Luffenham Heath Golf Club Feature Review
Review by Kevin Heggie, November 2019
As the weather turns and courses up and down the land start to introduce winter golf measures (or even worse, closing their courses due to waterlogging), the question of which inland courses are playable all year round becomes more and more a priority for the nomadic golfer. Having scanned maps, and read reviews on Golfshake, we landed upon Luffenham Heath to see how it has coped with the deluge of rain we’ve had and whether it lived up to its reputation as one of the best heathland courses in the Midlands.
Founded in 1911 and opened with a match between James Braid and Harry Vardon, Luffenham Heath is located close to Stamford and Peterborough, and in 2013 began hosting Open Qualifiers. Whilst not long by modern day standards (from the back tees it’s 6,563 yards, the yellows at 6,139) the SSS on the card indicates that this is no pushover, giving you at least a shot before you’ve even teed off. After a warm welcome in the pro shop and a few putts on the smooth practice green outside the clubhouse, we headed to the 1st tee to get the fully Luffenham experience.
Front 9 Overview
The 1st hole is a relatively gentle start at under 350 yards, although the magnetic appeal of the right hand rough still managed to catch us out. The 2nd turns the challenge up a notch or two, with a long par 4 up and over a hill demanding two solid shots into a deceptive green with a severe slop from left to right. Miss either side of the green and you’ll face a stern test getting up and down for par. The 3rd hole presents you with a decision from the tee in terms of how aggressive to play it. Play conservatively to the fat of the fairway will mean your second shot will likely be from a flat lie, but if you decide to be more bold, your stance is likely to be more problematic, but will leave you with a short pitch into the back to front sloping green.
The 4th takes you up to one of the high points on the course, and provides a great view of the surrounding countryside, even through the drizzle we were predictably experiencing! Avoiding the fairway bunker on the right is essential if you want to have a chance of reaching the green in two, which is down in a dell and so plays shorter than the yardage – landing the ball short and running it on is a good play, especially as long will present you with a challenging up and down. The 5th is the first par 3 on the course, and is beautifully set amongst humps and bunkers, a clear theme at Luffenham where accuracy over distance is key.
A short par 5 follows, giving players a good chance at birdie, although care must be taken to avoid the various bunkers from the tee and also for those deciding to lay up. The 7th takes you to the highest part of the course, and is a stunning hole, well framed by the trees running alongside the fairway, with a green perched precariously above the fairway, with drop offs front and left. A short par 4 follows, again posing questions off the tee in terms of risks and rewards. Long hitters will be tempted to try to get as close to the green as possible, but a string of bunkers narrow the approach shot considerably, whilst those laying up still have to find the fairway between bunkers left and right. The front 9 finishes off with another well-guarded par 3, with bunkers ready and waiting to grab any shots which come up short.
Back 9 Overview
The recently lengthened 10th again places a premium on accuracy from the tee and is followed by a tough par 4 which demands two blows to reach the green. Respite is provided on the 12th in the form of the shortest par 3 on the course, but again the design of the hole and placement of bunkers means anything slightly offline will demand your full attention is you hope to walk away with a par, before facing the daunting 13th, which definitely will prove to be unlucky for many. At over 470 yards, for most golfers this should be played as a par 5, but even then, the fairway bunkers are waiting to catch any poorly struck layups.
Following on from the relatively straight forward 14th, you then face a very impressive stretch of holes to finish out the round. The 15th and 16th are two demanding par 4s, with bunkers again in play from the tee and surrounding the greens narrowing down your chances of walking away with par or better. The 17th is the signature hole on the course, a strong par 3 which plays shorter than the card suggests due to the drop down to the green. Surrounded by humps, hollows and bunkers, long is probably the best miss, although you are then chipping onto a green where the ball will keep running away down slopes towards the front.
Finally, the par 5 18th plays over 540 yards, and takes you back down towards the clubhouse, and requires both accuracy and length if you hope to get onto the green in regulation, and is a great closing hole to finish off an extremely enjoyable round of golf on a consistently challenging course.
Luffenham Heath is a real pleasure to play, and one of the most thoughtfully designed courses I’ve walked. You get a great sense of space whilst on the course, with a fair amount of rough surrounding the fairways meaning that no holes feeling particularly claustrophobic, but there’s also barely a shot you play throughout your round where you not having to contend with bunkers, humps, and run off areas. Condition wise, for the time of the year and the amount of rain we’ve had it was exceptional, with the fairways providing some run and the greens in particular being in excellent shape both in terms of pace and surface (with my playing partner taking full advantage and sinking two long birdies). In summer months I could well imagine the course providing a different challenge with a little more run, but also higher rough and even faster greens, so it definitely is one I want to visit again.
Off the course, the clubhouse has a cosy feel, with clean and modern changing facilities available and a welcoming bar and dining area available to discuss the round and enjoy well priced food and drinks. In the summer I can also well imagine the patio area being a great location to watch groups go out and finish off their rounds whilst enjoying a drink or two.
Overall, Luffenham fully lives up to its ‘Highly Recommended’ status from the Golfshake Community and is a course I’d recommend to anyone looking for an authentic heathland experience at any time of the year.
Overall Rating - 8
Course (Conditions) - 9
Course (Hole Variety/Layout) - 8
Course (Green Condition) - 9
Course (Challenge/Difficulty) - 8
Club facilities & 19th/Clubhouse - 8
Practice Facilities - 7
Friendliness/Hospitality - 8
Pace of Play - 9
Value for Money - 8
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