By Jeremy Ellwood published
Little Aston Golf Club Course Review
GF £125 (N.B. members and guests only on Thurs and Sun)
Par 72, 6,717 yards
GM Verdict – A very pretty and extensively bunkered Harry Vardon parkland layout with a deservedly wide reputation.
Favourite Hole – The par-4 17th, with its green set perilously close to a lake on the left, may set the nerves jangling standing over your approach with a good score going.
The West Midlands conurbation may be one of the mostly densely populated areas of the UK outside the capital, but it is still blessed with a strong line-up of very fine golf courses from long-established clubs to modern resort newcomers like The Belfry’s Brabazon Course of Ryder Cup fame, all battling it out for top honours in the region.
One of the best golf courses in Staffordshire, and one that regularly resides close to the very pinnacle of any regional rankings, is Little Aston in Sutton Coldfield. This highly regarded club, now well into its second century, boasts a fine Harry Vardon parkland course laid out over the former estate grounds of Little Aston Hall, where a subsoil of sand and gravel brings good year-round playability. Recent significant investment in a state-of-the-art high-tech irrigation system means that things will only improve on that front in the years to come.
One of the feature holes is the 17th, a par 4 of modest length, where the green was deviously relocated right beside the lake on the left 15 years ago! The lake juts in halfway across the fairway about 20 yards out, and there is no margin for error down the left, with steep banks running down into the water. The par-5 12th poses a similar test on the approach, although mercifully the water doesn’t carry on round the back of the green as it does on 17.
Elsewhere it is the extensive and highly visible bunkering that will keep you on your toes, with a number of well-placed and occasionally pretty large sand traps to negotiate and factor into your decision-making. This is particularly the case on the front nine where the bunker count exceeds 50, with no fewer than nine on the difficult par-4 6th.
With just three par 5s and three par 3s on the card, there’s a strong and extremely varied cast of par 4s, with the 10th perhaps the toughest test of all. This tight, tree-lined 432-yarder almost doglegs both ways thank to a fir tree that encroaches on the right about 140 yards out, while a diagonal trio of cross-bunkers about 75 yards from the green means that extra care must be exercised if you’re either struggling to reach in regulation, or out of position and forced to lay up.
Little Aston is without doubt one of the stars of West Midlands golf, so it’s little surprise that it has regularly attracted prestigious events both amateur and professional over the years, including the English Amateur, Brabazon and British Boys Championships, the Dunlop Masters Professional Tournament and Open Championship Regional Qualifying for a number of years.
Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...
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