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The legacy of the great, maverick genius Seve Ballesteros lives on just outside London at The Shire
The Shire Course Review
Captain of the triumphant European Ryder Cup team at Valderrama in 1997 and 5-time Major champion Seve Ballesteros is not so famed for his course design. Indeed, he is responsible for just one in England, and it bears the hallmarks of the great man’s flair and his unconventional approach.
Offering excellent value for money, The Shire London is a most hospitable club where the emphasis is on having fun. The course comprises an intriguing mix of six short holes, six par 4s and six par 5s, and if you were to start from the 10th, you would not play two holes consecutively with the same par. It ranks amongst the best golf courses in London.
I began at the first, however, which presents a daunting opening tee shot to a virtual island of a green; a potential card-wrecker before you even get going. Whilst this would be the signature hole on many courses, it is one of many such holes dotted throughout this unique design where water is a regular companion.
The second is an example of the Seve style, with a water hazard eating into the fairway which means a short lay-up or a 250-yard carry. A similar but less obtrusive thing happens at the third, and the fourth is a belter of a par 3, again over water, which means it is quite easy to get wet at each of the opening four holes.
There is some respite at the next two, before a lovely short hole at the 7th, again to what is almost an island green. The 9th and 10th are both strong 2-shotters, and I really liked the sweeping par-5 11th which runs from right to left through a kind of hidden valley.
The 13th presents a real birdie chance, a short par 5 which even I was able to reach in two, and there are two more exciting short holes at 14 and 17.
There is yet more drama in store at the par-5 closing hole which rises gently back up to the modern clubhouse via a green surrounded by an S (for Seve) shaped lake.
The course is certainly one that poses many questions, and it will also appeal to the great majority of golfers, especially societies, looking for excitement and drama. There seems little doubt that for golf to thrive, we need to make it more fun, more informal, and more welcoming - and The Shire has this by the bucketful.
Rob Smith has been playing golf for more than 40 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly since 2012 specialising in course reviews and travel. He has now played 1,150 different courses in almost 50 countries. Despite lockdowns and travel restrictions last year, he still managed to play 80 different courses during 2021, 43 of them for the first time. This included 21 in 13 days on a trip to East Lothian in October. One of Rob's primary roles is helping to prepare the Top 100 and Next 100 Courses of the UK&I, of which he has played all but nine. Rob is a member of Tandridge Golf Club in Surrey where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at email@example.com.
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