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  • Neil White

North Hants

Updated: May 23

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Go on, then!” I urged as my ball floated serenely towards the 15th green at North Hants Golf Club, bounced six feet in front of the pin and tracked towards the hole.

My heart fluttered for the two seconds it took for a lifelong dream to appear fulfilled and then slip away.

The ball rested a putter head away from the flag..

I knew this feeling of joy turning to disappointment—a month previously, I had leapt like a salmon after my underdog football team had come from 3-0 down to “win” the FA Cup semi-final 4-3, only for VAR to rule out the “goal.”

I digress.

North Hants was opened as an American-style country club in 1904 with lawn tennis and croquet to complement the quality golf course designed by James Braid.

The concentration is now entirely on golf and the long-gone tennis court and croquet areas are now the site of a practice range.

This is where Justin Rose honed his talent, and he often speaks publicly of his fondness for his home club.

Its welcome is as hearty as anywhere and its management is highly ambitious about improving the quality of an already impressive course.

Over lunch in its impressive modern clubhouse, we heard that Mackenzie & Ebert has been commissioned to redevelop bunkers, bring out the course’s heather, and introduce a new irrigation system.

The work will take place later this year, aiming to consolidate, if not improve, the course’s place in England’s top 100.

Meanwhile, purple is provided by the plentiful rhododendron bushes, which appear for the first time at the rear of the opening green.

This 200-yard+ par-three is a very challenging introduction with bunkers on either side of a narrow green entrance. A four is no disgrace.

The most memorable hole at North Hants is arguably the third – a par-five that certainly got inside my head.

The key is to avoid the substantial pond to the right, covering the 150 yards leading up to the green.

Meanwhile, there is only a slither of fairway to bail out on the left. I was stupidly brave and found water…twice.

Evidence of Harry Colt’s reboot of Braid’s original design can be seen on the fifth, which features the hallmark diagonal trio of bunkers on the curving uphill par-four.

The sixth is arguably the quirkiest at North Hants – a par-four which sweeps at a right angle around a sloping copse. A left-sided drive will offer a chance to flick down to a bowl green.

The management said their respective favourite holes were the seventh and the eighth and I could see much merit in both despite not playing them very well.

The seventh has a blind tee shot between trees, but the real threat lies in the right-to-left approach, which has a nasty trap 40 yards short and a devilish one at the greenside.

It is followed by par-three through an avenue of trees to a target protected by traps at the front and rear. 

Correct club selection is imperative, and I was punished for hitting too far despite a pleasing connection.

I faced a similar fate on the 10th, a long par-three with a putting surface beyond a deep trap, which snaffled by ball at the last second after I thought I was bang on line.

My need for a quality short par-four was sated on the tree-lined 13th, a gorgeous hole with a narrow landing zone off the tee, before an attack on a green surrounded by bunkers with rough and tree behind it.

It is followed by a challenger for North Hants’ prettiest – a curving, blind par-four with plenty of heather and a stream on the right. Sand and bushes await errant approaches.

My birdie on the 15th seemed particularly apt on this ornologist's paradise. A duck paraded across the first hole, geese had their home on the third, a pheasant waddled across the fourth and magpies and swallows were also seen.

Thereafter, came the holes by the side on the mainline railway, but I offered no scintillating entertainment for commuters who watched us play the 16th.

This is a tough, ascending par-four into a green that slopes sharply from back to front, leaving it almost impossible to stop the ball from those who find themselves beyond the hole.

My podcast partner and I had relatively quiet rounds but were all square going into the 18th – a home hole with a lovely backdrop and a thick line of trees to the right.

I avoided the trouble and any bunkers around the hole to nick a rare win and complete a most enjoyable day.

I eagerly look forward to the course changes and to playing it again when they have bedded in.

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