Every so often in the County Golfer office, the opportunity to play a course will pop up that brings real excitement and anticipation. They tend to be the big named courses. For example; the 2010 course at Celtic Manor, The Centenary Course at Glen Eagles, St Andrews Old Course and a few others. They all have a prestige and history attached to them, and are incredibly well known. You’ve seen them on television, you’ve watched the big names play there, you know a lot of the holes, they are the ‘world famous courses’. But never before have we felt the excitement of playing a course, that in reality, we’d never seen and knew so little about.
The mystery around the course at JCB is what made the opportunity to play such an intriguing one. The website gives little away, a handful of pictures, all of which are stunning. The rumours from the very few that have played are that it’s incredible. But the fact that it’s never publicised, never been used for a big tournament and practically impossible to arrange to play means that really you’re not sure exactly what to expect.
It’s such a new course too, that if you try and sneak a look at the layout on google maps you’ll just see what looks like a building site.
So we arrived in great anticipation of what to expect, other than the stunning course we’d been led to believe it would be. But nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing really prepares you for what JCB have created!
You arrive at a large stone gate house, where they check that you’re expected before letting you pull down the drive. Then they radio ahead to the club house to let them know you’re on your way. As we drove into the car park, 3 concierges greeted us and directed us where to park, they proceeded to open the car boot and remove our clubs. We never lifted our bags all day. We were then escorted to the changing rooms, and then to the bar/restaurant. When we sat here we noticed that our clubs stood on the driving range with a tray of balls waiting for us….but first we’d had breakfast of course!
After warming up on the driving range, chipping area and putting green we decided to head off to play, but not before being told off for taking our chipping balls back to the range (apparently that was someone else’s job!) We walked to the buggies where our bags had been taken and strapped on for us. From here we were taken by one of the guides to the first hole, where we were given a good 10 minutes of tips and advice on how to play the course, what to look out for, but most importantly we were advised “don’t go chasing a good score, just enjoy the experience”. Some of the best advice I’ve ever had.
We’ve added a few pictures to try and give you an idea of the quality of this course, but the reality is that the pictures don’t even come close to doing it justice. Every hole is spectacular in its own way. The fairways are near perfect, the greens roll beautifully, the bunkers are outstanding. The course would be amazing if it was 50 years old, but 3???!!! That’s just remarkable. It’s amazing what you can do when you have a limitless supply of diggers and earth movers!
It’s hard to pick out a few top holes, but the 1st stands out as it really introduces you to what’s to come. A big drive over water to start, with a choice of how brave you want to be. The second is then again over water, so you need to know exactly what yardage you’re capable of. The approach is uphill onto an elevated green, surrounded by white sand bunkers.
The 17th is the picture hole. It’s a par 3 downhill over water onto an island green only accessible by a bridge, with a bunker just before it that runs into the water. From the back tees it’s a 3 wood or a driver. A spectacular hole.
My favourite hole though was the par 5 that initially is a drive uphill onto a fairly open fairway, too far though and you land in a lake. The rest of the fairway then gently sweeps right round the water, with bunkers dotted along its edge to catch you if you’re too greedy. The bigger you can hit your fairway wood or irons, the more of the bend you can take on. The finish is a beautifully big green, again surrounded by bunkers.
This course has been created simply to be the best in every department and it doesn’t disappoint. The service is a step up from anything I’ve experienced in a long time, and on a par with the 2010 course at Celtic Manor back when they were building up to the Ryder Cup. Be warned, it’s incredibly hard to get a round at the JCB course, so if the opportunity comes – grab it! You never know when you’ll get the chance again.
What they’ve created in such a short period of time is nothing short of remarkable, with such huge investments still going on and much more planned for the future. The thought of what the JCB Golf Course will be like in years to come boggles the mind!!