The Springs Golf Club Feature Review
Review by Golfshake Ambassador Richard Moore
The Springs Golf Club, close to Wallingford, Oxfordshire, opened in 1998 and is set in an area of outstanding natural beauty and spread out over 133 acres of beautiful parkland, offering various types of terrain and a real challenge to golfers of all skill levels and abilities. The par 72 golf course was designed by former Ryder Cup captain Brian Huggett, deploying his decades of experience as a tour player.
The course was purchased by Darwin Escapes in 2017 and the following year the course and the entire golf offering was upgraded. Leading architect Tim Lobb was called in and he worked in consultation with Huggett primarily on the bunkers and lakes, improving their strategic value and placement, appearance, and aesthetic appeal.
Tim Lobb said: "With a little bit of careful work to bring the course up to the level of its surroundings, it will be a very successful golf resort. In addition to bunker work, we are adding a number of ladies’ tees, and doing improvements to the lakes to reinstate some of the walling. For example, on the 17th hole, a short par four, we plan to build a retaining wall in the lake and bring the water a little closer to the green. Essentially, we are pushing the lake away from the centre line and attempting to make the hole more enticing.”
The signature hole is the 8th, a par 3 over water, which is often impacted by the wind and weather conditions. Anything from a mid-iron to a wood is appropriate here and this particular green is surrounded by lakes and bunkers making the ramifications of any mistakes all the more severe.
In short - this is a must-play course!
(The Springs Golf Club)
I last played here in March 2014 - when, after a wet winter, the two holes which lie beside the Thames were flooded and therefore closed. So, I was thrilled to return this summer to see The Springs in its full glory after the development work. Although six years had passed, I still remembered vividly some of the holes being particularly picturesque and framed by water. I had the course guide in my collection so studied it with great interest the night before. It is clear the course is fraught with danger with half the holes involving water!
After a 90-minute journey from the Midlands, on arrival I was struck by what a serene, quiet location it is. The entrance is set amongst trees and the walk down to the clubhouse is very pleasant.
The clubhouse is really impressive - a mock Tudor building. Although closed at this time for obvious reasons, I recall my last visit and how we all raved about the excellent sandwiches in the first-floor bar overlooking the 18th - food which I was told is from locally sourced produce.
(Richard's View of the Clubhouse)
I met the pro; Paul Cook, who couldn't have been more helpful. He showed me the fantastic practice facilities. The chipping/practice bunker area is outrageously good, featuring a really big, top quality green, and that's there just to chip onto and bunker out of! Adjacent, there was another huge practice putting green. There is a driving area (just for irons) which is also very nice. (If only I had this at my home course, I'd be spending many an evening perfecting my short game - so members here are truly blessed!)
Front 9 Overview
The opening hole is a real risk reward hole. For the straight, long, and bold, this is an eagle/birdie chance but for mere mortals you simply need to avoid being blocked out by the trees to the left or right on your second shot. 4 iron for me set up a wedge in for any easy par.
The 2nd has been remodelled to play away from the clubhouse. A solid wedge will see you safely on. So, not the hardest of starts. However, when you then arrive at the 3rd - a par 5 - you see a wall of fairway bunkers. Not only do you need to avoid them but also the 'just misses' too. You do NOT want to land in the fringes of these bunkers where the fescue grass has grown up as you might not get your ball out! It is that deep. The bunkers look fantastic as you walk past having safely negotiated away from them, but you do not want to be in them!
(Natural Looking Bunker Fringes)
The 4th is a long par 4 which is the far boundary of the course and has OOB down the right. Not only did I find the OOB, but I found three balls in the search for mine, so it is a common error with the wind blowing that way, so be sure to aim left. But it is a long second for most with deep bunkers around the green. The 5th is a short par 4 but its biggest defence is the slopping green which takes some negotiation, so aim right of the flag.
The 6th was a pretty ordinary par 4 but as you walk to where your drive landed you look to the right and get a glimpse of what's to follow - a super view of the lake that borders the 7th and the signature 8th hole. So, you can feel the heart quicken for sure! The 8th is a great test. The sleeper walls around the lake are reminiscent of Sawgrass. It played 165 yards in a light breeze (so a 6 iron for me) but the pro told me the wind was so strong he recently had to take 4 iron just to reach the front! A great hole.
(Could Be TPC Sawgrass)
I loved the front nine. A contrast of an easy start which got increasingly difficult and then more intimidating. In music they call it a crescendo!
Back 9 Overview
I enjoyed the back nine - but not quite as much as the opening nine. It starts with an intimidating par 3 beside water and OOB down the left. The 11th is a great hole as a lake on the right makes your positional tee shot imperative.
The 12th was a fair hole uphill. But the 13th was fun - SI 1. No bunkers but a great hillock in the middle and marsh land and ditches to the right. This was the point when I started to remind myself of some of the links courses in Devon like Saunton. A 1 metre wide ditch down the side of the fairway can really focus the mind as much as a lake does.
The 14th and 15th are par 5s. The first is tight so it was three iron shots for me to get on safely in regulation to avoid the ditches (one ditch crosses the fairway at about 300 yards). On the left as you approach the green are a set of hillocks and that's when you really start thinking 'links!'
(Linksy Feel in Places)
The 15th is blessed by having the River Thames running down its left side. It doesn't really come into play but very pleasant to see before you attack the uphill and raised green. After the 170-yard par 3 16th, the 17th is a fantastic par 4 risk/reward hole. It is impossible not to stand on the tee and think: 'should I give this a go with a drive over the water?' I played safe and made a right Horlicks of it blasting out of the rough too many times. But regardless of a double bogey it is impossible not to marvel at its grandeur. If only I could play that hole again!
(The 17th. Wow!)
The closing hole is totally unique. For those who have played The Belfry PGA Course, it is similar to that 18th, but this has an ancient coppice of trees at about 150 yards in middle of the fairway. Do you shoot over it or round the sides? It is a dilemma. Some players/reviewers on Golfshake have poured scorn on this feature. But it is truly a test for the end of the round in case you were feeling tired walking 17 holes.... then you'd better wake up! Once negotiated you have the backdrop of the beautiful clubhouse to putt out in front of.
(The Unique 18th Hole)
I was full of praise and told the pro it was my most enjoyable round of golf this year. The sun shone throughout, the skies were blue, the course looked amazing and I scored 1 under handicap, so I was delighted on a personal level. I concluded that I will be bringing my company's golf society here for sure.
The greens were probably the best I have seen this year, running true. It is a par 72 and a SSI of 69 and I think it is bang on the number. From just £35 a round, The Springs should be considered a must play.
Overall Rating - 9
Course (Conditions) - 10
Course (Hole Variety/Layout) - 9
Course (Green Condition) - 10
Course (Challenge/Difficulty) - 8
Club Facilities & 19th/Clubhouse - 10
Practice Facilities - 10
Friendliness/Hospitality - 10
Pace of Play - 10
Value for Money - 10
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|The Springs Golf Club
from 131 reviews