The recently re-opened first nine holes at Stoke Park Country Club, Spa & Hotel – the historic Colt course – have been heralded by club members as “brilliant”, “fantastic” and “the best feature of the club”.
Golf club members had exclusive early access to the nine holes, which have undergone major bunker renovation during the winter months. Although the shape and size of the bunkers have changed, the renowned strategic positioning remains, and members hailed the effect the changes had made, not just to the challenge of the course, but also to its playability.
Club captain John Sweeney said: “I think the changes on the course are magnificent. The bunkers will play a lot harder, but when the work on 10 to 18 is carried out next winter it will take the whole course to a new level. It’s not just an aesthetic thing; that’s good, but it’s the quality – and depth – of the bunkering that makes the real difference. These are a different class – if you’re in a bunker now, you’re penalised; and that’s the way golf should be played.
“It’s made a massive difference to the sixth and eighth holes. Visually, the sixth is brilliant and on eight, it’s changed the hole completely. It’s a more strategic course now. You have to really think about how you’re going to play each hole and each shot.”
His sentiments were echoed by other members, including Russell Hardwick, who plays off a handicap of 26. He added: “I really enjoyed the front nine, it looks fantastic. Certainly hole eight is challenging. It’s very playable. The course has been enhanced, no question about it, and I prefer it now.”
Lady members at the club were also enthusiastic about the changes to the bunkers. Jill Dodds, a 12-handicapper, said: “I think it looks much better and the sand is a fantastic improvement. Overall I think the changes have improved the course massively – more difficult but also more enjoyable.”
Lady captain Julie Cunnah, who plays off 27, said: “It looks beautiful. The position of the bunkers and the rough means we all have to hone our course-management skills. I’m thinking carefully about what club to use to avoid trouble. Aesthetically, each hole has improved; the course is challenging but fair if you think it through – it’s a good mental workout too. I’m already excited about the transformation of 10 to 18 next year.”
The work on the opening nine Colt holes was part of a seven-figure facelift of Stoke Park’s 27 holes, which were created by the legendary – and eponymous – designer Harry Colt in 1908.