Northants County Golf Club - Feature Review
Set deep in the Northamptonshire country side you will find Northants County Golf Club, a regional stage Open qualifying venue. Driving to the course you wind through some charming chocolate box villages including Chapel Brampton. It is on the outskirts of the village that you find the course tucked down a private lane.
Although a historic private members club, Northants County is welcoming to visitors and will also take societies, but note handicap certificates are required. When arriving at the course you look out onto the 1st and 18th and know you are going to be in for a good time with a mixture of pines, silver birch and gorse bushes. In short it is great golfing country. The course itself is 18 holes with an extra 3 alternate holes which create a handy 9 hole loop back to the club house. It was designed by the great Harry Colt and built in 1909. It also boasts a short colt course with synthetic greens and a large range ball served practice area.
As with any good test of golf the par 3’s at Nothants County are varied in both length and difficulty. The first par 3 you come across is the 3rd. It is only 160 yrds long, but the green is long and narrow. You really cannot afford to miss either side as you will be short sided. Next up is the long and difficult 6th. It has recently been lengthened and is now over 200 yards and plays uphill to a sharply sloping back to front green.
As you move onto the back nine you reach the very short 12th. It is a charming hole tucked into the far corner of the course. You play up hill to a green only 120 yards away. A three is no formality with the green heavily guarded by bunkers. Possibly the best and certainly the prettiest par 3 is the 15th. It is not overly long at 170 yrds, but a bubbling brook dissects the hole and runs the length of the right half of the green. It is set within a back drop of pine trees, bunkers guard a green that slopes heavily towards the water. Walk off with a three and you will be moving to the 16th tee with a smile on your face
As you might expect from an Open qualifying venue Northants County has an array of difficult and challenging Par 4’s. The opening hole is a cracker and long, at well over 400 yrds. Pine trees and gorse run down the right hand side and the green is set to a back drop of towering pines. An opening 4 is a great score. The 4th 7th and 8th are all birdie chances and longer hitters can have a go at both the 4th and 8th with their drives, however both are blind tee shots and trouble lurks close by. Sandwiched in between is the difficult 5th. A good up hill drive short of the cross bunkers leaves a semi-blind long iron to a large green protected by bunkers short and right.
Entering the back nine you are met by two of the toughest holes on the course. Both are long and dog leg to the right just enough to cause a problem. The 11th is particularly spectacular as you play to rise in the fairway and are then left with a long iron into a green that is tucked away into the corner of the course. increasing the difficulty is the forest and railway track, which guard the front and right of the green. Both are OOB. The green also has a severe false front making it the toughest hole on the course to hit in regulation.
The 13th and 14th are a little less testing, but still require accurate drives and great putting touch on tricky greens. The final two par 4’s come at the long 16th and 17th. The 16th is notable for its hugely undulating green which furrows from left to right with each furrow rise being 3-4f thigh. The 17th demands a good long drive, ideally a fade and then a mid-long iron into the green. Pars on both are real achievement even for the very best.
Northants County is a tough Par 70 and this because it only has two par 5’s. They are a long way apart with the first of them coming at the 2nd and the second at the 18th. The 2nd is long, straight and very narrow. A long thick hedge of pine and gorse guards the left side of the hole with the right side being the bailout option. Saying that, bailout might be a bit misleading. As both gorse bushes and silver birch trees are dotted up the right side. If you get a drive away you have a chance to run the ball into the green in two. Should you need to lay up make sure you avoid the large left hand bunker and you will have simple pitch to set up a birdie chance.
The final par 5 is the 18th. It doglegs from left to right with OOB protecting the left hand side and gorse awaiting any leaked drives to the right. If you are brave and keep your drive tight to the corner longer hitters can reach in two. An accurate 2nd shot is important for anyone laying up as bunkers and gorse protect both sides of the fairway. The green is beautifully framed in front of the clubhouse and with it being one of the easier holes on the course it usually sets up a good finish just to keep you coming back next time!
As always, the traditional bite to eat and beer were required after the round - a good chance to test out the club house facilities. I am a fan of single story club houses and this is one of the best I have seen. A large recently renovated changing room is in keeping with a great bar, restaurant and lounge, all of which look over the 1st and 18th. The service was warm and friendly with food being very well priced and traditional golf club fare.
All in all Northants County is a real hidden gem! The greens were quick and true and the fairways excellent, it is worth noting that they benefit from fairway irrigation. Yes! it will set you back a bit to play in the summer, but if you are not keen on paying £60+ it may well be worth a visit in the off season when the day rate is only £40.
Northamptonshire County G.C. - Golfshake Rating - 8/10