Feature Review Old Thorns Golf Club
Old Thorns Golf Club is situated within a recently developed hotel and leisure complex in the beautiful Hampshire countryside. Six years ago, the club was purchased by new owners, who set about an expansive programme of extension, transforming the modest facilities into a fully-fledged golf and leisure resort to rival the best in the south.
Over 25 million pounds was invested at Old Thorns, which becomes immediately apparent as you pull into the large car park and head towards the pro shop, located to the right of a delightful little plaza and fountain. Indeed, the plaza is framed on three sides by tastefully constructed buildings, with a sports bar, a Starbucks and a private hire area to the left and the hotel reception, conference rooms, spa and two-floor gym straight in front as you approach from the car park. All the buildings are interconnected, and the lavish interior design (most notably the upmarket bar) and quirky selection of decoratives match the overall five-star feel of the complex.
The golf course, too, is something to behold. As it winds through mature oak and pine trees and out into the countryside, you feel a real sense of peace and tranquillity. The smell of the trees, the still surroundings and quintessential English scenery all combine to bring a smile to your face, even if, like me, your golf is letting you down.
The setting may be idyllic, but it is also the root of many scoring problems, and if you complete 18 holes with 36 points you have done exceptionally well. Indeed, last month's club championship was won with a 36-hole score in excess of 15-over par.
It isn't length that makes it difficult, but the fact that on many holes there is no bail out area and no margin for error. Some of the tee shots are incredibly daunting, with dense woodland flanking both sides of a narrow fairway, and the utmost precision is required on every approach. There are opportunities if you keep your ball in play, though, and a good balance is maintained between extremely tight holes and one that afford you a little more freedom. The greens, as with the rest of the course, are in excellent condition, with every facet of the course combining to produce a marvellous test of golfing aptitude.
The par 3s at Old Thorns are one of the shortest selections I have encountered, with three of the holes requiring no more than a nine iron, but what they don't have in length they make up for in hole design and visual appeal. Few can dispute that a long, nondescript par 3 is inferior to a short hole demanding precision and offering penalties for anything hit off line.
The greens of both the seventh and tenth holes are fronted by water and marshland, and the fourth is a gorgeous uphill pat three with steep banks flanking the narrow green, but the undisputed gem is the 16th hole.
The hole is only 120 yards and the tee is significantly above the level of the green, but shots are hit over an enormous valley to a heavily right-to-left sloping green. The views of the surrounding hillsides and woodland are fantastic, especially with the sun shining through the trees as you hit your tee shots. A stunning hole.
There are so many good par 4s at Old Thorns it is difficult to single out just two for discussion. Both nines boast a varied selection of difficult yet beautiful holes carved out of woodland, with water coming into play on some as the course opens up slightly around the turn.
The fifth hole is arguably the best on the course. Drives are hit from an elevated tee to the short grass some 80 yards below. The downhill-sloping fairway is extremely narrow and lined on both sides by thick woodland. There is some room long and right, but anything that isn't in the middle of the fairway will be blocked out. A pond protects the left hand side of the green and tall trees the right, leaving a tiny gap to dissect in order to find the tiny putting surface. An outstanding hole in terms of beauty and design.
The 15th hole is only 260 yards, but if you walk off with par, you have done exceptionally well. Most people will lay up to the apex of the slight dogleg leaving around 100 yards to the flag, but the second shot is where the difficulty begins. The green sits some 80 yards above the fairway and approaches are completely blind. Deep bunkers taller than the average man protect the putting surface, which features the steepest tier I've ever seen. If you find the back level the pin is on the front, it is nay on impossible to keep your ball on the green.
In my view, the par 5s at Old Thorns are the best feature of the course, and that is really saying something. The second hole is the first par 5 on the course, and presents a tough test. Drives are hit significantly uphill to a fairway that doglegs almost 90 degrees to the left around the 230 yard mark. Tee shots need to avoid a tree guarding the apex of the dogleg, but anything leaked to the right will find trees, and anything pulled will be blocked out. After a good drive, the prudent play is a lay up, as dense shrubbery and woodland lines the right hand side of the fairway. From there, a wedge remains to a long, narrow green, but pushed approaches will go out of bounds and anything pulled left will topple down a steep bank flanking the green.
The 17th hole is visually striking, and a real joy to play. The tee is some 100 yards above the level of the fairway, offering great views of the surroundings. The hole turns 90 degrees right at the 250 yard mark, with the ideal shot being a fade off three fairway bunkers. If you manage to avoid sand and the trees that run down the right of the hole, the green is reachable with a long iron. The entrance to the small target is narrow, though, and wayward approached could find other patches of trees and shrubbery that crop up sporadically on both sides of the fairway.
Old Thorns is a delightful place to play golf. The setting is wonderful, the course is well designed and the off-course facilities are as good as you will find. In fact, demand has facilitated the construction of another 18-hole course, and I can only hope it matches the high standard of what’s already in place. Overall, I would give Old Thorns a rating of 8.5/10.
Play Old Thorns - Golf Offers
Old Thorns have a number of offers available for golfers.
Early Eagle Booking Promotion
Early Eagle 12 + people Exclusively to Old Thorns for 2013, the eagle has landed with our biggest ever promotion on residential golf breaks. As well as offering all group bookers our traditional one in 16 goes free, for 2013…
Winter Warmers (Min 2 people)
From only £32.50pp midweek and £37.50pp weekend (must be booked in advance) includes tea/coffee on arrival?, a round of golf? and one course chef special after the round. ?
Call 01428 725 874 to book or for more information visit: http://www.oldthorns.com/category/golf-offers/
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