Let us begin at the first hole and duly admire the view over the vast expanse of undulating ground that is the first and eighteenth. It is really, not a demanding drive but the ancient trees of Harpsden-Wood stand as an imposing rampart for those with a left-shot in the bag.
The second is a short hole on a plateau green; two tiers raised with bunkers resembling dragon’s nostrils fixing a threatening glance at those without enough club in hand. The slippery and sloping green will catch your attention, a substantial ridge splitting front from back.
The third is a fine sporting hole; a blind drive and chances to get home in two blows. From the tee a pair of sand hazards wait for the slicer—a grassed sighting knoll breaches the center of the hole for those long enough.
Now we must change direction to a hole which sits under Lucy’s Copse. Most players will use a wooden-headed club to reach—and if they do find the green it will send a glow of satisfaction through their veins.
The scorecard gives impressions of a painless short hole at five; considerably less that four hundred yards—a wide fairway partially in view. That is until we reach the putting green, a formidably sloping surface one should give the uttermost attention.
Provided we do not top our tee shot into hawthorn-soldiers at six, it should be done in four shots if not a three. For those with a brave heart the green can be driven; but beware the magnet of Harpsden-Valley, forever teasing your ball to dive right.
At seven we find the shortest hole, with a putting surface as generous as any. For those enticed by a back-pin there are dangers waiting; only paces wide, a devilish sand trap left and rough pits holding guard behind.
We are now on the plateau at Henley and ready for a stretch of long holes. Eight—the most enduring four shot hole—long and straight it is a challenge even on transcendent days. A friendly fairway but the player who misses may have little chance of ever reaching.
Even in fair conditions there are not many who will reach nine in two. But for a strong player there is a green which sits as a fortress—surrounding itself with a moat like trench. At the back of the green there is a hut, where lives homemade cakes, soups and other things; those who have made a four thoroughly deserving them.
Ten should be approached warily and with a prudent shot to the left hand side of a narrowing fairway. If a player gains position and is long enough, a second is played to a slender green; which can be missed short but not left or right.
There is something of a Redan green about eleven, sloping from front-right to back-left. It is a more difficult hole for the drawer than the slicer—a soft fade holding the green, a hook unlikely to. And if you do miss it is better to be short left.
From the twelfth tee, hazards want the player to favor right but the boundary oaks push them back again. If both are avoided the lush velvet fairway will allow a fine second to be played to the longest of putting surfaces.
The thirteenth green hides itself in a horribly attractive clump of oaks, which catch many and can prove fatal in achieving a three—correct club selection and accuracy wonderfully difficult to achieve.
Fourteen presents the gallant player an opportunity to steal some distance by aiming at the right side of a fairway split by more than two birch trees. If the fast lane is found, the raised green is too tempting to ignore.
We are now ready for our decent into the valley of Harpsden—the tee shot having to be played at a difficult angle if we are too adventurous. Those bold enough to cut the corner will be left a short pitch to a complex rolling green.
The next step down the valley to sixteen is for some, our signature hole. A shot which must be played with a long club across a deep grassed gully to a splendid green cut into the other side—a three here and you will leave inspired.
Seventeen gives the player the exhilaration of driving from height, with the challenge of the hole laid out below us. There is a temptation to hit the ball too hard; the putting surface calling us to over power what is a shortish hole.
Those who wish to finish with a flourish can aim at the “mayor’s office”, a flat section of fairway long and left-or even “pro’s alley” just beyond. This sets us for an aggressive second to a green close to the boundary—two well struck shots will leave us with a chance of a four, or even a treasured three.