Top: the Bunkers protecting the 7th green. Above: View from the 16th tee with the green below
I’m standing on the 183-yard par-3 opening hole at Ashburham. There are not many courses I know that start with a par-3. Royal Lytham & St Annes and Southport & Ainsdale are two that come to mind and this JH Taylor-designed course joins that list of great links venues to do so.
I can imagine this hole has broken a few hearts before the round has even got underway. There’s an out-of -bounds on the right and the green is protected by five bunkers, two of which sit front-left and right eating into the green. It’s times like these that you say a little thank-you to Dr Stableford for inventing that form of scoring.
Ashburnham reminds me of those thriller movies – there is something lurking but you’re never sure what it is, and in true Hammer House of Horror style all is revealed near the end – in Ashburnham’s case on the tee at the 16th. As I look out to sea, it’s something I have been feeling all the way through the round. Of course I knew this was a links course – the hard-running fairways, greens upon which you have to land the ball on the front and let it run up to the pin, the constant wind that brings a taste and smell of sea salt and of course the noise of the seagulls overhead.
Like most traditional links courses, the course runs out and back to the clubhouse and as you play the back nine, making your way back to the clubhouse, the presence of the sea gets stronger. You can hear the waves, but the dunes that separate the course from the sea are large and you never quite get that glimpse you so want to see.
Ashburnham seems to have suffered heavily in the harsh winter we’ve had, but you can see growth and I’m sure in the next month or so as we get deeper into the summer months Ashburnham will be back to its best.
Bunkers protecting the 9th
The dogleg left 12thThe 14th green in the dunes
All golf photography taken on the day of play © James Mason