I should have known the day was going to be conspicuous when Goring & Stanley GC flashed across the Tom Tom screen. Nevermind, we pressed on to this fairly old club originally designed by Tom Dunn nestled in a rather upmarket area of Berkshire. Although, with the piecemeal purchasing of several plots of land, I believe the course has undergone many major changes since 1895 and bears little resemblance to Dunn's creation. The website proudly boasts G&S is a downland course. For sure the course runs up and down quite steep hills overlooking the Thames Valley, but the turf in no way resembles a downland course. That said, G&S drains fairly well. With that short introduction its on to the course.
The first bodes well for the day for there looks to be plenty of room off the tee to hammer a slightly downhill drive to a green slightly to the right. I spose in summer this may be a drivable green, but in the cold chill of late November it would take a mighty blow. G&S continues to impress on the second. The hole turns left and starts to climb the hill on which most of the course rests.
As you can see from the steepness of the hill behind the green, one wants to keep his ball below the hole because the putt coming back down the green is very severe.
This extra hole serves as the 9th while construction work is carried out and a very good hole it is. It acts as a welcome link to the 3rd which helps to reduce the trugery of the uphill walk. I am surprised the club doesn't find a way to use this hole all the time. There is certainly no shortage of mundane holes south of the B4009 which could be replaced.
#3 continues the rather severe climb up the hill. The climbing isn't for naught as we are rewarded with a very good blind approach to a green benched into the hill.
Despite these holes being good, the continuous climb can wear on the golfer. #4 is another good one-shotter.
We are finally at the top of the hill for the next eight holes. Unfortunately, all the characterful land we get on #s 1-4 and 14-18 is missing and we are left with holes which are for the most part mundane.
The best hole on this side of the road is par 3 12th. The green's size is hidden by the front bunkers. Why the club has planted all these huge evergreens around the course is a mystery to me. I don't see what they add in terms of strategy or aesthetics. It is detail like this, the narrow fairways and many bunkers stranded sometimes 25 yards away in the rough which detract from what could be a much better course.
The 13th takes the cake! It is a 330 yard hole legging hard right with one of the most prescribed tee shots I have ever seen. I couldn't wait to stop at the halfway hut and try to forget one of the worst stretches of holes I have ever come across. With a somewhat clear head and the lovely prospect of the finishing stretch, we headed for #14. The thought never occurred to me that this 290ish yarder could be driven. It doesn't look that downhill, but try stopping the ball! The gorse out to the right is perfectly placed for the guy flat belly who comes off his drive.
#15 is a wild par 5 edging along the hill which #14 eases down. One must hit a hard fade into the hill to hold the "fairway". The second turns left and heads uphill. With the 16th tee nearly dead on line for those going for the green in two, I elected to play a shot which wouldn't kill anyone. While the 15th was probably a bit too much in the thrill department, #16 is excellent. In fact, the highlight of the course are the par 3s. I spose this is often the case on hilly terrain. The hole is some 190 yards, but plays more like 140 yards.
The craziness is not over! The penultimate hole has to be one of the wildest I have ever seen. The drive seems innocent enough out to a flat expanse. However, the second to this par 5 trundles downhill at a grade most ski resorts would envy.
In a truly Machiavellian manner, the putting surface is reversely benched into the hill! I have never seen anything like this. The green is so narrow the goal must be to go long in two, or three and then chip back. No matter what you do, don't leave a shot short. For this reason, and it really is nasty, I like the rough breaking the fairway.
Relative to the 17th, the final hole seems merely pedestrian.
I couldn't figure out what this thing was from the tee. I reckon it must be a Stanley Scarecrow.
The final shot - phew.
Goring & Streatley is a hard course to evaluate. There are great thrills to be had and some dreadfully boring holes which nobody should have to endure. In the final analysis, with Temple and especially Huntercombe nearby, I couldn't recommend one drive any distance to play G&S. However, if you are in the area and really want to see the 17th, by all means walks up the hill and have a look, this is a sight that must be seen.