Stoneleigh Deer Park Golf Club Feature Review
Review by Golfshake Ambassador Kevin Heggie
Nestled in the Warwickshire countryside between Coventry and Leamington Spa is Stoneleigh Deer Park Golf Club. Named after the old Deer Park which used to exist on the site, the main Tantara Course measures just over 6,000 yards from the whites and plays a par 71, with provisions for both 9 and 18 hole rounds. There’s also a par 3 course within the centre of the estate to provide a great introduction to golfers learning the game.
Whilst I'm not a member, Stoneleigh is my unofficial home course, having played it regularly over the past 15 years. It also holds a fond place in my heart due to the support it provided to me and my fellow golfing group who took part in the Macmillan 72 Hole Challenge a few years ago, and regularly supports numerous other local charities in the area.
The course configuration is quite unusual with a par 38/par 33 split, and has been designed to make the most of the land available to provide a good test to golfers of all standards. Most greens are generally small and narrow in size, protected by mounds and tiers rather than bunkers - only three holes feature sandtraps. The other key features are the number of large trees you encounter throughout the round, some over 300 years old, and the River Avon which runs through the course and is in play on holes 7 through 10, and the 18th hole.
Front 9 Overview
After a quick warm up on the adjacent putting green, the start to Stoneleigh is one of the tougher opening tee shots I regularly play. From the tee the fairway is framed by two large trees on the right and a woodland running along the left hand side. The safe play is definitely to aim for the left hand trees, and then from there you’re hitting uphill to an upturned saucer of a green - par is always a great score here. Next up is a short par 4, where you encounter the first large tree within a fairway which adds to the challenge. Navigate this obstacle and you’ll be hitting a wedge into a long, narrow green surrounded by mounds for protection.
You then encounter a run of four holes, three of which are par 5s and a par 3 which is one of the toughest I've encountered. The 3rd and 4th are relatively straight forward par 5s, although pin placement has a big bearing on the score. However, the 6th is a long par 3, often playing over 200 yards to a sliver of a green perched on a mound, with a necklace of bunkers short, left and right. Even when the green keepers move the tee boxes up, hitting the green is a significant challenge, and if you miss, getting up and down is even more difficult due to the design of the green.
Finally, the 7th provides a couple of key challenges to overcome - from the tee you’re faced with three large trees left, right, and in the centre of the fairway, in effect making one relatively large fairway split into two. You’re then left with a choice to go for the green in two, navigating the Avon which runs in front, or layup and wedge on to another small, two-tiered green. This run of holes will have a major bearing on your score - the par 5s all present good opportunities to score well, and if you can avoid a disaster on the par 3 you’ve likely give yourself a good foundation to the round.
Finishing off the front 9, the 8th challenges you to continue to avoid the Avon which runs all along the right-hand side of the hole, before a short par 3 takes you back to the front of the clubhouse.
Back 9 Overview
The back 9 is a more traditional mix of holes, with the last three providing the sternest challenge as you finish off the round. The 12th is a fun, drivable par 4, with a blind tee shot over the brow of a hill helping the ball scoot on towards the green, dependent on the bounce. The 15th, also known as Hill Top, is also a great challenge - usually playing around 150-160 yards, you have to account for a significant drop in elevation, as well as the wind, so judgment here is critical.
The finishing stretch starts with the longest par 4 on the course, framed again by large trees which come into play, especially during the second shot into another upturned green protected with mounds and run off areas. The 17th is another tough par 3, playing to an elevated green close to 200 yards away. Short or right, and you’ll see your ball scamper away from the green, and miss left and you’ll be faced with a delicate chip to avoid the previous fate.
Finally, assuming you miss the pond on the left, the 18th re-acquaint you with the Avon, and assuming you’re not too bold with your drive, you’re forced to hit a shot over the river to the green again surrounded by mature trees and protective mounds. Navigate this successfully and you’re back in the clubhouse where you can enjoy a beer and food on the patio as you tot up your scores.
When I first started playing at Stoneleigh, and my course strategy wasn’t particularly well developed, I found the course frustrating - why were there trees in the middle of the fairways! (and why did my ball keep ending up behind them!). However, as my game has developed over time and I've played the course more and more, I have developed a strategy for the course which means I can get around in a reasonable score and know when to push and when to protect my score. Therefore, for most golfers playing for the first time my advice would be to not get sucked into the relatively short length and try to overpower it, rather focus on ensuring you hit the fairways and especially the often narrow greens, as scrambling from around the greens is going to be challenging despite the lack of bunkers.
Off the course, the clubhouse, proudly displaying a Golfshake ‘Highly Recommended’ sticker, is welcoming to all, with staff who have worked there for years helping to create a friendly atmosphere. As mentioned previously, the patio area provides a great location to watch groups go out and finish off their rounds whilst enjoying a drink or two and watching the sun go down after a twilight round.
Overall, Stoneleigh is a great example of a relatively small course which makes the most of its assets, and deserves its positive reviews from the Golfshake Community, especially considering the cost to play there (at time of writing between £15-30, with some prices including food), and is a course I’d recommend to anyone looking for a new challenge in the midlands area - just don’t expect to see any deer!
Overall Rating - 8
Course (Conditions) - 8
Course (Hole Variety/Layout) - 7
Course (Green Condition) - 8
Course (Challenge/Difficulty) - 7
Club Facilities & 19th/Clubhouse - 8
Practice Facilities - 8
Friendliness/Hospitality - 9
Pace of Play - 9
Value for Money - 9
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|Stoneleigh Deer Park Golf Club
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