Golfmagic takes on Freddie Flintoff at De Vere Wokefield Park

Teeing up with a cricket legend

Andy Roberts's picture
Andy Roberts
Fri, 13 Jul 2012
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Despite being just a couple of miles from junction 11 of the M4, you really feel like you could be miles from civilisation at Wokefield Park, tucked away in a peaceful and picturesque corner of rural Berkshire.

I had been asked along to De Vere's most southerly course to attend an Invitational hosted by the group's ambassador and England cricket legend Freddie Flintoff – who wrote a feature exclusively for Golfmagic last month.

And while it was a thrill to be in the company of the Ashes hero for the day, I was here for golf and couldn’t wait to get out on a course I’d heard so many good things about.

Set to the beautiful backdrop of Wokefield Park’s historic 18th century mansion house, I joined my teammates Matt Ling, Sam Groves and venue director Darren Townsend on the excellent driving range and short game facility for a warm up.

We headed to the first to be greeted by an uphill left-to-right par-4 that doesn't exactly let you settle into the round. If you find the fairway on the first, be sure to clear the hollow at the front of the green. Believe me, you don't want to be peering up at the top of the flagstick some 30-feet away. It's like a mini Valley of Sin.

Thankfully after a tough opener, this Berkshire beauty gives you every chance of getting back on track at the next with a short par-4. The drive requires a carry of around 230 yards across the fairway bunkers on the right to leave a simple chip shot into the green. If you choose to lay up left of the bunkers, be careful with the second shot as anything played to the back of the green will run down into the dense rough and trees.

From there a delightful par-3 ensues, once again requiring a carry across a bunker to a relatively flat putting surface, before moving onto one of the strongest holes on the course at the 552-yard par-5 fourth that requires you to hit a blind tee shot over a pole at the top of the hill. Miss right and you're swimming. Miss left and you're reloading.

An uphill straight par-4 greets you at the fifth with probably one of the toughest greens on the course, sloping back to front. With the pin at the front and my ball on the top tier, I quickly found myself trudging back to my bag to pick up a wedge for my fourth.

A second par-5 in three holes follows at the sixth. While most players look at par-5s as holes to score well on, you're more than pleased to walk away with no deviation to par at this beast. Here, you have to thread your drive through the needle, being careful to avoid water on both sides of the fairway.

Having crawled into the left-hand rough, I decided to go for the green in two and came up well short in the water. Ball in hand, playing four from 230 yards out, I was rather happy to walk away with double. That's not how I was feeling at the time, however.

Mind you, at least I didn’t put the armbands on seven balls like Darren, who despite being out the hole, was determined to finish. Thankfully, the best two Stableford scores on each hole counted towards the team total and we graciously relied on young Matt and Sam to earn us six points.

After waiting for Darren to order some new dimples from the pro shop, we moved onto the 330-yard par-4 seventh - a hole that reminded me of the par-4 fourth at Burhill’s Old Course where I was a junior for eight years.

A big drive to the left of the fairway sets up a pitch shot into a back-to-front green. With the pin at the front and deep rough short of the flag, there was quite simply no room for error. A classic short par-4, in my book.

But that was about as short as it got to the turn as we approached the monumental 200-yard par-3 eighth - the nearest-the-pin hole. It’s fair to say the prize was pretty safe, given the length of the hole and the fact you couldn’t even see the bottom of the flagstick.

My favourite hole on the course then greeted us at the tranquil 430-yard par-4 ninth. Choose the safe route left of the giant lake or bomb it over the ducks to narrow the hole down. I took the latter and was rewarded with a 9-iron for my second. A beautiful hole from start to finish.

Feature continues. Click here to read about the back nine...

 

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