Oxford Golf Club
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While inspecting the boards I noticed three clubs claim this course as its home turf. The oldest, Oxford University GC, was formed in 1875. The course is terribly convenient for student golfers as the spires of the university are not much more than a few miles distant. From the 4th tee Magdalene College and Radcliffe Camera can just be seen across a long valley. Unfortunately, modern expansion has somewhat obscured the view, but it can hardly be surprising since the course is on the Cowley side of what can generally be considered the middle of the city. Oxford City GC (1899) and Oxford Ladies GC (1901) make up the trio of centenary clubs.
Golf was played in the area from as early as 1873. The original course was primarily located in the marshes below the hill on which the course is now located. At some point James Braid was involved in a redesign and then in the early 1920s HS Colt significantly re-worked the course. It is thought some of Braid’s work remains, if true, likely in the form of few fairway corridors. However, it is safe to say Oxford can be attributed to Colt and it is a course he surely would have been proud to call his own.
Holes to Note:
The difficulty increases dramatically on the 3rd. Plunging downhill then steeply uphill, the stream is very reachable, but takes a very powerful drive to clear.
Oxford is blessed with a terrific set of par 3s the first of which is the 4th. The hole heads in the same southeasterly direction as the previous three holes with the wind off the left. The putting surface leans deceptively to the right despite the high pad.
The following two holes run back and forth and are of a similar distance at just under 400 yards, but they play completely differently because of the lay of the land and the change of wind direction. From the tee of the #6 it is hard to tell just how much of the fairway is an elephant’s graveyard. In retrospect, it may be best to lay back to about 150ish and avoid the uphill approach. Most of the greens rely on sloping one way or another. In keeping with the rolling nature of the fairway, this green has more internal contours.
Well routed courses such as Ballybunion bring the golfer back to the prime golfing country on more than one occasion. Colt wasn’t lucky enough to have the Atlantic Ocean as a near neighbour, but he was still able to route Oxford in such a manner as to revisit the dramatic ground near the creek fives times on holes 3, 7 (the only All England candidate at Oxford), 10, 11, 12, 13 17 & 18. Perhaps the most thrilling of these holes is the fairly long par 3 12th. The water is to our left and well below the hole which plays on a bluff shared with the 6th hole. However, the deep ravine cut by the water is the primary hazard.
#13 plays over Hogley Bog which is one of the better examples of a calcareous valley fen in southern England and has thus been deemed a Site Special Scientific Interest. Many of the greens have shrunk over the years. A closer look suggests this green at one time came much further out and created a more angled effect than what we see today. This is a grand hole which is one of the many highlights of the course.
The fourteenth is a dead straight par 4 with a raised green similar to many others on the course. The green complex reveals just how much earth was moved in making this green and several others. Despite the trademark Colt framing mounds, one can readily see the similarity to Fowler’s work at Beau Desert.
#15 is a lovely par 3 much in the same style as the previous hole, but this green is essentially benched into the hill to the right.
The final par 4 (#16)can catch the golfer unaware with its demands. At 393 yards, uphill and with a sharp depression shy of the green the 16th stands out as one of the best holes on the course.
The penultimate hole traverses the creek bed (which presumably is underground or perhaps diverted some time ago) and is yet another superb example of using the terrain to full advantage.
The cracking set of short holes and clutch of fantastic two-shotters more than make up for any deficiency Oxford may have. The turf is generally good, there is enough movement in the land to make golfers create shots, there are abundant natural hazards without being oppressive and the greens are in very good order. If one is making plans to visit or play golf near Oxford, and one should indeed make time to see this wonderful university city, Oxford is an ideal compliment to Huntercombe.
Huntercombe GC: A masterpiece Willie Park Jr design in the Chilerns covering mainly flat terrain.