If you turn up at the Marriott Meon championship course having left your A game at home, it doesn’t matter. Really. It doesn’t. You will be enjoying the course and your surroundings so much that the numbers you are writing in your scorecard won’t be that important. Yes, I think this course, which winds its way in classic parkland style through 225 acres of ancient English oak forest, is that good and that any golfing visitor to Hampshire should pencil in a round here on their itinerary. We were particularly lucky to enjoy warm late October sunshine for our recent foray round the 6097 yards off the yellow tees (if you are an off-the-whites kind of guy, you will be squaring up to 6520 yards), which made things all the more enjoyable.
Things start impressively with a 486 yard par 5 that snakes its way along a broad tree-lined fairway to a bunker-guarded green surrounded by a semicircle of mature trees, the first of many such picturesquely challenging greens, but probably the last you’ll see of such a generously wide fairway. For the Meon will test the straightness of your driving with some properly narrow fairways and your judgement of distance with many a well designed dogleg, not to mention the numerous bunkers that are placed in just the right spot to catch an errant golf ball. It is, like football (soccer, for our US friends), a game of of two halves, with the front nine being longer and definitely more difficult than the return leg, which allows ordinary golfers to recoup some of their losses and regain some of the confidence in their game that may have been lost on the harder holes in the initial couple of hours.
Time and again you will stop and look before playing your shot to the green, not necessarily to consider your club selection, but rather simply to enjoy the beauty of the scenic setting in front of you. Once or twice you will wonder how the course designer thought that a par 4 was a sensible designation for a hole (I’m thinking particularly of the 16th here, where 454 yards off the yellows is stretching the capabilities, not to mention the credibility, of us average Joes), but mostly you will just settle for enjoying what is a truly memorable golfing experience. There isn’t a bad or genuinely disappointing hole on the course, but there are certainly some standouts. Two of the par 3s come immediately to mind: the 139 yard 7th, played across a diagonal ditch to a small green green protected on one side by a bunker and on the other by water, and the glorious 12th, a mere 120 yards to the green from the elevated teebox, but with a semicircular lagoon in front of the putting surface to test your nerves and your distance control.
Then there’s the short par 4 11th, only 329 yards but requiring a well-placed rather blind tee shot to get yourself in the right position for the uphill approach to the green – challengingly small and another of those bosky, dingly dell affairs (and with something of a challenge for the final putts on this occasion because of all the fallen and falling leaves). The 17th is another beautifully crafted hole, asking of you nothing less than an exquisite blind tee shot over the crest of the left-hand dogleg to set up a wedge or short iron over the pond to a green surrounded by waiting bunkers. Lovely stuff.
In short, the Meon championship course is scenic, challenging and rewarding. Just what a golf course should be in my book. Play it and you will not be disappointed.