Course Overview. The Arden course, one of two tracks here at the Forest of Arden Country Club, is a 6,958 yard par 72 set in the Warwickshire countryside. The Donald Steel track is a modern parkland track designed for the tourist trade primarily; however its design gives it classical overtures with a requirement for strategic navigation as opposed to one-dimensional aggression from off the tee.
The front 9 is the shorter of the two halves at a shade under 3,400 yards and contains the most water on the course; the back 9 opens up to a more heathland style and presents a different challenge to the players after a fairly straightforward opening 9 if you can avoid the water.
Being a resort course primarily, fairways are quite generous in the main although the penalty for missing the cut and prepared is typically thick rough for those who avoid getting wet. Large USGA specification bunkers are ready to capture any wayward approaches and the Bent/Poa greens are always prepared to the highest of standards, and this year should be no different with amenable weather conditions over the early summer here in England and less traffic through them due to the pandemic.
4 par-5s measuring between 516 and 537 yards are important to scoring on this track and finding the fairway on the longer holes is critical to setting up the scoring chances required to compile a contending score.
Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key statistics for this week’s event that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event. Data is taken from the 2000-05 events held here at Forest of Arden, including both the English Open and British Masters: Current Form | Event Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Stats.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here. A perfect 4 days of golf awaits the players this week with sunny spells, light winds and temperatures peaking in the mid-80s Fahrenheit on Friday before dipping a little over the weekend.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Although it was 15 years ago and beyond, basic skill stats were recorded at Forest of Arden for the 3 British Masters events held here and the metrics recorded against the 3 winners gives us a starting point:
- 2005, Thomas Bjorn (-6). 281 yards (70th), 32.1% fairways (69th), 61.1% greens in regulation (20th), 67.9% scrambling (7th), 1.73 putts per GIR (14th).
- 2004, Barry Lane (-16). 280 yard (41st), 64.3% fairways (19th), 75% greens in regulation (5th), 61.1% scrambling (39th), 1.63 putts per GIR (2nd).
- 2003, Greg Owen (-14). 293 yards (51st), 53.6% fairways (48th), 73.6% greens in regulation (4th).
In regular conditions, Forest of Arden tends to produce a winning score in the low to mid teens under par – as well as those events detailed above, Darren Clarke won the English Open here at -17 and -13 in 2002 and 2000 respectively, whilst Peter O’Malley’s -13 was good enough in 2001. In tougher years when the wind blows, this layout has teeth though as evidenced by Bjorn’s -6 total in 2005 as well as Colin Montgomerie’s -7 victory in 1998.
One angle potentially from the names listed above is links form and, specifically, Open Championship form. 2-time winner here Darren Clarke is an Open Champion as we know and both Thomas Bjorn and Colin Montgomerie have finished runner-up at golf’s oldest Major. In Lane, Owen, O’Malley 1997 British Masters Champion Greg Turner and 1996 English Open champion Robert Allenby, each recorded their best Major finish on the British Isles at The Open.
Incoming Form: Each winner here at Forest of Arden had recorded at least one top-12 finish in their 3 starts prior to victory, suggesting that completely off-the-grid incoming form won’t necessarily work. Caveat that with the fact that these events are from a decade and a half ago or older, however this layout probably isn’t the place to come and try to find some form:
- 2005, Thomas Bjorn: 4/MC/25/33/22/3/WD/25/30/3
- 2004, Barry Lane: 18/39/17/MC/30/5/30/24
- 2003, Greg Owen: WD/MC/25/28/14/5/MC/MC/8/58/31
- 2002, Darren Clarke: 8/MC/33/7/24/MC/2/20/MC/16/7/76
- 2001, Peter O’Malley: 12/30/MC/31/3/24/42/17/MC/3/26/34
- 2000, Darren Clarke: 37/MC/1/17/42/MC/40/11/22/15/2
- 1998, Colin Montgomerie: 18/23/2/7/MC/16/44/MC/12/MC
- 1997, Greg Turner: MC/MC/51/20/63/41/12/MC/32
- 1996, Robert Allenby: 2/MC/MC/31/MC/MC/8/18/54
Course Form: Historically it’s proven that a strong record around these parts has been a good indicator for success. Even Barry Lane, whose record is one of the least obvious, was 6th heading into Sunday on his previous attempt here before victory. Clearly though we’re limited this week given the time that’s elapsed since Thomas Bjorn’s win here in 2005:
- 2005, Thomas Bjorn: 12/4/17
- 2004, Barry Lane: 57/MC/68/MC/33/21/24
- 2003, Greg Owen: 7/MC/11/76
- 2002, Darren Clarke: 4/12/19/1/5
- 2001, Peter O’Malley: 12/19/10
- 2000, Darren Clarke: 4/12/19
- 1998, Colin Montgomerie: 2/2
- 1997, Greg Turner: 12
- 1996, Robert Allenby: Debut
With only some older course form to go on, we’re not far off starting this week with a blank canvas. Historical results would suggest that arriving here with some contending, or semi-contending, efforts in recent weeks is a bonus, although of course that’s more of a challenge than it would be normally to judge, given the disruption to the schedule over the past few months.
With the weather set fair, this will likely be more a test of strategy and strong approaches into the right parts of these greens, as opposed to a masterclass on and around the putting surfaces. Similar to Diamond Country Club a few weeks back, the Bent/Poa surfaces aren’t the most difficult to read and navigate around, which should help the more average putters compile a good score. Par-5 scoring, facilitated by being able to find the fairway to set up a going-for-the-green opportunity, is likely to prove pivotal when the final scores are compiled.