Having heard lots of good things about Oswestry Golf Club, but never having played there, Golfers Local’s Paul Chapple jumped at the chance when the club’s marketing manager Dave Richards invited him for a knock last month.
THE first thing that struck me was just how accessible Oswestry Golf Club is, being situated right on the A5, three miles east of the town centre.
It took just 30 minutes to drive there from Golfers Local HQ, just outside Chester, via the Wrexham A483 bypass.
Handily, Dave pulled up in the car park at exactly the same time as me. With the sun threatening to force its way out, we decided to get straight onto the first tee.
As we waited for the group in front to disappear out of sight, Dave, who plays off four, filled me in with a bit of history about the 116-year-old club that actually started life about seven miles away on Llanymynech Hill – the site nowadays of Llanymynech Golf Club!
In 1931, when the club needed to relocate, world renowned course designer James Braid, whose other courses include Carnoustie, Gleneagles and Royal Blackheath, wrote such an enthusiastic report about the suitability of the land at Aston Park that members were persuaded to accept his recommendation.
To mark the official opening of the new course, the club invited four of Britain’s leading players to give an exhibition match. One of the professionals was three-time Open champion Henry Cotton, who said it was one of the best courses he had played on. He also considered the 12th hole to be one of the best he had ever seen. Oswestry has been home to Ryder Cup players, Harry Weetman in the 1950’s and Ian Woosnam in the 1980’s. More recently, Scott Drummond, the 2004 European PGA winner, spent his formative years there as a junior.
I’d read a review the night before saying that the 405-yard opening hole was one of the toughest first holes around. I can confirm that to be true – especially if you top one about 30 yards off the tee, like I did! Never mind, there was only Dave, a large group of ladies playing in a county seniors event that day and anyone in the clubhouse, that saw it!
With no spectators, my game improved slightly, and only temporarily, over the next few holes which included a classic Braid par five third hole, a short uphill par three, where I made a birdie two and the par five fifth where Dave made a great birdie four. Dave then made another birdie on the reachable par four seventh and then a good par four on the lovely eighth hole.
I was already struck by the quality of the course’s condition. The greens were running superbly – helped by the recent purchase of a greens iron.
The iron is just one example of where money has been invested wisely in the course. The purchase of new grass seed to improve the fairways on 13 and 15, which were particularly damaged by last summer’s drought, has worked wonders.
The 388-yard 10th hole, with its elevated tee, is visually one of the best holes you’ll play and after the par four 11th begins a run of four holes which Dave describes as “our Amen Corner.”
He explained: “The 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th are all superb, and very testing. They welcome you in, beat you up and then wave a friendly goodbye.”
The 16th and 18th aren’t long holes but require good course management, whilst sandwiched in between, the par three 17th wouldn’t be out of place at Wentworth.
So that was it. My first ever taste of the Oswestry course was over.
To summarise, Braid has definitely used the naturally undulating land to great effect with several of the 18 holes having uphill approach shots that require well struck irons and the right clubbing. Unfortunately, well struck irons are a rarity for me at the minute but this didn’t diminish in any way my enjoyment of the round.
Despite a rather mixed forecast, the sun had shone, the company had been great and the offer of a quick drink before heading off was too good to turn down.
We sat outside the impressive clubhouse, which was only opened in 2009, and enjoyed a pint of one of the Stonehouse guest beers, brewed just three miles away in Oswestry itself.
The bar and restaurant have panoramic views over the course with the first tee, seventh green and 18th green all within close proximity.
Having now played here, I’ll definitely return again soon – hopefully the course will be just as good and my own golf will be better.