 8th greens in such a manner that is difficult to associate such a clumsy label as “benched” with these surfaces.  It is a testament of simplicity that the club has managed to retain the green shapes and cut lines to the degree witnessed.  If this maintenance regime is indicative of how John Lewis Partnership business activities are handled we should all be beating down the doors of John Lewis department stores and Waitrose supermarkets.

Some might label the opening two par 5s bending left and gradually climbing the valley as the weak point of the design, but individually these are good holes.  The opening drive is particularly satisfying.


The 2nd green.


Behind the 2nd.


The exacting short 3rd cuts across the top of the valley.  Notice the shaping...it completely masks the benched nature of the hole. 


The green is exceptional.


Probably Leckford's best hole, the 4th aggressively climbs to higher ground.  Its listed 400 yards plays much more like 440.  The corner bunkers must be addressed to gain the only reasonable line of approach. Badly eroded, the faces originally had more sand visible with roll-over grassing, not dissimilar to what now exists at Portrush. 


The green leans heavily left and is protected by a high gulley.  If the course is keen, it will take an extraordinary shot to hold the green in two from the safer right side of the fairway. 


Notice the green line on the left side creeping over the edge of the hump.   


The par 4 fifth also features superb green lines to the front and left of the green.  It is a shame these same lines aren't duplicated in the back of the green because there is a great hole location which is lost.




Playing downhill, the fairway bunkering adds interest to the 6th, but again, it is the front right to rear left tilt of the green which is the star.




As on 6, the 7th requires straighter hitting, but even if in the fairway the approach is demanding. 




Running wildy downhill, #8 not only plays longer than it might seem, but it is the only hole which demands accuracy off the tee.


With covering bunkers front right and back left, one must be on target for the approach as well.




While a very good hole, the 9th does have a tree encroaching from the left which prevents golfers from playing a fade (arguably the go to shot on this hole) into this sharply downhill green. 


The simplicty of the design and maintenance is echoed by the house.  Five staff run the entire Leckford golf operation (there is also Leckford New) so it will be appreciated that there is no bar or proshop.  Visitors deposit money in a slot in the wall and there is a fridge on hand for those who bring their own beer. 




Ahhhh, the Promised Land!  Unless one is a member of the club or visits as part of a society of 8 or more, Leckford will take special permission to play.  This process may seem like an unneccessary hinderance not worth pursuing, but this attitude would be mistaken.  Leckford Old is an exceptional design and surprisingly maintained to a high standard.  One may even venture to say that it would take a month's worth of Sundays to find a better set of Colt greens.   2015

Ciao
« Last Edit: March 06, 2021, 05:36:16 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

Niall C

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Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2015, 09:39:54 AM »
Sean


Never heard of it and yet looking at it you would think with those greens that it was a world beater. And those greens look fantastic, even in photogrpahs (no offence to the photographer). What fantastic movement. It's certainly an eye opener in the sense that this was towards the end of his career and yet he was still producing greens with so much movement. I thought, or maybe just assumed Colt toned down his green designs over the years but maybe its just that so many of them have been tamed by greenkeepers over the years, who knows.


Sean, thanks for that, a real treat.


Niall


ps. is it just a nine holer ?

PPallotta

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Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2015, 10:01:13 AM »
Thanks, Sean.  Another little gem, it seems.

To you (and Niall, and others who might know) a question/request for you views:

For lack of a better term, what is the "business model" or "fiscal environment" for a course like Leckford? What I mean is, how does it maintain itself in existence, financially speaking?

Let me try again. Time after time I've read about the relatively modest initiation fees and yearly dues at courses like the ones Sean profiles (such as Leckford). These courses have existed for many decades, and continue to flourish and to provide excellent golf and a fine (and very simple, e.g. without banquet facilities) club atmosphere.

Meanwhile, I also read here constantly about courses (both public and private, in America but elsewhere too) that are struggling financially and/or failing and/or building new clubhouses or renovating to attract new members, or raising green fees etc etc just to make it into their 10 year, let alone 10th decade -- and again I wonder "How do the Leckfords of the world do it?"

Is Leckford close to a major population centre that provides a constant stream of visitors and visitors' fees? Is it because it has no debt and a modest maintenance budget that it can easily turn a profit every year? Does it have hundreds of dedicated and life-long members who through their dues easily manage to pay all the bills? Is it because (unlike many courses in North America) it can stay open and playable almost all year round?

In short, your thoughts on how/why these Leckford type courses stay vibrant/vital while others stagnate/fail would be appreciated.

Peter
« Last Edit: October 13, 2015, 10:04:13 AM by PPallotta »

Jim Hoak

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Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2015, 10:05:41 AM »
Looks very interesting.  Love the lines.
Where exactly is Leckford?  Why did it stay as 9 holes only?  Tell us about Leckford New--next door?
I'd love to hear more about the details of the course.  Never had heard of it, but I love classic Colt designs.

Niall C

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Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2015, 10:08:49 AM »
Peter


Bear in mind many of these clubs came into existence about a century ago and therefore unless they have recently spent big on their clubhouse, generally speaking they will be carrying no significant costs. Meanwhile their overheads will be tiny compared to the typical country club model you have in the states (although I don't really know much about that) in that greens staff could be as little as 1 to maybe 6 employees and clubhouse staff could be as little as a couple of part time staff with green fees paid at the bar or in an honesty box. It depends what the subs plus visitor fees can pay for.


So in summation low subs is down to low or no carrying costs and fairly modest overheads. For that you get golf on a reasonably maintained course and basic service in the clubhouse. Clearly it will depend on the location, standing of the club and quality of the course where higher subs might be tolerated by the members.


Niall

Adam Lawrence

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Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2015, 10:14:11 AM »
Peter, Leckford is owned by the John Lewis Partnership, a major UK retailer, the parent company of Waitrose supermarkets. It's located on the Leckford estate in Hampshire, which is a big property farmed by jLP to supply the stores with vegetables etc. JLP really is a partnership, it is owned by its staff.
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
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David_Tepper

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Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2015, 10:25:36 AM »

Sean_A

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Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC New
« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2015, 11:11:34 AM »
Pietro

In the case of Leckford, JLP owns the course and provides it as a benefit for employees and their families.  The course is part of the JL Estate which includes a farm to grow produce for Waitrose.  The annual dues for Partners (employees) is ridiculously cheap even for UK standards. There is a non-partnership membership element as well, but they pay much more, but even so, very competitive annual dues.

Generally speaking though, low overheads and welcoming visitors makes a huge difference to sustainability. 

Another very cool aspect is 3 and 4 balls have no standing at Leckford.  Subsequently,  I didn't see any 3 or 4 balls :D

In any case, Leckford is highly recommended. 

Niall...it was a stinker day for light and with a point and shoot camera these pix are all I could muster.  Not great I know, but one still gets a sense for the land and the greens.

Jim

Leckford New is next door, though there is a separate parking lot.  One of the holes is just above the Leckford Old 1st, don't know which hole though. D Steel designed the New in the late 80s and it is very short.   

Niall


Yes, a 9 holer.

Ciao
« Last Edit: February 07, 2020, 03:57:28 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

Niall C

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2015, 11:48:45 AM »
Sean


Trust me, your photos turned out a good bit better than OK. What I meant was that a lot of times with photos you don't get a sense of the movement in the ground, particularly greens, but in yours you do. I'd be interested to know from someone like Paul Turner whether the kind of borrows shown here were typical of Colt at that time in his career, or was he perhaps being more sporty on the basis it was a nine holer ? (I assume it has always been a nine holer ?)


Niall

Jon Wiggett

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Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2015, 01:35:12 PM »
Again, another wonderful tour Sean. Leckford certainly seems to show the standards that a 'mere' nine holer can reach. I seem to remember a photo thread on this course a while back by one of the Marks if memory serves me well.

Jon

Paul Gray

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Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2015, 03:08:50 PM »
This was my second outing to Leckford and it was every bit as good as I remembered. Actually, #2, #6 and #7 were all better than I had previously appreciated. My willingness to play the average nine hole course twice in one day is usually limited but it is testimony to the quality of Leckford that I didn't hesitate.

In part addressing Peter's question, Leckford is a bit of an outlier price wise because I strongly suspect John Lewis Partnership subsidises it. Nonetheless, the point Peter made was a very valid one. Limited overheads means you don't need a huge membership in order to stay afloat. It'a a simple matter of business prudence. In boom times then you might make a bit of money but I guess you won't get rich. The real benefit though surely must be that when hard times strike and membership dwindles, you can tick by with 200 members or so. Jon Wiggett is probably the best guy here to ask about direct experience of this as he's living the dream right now!  :)
« Last Edit: October 13, 2015, 07:55:04 PM by Paul Gray »
In the places where golf cuts through pretension and elitism, it thrives and will continue to thrive because the simple virtues of the game and its attendant culture are allowed to be most apparent. - Tim Gavrich

Jon Wiggett

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Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2015, 06:34:57 PM »
Paul is spot on in that the best ways for a club to get through lean spells is either to have a wealthy benefactor or to be able to cut running costs to an absolute minimum.

Jon

Thomas Dai

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Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2015, 03:23:58 AM »
Very fine tour Sean.


Some really super looking green complexes. Not too much tree encroachment either. Free-draining site?


Just shows you don't necessarily need more than 9-holes to have something a bit nice.


Do folks reckon that this bunker on the left side of the 1st hole is original? Seems a rather odd location particularly as it seems to be in front of the ladies tee!





atb


Jon Wiggett

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Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2015, 03:46:43 AM »
Thomas,

if the fairway beyond the bunker went further up the banking on the left then I think that bunker would be well placed.

Jon

Sean_A

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Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2015, 04:00:55 AM »
ATB

To me, that forward bunker is a bit dopey.  However, if it was made into an attractive feature which was more visually intimidating than I don't see an issue with its placement. There has to be room for some forward bunkers to challenge those who can't carry or hit the ball terribly far, but make them a sight to behold.

Although there is solid chalk underneath, I suspect the course will hold more water than is ideal in the winter. Without a doubt, the course plays like a parkland...which is pretty much the case for most downland courses. Mind you, due to the hilly nature of downland courses, they shouldn't be allowed to get too keen because it means greens like the 4th would be impossible to play. There is a happy balance.

Ciao
« Last Edit: January 03, 2018, 05:56:26 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 Gray

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Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #15 on: October 14, 2015, 08:19:19 AM »
Thomas,

if the fairway beyond the bunker went further up the banking on the left then I think that bunker would be well placed.

Jon

Exactly my thinking.

That large amount of rough along the left hand side was one of only two spots on the course where I suspected the fairway had been narrowed. The other bit was down the left of the 7th fairway where the best angle is now covered by a tree.
In the places where golf cuts through pretension and elitism, it thrives and will continue to thrive because the simple virtues of the game and its attendant culture are allowed to be most apparent. - Tim Gavrich

Sean_A

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Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #16 on: October 16, 2015, 04:10:37 AM »
To my thinking, the bunker has very little to do with why short grass should be better associated with the OOB. If there is short grass by the stakes it sends a message to the golfer that there is an option to play that way and therefore better utilize the OOB. 


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

Paul Gray

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #17 on: October 16, 2015, 08:21:27 AM »
Sean,

You're assuming the OB has been there as long as the bunker. Maybe, maybe not.
In the places where golf cuts through pretension and elitism, it thrives and will continue to thrive because the simple virtues of the game and its attendant culture are allowed to be most apparent. - Tim Gavrich

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #18 on: October 16, 2015, 08:48:20 AM »
Sean,

You're assuming the OB has been there as long as the bunker. Maybe, maybe not.


Paul


When the OOB was instituted doesn't matter.  Short grass skirting the OOB signals to the golfer that there is a route of play in that direction. 


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

Paul Gray

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #19 on: October 16, 2015, 09:46:03 AM »
Sean,

Perhaps we're talking at cross purposes.

Just imagine, purely hypothetically since we really don't know, that that rough is all fairway, the trees and shrubs are still there by there is no OOB. Do you not see a line of play there flirting with the trees and straight over the bunker? I know I do.
In the places where golf cuts through pretension and elitism, it thrives and will continue to thrive because the simple virtues of the game and its attendant culture are allowed to be most apparent. - Tim Gavrich

Thomas Dai

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Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #20 on: October 16, 2015, 03:08:24 PM »
So to go back to my original question, do we reckon the left-side fairway bunker on the 1st is a Colt original placement or a later addition?


atb

Jon Wiggett

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Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #21 on: October 16, 2015, 04:49:40 PM »
Thomas,

I am not sure as I have not played there but I get the impression that the left hand bunker is not so far off the tee. With that in mind I would suggest this bunker is an original Colt as it was common practice in Colt's day to place short bunkers to catch the topped shot. These days most bunkers that are in the line of play tend to require a good shot to carry them.

Jon

Sean_A

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Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #22 on: October 21, 2015, 07:11:46 AM »
Sean,

Perhaps we're talking at cross purposes.

Just imagine, purely hypothetically since we really don't know, that that rough is all fairway, the trees and shrubs are still there by there is no OOB. Do you not see a line of play there flirting with the trees and straight over the bunker? I know I do.


Paul


Yes, I definitely see a line of play over the bunker.  All I am saying is that if there were fairway left of the sand it would send a stronger message that there is something to be gained by staying left.  Whether or not that is true is a matter of opinion...for me mostly related to where the rough line is over the hill. 


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

Paul Gray

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #23 on: October 21, 2015, 07:22:52 AM »
Sean,

Perhaps we're talking at cross purposes.

Just imagine, purely hypothetically since we really don't know, that that rough is all fairway, the trees and shrubs are still there by there is no OOB. Do you not see a line of play there flirting with the trees and straight over the bunker? I know I do.


Paul


Yes, I definitely see a line of play over the bunker.  All I am saying is that if there were fairway left of the sand it would send a stronger message that there is something to be gained by staying left.  Whether or not that is true is a matter of opinion...for me mostly related to where the rough line is over the hill. 


Ciao

Ah, well in that case we're agreeing.  ;D
In the places where golf cuts through pretension and elitism, it thrives and will continue to thrive because the simple virtues of the game and its attendant culture are allowed to be most apparent. - Tim Gavrich

Paul_Turner

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Re: Lovely LECKFORD OLD GC
« Reply #24 on: October 22, 2015, 07:23:55 PM »
Sean,

Great to see Leckford get some more exposure...I visited (and did a photo tour) about 10 years back;  it hasn't changed at all.   It really was one of the truly private courses in the UK for many years (along with Rye, Swinley...)

Niall

I think it's perhaps Colt's best preserved course, old aerials are much the same.  No meddling from member committees, architects or "experts".  The flared up edges of greens (see 3rd) is pretty common on Colt's courses but there is a higher % of them at Leckford. 

Course is about 1929 so towards end of the boom.

PS agree that the rough should be cut back on the left fairway of the 1st tee shot...the whole point of the tee shot is to try and bounce it off shallow valley bank.  The second tee is a bit like this too...a good strategy is to bounce of the left side of the valley and avoid the central bunkers.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2015, 09:56:58 AM by Paul_Turner »
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