Golf Course Architecture - Issue 54: October 2018

43 yards and doglegs hard around a very deep, tree-filled natural hollow, while the steeply downhill seventeenth measures 255 yards from the back and plays to a (thankfully large) island green set in the South Lake. And the epic home hole, 462 yards long from tees on the island, is an enormous uphill dogleg left with a huge split fairway and a Lion’s Mouth bunker biting into the front of the green. A three shot hole for most, it should prove a fitting finish for events coming to JCB. Let me get this absolutely straight from the first: there is no doubt that, from the back tees, the JCB course is a brutally hard one, which will eat up the vast majority of golfers and spit them out. But as ever with these assessments, we need to note that only a tiny proportion of golfers have any business playing from those tees. From the forward tees, there is no reason why any tolerably competent golfer should not have a fun day on the course, though I’m not sure I would recommend it to absolute beginners. “I accept that the average golfer would find the course a fierce test from the tips, but they’re not going to be playing from them,” says Hiseman. “I’d wager that for the elite amateurs and professionals for whom they are provided, it will be a course on which they expect to make a score. We’ve two or three driveable par fours and a very short par five in the mix. A local pro had eight birdies on a recent visit!” Hiseman has a reputation as a designer who is fond of a slopey green. The greens he built at the Royal Club in Bahrain remain among the most dramatically contoured sets of putting surfaces I have ever seen, and I was not at all surprised to hear the European Tour pros expressing their surprise at the greens when they went to play there. But JCB is nothing like that. I’m not saying that the greens are flat – they are far from it, and a few, notably the Huntercombe-influenced fourth and the fall-away fifth will live long in the memory of most players. The island green seventeenth, bearing in mind that at no point can it be more than a few feet above the level of the surrounding water, has some pretty fascinating contours too, and the golfer who finds himself on the wrong side of the Lion’s Mouth bunker on the home hole will have a decidedly perplexing shot. But the greens are mostly very large, and there are plenty of areas where the grounds crew can set the pin without the risk of giving any golfer a heart attack. Hiseman is a friend, and I will freely admit bias where his work is concerned: I like his style and I go in wanting to like his courses (though that is true of every golf course – there has never been a course I actively wanted to dislike). However, bias put to one side, I think at JCB he has done a remarkable job, and has built something that will be regarded among the finest modern inland courses in Britain. GCA “From the back tees, the JCB course is a brutally hard one, which will eat up the vast majority of golfers and spit them out” Above, an island in the South Lake is home to the green of the par-three seventeenth and tees for the closing hole; Right, alongside the third green an abandoned section of the ancient Uttoxeter Canal was faithfully restored JCB