I have been lucky enough to be a member of Calcot Park since May 2014 and have thoroughly enjoyed it. While it is not the longest course, the greens are really challenging – both in terms of speed and undulation. Putting yourself above some hole locations will mean it is impossible to stop the ball close and holing it is your only chance. After 12 months I am still learning the greens. People who have been members for 25 years joke they are still learning them. Well I hope they are joking anyway! The general rule I have heard a number of times is putts break towards the A4 (the main road you pull off into the course).
The wind direction at Calcot Park dictates which holes play hard. The 1st and 18th are both really long par 4’s which run in opposite directions. If you are lucky you get the wind behind you when teeing off, and the direction switches while you are playing round and you have it behind on the 18th as well. If you are unlucky you are hitting into the wind both times!
A really tough hole to start with. Long, and a very tricky tee shot. Out of bounds down the left, although this isn’t really an issue unless you hit a really big hook. The bigger issue is the ditch that runs down the right of the fairway that seems to drag balls into it. The line I take is at the right edge of the second bunker. If you manage to reach the bunker, it will likely take out hitting the green in two, but it is far better to be in there than in the ditch.
Usually I am hitting a 3 wood or hybrid into the green if the hole is playing into the wind, or a long iron if the wind is behind and I nailed my drive. Bail out area is definitely short of the green. Any shot into the bunkers or passed the green is a tricky up and down. If the flag is at the front, you do not want to go past it.
The second hole is a short par 4 from the front left tee’s. If the white tee is playing from the back right position the tee shot is further, and you have a tree to go around or over. When playing from the left you only need to hit a 7 or 6 iron to be left with a 100 yard wedge in.
The green has a big tier running across it giving it 2 distinct levels. If you get on the higher back level and the flag is at the front you will often be struggling to keep the ball on the green.
If you are feeling brave you can get a 3 wood or driver close to the green, but I have found I have more scored better on this hole hitting a full wedge into the green rather than a shorter pitch shot.
One of the feature holes on the course. The hole requires a good drive away to make the second shot easier. The fairway slopes left to right so anything on the left side will feed down. There is also more room on the right than you think past the trees.
There is a ditch that runs across the hole about 20 yards short of the green – so if you have hit a bad drive it is advisable to lay up short of this. Flags on the left of the green are easier than the far right.
If you end up over the green or above the flag the chip or putt is really tricky and when the greens are running quick – impossible to stop close to the pin.
The first of the par 3’s on the course. It plays longer due to being up high. The only place to miss this green and have a relatively easy chip is short. Left, right or long leaves you with a really tricky shot. The green is probably the easiest so far in the round with it generally sloping back to front, and left to right.
A big grass bunker in the middle of the fairway gets your attention on this hole. The ideal line is right over the tree, but go too far right or too much fade and you will find the ditch. There is room on the left side of the grass bunker although you are toying with the trees over there. It will also leave a longer shot into the green, although you might have a better line in depending on where the flag is.
Two large bunkers to the right and one to the left protect the green, although this leaves a small runway to feed the ball through if you are having to hit a long iron or fairway wood in. The green again has 2 levels so it helps to be on the right one, and if you are putting down the level you will have trouble stopping the ball close to the hole.
Good chance for a birdie on this hole. It isn’t a very long par 5, although out of bounds all along the left side will get your attention. A recent addition to this hole has been the stream running across the front of the green about 30 yards before. If you are going for the green in two, aiming right is the shortest path over the stream. As your shot goes left, the carry gets dramatically longer.
My usual play is to lay up with an 8 or 9 iron, leaving myself about 100 yards into the green. This usually sets up a good birdie opportunity.
The 7th is the feature hole at Calcot Park. A challenging par 3 over water to a raised green. The hole usually plays at least 1 club extra, and it is often tricky to pick the overall wind direction as the tree’s make it swirl around the tee box.
If you use a GPS watch, make sure to check the yardages against the course markers as I have found my watch to be 10 yards out.
3 deep bunkers guard the green, and once on the green it slopes back to front. Wherever the pin is, middle of the green is the shot. Anything too short can roll off the front of the green, and as you are hitting up to a higher level any shots to the back can easily roll off the back.
The 8th hole at Calcot Park is peculiar as you are often hitting your first and second shots without a view of the flag.
The tee shot is up a rise to a post. Out of bounds is all down the left hand side, and while there is plenty of space out to the right if you do cream a drive but slightly push it you can run out of grass and be in the trees. A lot of the better players seem to hit 3 wood or long iron off the tee.
The second shot is most likely over the brow of the same rise. You will need to walk forward a bit to get a view of the green and pin position. The green is lower than where you hit your second shot from, and quite long front to back. When hitting a long iron or fairway wood, the best way I have found of playing this approach shot is hitting a shot left and 20 yards short of the green and using the downslope to bounce and roll down onto the green. If I hit a long club in and the ball pitches on the green it will roll through the back.
The green slopes left to right, although it can often deceive you and think you are putting uphill when it’s downhill. Trust your balance and how the weight rests on your feet, and remember the rule about the A4.
There are 2 bunkers on the left side of the fairway that you can’t see off the tee. Aim at the black and white post on the fairway and you can’t go wrong.
The second shot is often from a tricky stance so check your alignment before hitting the shot. The green on the 9th doesn’t have any huge undulations so it is often tricky to pick which way it breaks. If you are putting back to front you need to be careful you don’t over hit it and end up 30 yards down the fairway!
The 10th hole is a fun, short par 4. A good drive with the wind behind can reach the green and give an eagle opportunity. But if you want to play it safe you can hit anything off the tee and the steep downslope will carry the ball to the bottom of the fairway where you can hit a full wedge onto the green.
The green slopes steeply back to front, although the green levels off at the top so when putting to a white flag you can often over hit putts thinking it is all steeply uphill.
Although this is stroke index 2 – I think the 11th hole is harder than the 8th. It is long, especially off the white tee’s into the wind, and the second shot in is difficult too. The two fairway bunkers are in play for me off the yellow tee’s (although with a good drive I can clear them), but they are only in reach for longer hitters off the white tees.
There are 2 bunkers protecting either side of the green. The green goes around the back of the right bunker, and if the pin is placed behind this bunker, it is a suckers pin! Go for the middle of the green and be happy!
The 2nd and last par 5 on the course, and another good chance for birdie. The drive needs to be relatively straight as their are bunkers left and right, and ditches running further wider of either side.
The fairway gets really narrow as it approaches the green with trees either side, so the risk/reward ratio leans towards hitting your second shot to leave you with 150-140 yards into the green. The green is 2 tiered, and apart from the tier not too tricky. This green always seems to stay quite soft as it is sheltered by trees so bear in mind your shots in will often stop quite quickly and not roll out.
If you are playing from the back white tee’s you are hitting 200 yards, often into the wind!
The main set of tee’s are a lot more reasonable usually meaning about 160 yards to the middle of the green. Out of bounds is left, so a lot of people hit big pushes towards the 17th tee. This leaves a treacherous pitch though down to a green that slopes right to left.
A good line to most pin positions is over the right bunker. The green falls right to left so any shots over this bunker feed down to the middle of the green.
The 14th hole requires a confident tee shot. The fairway and rough at the landing area kicks the ball right, and with the tee pointing you down the right side of the fairway the ideal shot is a draw or at the very least straight shot. If you do have problems with slices you would be better off hitting a club you can hit straight such as a 6 iron.
If you have hit a sensible shot off the tee, another sensible shot is to lay up in front of the 3 large bunkers in front of the green. This leaves a relatively easy pitch up the green, and the pitch shot is easier to make sure you get an uphill putt!
The green on the 14th is treacherous! Sloping from back to front, anything above the flag is going to leave you a downhill putt you must hole or potentially be off the green!
The 15th hole has a relatively easy tee shot with quite a lot of space to spray the ball about. Out of bounds is down the left though so don’t try to cut too much of the dog leg left corner.
It is very hard to stop the ball on the 15th green. There is a tier running across the middle so it is usually a red or white flag. With a red flag you are at risk of coming back off the front of the green. If the flag is at the back and you pitch the ball on the back level there is a good chance you will end up off the back of the green. This green always seems to be a bit faster then others on the course so be careful when putting.
Another tee shot that gives you choices, you can hit anything from a driver to 4/5 iron – with a straight shot meaning you will reach the bottom of a steep slope.
You need to be very lucky to get a flat stance for your second shot. You are hitting uphill to the green which again has a bit of a false front. Don’t hit too long through as anything landing on the back 3rd of the green will probably roll through the back. Middle of the green is the best position given the tricky stance you are likely to have and the uphill nature of the shot.
The last par 3, and a good one. Hitting over a small valley to a green slightly below the tee. Although only about 165 yards I seem to have trouble hitting this green. There is a flag position back right behind a bunker that only gives you a small target to land it, and anything short to a front pin will roll off the green.
The 18th hole is one of the hardest finishing holes I have ever played. Not only is it long, but even if you hit a good fairway wood or long iron into the green it often doesn’t hold. A lot of work has been done recently to raise the mens teeing area, and lower the front tees so you can see the entire length of the hole from all teeing areas. A good drive will get you over the road and leave an iron in. Most people are short of the road and hitting woods or hybrids. Two large bunkers either side of the green mean a small runway to get your ball through if you are going to run it up to the green.
The green itself is a tough one to read. Generally back to front, and left to right, any par on this hole feels like a birdie, and a bogie isn’t a terrible score!
The course at Calcot Park Golf Club offers a tough test for any golfers. Even if you are hitting the ball well, your putting still needs to be in top form to walk away with a good score. I wish the 1st and 18th were lengthened a bit and made par 5’s – but that is probably because I’m not the longest hitter in the world! If you get a chance to play here – take it up. Make sure you try the putting green first to check how fast they have the greens running!