With some restoration work (under the supervision of Martin Hawtree) already completed, and with more in the pipeline over the coming winter and beyond, this course is heading in the right direction and is one I think you'll hear more about over the coming years as its reputation as one of the best of its ilk in England grows.
Despite a morning deluge the course was in excellent condition on my afternoon visit in late-September and you wouldn't have even guessed there had been any rainfall earlier in the day. The soil is a mixture of clay and chalk but with plenty of drainage underneath the surface there was a distinct firmness to the entire course and the recent dry weather meant many holes were teetering on that lovely bronzed colour.
Add to this a pleasing width to the fairways and a sparsity of long rough meant that it played exceptionally well. Holes are divided by mature, specimen trees and the greens preceded by immaculate apron approaches.
It's easy to split the course into two sections because the terrain is very different on each part. Holes 1 to 5 and 14 to 18 are played on higher, flatter ground where there is a premium on strategy from the tee - it was so pleasing to see fairway bunkers actually in the fairway!!
Thought and intelligence are required to maximise your score on these more traditional holes. The bunkering is excellent, none-more-so than at the par five 14th which has a plethora of sand hazards that need to be negotiated on drive, second shot and approach. I managed to thread a 2-iron through the centre-line bunker just short of the green and a neighbouring one up the right but it was more luck than judgement on my part and looking back down the hole I'm not sure I'd play the same shot.
Meanwhile holes 6 to 13 are played on more adventurous ground on the opposite side of a railway line that cuts through the spine of the course.
Side note: are there any other golf courses with their very own railway station? Taken from the club website, "When the London to Birmingham railway through Beaconsfield came to be built, it cut through the estate and, in the related negotiation, Colonel Du Pre (owner) had the foresight to extract from the railway companies involved a covenant whereby they were required eventually to build a “Halt” adjacent to “a Golf House” that he had in mind to build. That Halt (now 'Seer Green and Jordans' station) was duly built and opened in 1915 just one year after the “Golf House” and the new course had been opened; it was no accident that, as one member once remarked, “Beaconsfield Golf Club has its own railway station in its car park”."
This mid part of the course has some dazzling holes and we start with one of the best at the sixth. It's a slinging par-four with options from the tee, a ravine of sorts to avoid, and a fine green complex at the top of the rise. It's followed by a belting short-hole with deep pits to the left before the 8th, 9th and 10th take us alongside an escarpment that slopes right-to-left. The 8th will be much improved once some original Colt tees are re-installed which give greater visibility to the hole. We then do an about-turn and play three holes in the opposite direct with the first of these, a mid-length par-three, the best of them thanks to a green sat on a plateau with a wild drop off to the right.
There are lots of cool features including staggered cross-bunkering and grassy hollows. You also get some long views down each fairway with good visibility as to what waits for you, but importantly not too much to give the game away.
The large greens throughout have just the correct amount of breaks and borrows to fit their surroundings nicely. There is a good mix of putting surfaces: some are relatively flat, others are tilted from right-to-left or vice-versa, a few fall away from play whilst the 15th is a sharp two-tiered complex which fits the length of hole (279-yards) very well.
Overall the par-72 layout plays at a maximum of 6,563 yards from the black tees and offers up a variety of birdie opportunities along with some quite demanding holes.
Beaconsfield, a course where Luke Donald played as a junior (and won the Club Championship whilst still a minor), is never going to be classed as a 'championship course' but this private members club has a lot going for it and plenty of character.
The course is clearly in good hands under the directorship of Stuart Langhorn, who I had the pleasure to meet prior to my round, and if more of Colt's early vision is restored (through decades of ill-advised changes) then Beaconsfield is likely to increase its stock even further.
It's a long time since I've walked off a golf course and been as impressed and surprised, compared to what I was expecting, than at Newbiggin.
A family holiday brought me to Whitby Golf Club. After stuffing myself with fish & chips, losing most of my money on the penny slots and catching umpteen crabs in the harbour it was time for a round of golf!
Planning a round of golf in late October can be a dicey affair, especially in my home county of Yorkshire where the vast majority of courses are built on heavy soil or clay, so it was very refreshing to discover when venturing down south how well East Berkshire played at this time of year.