Established in 1895 there is a wonderful ambience to quintessential Flempton from the moment you turn into the club and it is without doubt one of the best nine-hole golf courses in the country.
Built on just 45 acres of sandy terrain I can imagine the course, laid out in three returning triangles, plays exceptionally well for 12 months of the year. And even if the weather turns on you the clover-leaf routing means you are never far away from the charming clubhouse.
I enjoyed the course on a warm summer day when the fairways were on the tipping point of turning brown and there was plenty of run on the ball. I imagine this is when it plays at its best because it brings to life all the natural undulations and slopes and makes avoiding the bold bunkers, of which there are many, even more challenging.
I suspect it is a venue you will be hearing more about in the coming years as the club are currently underway with a 5 year "Flempton Masterplan" to restore some of the original JH Taylor features from back in the day (Five-time Open Champion Taylor was asked to redesign the course in 1906 when the club acquired some new land). This will be overseen by the Mackenzie & Ebert firm of golf course architects as well as greenkeeping consultant Gordon Irvine. The Club have already installed some thoughtfully placed forward, gender neutral tees and improved some sight lines, although I think even more could be done in this area to open up the estate further.
The opening three holes contain two medium length par-fours and a par-five. The greens were all accommodating of a running approach, especially at the reachable third which sits in a shallow basin, although avoiding the fairway bunkers is the main challenge on this opening stretch, as it is all the way round! This trio of holes make for a nice and gentle start to the round.
The second mini-loop has a short par-three between two stubborn two-shotters. The first of these is a fantastic hole that sweeps around five intimidating, staggered sand traps before you play towards a green which has more trouble lurking than we have seen thus far. There is a lot going on at the sort hole too as we enter a greener part of the property with a pond, bridge, ditches and a boundary hedge all in ones visual. The sixth is another tough a par-four and is played slightly uphill (the entire layout is fairly flat on the whole) and has cross bunkers to contend with.
The final third has two par-fours with a one-shotter to close out the round. The 7th is arguably the hole you will remember most at Flempton. It is a driveable par four with an almost bathtub style green protected at the front and sides with bunkers. If there had been more holes like the seventh, particularly the green surrounds, the course would have been even higher in my estimation. Another strong par-four greets us at the eighth and the closing hole, played over the entrance road, is a fine one to conclude a very satisfying round of golf.
The greens have more than enough interest, the contouring is not too bold but there are lots of subtle undulations and movement which means you do not want to leave yourself the top side of the hole.
There's very little not to like about Flempton and I for one look forward to returning when the masterplan has been fully executed and its full potential realised.
Copt Heath is a very fine parkland golf course that requires precision, plotting and a deft touch around the slick greens.
The Blue is a mix of American-style design and traditional English parkland. It's an unusual combination which makes the most of the terrain available. It was designed by Simon Gidman and opened in 1994.