Adam Lawrence reports on a pre-opening visit to Heythrop Park in England.
The new golf course at the historic Heythrop Park estate in Oxfordshire, England, is almost ready for opening.
GCA visited Heythrop with architect Tom Mackenzie of Mackenzie and Ebert, and contractor Nigel Ely of J&E Ely, to view to course, which we saw last year in the early stages of construction (see article from issue 14).
Mackenzie’s course at Heythrop is heading for a soft opening in September. On this visit, the architect was marking sand lines in bunkers, and supervising the installation of secondary drainage. Oxfordshire-based contractor White Horse is handling this work.
As our earlier article said, the golf course at Heythrop is fitted around one of the most historic parks in the UK, the site on which experts believe the naturalistic ‘English style’ of Brown and Repton began to evolve. This means that some of the holes within the park itself – notably the eleventh and eighteenth, which both play down the main avenues – might seem to lack obvious golfing drama.
But elsewhere there is drama aplenty. Holes five and six are both classic short par fours, making use of the dammed river. Six in particular is a little diamond at 314 yards from the back tee, from where a copse of trees sits directly in line with the putting surface. The longest players can try to drive the green by way of a power fade over the water and to the left of the trees, but this route is all carry; a well-struck running draw might also reach, and will in any case spend most of its time on or above grass. Either way, any tee shot that doesn’t find the green will require a careful pitch; and woe betide anyone who finds the greenside bunker, as a sand shot heading straight towards the water is tough for all golfers.
The par five fifteenth offers some of the challenges of Augusta’s famous thirteenth: it swings hard to the left, and a severe sideslope in the fairway makes positioning especially important. There is, thankfully, no creek in front of the green. But a large specimen tree in the fairway, close to the ideal landing spot for a drive, makes the hole especially challenging.