Times are a changing at the Paultons Golf Centre and for the better. Golf here, just a little north-west of Southampton has been so popular for close to thirty years but historically has been aimed at the mass market with rather cheap green-fees available. This can be a successful model but not one to aspire to in the modern world. We all demand more of our leisure choices now and that includes the golf courses we play – my gut feel is that Paultons has been more Top Flite than Titleist to date, if you know what I mean.
Being part of a big group of courses (Crown Golf most recently) in my opinion is not how clubs can evolve and create an individual identity. In 2019 Paultons was bought out of the group by Stellar Asset Management and are now a stand-alone golf facility and this is a big plus-point; now not having to fall in line with head office suggestions and not having local decisions being made centrally can only be a good thing.
Stellar are working closely with Ben Blackburn, an experienced golf professional from south-east England on the site refurbishment on and off the course(s). As well as the main course, Paultons boasts a 6-hole par-3 academy layout and a 18-bay driving range, now with Toptracer installed where you can practice like the pros. The early signs of improvement are obvious.
Paultons’ focus now moves to upping to a quality venue with family-friendly golf high on the agenda and I think they certainly have the plans, the desire and most importantly the finance to make it happen in the coming years.
I visited in September 2020 to get the latest picture and to see if there is an opportunity for entry into the Hampshire county rankings on the Top 100 Golf Courses website.
My lasting feeling after playing is that Paultons is a good course that has plenty of potential to become very well respected as the updates take place and the new team add the care and love that the course has been lacking to date.
A full bunker renovation is underway and this will continue and identify those that can be lost and those that need re-positioning and upgrading. Another key improvement will be the introduction of ditches across a number of holes to connect to the existing natural but hidden waterways and to add that degree of difficulty that some holes are crying out for.
Built in the 1990’s, Paultons has a superb set of greens constructed to USGA standards which is a huge advantage, with a little re-shaping and some work on the bunkers that protect them, these green-sites will become very well-valued indeed as the project develops.
I would say at this point, Paultons is certainly a work in progress but with a number of strong holes on the 6200-yard layout already, the base is there to develop and ensure that the full 18 holes become consistent throughout. The run of holes from the 3rd to 7th is a decent stretch and these holes are a pleasure to play already. Similarly, it is the middle stretch (13th to 15th) of the back nine too that are very well-designed holes and basically just need a little polishing.
I think that the course could be featured in the Hampshire county Top 20 in future years and those re-rankings will be out towards the end of 2021 ready for the 2022-2023 cycle – giving the course plenty of time to grow into that group.
I really enjoyed the visit and more importantly I am excited to see the planned work come to realisation and for Paultons to move to a level of golf course that has not yet been seen in its history.
Independent Golf Consultant
Images courtesy of James Lovett – www.jameslovettphotography.com