You know a club was on sound footing when one of its founders, Mr TS Skurray, was the head of Morland Brewery! Frilford Heath was founded in 1908 and JH Taylor is credited with the original 18 hole course (now called the Red, albeit with some significant modifications). Sometime after WWI the club professional, Mr JH Turner, worked on the original 18 and added a new nine holes. These holes (with a few switch ins) combined with CK Cotton’s nine holes built after WWII comprises what is now known as the Green Course. In the early 90s another 18 hole course, the Blue, was designed by Hawtree protégé S Gidman. I believe our very own A Stiff was in the running for this commission.
Being a mere 10 miles southwest of Oxford it should be no surprise the 54 hole Frilford Heath GC enjoys a strong reputation among the Oxfordshire set. I suppose for those in south Oxfordshire, Huntercombe is the only other good alternative, but the two are very different clubs. Frilford is big and brash featuring 54 holes, a huge clubhouse with several dining areas, a locker room approaching American country club size and a massive visitor car park. By comparison, Huntercombe is diminutive in every way.
For all that, Frilford’s Green Course may seem big due to the other courses intermingling here and there. For the most part generous fairways and excellent tree management allow good interior views, yet the Green measures just under 5700 (yellow tees). Its par of 69 does, however, to some degree disguise its teeth. There are four holes requiring some big hitting and one long par 3. Despite the generally excellent course conditioning – all will not be smooth sailing. The two very short par 4s are extremely difficult to drive because of the nature of the doglegs and a handful of holes feature centreline hazards of some sort which will thwart smash mouth golf.
The biggest drawback of the design is the several (seven in total) holes measuring between 320ish and 370ish yards. With generally fairly flat land, it doesn’t strike me that so many holes of similar length can as a group hold the attention of the keen golfer. Perhaps some of these holes need the hand of man to make them more interesting and distinguishable. That isn’t to say they are bad holes, far from it. Every hole is competently designed, but it is difficult to point out any one hole which could be called outstanding. Onto the Green.
Similar to Rye, the only par 5 comes out the gate first. At 463 yards, this must be very reachable in summer. Today it was a tough ask because the fairway at the bottom of the hill was very wet. However, I want to reiterate that there were only three such spots; generally, the course was in excellent condition.
The second is a very good short hole featuring a false front which doesn't seem so from the tee.
The third is visually odd with a massive fairway and nothing on view except for a lone right bunker which is only in play for short hitters. Instinctively I knew there was something fishy on the horizon, but I banged away up the left side of the fairway regardless - the ball was never seen again
Perhaps 40 or so yards short of the green is a hidden hollow packed with two bunkers. There is also a sandy patch of nasty gorse just shy and left (out of picture) of bunkers.
The excellent start continues on 4, another modest length two-shotter...
with a few surprises in store; another hidden bunker and sneaky water right of the green. The green too is quite interesting. When approaching from the safe left side of the fairway, shots meant for the front of the green are deflected toward the water.
More to follow.