North Hants Golf Club Review
North Hants - home of Justin Rose - is a lovely heathland track viewed by many as one of England's top 100 courses.
North Hants Golf Club is a course I'd always heard glowing praise about. Last year, I attended the Hampshire Hog - a tournament staged each year at the Fleet golf course and one of the stand-out events on England Golf's amateur calendar - and couldn't suppress the pangs of jealousy towards those who were actually playing. I vowed to come back in the not-too-distant future, and although it took me far too long return, I found myself with the opportunity to tee it up at the end of September.
North Hants - home of Justin Rose - is a lovely heathland track viewed by many as one of England's top 100 courses. Whether or not you agree – and I personally would say it’s worthy of inclusion - few could dispute it's an excellent, well-conditioned golf course with some brilliant holes. Surrey and Hampshire are famed for their fine selection of heathland tracks - and while North Hants doesn't quite sit in the same bracket as the likes of Sunningdale or Hankley Common - it's certainly a course that will re-affirm your affinity for heathland golf.
North Hants isn't the longest track in the world, but it's a layout with numerous defences. These come in numerous guises, from a series of newly constructed fairway bunkers and populous green-side traps to severely sloping greens, changes in undulation and water hazards. It's a connoisseur’s golf course, and one I'd play pretty differently if I were afforded another opportunity to visit. Precision is everything here; trees flank most fairways, control is required on approaches and most flags - and indeed the right portion of the greens - can only be found from the correct part of the fairway. It will test every club in your bag, as well as your short-game prowess, while proving good variation. North Hants is a golf course I'd thoroughly recommend visiting.
After a rather intimidating 200 yard-plus opening par 3 (it used to be a par 4, but health and safety regulation didn't permit it to be so after the construction of the new clubhouse) the course settles into a lovely flow.
The 3rd is an absolutely fantastic par 5, but you'll need to have your wits about you. Like a number of holes at West Hill, you'll need to play it at least twice before you formulate the best strategy. What makes the 3rd so good is the fact it can tempt you to stray away from the plan you had when standing on the tee. Drives are hit to a fairway that moves downhill around the 250-yard mark. Some 50 yards further on is a pond, which consumes the entire right side of the fairway. The lay-up area to the left is a narrow slither of fairway, and you'll be hitting no more than an eight iron for position. The trouble is a huge tree guards the entrance to the green, so those who've hit a good drive might well be tempted to take the shorter route to the putting surface across the pond. It's a classic risk/reward hole and one that's beautifully designed.
In my mind, the best par 4 on the front nine is the 5th. Drives are blind, and must be hit from left to right, but hit it too straight and you won't have a shot to the green; overwork the fade and you'll do well to find your ball amid a dense gathering of tall oaks, heather and shrubbery. The fairway flows steeply downhill from the 220-yard mark, and if you find the right line and trajectory off the tee and catch the slope, it's only a wedge to the green. However, those staying short will face a mid to long iron to a long, three-tiered putting surface that's at least 50 yards below.
Both the 7th and the 9th are good, testing par 4s with some tough bunkering to contend with, and they come either side of the front 9’s best par 3. The 8th is only 130 yards from the whites, but the narrow putting surface is guarded by a severe bunker to the front right and numerous swales, run-off areas and patches of heavy rough. It's an example of a short hole with real character.
The back 9 at North Hants is unequivocally tougher than the front side. It's generally tighter, with more potential for things to unravel - particularly over the closing few holes. As with the front nine, it starts with a long par 3 and a mild par 4 before really getting going, and the two back-to-back par 4s at 13 and 14 warrant an extended mention. The former is only 330 yards, but accuracy is paramount. Anything that finds the right side of the fairway will need to be moved from left to right, around a collection of bushes and trees, to find a raised putting surface that's tucked round the corner. Even from the ideal spot, utmost precision is required to find a tiered, undulating green that's guarded on all sides by slopes, sand and thick rough.
The 14th is vying with the 3rd to be named my favourite hole on the course. Once again, a blind drive - a feature of North Hants - is required to a downhill fairway that cambers from left to right. It's an appetising tee shot, given the elevation of the tee, the width of the fairway and the shape of the hole. From the middle of the fairway, a long or mid iron remains to a small, flat green, but those straying right with their approaches could find the ditch that starts some 100 yards short of the putting surface and runs up the right of the hole.
The final three holes at North Hants present a stern challenge, thanks predominantly to the train line, which runs alongside the right of all three in the direction of the clubhouse. Two challenging par 4s, the 16th and 18th, come either side of the par-5 17th, only the second three-shotter on the course. A cluster of bunkers around the 250-yard mark will thwart most amateurs, although there is some room to the left for those chasing a score. Most will lay-up, though, before an approach to a treacherous crescent-shaped green that's reminiscent of the 2nd at Augusta.
Overall, North Hants is a very pleasant golf course. It's well presented, varied, and both challenging and enjoyable in equal measure - a hard balance to strike. Surrey and Hampshire are home to some truly excellent heathlands tracks, and North Hants certainly deserves to be considered in that bracket. Overall, I'd give it a rating of 8/10
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