If you are one of those muscular big-hitters for whom a round of golf and an upper body workout are pretty much synonymous and whose happy hunting ground is the wide open fairway, then it’s probably fair to say that Romsey won’t be likely to feature high on your list of favourite golfing destinations. If, on the other hand, you are a more circumspect type not averse to playing the odd percentage shot, then you might quite like this rather charming woodland track set in Hampshire’s Test Valley just a few miles north of Southampton.
The opening three holes are designed to get you gently into the swing of things, with the short and straightforward first (driveable for the aforementioned big-hitter) being followed by driving practice on the second and the chance to check your accuracy with a wedge on the par 3 third. Properly warmed up, you are now ready for an interesting succession of holes from the 4th to the 14th, all characterised by their being lined on both sides by mature deciduous woodland. Your tee shot on the 4th takes you over a blind crest: the fairway then swoops steeply down into a bosky dell before climbing abruptly back up to the tree-circled green. The 5th is a classic testing par 3 measuring 172 yards off the yellows to a sharply shouldered green guarded on the left by a duo of bunkers and on the right by a looming solitary pine. A par does not come easy here. The 6th demands an accurate drive from the elevated tee, keeping to the left side of the sloping fairway to ensure a view of the green for the second shot.
It is followed by another par 3, with the climb in altitude between the tee and green making it play rather longer than the nominal 185 yardage would suggest. The next hole takes you steeply downhill again: a good tee shot will leave you a short pitch over a deep ditch to a green set in a little bowl, behind which stands a small tropical garden – a surprising feature amongst all this ancient woodland. And so the 9th takes you – surprise, surprise – back uphill again, with the considered option being a modest iron off the tee before attacking the incline up to the green.The 10th looks easy as you stand on the lofty heights of the tee looking down on the squeezed oval of green less than 100 yards away, but get it just a bit wrong and you are at best chipping on to the putting surface with your second shot, at worst fighting your way out of one of the bunkers that lie either side of the green. There then follow two classic woodland doglegs, to the left on the 11th, to the right on the 13th, separated by the fairly nondescript straight avenue affair of the 12th. Of the doglegs, it’s only really the 13th that offers the prospect for the 460 cc merchants to boom it over the corner in search of the green. The 14th has a hint of the dogleg left about it, too, opening up rather pleasantly towards the green after all the timbered claustrophobia of the previous ten holes.
And then, sadly, the course rather fizzles out. The 16th is a nice enough hole, with a blind tee shot from a dauntingly set-back tee taking you (all being well) surprisingly close to a small and charmingly tranquil green. But the 15th and 17th fail to excite much in the way of interest, and the par 5 last (interestingly, the only hole requiring more than four blows for those who can play to par) seems little more than the most direct way of getting back to the clubhouse from the bottom end of the course.The slightly anodyne finish aside, Romsey offers a varied set of challenges in an attractive setting that will keep most golfers happy for a few hours, just as long as you don’t mind your second shot being with a wedge or an iron rather than with a fairway wood. Some photos of the course can be found here.