Northamptonshire County Golf Club Feature Review
Review by Kevin Heggie (14 Handicap)
Northamptonshire County Golf Club is nestled in the leafy Northamptonshire countryside, easily accessible from the M1. From the drive down Golf Lane, you immediately get the sense that the course, built in 1909, will be of a classic, members-style set up, but the warm welcome in the pro shop (and helpful advice over the phone prior to the visit) shows that the course is happy to accommodate visitors as well.
The course consists of an 18-hole par 70 championship golf course, with multiple tee boxes to cater for different standards of play, as well as seasons, with friendlier winter tees reducing the length by 400 yards. Additional, to maximise the flexibility of how you might play the course, there’s also three additional holes available for those just looking to play nine.
On review of the card prior to the visit, it was apparent that you’d need to bring your A game to score well. Peppered throughout the round are a number of par 4s measuring over 400 yards, and SSS above par off both the yellow and white tee boxes presents a daunting challenge.
The advice from the shop was to enjoy the conditions, and so after the use of the practice grounds and the slick putting greens we were ready to go when our ball came out at bottom of the chute at the 1st tee.
Front 9 Overview
A tough start awaits, with a 443-yard par 4 requiring 2 quality shots to avoid the well-placed bunkers on the fairway and greenside. Once you get to the green the quality of the surfaces is again apparent, along with subtle breaks and borrows which are a trademark of the green complexes.
The second is one of only 2 par 5s on the course, a straight (but not straightforward) affair which again requires 3 good shots to get there in regulation, with gorse on both sides placing a premium on quality ball striking. A short par 3 is followed by the short 4th which uses the contours of the land well to penalise wayward hitting, as well as crowned greens to punish players who get too aggressive on their approach.
The 5th, playing uphill, fully lives up to its rating as the hardest on the course, with 2 well placed bunkers ready to swallow up slightly wayward drives and a green complex which allows for a real range of tricky positions. The 6th is a mid-length par 3, with a green tilted right to left to add to the complications.
By now you really get an appreciation of why the course is held in such regard. The heathland fairways are firm and bound on, reducing any early fears over a course playing too long for anyone but the longest hitters, and the greens throughout are in great condition and running fast. A par is earned even on the shorter holes, as bunkers are in the perfect place to catch out wayward drives and approaches.
On paper, the 8th looks to be a great opportunity to score, but don’t be fooled. Too conservative and you leave yourself with a shot which will bound on if over cooked (much to my cost), but too aggressive and there’s bunkers and trees waiting to catch you out from the tee. The 9th is a great finish to the front 9, where a decent drive will benefit from the downslope, leaving you a short iron into a tilted green.
Back 9 Overview
Crossing the railway tracks gets you to the 10th, and a tough start to the back 9, with a swell around 250 yards leaving you a blind second. The green is also another example of the subtleties of the course, tilted left to right and back to front, it’s very easy to underestimate the breaks and slopes and see putts run a few feet past on the low sides. The 11th is similar in nature, but this time requiring an iron shot that carries at least 150 yards to a narrow, sloping green. Another short par 3 is some respite, but don’t be fooled by the SI - the green is well protected by bunkers, with run offs to catch out those iron shots which are just off line.
The final two holes on this section are a couple of par 4s which take you to the high point of the course. The design of the course takes full advantage of the land available, with the holes generally working in isolation, with significant numbers of trees shaping them well. Dropping down to 3-wood may be the smarter play to ensure you give yourself a good chance to get to the greens in regulation.
Making the short walk back under the railway line gets you to the final stretch, starting with another short par 3 which is well protected by water - the right-hand side of the green is the sensible play. From here you have 2 challenging par 4s both over 400 yards, the first of which also having a triple humped green which would make for some interesting putts if the greenkeeper was feeling mean! The final hole, a relatively short par 5 takes you back up towards the club house with bunkers and gorse in play to ruin a good round if not careful.
Northamptonshire County is a great example of timeless course design by Harry Colt, maximising the land and surroundings to maximum effect to create a track which certainly lives up to its reputation. Both my playing partner and I really enjoyed the course, which was a strong test of golf and makes you play every shot in your bag. The greens are slick and need careful reading, too often we under judged slope and break, and the overall condition of the course is also top notch. For a single round, the green fee was reasonable high, but pay a little more for the day rate and you’ll definitely be getting value for money. Post round, the bar provides a warm welcome and good value food to eat whilst you watch the groups behind wind their way up the 18th as you tot up your scores.
Pay the day rate for maximise value as a visitor.
Even on some of the longer par 4s, a 3 wood off the tee is a better play due to premium on hitting the fairways.
Take time over putts and use the practice greens to try to get the pace as quickly as possible, otherwise the 3 putts will soon rack up.
Overall Rating – 9
Course (Conditions) - 10
Course (Hole Variety/Layout) - 9
Course (Green Condition) - 10
Course (Challenge/Difficulty) - 9
Club facilities & 19th/Clubhouse - 8
Practice Facilities - 8
Friendliness/Hospitality - 9
Pace of Play - 8
Value for Money - 8
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|Northamptonshire County Golf Club
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