Feature Review Buckinghamshire Golf Club
In my view, there are two types of golf club - ones that should be judged primarily on the quality of the golf course, and those where the off-course amenities and the serenity of the all-round experience are just too good to ignore. Buckinghamshire Golf Club - situated just off junction 1 of the M40 and home to the ISPS Handa Ladies European Masters - is one such club. It's located in the heart of the quintessentially English terrain associated with the Surrey, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire areas of the country, and provides a first-class experience in the most sublime of settings. Granted, weather does play a big part - and I was fortunate to play on a day of glorious sunshine - but when everything clicks into place, it's a magnificent place to play golf.
It's clearly a resort where conditioning is at the forefront of thinking, and not just on the golf course. The Buckinghamshire, as its colloquially known, has Japanese owners, who clearly recognise the importance of visual appeal and are prepared to spend significant amounts of money on realising their vision. The road through the gates, up past the huge white Victorian clubhouse is lined with blossoming flowers, vibrant colours and perfectly manicured shrubbery - a drive that's really indicative of what's to come.
The aspect that lingers in your memory as you leave the golf course is undoubtedly the conditioning, but The Buckinghamshire is a good golf course on its own merits. Water is user tastefully to enhance a number of holes - both visually and strategically - and the bunkering, particularly on the fairways, provides excellent definition. You often find yourself playing towards angled fairways at The Buckinghamshire, so sand acts as both a hazard and a target to work your ball off. As you might expect, though, the greens are probably the stand-out facet of the golf course. They are marvellous, true surfaces with some slopes but no deviation facilitated by pitchmmarks, spike marks or any other types of blemish. If your pace control is good, you'll find yourself holing more than your fair share of six-footers.
The par 3s at The Buckinghamshire a relatively long set - save for the par 3 12th - and will require long irons and even fairway woods for some of the shorter hitters. In my mind, the stand-out hole on the front nine is the 9th, which plays in the shadow of the arresting clubhouse. Balls are hit through a channel presented by trees, water features and rocky outcrops over a stream that juts into the fairway some 10 yards short of the green. Sand and rough also surround a two-tiered putting surface that slopes severely from back to right. When the pin is on the back tier, it's nigh on impossible to get the ball close.
The best par 3 on the back nine is probably the 12th, which is only an eight or nine iron for the moderate hitter. A huge, deep-faced bunker protects the front right of the green, persuading players to err with caution, but anything that carries too far will leave a tough downhill chip or putt to a green which slopes into the aforementioned bunker.
One of the elements of Buckinghamshire Golf Club that makes it so appealing is the eclectic mixture of par 4s, which vary from 400-yard+ almost three shotters to those that can be reached with a fairway wood and a wedge by the vast majority of golfers who embark on a round here. It's one of the reasons why The Buckinghamshire is such an engrossing golf course - play well and employ some strategy and you'll have a number of good scoring opportunities; get a little bit too greedy and it's a course that will punish you.
My favourite stretch on the front nine is the 7th and 8th holes. The 7th is ranked as the hardest hole on the course, and whilst I wouldn't necessarily agree with that, it's certainly a tough proposition. Drives must either carry 200 yards to find the stretch of fairway formed between two streams of water, or stay short of the first water hazard. If you stay short of the first hazard, you'll struggle to reach the green it two, but it all depends on how you back yourself from the tee. Take it one and find the fairway and you'll have a short iron to the green; play too conservatively and odds are you'll catch the stream that dissects the fairway 20 yards from the green. It's a fantastic hole that really makes you decide on a strategy from the tee.
On the back side, it's hard to look past the 13th hole. Bunkers are dotted on the left side of the fairway, and if you take on the body of sand, you'll find a preferable angle to the hole. The tendency is to stray slightly right, though, which will leave a longer approach to a flat yet well-protected green protected by swathes of thick rough and sand.
If you're looking to make a score at The Buckinghamshire, you need to capitalise on the par 5s. None measure more than 500 yards, but as I found out, aggression doesn't necessarily serve you well. If you're driving the ball well, you'll find yourself with 220 yards or so to a number of greens, which I found to be far too alluring a yardage. The prudent play is probably to put yourself in position for a third, but the prospect of putting for eagle is often far too tempting a proposition.
The golf course culminates in a glorious long hole, which presents a good birdie opportunity. The fairway is wide, but lay-ups must avoid a towering oak tree that sits on the right side of the short grass some 100 yards short of the green. Miss this gargantuan obstacle, and you'll face a short iron or wedge into a left-to-right sloping green that sits in front of the majestic clubhouse. It's a fine closing hole, and indicative of a beautifully conditioned course that's rightfully recognised as one of the best in the south west region.
Overall, I'd give Buckinghamshire Golf Club a rating of 7.5/10 - a reflection of it's intriguing and tasteful design and it's unparalleled conditioning, which really enhances the overall experience.
For independent ratings and reviews of The Buckinghamshire Golf Club visit - www.golfshake.com/course/view/14117/Buckinghamshire_Golf_Club.html
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