The Stoke Park Club is located at Stoke Poges, a charming leafy town situated on the fringe of the Chiltern Hundreds. A Hundred is a traditional name for the division of an English county and the wooded Chiltern Hills (which separate Buckinghamshire from Berkshire) were once a notorious hiding place where robbers would wait in ambush. These days things are more genteel.
In Bernard Darwin’s 1910 book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, he wrote: “Stoke Park is a beautiful spot, and there is very good golf to be played there; the club is an interesting one, moreover, as being one of the first and the most ambitious attempts in England at what is called in America a Country Club.”
Capability Brown originally landscaped the historic parkland in the late 18th century. Harry Colt then came along and designed the golf course, which opened for play in 1908. The signature hole, the 7th, the inspiration for Augusta National’s 16th, is considered to be one of Colt’s finest holes. The recently remodelled 7th now features a lake and a waterfall.
Stoke Park is surely one of the finest parkland golf courses in the South of England. There is no heather here (which is unusual for the location); the main line of defence is the abundance of huge stately trees and Colt’s clever design. The fairways appear wide and generous from the tees, but it's important to get the line and distance right, otherwise you will face challenging second shots.
More famous than the majestic parkland golf course is the 18th century mansion designed by James Wyatt (architect to George III), housing the clubhouse, hotel and restaurant. “The clubhouse is a gorgeous palace,” wrote Darwin, “a dazzling vision of white stone, of steps and terraces and cupolas, with a lake in front and imposing trees in every direction.”
Stoke Poges was also used as the setting for the golf scenes in the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger, in which 007 had his famous match with Goldfinger. The film featured the scene whereby Harold Sakata, as Oddjob, spun his steel-rimmed bowler hat at Sean Connery. It missed 007 but beheaded a statue! The clubhouse was also featured in the later Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies.
In 1999, the course was extended to 27 holes. Each of the three loops of nine is named: Colt, Alison and Lane Jackson. The original and best course is made up of the Colt and Alison nines.
In 2015, the Stoke Park Club commenced a bunker
repositioning and renovation programme using the specialist golf course
construction company, John Greasley Ltd. Reconstruction work was completed on
the Colt nine in 2016 and modifications to the Alison and Lane Jackson loops will be
finished by November 2017.
Style over substance. The clubhouse is magnificent, enhanced by the James Bond connection, the food and service excellent. The course is beautifully looked after, and the drive in as you wind past the lake to the clubhouse is wonderful. But that’s it for me: the actual course itself is nothing special. Colt was a genius but he could only do so much with the land he had. It’s a lovely place for a day out and ideal for societies, but I wouldn’t pay the premium green fees and I’m surprised to see the course in the top 100 for England.
Have played Stoke Park for years and always thought of it as a nice, but not extraordinary course. Now the first 9 have been remodeled during the winter of 15/16. Bunkers much more challenging, giving the holes a fantastic optical impression and making the course a joy to play. For example 8th was a short par 4 average hole, now you are on the tee and seem to see only bunkers everywhere making this a fantastic hole. Of course 7th Par 3 is Augusta like. Renovation has moved course up a couple of notches, once the second 9 are remodeled winter of 16/17 it should be a wonderful course.
Course and greens generally in very good condition.