The Club, located in tranquil Oxfordshire countryside, have three differing courses.
The Green course stands at just a smidgen over 6,000 yards at its maximum length but with a par of 69 is no pushover. And whilst there are several holes that require placement from the tee, usually just a long iron or fairway metal before a pitch or short iron into the green, there are holes such as the seventh, 14th and 16th; all par fours measuring over 440 yards. Couple this with a fine set and good variety of par three’s and you have a really nice balance and enjoyable course.
There are no real stand-out holes, that take your breath away, but I don’t mean that in a negative way. What you have here are 18 very solid golf holes and plenty of strategic value. This is particularly prevalent at the first, the only par five on the course, where a large bunker must be carried by those going for the green in two. And the slope of the putting surface at the short sixth also gives the player options by allowing him to conservatively feed a shot in from the left or fly it straight over a greenside trap. The ninth is a classic risk-reward short par four that has a small raised green and is surrounded by deep bunkers; even a conservative lay-up at this 271 yard hole leaves a tricky pitch.
The course enjoys a strong start whilst the toughest stretch of the course comes between the 13th and the 16th with a string of fine par fours, none better than the 16th which has an excellent view of the entire hole from the tee. At this point you have returned to the clubhouse and it almost feel as if the round should now end, however, there are two more holes to play; a strong par three with a two-tiered green and a short par four to a long, narrow green.
Meanwhile the Red course, generally regarded as the best of the trio, is of a similar mould to the Green, however, it’s a much sterner test.
The par for the course is 72 whilst SSS is 74 from the championship tees. Stretched to almost 7,000 yards you not only have to be straight off the tee to stay out of the many gorse-lined fairways but at times length is also essential. However, due to the fast running nature of the fairways, the course doesn’t play as long as other inland layouts of similar length and there are a handful of relatively short par fours thrown into the mix too.
Once again you have 18 solid and mostly very good holes but without any approaching the truly outstanding mark. After a slow start I particularly liked the stretch of holes from five to eight whilst the 10th and 15th are also superb holes. There is certainly more variety in the shots you will need to play on the Red course versus the Green.
The condition of both courses was of an exceptionally high standard with the ground playing firm and fast with slick greens. The sandy fairways were a delight to play from and whilst you won’t find any heather off the fairways there is plenty of wispy grass and gorse awaiting an errant shot.
There are few changes in elevation throughout both courses and this makes for an easy walk. 36 holes are easily achievable in a day for most whilst, for the fitter and/or keener, three rounds may even come into the equation at this excellent 54 hole complex.
A few years later I returned to Frilford Heath to complete the playing of the colourful trio. 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.
We dip in and out of the two differing styles throughout the round. The opening four holes are tree-lined where the main hazards are streams and ponds which come into play. It's a tough start and very easy to find a watery grave early on in the round. The holes have matured nicely since the course was built.
Holes five to eight see us play a more open landscape with large, bold bunkers and more mounding. Then it's back to the English style for a few holes before we chop and change again.
Holes 14 to 16 are played in a little loop on a separate part of the property with the short 13th proving to be a nice link hole.
The par-72 layout can stretch to almost 7,000 yards and it will therefore come as no surprise that it has staged the professionals on the EuroPro Tour and is the annual venue for the Ladies Scratch Salver, a World Amateur Ranking event.
The greens have more movement than the Red & Green courses and a few are pushed up and will gladly deflect an approach down the wing. The condition of the course overall was very good for the first day of October.
Admittedly the Blue is the my least favourite of the three but it completes what is undoubtedly an impressive 54-hole complex.
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.