A stunning course
Stoneham GC is a heathland style golf course on the outskirts of Southampton, Hampshire. About a 2 hours drive from south west London!
The course was established in 1908, and was designed by renowned golf course architect Willie Park Jr. Former European Tour, Ryder Cup player and broadcaster, Ken Brown, opined that Stoneham was right there with the Old Course at Sunningdale, another of his designs!
In 2018, Stoneham was ranked 64 in the top 100 England courses, up from 81 in 2017!
The course is par 72, ie 6,405 and 5,956 yards respectively from the white/yellow tees, and is is a par 71, 5,343 yards from the ladies red tees. However the SSS for the white/yellow tees is 69, 3 below par!
There are 5 par 3s, 8 par 4s and 5 par 5s.
I played the course from the yellow tees in a Seniors Open Stableford Competition. The winning score was 39 points (by a Toot Hill member) with 37 points for 2nd/3rd places, decided on countback! The CSS for the competition was 72!
The course is quite undulating, with changes in elevation often on the same holes, mainly downhill but many sideways also! The uphill climbs were manageable! There are some blind/semi blind tee shots on the par 4/5s, but landing areas are reasonably generous. As usual, there is a reward for accuracy/positioning off the tee and much trouble in the rough, bunkers and trees for the wayward shots! There are also a few holes with ditches running fully across the fairways, eg the 4th, 11th and 17th; and there are a couple of holes , eg the 14th and 18th par 5s, also with severe lateral hazards.
Bunkers are plentiful, prominent (a la Hindhead, Royal Blackheath etc), deep and gorse covered on exit, and if in one, which I was, the sand is of the highest quality.
On a similar vein to Cherry Lodge recently, major course reshaping work is ongoing to the left of the 18th fairway. Not sure if it will only affect the 18th hole or whether there will be a complete rerouting of the hole once completed. In any event the main trouble on the par 5 18th hole as currently played is the carry off the tee shot is more chancy the further right you hit it, into high rough, with a potential lost ball; and then a deep drop over the right hand side into a nature area, within 100 yards of the green.
The greens are huge, very firm and undulating. Members warned all competitors about the fast pace of their greens. I only 3 putted 3 times, ie the 1st, 17th & 18th! The 1st was a genuine surprise at how far past my 1st putt went past the pin from about 12 feet, whereas the triples on 17 & 18 were caused by being 40/50 feet from the pins on huge greens and leaving my 1st putts well short! Lessons learnt!
Conditions on the day were very windy but otherwise bright day!
Two of the par 3s are long off the yellows, never mind the whites. The 2nd is 182 yards to a a green surrounded by bunkers. whilst the index 3 7th is a blind uphill 227 yards shot, with severe trouble over the back left of the green. My plan to lay up shot, chip on and 2 putt backfired and a quadruple bogey resulted. Inept of me to say the least!
My gross score was +22 over par, ie + 9 shots above my handicap. In truth I drove the ball well but + 10 of my excess scores were incurred on only 3 of the holes, primarily due to some unexpectedly poor ball striking with my favourite hybrids/fairway woods after good drives! A much better score was achievable. I played with a 5 and 7 handicapper in my 3 ball and outscored both, which I was pleased about, especially as both had played the course before!
Visitor green fees for the April to October period are £80, £55 as a members guest or £55 with a County Card. The twilight rate is £50. The competition entry fee was £40, including coffee & bacon bap, 18 holes and a two course lunch. A terrific vfm way to get to play such a lovely golf course.
This is a wonderful course which I intend to add to my regular list of annual 'must play' competition venues, on a par with Liphook, Blackmoor, West Byfleet and Hindhead! There are a number of other very good courses nearby! Some of the competitors played other excellent courses nearby. I think I'd like to try that next year!
The staff and members were very welcoming/helpful. The post match meal was excellent!
The club claims to have a membership including about 180 single figure handicap players; and applies an 18 handicap limit to new member applications from men.
The only disappointment for me was the absence of a course planner booklet, explained due to the course changes that have taken place and are in progress!OK but there is not excuse for not having hole layout maps on each tee!