The least known of the courses is the nine-hole Manor par-three loop that you can't miss as you drive into the sprawling estate. I did not manage to play this shorty on my visit but did get to see their two main 'championship' courses; the Longcross and Bernard Hunt, both of which play predominantly through stunning pine forest, especially the Longcross.
I came away impressed with both but if you only have time for one round when playing or staying at Foxhills you shouldn't be too picky about which one you choose to play. Both are high quality, well presented with not much in it. I just sway towards the Bernard Hunt myself but it's almost the flip of a coin.
All four nines start and end at the clubhouse with both courses sharing a large double green for their 18th. The routing for each nine is very good and takes you on a lovely tour of the grounds. Overall the Longcross is slightly tighter and shorter than its brother but you are required to shape the ball off the tee on both tracks thanks to a number of dog-leg holes, some more angled than others.
I had an early morning start on the Bernard Hunt and was pleased with the beginning of the course. A pair of medium length par-fours, both dipping down from the tee and then legging up to the right for the approach, set a nice tone to the round. Both holes are tree-lined, as are the majority on the Foxhills property, where accuracy trumps distance for the most part.
Holes three to seven do open up a bit before the front nine closes in a similar fashion to the first with a shortish and tight par-four played to a raised green. There is plenty of movement in the land on the Bernard Hunt and this makes for some exciting holes. I thought the 1st, 2nd, 6th, 7th and 9th are particularly strong although I have to question Today's Golfers claim (there's a sign on the tee) stating that the 6th has one of the best fairways in golf. Very nice, yes but give me the 6th at Royal North Devon or any number of heaving links fairways any day!
The back-nine (which loops around the inner front-nine) starts with a recently re-designed hole which has similar characteristics to other holes we have seen so far; a descending drive before playing up to the green. I didn't think the inward half was quite as dynamic as the opening side but there are still many highlights. The 15th has a brilliant, albeit quite evil green, and the 17th is a grand looking hole with another excellent green, this time two-tiered. All-in-all this par 73, 6,864-yard course has plenty going for it.
The Longcross is generally regarded as the better of the two courses and I can see why it may just edge it for some people but as I said earlier there's not a great deal in it. Both layouts have some very impressive holes and whilst there is nothing to not like on either the Longcross possibly just has a bit more consistency and because it is played more through the pine trees some golfers may prefer this. Now, if you could take the best holes from each and combine them together you would have an exceptional golf course.
Like the Bernard Hunt the opener is a lovely par-four descending down through tall pine trees with a second shot more agreeable from the left. The next has an angled and sloping green and it continues with each hole seeming to offer a different challenge. There is a bit of a feel of Woburn to the Longcross and it is not dissimilar in many ways.
There are a number of standout holes on the Longcross with the 14th the one that gets most of the attention due to a BBC Radio Five Live poll voting it one of the 'greatest golf holes in the world'. That may be a bit of a stretch but this downhill par-five is certainly a very interesting and challenging hole. All the par-threes on the Foxhills property are thoughtfully designed with good variety throughout and this is especially the case on the Longcross; the 4th, 11th and 16th are all very impressive for different reasons.
The putting surfaces were superb on my visit and ran exceptionally true but you have to be careful because many of the greens gently fall away to the sides in an upturned saucer fashion. On more than one occasion I was left scratching my head as the ball rolled further away from the hole than I had anticipated.
I can imagine drainage is one of the biggest challenges at Foxhills, the land is heavy soil and this is perhaps the main thing that holds it back from more notoriety amongst its many Surrey neighbours, many of which are played on better draining heathland. However, substantial tree-thinning has taken place recently to provide better visuals and improved aeration and playing here in the summer months especially is a very enjoyable experience.
Whilst I only really focus on the golf in my reviews there is much more to Foxhills. The 4-star hotel provides exceptional accommodation and fine dining, the clubhouse caters for golfers brilliantly and the newly constructed Pavilion was a hive of activity. There are many other sporting activities available on-site but the golf is reason enough to visit.
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.