Dibden (formerly known as Bramshott Hill) promises much. The approach to the club takes you alongside the 12th fairway which is attractively lined by mature trees, and the panoramic view from the clubhouse across the course to Southampton Water would be the envy of most golf clubs in England. But does this course, formerly a municipal but now run on lease by MyTime Active, deliver?
The first, a 409 yard par 4, is a nice opener: level, easy on the eye and not too challenging for the not yet warmed up golfer. The 164 yard par 3 that follows is another confidence booster – unless you snap hook it left into the trees, that is. The third, a short par 5, provides a better flavour of what this course is about, as you play your tee shot blind over a ridge followed by two strokes (or one for the ambitious big hitter) downhill to reach a green protected to the front by a reedy pond and with a backdrop of trees to punish those who overdo things. The round is now properly underway. A straightforward but pleasing par 3 and an attractive dogleg par 5 follow, and then you are faced with the par 4 6th, classified as stroke index one: a slight lefthand dogleg, not long at 390 yards but with penalties for those who overcook their tee shot and a raised green well armed with bunkers and other types of punishment if you calculate your distances less than perfectly.
Of the next three holes that take you to the turn, the pick has to be the 8th, played blind from the tee and with a long doglegging downhill run to the green that sits behind a ditch and has other entrapments to catch out the unwary or the over-ambitious. Unusually, the 9th doesn’t bring you back to the clubhouse: it’s the 6th that does that, with another opportunity to bail out after playing the 11th. Before you get there, the 10th is a very pleasant parkland par 5, rising up to the finish, which – like the 3rd – captures the essence of the course. The 11th definitely doesn’t, being a bit of a gap-filler par 3 played off a mat to a green some way above you. It is billed as 100 yards but my GPS gave it as 67. Not that it mattered, as I sliced my lob wedge wildly into the pines.
The aforementioned 12th that follows is another nice hole, a tree-lined avenue, downhill and short enough to encourage the big boys to go for it. But then the course sadly rather dissolves into unremarkable banality, with a series of anonymous holes, the best of them being the 14th, a challenging 200+ yard par 3 that fully deserves it SSI of 2. The final hole gets things together again, however, and the view from the tee is at last what you you have been waiting for, a panorama like that from the clubhouse. It’s a good hole, too, with a straight and well-judged tee shot down the hill to find the right spot for a wedge to reach the green that now sits above you such that you cannot see its surface. More good judgement is required if you are to avoid raising the eyebrows of the old boys sitting on the terrace outside the clubhouse.
So. Does Dibden deliver on its initial promise? In my view, not quite. The front half is highly enjoyable and the finish is a good one, but the absurd 11th and the dullness of much of the rest of the back 9 leave the course just short of what it takes to leave you wanting more. It’s a perfectly pleasant day’s golf but not one to go into the little black book of must-play courses. A gallery of the course can be seen here.