Ashburnham; Length over subtlety?
The first impressions from the clubhouse are of fantastic views towards dunes and the sea. I can't wait to get started.
Two ladies, not a word shared, tee off haphazardly on the par 3 first, ahead of us. Their second shots find remote parts of the green. Both par putts falling nonchalantly and still no word, seemingly, spoken. Not so easy for us despite better tee shots. Bogeys. But at least we went down chattering.
The second is rather dull, running parallel and mirroring the 17th. But the third is a great links hole; a four iron followed by a nine for those without the ability to place their drive on a sixpence. Bunkers protect the front of the green. All the greens were in excellent condition; fast and true if lacking a little undulation.
A lot of these holes invite you to drive over fairly flat and featureless landscape. There is less variation than Tenby. When we played the wind was running against the normal westerly and this flattered us on the outward holes and made the run back to the club house that much tougher. Six is a lovely par three and although seven starts fairly straightforwardly the bunkers and topography around the green make it a super hole. This starts a great stretch; following on with a dogleg par five and a great par 4. It was a challenge to get through the green in two against the wind. My chop out of the thick rough behind the green brought more trouble turning a glorious start into an ignominious finish. A seven.
10 and 11 reminded me, as did a few other holes, of The Berkshire. Something about the trees and the fairway bunker layouts, were not real links in my mind. 12 is played on the edge of the dunes with a sharp dogleg left to a raised green. My provisional second shot to the green demonstrated that it was not as difficult as it looked. 14 has good links appeal and a great green position, 15 starts well but the green sits below Home County woods. A tough, long hole, into the wind, and too good for me.
16 is a good, narrow, par three from an elevated tee but disappointment lies ahead on 17 and, I'm afraid, 18.
Ashburnham very kindly donated my green fee to Alzheimer's Society– also their charity of the year. Thank you for supporting me and the charity.
JH Taylor said that Ashburnham 'Stands comparison with many of the best seaside courses in the country’. Undoubtedly he is right but to me you never quite get into the dunes country. I am searching for the ultimate links experience and I found that on only 6 or 7 holes. That is not to say it wasn't a very good golf course or wasn’t in fantastic condition, or unworthy of its championship status. It has the length the PGA wants, it is not unfair and it plays beautifully but not, for me, ultimately, a Links course.