It was a trip I’m glad I made although the course wasn’t quite what I was expecting.
The Club say on their website it is ‘one of the finest inland courses in England’. Unfortunately, I didn’t necessarily come away agreeing with this statement, however, there is no denying this is a course I would urge anyone to experience.
Huntercombe, located several hundred feet above sea level, is unique and different in many ways as well as it being a historically important golf course. Laid out in 1901, by twice Open Champion and creator of the Old course at Sunningdale - Willie Park Junior, what was then a pure and open heathland course helped shape the future of inland golf design over the next three decades.
Over the past 100 years or so this very natural course has changed little from its original design. However, today’s course is a much more claustrophobic affair with the majority of holes venturing through dense woodland and undergrowth. The course also played much softer than I suspect it did a century ago.
The two stand-out features at Huntercombe are the many amazingly brilliant putting surfaces that can only be described as tricky and quirky in equal measure, and the presence of several strategically placed grassy hollows in lieu of bunkers.
The greens, and importantly as a direct result the approaches, at the first four holes are brilliant whilst the eighth, 13th and 15th are equally as radical and enjoyable to play to and to putt on. The severity of the tiers at the fourth and eighth are perhaps the most memorable, especially if played to a lower flag at the former and an upper pin at the latter. However, my favourite green was the third with a split level through the centre, from front to back, that gradually steepens towards the rear. The position of the hole location almost dictates the entire playing of the hole. Simply tremendous!
The second unusual feature of Huntercombe is the several grassy hollows that are located throughout the round. These were dug out by Park and located where bunkers would normally be found. There are still some bunkers on the course but these are few and far between. These depressions must certainly be avoided as the grass in them is thick and long whilst there is also other vegetation sporadically growing in them.
The club has an old-fashioned feel and a charming ambience to it which is reflected through the entire 18 holes. To say that Huntercombe is failing the test of time would be harsh but its relatively short length and softer conditions mean that nowadays its best bits are unquestionably diluted. Many of the grassy hollows can now easily be carried with modern equipment and because the fairways weren’t particularly fast running judging distance to the grass craters was much easier to control.
Huntercombe is a course I most definitely appreciated, and one worthy of further study, but sadly not one I fell in love with like I hoped I might.
Following a 4:00am alarm call we’d already driven for more than six hours and covered over 350 road miles before boarding a ferry at Oban sailing to Lochboisdale.
The Halifax Golf Club, often better known as Ogden, is a course that divides opinion.