I drove away in disbelief wondering why people weren’t queuing up to play this fabulous golf course situated just minutes off the A3 in Hampshire. Maybe I’ve missed something but I’m fairly certain I haven’t!
Very little has been written about this joyous heathland course which boasts several high quality green complexes and a set of par three’s that are nothing short of sensational. Add in to the equation that a number of tee shots give you several options and here I think you have a course that seriously belies its reputation.
OK, so Blackmoor isn’t exactly off the radar but it is rarely spoken about in the same high regard as many of the more notable Surrey, Berkshire, Hampshire and Dorset courses and I genuinely believe it more than holds its own against most of these. Indeed I played it on the same day as nearby Liphook and although my opinion may go against the grain I thought it was significantly the better, more interesting, strategic and challenging course. I’d go as far as saying it should be a shoe-in for both the Golf Monthly and Golf World Top 100 rankings of Great Britain and Ireland.
What makes it so good? Firstly, on the majority of drives you are presented with choices and often asked to work the ball to a particular position or side of the fairway, most of which are lined by glorious heather, pine, birch and oak trees. Blackmoor is a thinking person’s course and even though it plays to a maximum of 6,164 yards I suspect its par of 69 is rarely bettered.
At the first hole a brook must be carried or stayed short of. At the second you can choose how much you want to try and shape your ball round the corner. At the third you can decide how much of a swathe of heather should be carried in return for a shorter shot to the green. At the fourth the further the you drive, the narrower it gets. At the fifth the longer and closer you hit to the stream, the shorter and better angle you have into the green. This is a theme that repeats itself throughout the round, time after time. Choose and then execute the right shot and you are rewarded, however, there is always an easier option from the tee in exchange for a more difficult second shot.
And now we get to the greens and their surrounds. Most of the par fours and fives have excellent green complexes with some that stand out above the rest. The opening hole sets a strong tone whilst the 7th, 10th, 13th and 18th are all great and memorable. The last in fact must have ruined many a good scorecard over its 100 year existence; a wickedly sloping green and a steep drop to the right doing most of the damage.
However, the shining light of Blackmoor, the factor that elevates it to the next level, is its collection of par three’s. It’s unusual for the backbone of a course to be its short holes but this is exactly the case here. All five are of the highest order and classic Harry Colt in their design. If you wanted to be super-critical you could say that they all exhibit the same characteristics; elevated green, deadly drop-offs on all sides and deep sand traps. However, individually each one is brilliant and I personally think they work well together. The two that really stand out actually share the same teeing ground; the short 129-yard 12th plays over banks of heather to an undulating green whilst the 198-yard 15th fires in the opposite direction to another green site that just oozes class. The remaining three; six, nine and 17 are also fantastic holes.
So there you have it. A glowing appraisal of a golf course I expected to be good but massively over-delivered on that. Sometimes you visit a course for the first time and on subsequent plays it goes down in your estimation whilst other times the opposite happens. Pleasingly I think Blackmoor could well be the latter because when I played here I got paired up with a new member who says he is still learning new things about the course and it gets better and better each time.