These five stunning coastal courses are knocking on the door of our UK & Ireland Top 100

Best Lesser-Known Links Courses

5 Of The Best Lesser-Known Links Courses

Hayling (Main Image)

Considering our shorelines are enriched by most of the world’s best links, it seems odd England’s affluent south coast has very few.

One exception is Hayling, whose roots date back to 1883.

The greatest barrier to scoring well is the tough par 4s, especially the 6th, 12th, 15th and 17th.

Good views abound and there’s an impressive art-deco clubhouse, which opened in 2002.

GF: Round: £80 Day: £95

Archerfield – Dirleton


Founded 15 years ago, this is an upmarket club situated in an area of outstanding golf, with two excellent links courses.

The Fidra is slightly more of a hybrid as it also runs through pine trees, while the Dirleton is largely lined by impenetrable gorse with revetted bunkers and strategically placed ditches.

It’s tough to say which course is better as both are first class.

Membership experience: £200

Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links

Since it opened in the mid-1990s, the resort has had its ups and downs, but both hotel and links are now healthier than ever.

It is a terrific place to play and makes for an interesting alternative to Portmarnock, its immediate neighbour.

The hotel is a great base for tours – there are golf-inclusive packages and residents enjoy a welcome discount on green fees.

GF: €100-€185

Related: Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links course review

Wallasey

Wallasey is not the Liverpool region’s most famous name, but this historic club can hold its head high in exalted company as it is a first-class links.

Originally designed by Old Tom Morris, it was later modified by Harold Hilton, the original editor of Golf Monthly, and James Braid.

This is where Frank Stableford devised his points scoring system and the par-72 course has hosted Open Qualifying.

It’s a very memorable place to play golf.

GF: Round: £95wd/£120we Day: £115wd

Conwy

This fine links changes direction as you leave almost every green.

It has hosted many major events and will welcome the 41st Curtis Cup next June.

It’s almost 7,000 yards from the tips and all the par 5s come between the 9th and the 14th.

The course enjoys a beautiful, peaceful setting and there are fine views throughout.

GF: Round: £55-£65 Day: £70-£80

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This article 5 Of The Best Lesser-Known Links Courses appeared first on Golf Monthly.

Source: Golf Monthly Course Reviews

After celebrating its 125th anniversary last year, and with its two championship golf courses in stunning condition following recent renovations, there has never been a better time to visit Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club for an unforgettable society or corporate golf day


Choosing the perfect venue for a society or corporate day can be an arduous task. Having to look for championship golf course facilities, along with a quality food offering ready to cater for hungry golfers, is not easy to find, especially when looking for an easily accessible location.

Event organisers need look no further than Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club in Richmond – the only 36-hole quality venue in central London, less than a 20-minute train ride away from the hustle and bustle of city life, and located a few hundred yards from the A316 – one of the main routes in and out of south west London.

Founded 126 years ago, Royal Mid-Surrey occupies an historic area of royal parkland and shares a bend in the river with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. And few golf clubs have as much right to the ‘Royal’ prefix. Its historic connections with royalty go back to Plantagenet times, when Henry V’s monastery stood where the 14th and 15th holes of the JH Taylor course are now played. Royal status was bestowed on the club in 1926, when the then Prince of Wales was captain, and it was a cousin of Queen Victoria, the second Duke of Cambridge, who was the club’s first president.

Due to its regal connections Royal Mid-Surrey prides itself on welcoming guests from many other ‘Royal’ golf clubs, with last year’s 125thyear anniversary celebrations seeing 22 other Royal clubs, some from as far away as Australia, making the trip to take part in the festival of golfing and social events held throughout the summer.

The club boasts two superb championship courses, comprehensive practice facilities, extensive clubhouse facilities, and top-quality catering that can be tailored towards any specific group or party – making it the ideal venue for a society of corporate event.

Recent golf days held at Royal Mid-Surrey featured up to 80 golfers hosted by some of the UK’s top companies, sports clubs and business organisations. The Association of Golf Writers also teed it up recently before covering the BMW PGA Championship, the flagship event on the European Tour. “The praise for the course was universal – as was the welcome given,” said Peter Dixon, the AGW’s Captain of Golf.

36-HOLE CHAMPIONSHIP VENUE
Both 18-hole courses – the JH Taylor and the Pam Barton – have been upgraded in recent years to maintain the standards and challenges set by the legendary JH Taylor, a five-time Open champion and the club’s first professional in 1899, a role he held for 47 years.

RMS par 3The JH Taylor course is a beautiful par-69 parkland layout, which measures 6,402 yards off the white tees, and offers a real challenge for golfers of all abilities. With impressive views across to Kew Gardens and its spectacular Pagoda, the quality of the course was rewarded with the staging of the Men’s Surrey County Championships and the English Women’s Open Amateur Matchplay Championship last year.

The course benefitted from a £1.5m renovation at the hands of esteemed architects Thomson, Perrett & Lobb in 2014, which resulted in all 18 greens being re-laid to USGA specifications, ensuring excellent year-round putting surfaces, while the entire bunker system was also remodelled and restored to its former glory, adding to the aesthetic appeal, and increasing the challenge.

With 16 full-time greenkeepers, and a new fleet of Toro machinery, the courses are always presented in magnificent condition throughout the years.

IMG_8421Although not long by modern standards, there are only two par fives, and seven of the par fours are over 400 yards, while two of the par threes over 200, making this a course where accuracy and length are both at a premium. No sooner is this evident than the opening hole, a 225-yard par three played to a small green flanked by bunkers. The test continues as the next six holes wind their way through mature trees and the boundaries of Kew Gardens, whose magnificent pagoda can be seen in its full glory when playing up to the fourth green.

The 18th hole with Kew Garden's Pagoda in the background

The 18th hole with Kew Garden’s Pagoda in the background

Things start to open out a little from the eighth – a long par three played over a pond – but clever cuts to the fairways, numerous well-positioned bunkers, and Taylor’s mischievous and ever-present humps, still reward a well-placed tee shot, and the consequence of not hitting your mark will often be at least a stroke.

Things do not get easier after the turn either, as the long par fours start to take their toll. The 10th and 12th are 442 and 458 yards respectively, while the closing four-hole stretch almost rivals Carnoustie’s tough finish.  The 17th and 18th– which measure 423 and 405 yards respectively – and feature narrowing fairways, plenty of sand and raised greens, are particularly challenging holes that sweep gently uphill to the clubhouse to provide a suitably dramatic finish. This is certainly a course where a good score needs to be compiled early, and then bravely hung onto until you’re inside the safety of the clubhouse.

Although shorter than the JH Taylor course, the par-67 Pam Barton course – which is named after the longstanding member who dominated the ladies’ amateur game in the 1930s – is no pushover, with cleverly designed holes and smaller greens sure to test the best players’ course management skills. The Pam Barton is home to The Mothers & Daughters Open Competition and hosted the Junior Surrey County Championship in 2014.

The Pam Barton Course

The Pam Barton Course

FIVE-STAR HOSPITALITY

Off the course, the club’s spectacular two-storey clubhouse is the perfect backdrop when completing your round.

Constructed in a modern style, but with a traditional feel, it provides members, guests and visitors with access to numerous bars and private rooms, each with a different ambience and charm.

With three private function rooms, the largest of which can accommodate up to 140 people, each area can be set-up for private dining and entertainment. Two of these rooms have panoramic views over the golf courses.

The club also hosts many non-golf related events in its banqueting facilities. The Shooting Stars Chase Luncheon (120 guests), the Victoria Foundation Annual Ball (130 guests) and the Small Steps Charity Ball (140 guests) have all recently held events at the venue.

“All of our guests very much enjoyed the venue, quality of the food and the speaker,” said Lorna Votier of the Victoria Foundation. “The evening ran very smoothly due to the fabulous organisation and support from all the staff,” she added.

GOLF NEWS SPECIAL OFFER
Golf News readers can book a special summer society package, starting from £100 per person, to include:

  • 18 holes on JH Taylor Course
  • Daily special or hamburger
  • Pint of beer or glass of wine

Minimum groups size is 12+ golfers

All enquiries to golfgroups@rmsgc.co.uk or call 0208 940 1894.

The post ROYAL MID-SURREY GOLF CLUB appeared first on Golf News.

Source: Golf News Course Reviews

Head to the Algarve with Your Golf Travel for world-class courses and much more…

The Algarve: Your Ultimate Golfing Getaway

The Algarve: Your Ultimate Golfing Getaway

It’s that time of the year again, when the grey skies and persistent rain challenge even the most staunch supporters of winter golf. The Algarve is a sanctuary, offering over 300 days of sunshine a year and a vast selection of first-class championship courses. It’s why it proves so popular with Brits time and time again.

In 2018, Your Golf Travel sent over 29,000 golfers on the ultimate golfing trip to the region. This year, it would like to send even more!

Right now, if you book a trip to the Algarve, you could take advantage of its ‘Great For Groups’ promotion. For a limited time only, you could receive up to seven dozen TaylorMade TP5 golf balls and a free night stay, including golf, at a selected UK venue. If that’s not attractive enough, Your Golf Travel has given a further boost by introducing three fantastic packages (see panel on right) to give you the chance to play some of the best courses in the Algarve – and at a fantastic price. Quinta do Lago features three stunning layouts.

Don’t miss out on this special offer. Call Your Golf Travel on 0800 193 6624 or visit yourgolftravel.com/gm-algarve to book your perfect Algarve getaway

The South, designed in 1974 and home to the Portuguese Open on eight occasions, overlooks the Ria Formosa Natural Park and, for many, it’s the jewel in the crown, but all three boast super qualities.

The North was redesigned in 2014 by Beau Welling and Paul McGinley, whose first-class academy is also located on site, as is the TaylorMade Performance Centre. Meanwhile, Laranjal has matured wonderfully since opening in 2009, its lakes, sprawling bunkers and umbrella pines combining to create a wonderful collection of holes.

The newly opened Magnolia Hotel provides easy access to everything the luxurious Quinta do Lago estate has to offer, which includes The Campus, a state-of-the-art multi-sports complex, as well as a number of excellent restaurants. Bovino steakhouse is a favourite for many, with its cocktails attracting more than just red meat lovers.

Quinta Do Lago

Close by, San Lorenzo makes a strong case for the region’s number one course. It won’t be long before you find yourself staring out across the beach towards the Atlantic with a series of stunning holes that take full advantage of its undulating terrain. Such quality is matched at the Dona Filipa Hotel, a five-star beachfront hotel of the very highest standard.

When it comes to tournament golf, the European Tour is spoilt for choice in this part of the world. Morgado Golf & Country Club, situated between Portimão and the Monchique mountains, is one of the newer additions to the region, having opened for play in 2003. It’s here where England’s Matt Wallace burst onto the scene with his first European Tour victory at the Portuguese Open in 2017.

Morgado Golf and Country Club

Meanwhile, Dom Pedro Golf Collection features five more favourites, including one of the finest layouts in continental Europe – The Old Course.

There’s a sense of history here quite unlike anywhere else in the region, while Victoria, designed by Arnold Palmer, is also highly regarded and will host the Portugal Masters this year. Laguna, as the name would suggest, has no shortage of water, while Pinhal, the second course to be built in popular tourist resort of Vilamoura, is well protected with Atlantic pines lining the fairways.

Millennium completes this fine quintet and presents an enjoyable test.

The options keep on coming: Pestana Gramacho Residences, where you can opt for luxurious self-catering apartments or B&B in the hotel, brings another collection of fine courses into play. On site you have the delightful Vale da Pinta, up there with the best in the western Algarve with its rolling hills and tight fairways, and the Ron Fream-designed Gramacho.

San Lorenzo

If Your Golf Travel’s highly tempting ‘Unlimited Rounds’ forms part of your package, then Vila Sol (host of the Portuguese Open in 1992 and ‘93) should feature on your itinerary. Alto Golf & Country Club and Silves Golf are your final two options, the former set in landscaped gardens on the outskirts of Alvor and latter located at the foot of the Monchique mountain range.

Such landscapes offer a wealth of diversity for off-course adventure. Hiking is very popular in the Algarve, but the water is hard to resist, too. Go on a ‘seafari’, head out deep-sea fishing or get your adrenaline pumping with something new – rock climbing perhaps. You’ll soon discover the Algarve offers far more than just world-class golf – and it won’t be long before you’re planning your next trip.

Morgado Golf & Country Club
Three nights, semi all inclusive.
Two rounds of golf From £259
Group size of 4
Free UK trip
Free TaylorMade golf balls

The Magnolia Hotel
Three nights, bed & breakfast.
2 rounds of golf From £349.
Group size of 4
Free UK trip
Free TaylorMade golf balls
Free drink after each round of golf

Pestana Gramacho Residences
Three nights, self catering.
Unlimited rounds of golf From £145.
Group size of 4
Free UK trip
Free TaylorMade golf balls
€25 resort credit per room

Your Golf Travel is the world’s largest golf travel business, offering golf breaks to over 3,000 destinations in 22 countries worldwide. It delivers award-winning customer service, ABTA and ATOL protection and the company boasts a 9.3 ‘Excellent’ Trust Pilot Rating

Don’t miss out on this special offer. Call Your Golf Travel on 0800 193 6624 or visit yourgolftravel.com/gm-algarve to book your perfect Algarve getaway

Keep up to date with everything in the world of golf with Golf Monthly on our social media channels, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

This article The Algarve: Your Ultimate Golfing Getaway appeared first on Golf Monthly.

Source: Golf Monthly Course Reviews

Located in the East of England, we take a look at the best golf courses Cambridgeshire has to offer.

Best Golf Courses In Cambridgeshire

The Best Golf Courses In Cambridgeshire

One of the lowest lying counties in England, Cambridgeshire has a plethora of great golf courses to enjoy from the two stunning courses at Gog Magog, to the similarly stunning Ely City with its wildflower areas.

Take a look at other courses made the cut in this best golf courses in the county piece.

Related: Golf Monthly’s UK&I Top 100 Courses

Gog Magog (Old and Wandlebury)

In an area not over-endowed with highly-regarded courses, it is quite possible that the two at Gog Magog are the best in the county. Happily, despite their interleaving positions, they are remarkably different from one another. The Old dates back 110 years and has evolved with the help of Willie Park Jnr, James Braid, and Martin Hawtree who returned  to design the Wandlebury. This is longer and has been used for regional qualifying for The Open in the past.

Links – Newmarket

Redesigned by Colonel SV Hotchkin in the 1930s, Links Newmarket is built on an old steeplechase and polo grounds and the course nowadays looks largely similar to the one Hotchkin designed. Of course, he is famous for designing quality setups at Woodhall Spa and Ashridge, however Links Newmarket very much flies under the radar in comparison which definitely should not be the case.

The round starts with a fairly simple par-5 that offers a birdie opportunity but the course can quite as easily take that shot back over the next couple. The par-4 second is tough in that you cannot go right, and then the 195 yard par-3 3rd can easily cause havoc on your card. Luckily two par-5s follow that so you can make some ground back there.

Saffron Walden

Located just outside of Cambridge, the very name Saffron Waldon conjours up fragrant images which whet the appetite, and this delightful parkland course delivers plenty of enjoyable golf. It is situated in the landscaped Capability Brown grounds adjacent to the hugely impressive Audley End House. The 193-foot spire of nearby St Mary’s is a regular reference point, but the changes in elevation and strategically placed hazards will mean you need to stay focussed on the more immediate surroundings. The closing hole, a par 3 to a green right by the terrace, can be a card-wrecker.

Elton Furze

Just a few miles from Peterborough, Elton Furze is an attractive parkland course, tree-lined and featuring a number of challenging water hazards. It’s a track that can be enjoyed by golfers of all abilities. Relatively forgiving for the higher handicapper yet with well-placed hazards and tricky greens, it will also test the skills of the better player. The club can boast excellent practice facilities with a driving range, chipping area and putting green.

Brampton Park

Renowned for its par-3 4th, which has been voted the hardest par-3 in England before, Brampton Park is a parkland beauty located just outside of Cambridge. Water and trees abound here in a delightfully pretty way.

As mentioned, the 4th hole is a thing to behold with its daunting tee shot into a green almost completely surrounded by water. A par here is a precious commodity thats for sure.

Ely City 

Gog Magog is perhaps the most famous club in the county, but Ely City will take your breath away with the beautiful wildflower areas the club had introduced,

The wildflower areas were still a delight, as were many other holes, with the city’s famous cathedral most prominently in view looking back up the long, demanding 5th. The short 2nd, framed by water and weeping willows, is the signature hole.

The dogleg 11th where accuracy is critical, and straying above the hole will leave you facing a marble staircase when the greens are at their slickest.

Don’t forget to follow Golf Monthly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for all the latest golf news.

This article The Best Golf Courses In Cambridgeshire appeared first on Golf Monthly.

Source: Golf Monthly Course Reviews

In this piece we take a look at our favourite golf courses in the county.

The Best Golf Courses In Worcestershire

A stones throw away from Wales, Worcestershire may largely be famous for that glorious sauce, but that does not mean it is a one trick pony. Golf also plays a part in the region thanks to its whole host of challenging and visually impressive golf courses.

Below, we have taken a look at some of our favourites and we start with Blackwell.

Related: Golf Monthly’s UK&I Top 100 Courses

Blackwell

Quite private and traditional with a capital tee, Blackwell has been host to Open Regional Qualifying a number of times and is blessed with a top-drawer Herbert Fowler course that is a joy from start to finish. There is an abundance of mature trees, ponds and ditches, and you feel that you are in the heart of the countryside even though the M42 and Birmingham are close by. An unusual feature, especially for an old course, is the 200-yard bunker that runs up the right-hand side of the 12th.

Fulford Heath

James Braid designed this parkland course in 1933 and it opens with two short par 4s as well as another at the 4th which can lull the first-timer into a false sense of security. From the 6th onwards, the test increases without ever becoming too intimidating. Easy on the legs, the level ground is home to three lakes and has the River Cole crossing a number of the holes. Fulford Heath is a prime example of a friendly members’ club with a strong and enjoyable course.

Worcester 

Designed in 1927 by Augusta creator Dr Alister MacKenzie, Worcester Golf Club has stood the test of time with most of it looking the same as when it was first laid out. The main thing to remember here, and this is easier said than done, is to hit as many greens as possible because accuracy is the key throughout. If not, then your short game will be thoroughly tested.

Moseley

Remodelled by Harry Colt in the 1920’s, Moseley has been a part of Worcestershire golf ever since it was founded in 1892. Situated just outside Birmingham, you could forgiven for thinking the noise and bustle of the city can be heard throughout your round, but given the mature parkland nature of the course, the exact opposite is true; you feel secluded and peaceful whilst playing.

The course itself offers a nice variety of holes, some offering good birdie opportunities, like the 1st, 7th, 17th and 18th, and others where a par is a good score, like the 3rd, 13th and 16th in particular.

Worcestershire 

The oldest course in the county, it was founded in 1879, Worcestershire Golf Club has history and traditional running through its roots, bunkers, and fairways. Set amongst the Malvern Hills, the course is serene and provides some inspiring views of the surrounding area.

One memorable facet of the course is that all the par-3s are very strong holes thanks to their elevation changes that make clubbing and getting a good strike all the more important.

Redditch

A course that is part woodland and part parkland in feel, Redditch Golf Club moved to its current location during the 1970’s. Well known for its topography, Redditch was designed by Frank Pennink who also designed Vilamoura in Portugal and Noordwijk in Holland.

The signature hole is the par-4 12th with its winding streams and ditches that are to be navigated from the tee and on the approach. The two bunkers to the right of the green are to be avoided too but you’d much rather find them than stick it into the water!

Don’t forget to follow Golf Monthly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest news from the world of golf.

This article The Best Golf Courses In Worcestershire appeared first on Golf Monthly.

Source: Golf Monthly Course Reviews

Take a look at our list of the best golf courses in the county below.

Best Golf Courses In Herefordshire
A view from the 9th hole at Kington

The Best Golf Courses In Herefordshire

Sandwiched between Worcester and the rolling hills of Wales, Herefordshire provides some truly inspirational and stunning golf so bearing that in mind we have delved deep into the county to discuss our favourites.

From the lofty 18 holes at Kington to the glorious woodland of Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire is a county you should think about visiting on your next golf trip.

Related: Golf Monthly’s UK&I Top 100 Courses

Kington

The highest 18-hole course in England, Kington is approached by a steep, narrow lane which sets the pulse racing at the same time as making you fear for how heart-threateningly hilly it might be to play. Happily, this is not the case at all, and barring a couple of gentle climbs here and there, this bunkerless, linksy and most natural course runs along the top of, rather than up or down, Bradnor Hill. A problem with golf course reviews is that in the writer’s desire to recommend, there is often a tendency for overuse of superlatives and hyperbole.

For once, this is impossible to avoid because the views over the Brecon Beacons, the Black Mountains and Hergest Ridge, are breathtakingly good. No matter how you play, it would be hard to imagine anyone not enjoying every yard of the walk. Despite the lack of sand and its modest length, the course is protected by the need to approach its greens from exactly the right angle. From the uphill drive at the first where you need to stay right, to the tempting driveable par-4 closing hole, there is also great variety and the five short holes are particularly strong.

Leominster

Starting with an innocuous par-4, Leominster moved to its present location just before the Second World War and began to take shape as it sits today during the 1960’s. Originally, it was a nine-hole layout but was eventually extended to 18 in 1990. Not particularly long according to the yardages, these numbers can be immensely deceiving because of the sheer variety in terrain from highs to lows.

The three holes from the 6th to the 8th are known as their very own ‘Amen Corner’ with the par-3, 196 yard 6th being of particular difficulty. All in all, this is an enjoyable course that will test your game nicely.

The Herefordshire

Founded in 1896, The Herefordshire Golf Club has moved location several times before eventually shifting to its current site in 1932. Known as the Ravens Causeway, the site offers incredible views of the Brecon Beacons, Shropshire Hills and the Malverns so if visual pleasure is what you are after on the golf course, then The Herefordshire is the place for you.

In some circles it is described as the ‘Gleneagles of the Midlands’ and considering James Braid is the man responsible for its design, it comes as no surprise that the course has picked up that nickname.

In terms of signature holes, the eighth is an absolute monster. Measuring 460 yards off the back tees, this par-4 is a potential score-wrecker every time you play it. According to their website, where each hole has its own set of statistics, the eighth has been played 13,343 times and there have been only 57 birdies. Take a par and move on fast.

Burghill Valley

One of the youngest courses on our list, Burghill Valley was founded in 1991 just north of Hereford where you get occasional views of the stunning Brecon Beacons.

Nestled in lovely woodland, golf here is a truly enjoyable experience and the one hole that truly stood out more than others was the par-4 ninth. 400 yards off the whites, this hole bends itself around a small lake on the left which leaves a tricky approach shot into the green.

Ross-on-Wye

Designed by Ken Cotton and opened for play in 1967, the course at Ross on Wye is set across undulating terrain in the hills above the Wye Valley. It’s a tight, tree-lined layout featuring an abundance of wildlife, including the odd Muntjac deer. A blanket of daffodils and bluebells covers the woodland floor through the spring then there’s an amazing spectrum of colours as the leaves turn in the autumn.

Don’t forget to follow Golf Monthly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for all the latest golf news.

This article The Best Golf Courses In Herefordshire appeared first on Golf Monthly.

Source: Golf Monthly Course Reviews

Situated just above Birmingham, we take a look at the best golf courses in the county of Staffordshire.

Best Golf Courses In Staffordshire

The Best Golf Courses In Staffordshire

Mention the County of Staffordshire and many people immediately think of heavy industry, from the Potteries of Stoke-on-Trent to the innumerable metal-bashing factories of Wolverhampton and the Black Country.

In point of fact though, it is generally a very rural county and has many attractive features. In the north, Leek provides a gateway to the high moorland of the Peak District, whilst the south-west corner is largely devoted to lush rich farmland interspersed near the villages of Kinver and Bobbington, with large tracts of heather and birch clad common-land and, in recent years, the inevitable pine-forests.

Given this type of countryside, and the insatiable appetite of the nearby towns and cities for golf, it is perhaps little wonder that this area can boast some sublime golf courses.

Little Aston

This highly regarded Harry Vardon course plays over parkland in the grounds of the former Little Aston Hall estate. With just three par 5s and three par 3s, there’s a strong and varied cast of par 4s ranging from the testing 446-yard 2nd – where a well-bunkered, narrow final approach makes par hard to come by – to the 317-yard 4th, which is eminently more scorable if you can stay out of the trees flanking both sides.

The approach to the 17th will test your nerve as the green is surrounded by water on three sides, with steep banks running down into it.

Whittington Heath

One of the oldest clubs in England, it was founded in 1886, Whittington Heath originally started as a nine-hole layout. Eventually it was extended to 18-holes and now it measures at a moderate 6,510 yards off the back tees.

A course that has gorse and heather to deal with, Harry Colt designed this hidden gem that has greens extremely well protected by bunkers.

Beau Desert

Beau Desert, otherwise known as ‘Beautiful Wilderness’ is no stranger to accommodating top golfers with the course hosting Open Championship qualifying on several occasions. With large undulating greens and narrow fairways, it may not be a long course but accuracy is the key.

Related: The Next Top 100 Golf Courses UK and Ireland

Sandwell Park

Few courses offer a more pleasant visual surprise relative to their final approaches than Sandwell Park, wedged between the M5 and the A41 in West Bromwich. Google Maps hails it a “venerable Victorian golf links” and that’s not a bad description of this Harry Colt heathland course, opened in 1895.

From what  should best be described as a proper golf clubhouse, there’s a delightful outlook over the 18th and a fairly generous opener, where you don’t want to miss the green left. The 4th is a superb par 3, while the dogleg 13th boasts a gorgeous bunker set into a mound 40 yards short of the green. The greens throughout were superb.

Enville (Highgate)

The Highgate Course is slightly the longer of the two, a 6,493 yard par 72 off the everyday yellow tees, and in general terms it is a driver’s course. Provided that you can hit it reasonably straight, and that you are alert for hidden dangers such as ditches, distance is a distinct advantage on Highgate. Indeed, on the 586 yard 9th it is essential, because this dogleg par 5, one of the longest holes in the Midlands, requires three text-book shots to reach the elevated green on which many players are thankful only to two-putt.

Having said that distance is an advantage, Highgate does not give in that easily, for the real card-wrecker is the 5th, a seemingly innocuous short hole of a mere 158 yards. However, the green is very narrow, with cavernous bunkers in front and to the sides, a vicious slope in the middle, and little or no bail-out area. Since the green-keepers often seem to delight in placing the hole on the slope, it’s a certain fact that the 5th does not play anywhere as easily as its stroke-index would suggest.

Handsworth Park

Handsworth, like close neighbour Sandwell Park, is another 1895 vintage, with the fledgling nine-hole club extending to 18 in 1899. The overall test is not long, but with 70 bunkers, acres of trees and the occasional water hazard to negotiate, you need to be accurate. Water on the right keeps you on your toes on the 1st tee, but length isn’t really an issue until the 8th and 9th, two of the toughest par 4s on the golf course. The 13th is then the shortest par 4, but with a narrow fairway, out of bounds right and a well-guarded green, it’s not one to be taken lightly.

Don’t forget to follow Golf Monthly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for all the latest news

This article The Best Golf Courses In Staffordshire appeared first on Golf Monthly.

Source: Golf Monthly Course Reviews

Nick Bayly makes the pilgrimage to Kent’s Golf Coast to visit Littlestone Golf Club, home of one of England’s most underrated championship links and a charming members’ club that is moving with the times

It’s fair to say that you don’t stumble on Littlestone Golf Club by chance. It’s just not the kind of place where you accidently happen to be driving past its unassuming entrance and exclaim, “Oh, I didn’t know this was here, I must get a game in some time.”

For a course that sits well inside the top 100 in most course rankings, Littlestone’s Championship layout could certainly be accused of hiding its lamp under a particularly well-hidden bushel compared to other more celebrated links in the region, but that’s the way they like it down here. Adopting the ‘build it, they will come’ mentality certainly worked for the club in 1888, when the course first opened. The high and mighty of late 19th century society wasted no time in beating the long and winding path to its door, with British Prime Ministers Herbert Asquith and Arthur Balfour both being members during the early 1900s – and also serving as captains.

While members of the political elite are somewhat thinner on the ground these days, the club currently enjoys a healthy membership in excess of 650, made up of the great and the good men, women and children of East Kent and environs, along with a fair smattering of country members who travel down from London and all corners of the south east to get their  links fix on the free-draining courses.

The welcoming nature of the club is reflected in its charming clubhouse, which has the look of a weather-beaten Victorian schoolhouse both outside and in, with history oozing from every pore of its white-washed walls. The upstairs bar provides a superb vantage point to watch golfers teeing off from the first, and enjoy a hearty home-cooked breakfast or lunch, while a spacious first floor patio allows weary golfers to soak up the rays as the sun dips into the English Channel, whose choppy waters lie just beyond the boundaries of the course.

Next to the clubhouse is a stylish new pro shop, which opened in September, where Head PGA Professional James Cunliffe and his team enjoy the luxury  offered by the new building from which they can sell their services and a wide range of equipment and accessories.

The Championship Course, which hosts Final Qualifying whenever The Open comes to St George’s, has recently been selected by the R&A to stage the Junior Open in 2020, an accolade which can only serve to enhance its reputation as a high-profile tournament venue that stretches all the way back to 1894, when it held the first British Ladies Amateur Championship.

In many ways, it’s easy to see why the R&A has chosen Littlestone to host the Junior Open, as the par-71 layout serves as a superb introduction to the joys of links golf. With its largely flat landscape and an absence of towering dunes precluding too many blind shots, coupled with fairly generous fairways, it’s not the ‘steroid’ links experience on offer at Royal St George’s. And while playing off the 6,600-yard tips in a howling wind will test the very best, the forward tees on a calm, sunny day will give young golfers, and those new to the idiosyncrasies of links golf, a chance to revel in the glories of the bump-and-run approach, the joy of hitting a crisp iron off a tight lie, and the pleasure to be had from putting on superbly even-paced greens.

littlestone general shot

Littleton’s links enjoys its own micro-climate which makes for great year-round play

All those familiar with Littlestone will know that you need to make your score on the front nine, as the second half presents the tougher holes and generally plays into the prevailing wind. After teeing off in the shadow of the clubhouse to a
straightforward 300-yard par four, the course quickly gets into its stride at the second, a much more challenging two-shotter where the drive must avoid three bunkers to leave a mid-iron to a green whose entrance is guarded by two huge mounds with a gap no more than ten yards wide in between to reach the green.

Moving on, the par-three sixth, at 158 yards, is the shortest of the four testing short holes, but trouble lurks everywhere. The green is raised and very hard to hold, especially if the pin is tucked behind a huge bunker protecting the left hand side of the green – and, if you miss the putting surface left and run down the steep bank, an up-and-down is nigh on impossible.

Hole 17 B

The par-three 17th presents a stiff test

Length is the key at the next hole, the 507-yard seventh, arguably the best of the three par fives on the card. Drives are hit from an exposed tee to a fairway that turns slightly left at the 200-yard mark. Anything hit too straight will find lengthy rough, while anything left will find sand or a series of grassy mounds. After a good tee shot, you are faced with the option to take on a ditch that dissects the fairway some 130 yards short of the green. Approaches should ideally be worked in from right to left, using the contours, but must be perfectly executed to find an undulating green.

After a run of testing par fours after the turn, Littlestone’s layout really shows its teeth just when the safety of the clubhouse is beckoning. The 16th is a 464-yard beast of a par four that plays directly uphill and into the wind. The hole doglegs to the left at 250 yards, and unless you get around the corner, the green is out of reach. Sitting some 50 yards above the fairway, the green is one of the smallest targets on the course. If you walk off the green with a par on your card, take a bow.

However, the smile will soon be wiped off your face when you stand on the elevated tee at the par-three 17th and look at the green some 180 yards into the distance. Anything hit less than perfectly will find trouble, most likely in the two front bunkers, while the green itself slopes heavily from back to front and is protected on all sides by thick rough.

The par-four 18th hole

The par-four 18th hole

The finishing hole is a suitably demanding, yet fair, par five, where drives are hit from an elevated tee to a fairway that turns gently from right to left. Numerous fairway bunkers litter the landing and lay up areas, but you should have no more than a wedge for your third if you hit two solid shots. The green, though, slopes significantly from back to front, and is protected by two pot bunkers and numerous run-offs.

All in all, it’s a challenging and engaging 18 holes, with precision being just as important as power in order to put a decent score together. The course record of 64, achieved by Paul Wesselingh during Open Qualifying in 2003, will take some beating, but it’s not a course that will punish you unnecessarily. Blessed with its own microclimate, conditions are almost always dry, making for a great winter venue, while summer conditions, with fast-running fairways, will flatter your drives, and some. The course is always presented in superb nick throughout out the year by the greenkeeping team, which is headed up by Malcolm Grand, who will sadly hanging up his boots after the Junior Open after 40 years in the job.

With full membership starting from just £1,500, Littlestone represents excellent value for those that want to make the club their home, while for those that want to use it as a second club, Associate membership is a steal at £600, offering 20 rounds of golf at any time of the year. For keen winter golfers, the club also offers a Fairway membership for £725, which offers unlimited golf between November and February and 15 rounds during the remainder of the year. The club also boasts an active junior membership, which costs just £100 a year, while those aged between 18-24 pay only £299.

With online tee bookings ensuring no hanging around during busy periods, and two-balls able to whizz round in a little over three hours, Littlestone is a great little club for those that simply want to turn up and play in this time-pressured age. With a £50 green fee – £90 during the summer – it also represents great value for the visiting golfer, while winter society packages start from just £55 for 18 holes and a one-course meal.

For membership enquiries and society bookings, email sarah@littlestonegolfclub.org.uk or call 01797 363355.  For more details, visit www.littlestonegolfclub.org.uk.

GOLF NEWS READER OFFER
Book a two-ball before February 28 and enjoy a free Full English Breakfast with your green fee for just £45pp. Bookings, for mid-week rounds only, can be made online at www.littlestonegolfclub.org.uk/visitorbooking, quoting ‘Golf News’, or by calling 01797 363355.

 

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Source: Golf News Course Reviews

Matt Nicholson pays a visit to Prince’s Golf Club in Kent, where he enjoys an exclusive round on the new-look Himalayas Course, which has undergone an impressive redesign and raised the bar for links golf by several notches

 

I’ve always loved driving to the Kent coast to play golf. There’s something quite other-worldly about it, as you leave behind the M25, and the stresses of modern day living, and head to the very edge of existence, where the only worry is whether you’ll make it for your tee time.

And I’ve always loved going to Prince’s. It’s a special place – it’s hosted the Open Championship, for goodness sake – but it has none of the pretentions that are often associated with such venues, and, as such, feels like a club where everyone is given the same warm welcome, whether a member or guest. 

Despite its impressive history (and there’s a great museum in the clubhouse which records it) the owners – the McGuirk family – do a great job of making sure everyone feels welcome, and I’ve always felt like I’ve been a member for the day whenever I’ve visited here over the last 20-odd years. You’ll certainly find no hushed whispering in the clubhouse or draconian regulations to adhere to. 

Although I’ve never needed much of an excuse for a day out at Prince’s, my mission on this occasion was to attend the official unveiling of the redesigned Himalayas course, which makes up nine of the 27 holes of top-class links golf on offer here. 

The view from the tee and the all-new 5th hole on the Himalayas Course

The view from the tee and the all-new 5th hole on the Himalayas Course

With the Shore/Dunes combination being the composite championship layout, the Himalayas nine, although popular with members because of its shorter yardage, has often been regarded, rightly or wrongly, as the third string: the nine you might play at the beginning or end of a 27-hole day ticket. But having had the chance to play the Himalayas off both the white and yellow tees, I can categorically say that it has immediately become my favourite nine of the three, and has set the new benchmark for links golf on the south coast.

Redesigned by course architect Martin Ebert of Mackenzie & Ebert Ltd – whose recent work includes the stunning re-imagining of Turnberry’s Ailsa course – the transformation of the Himalayas is nothing short of spectacular.

Vast waste bunkers are a new feature of the course

Vast waste bunkers are a new feature of the course

Officially opened on May 1, the new nine, which now plays to a par of 36, features two completely new holes – the par-three fifth, which plays between 120 and 160 yards from a raised tee over a waste area towards Pegwell Bay, and the par-five second, which combines the second and third holes of the old layout, and can be stretched to a whopping 615 yards. 

The fifth, which has been named ‘Bloody Point’ in reference to the great naval battle that took place in Sandwich in AD851 on the land where Prince’s now sits, is the only hole on the nine that plays directly towards the English Channel, while the others play north-south, or south-north.

Pot bunkers guard the entrances to the greens

Pot bunkers guard the entrances to the greens

Elsewhere, there have been extensive changes made to the bunkering, which now combines two basic styles: natural and ragged edge when placed on the edge of fairways, and revetted pots when surrounded by tightly mowed grass and near greens. Both are visually impressive and really help to focus the mind off the tee and when playing into greens.

The designers have also introduced a series of exposed sand areas and extensive wetlands, both of which provide significant habitat for wildlife – indeed, Prince’s staff already report sightings of bird species previously unknown to the site – as well as enhancing the golfing challenge. The wetlands are perhaps most notable at the eighth, which has become a short, drivable par four, with water laid out either side of the fairway keeping you honest off the tee. At the moment, these areas are somewhat bare, creating the look of traditional parkland water hazards, following the recent heavy rains, but the architects are confident that, as the water table lowers, and the plant-life grows in, those areas will settle into the environment and play the natural part for which they were intended.

IMG_2917All in all, it’s like a breath of fresh seaside air has blown through the course, with smart new raised teeing areas offering superb views of the holes, while the greens and fairways are in superb condition, despite the appalling winter that all of the UK has suffered. With no blind holes to contend with, the trouble is all in front of you, hiding in plain sight. There’s more than a hint of the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island about the overall feel and look of the course, which can be no higher compliment given that is one of my all-time favourite tracks. 

No-one is more proud of the finished product than Rob McGuirk, Prince’s general manager, who told Golf News: “We’re committed to continuous improvement at Prince’s, and this is certainly the most ambitious phase of development the club has seen for decades. We are thrilled with the new-look Himalayas nine, and would like to thank Mackenzie & Ebert for their hard work, skill and expertise in turning the vision into a reality.”

IMG_2915The lengths to which Ebert and his colleague, Mike Howard, have gone to ensure the design fits into Prince’s heritage are equally impressive. Before starting on the project, both men visited the links on numerous occasions to assess the land.They subsequently produced a report that analysed historic, pre-war and wartime RAF photography, and unveiled a variety of interesting features which helped to frame the narrative of the new nine and restore some of the traditional elements of the course.

To recognise the historical significance of the site, a replica Spitfire propeller has been installed by the third tee, paying tribute to the heroics of fighter pilot PB ‘Laddie’ Lucas. A former Walker Cup captain and son of one of the founders of Prince’s, Lucas made a forced landing on the site in July 1943, after his aircraft was badly damaged by enemy fire as he returned to RAF Manston from a mission over northern France.

IMG_2913The club has already drawn up plans to renovate the Dunes and Shore nines, and, if the finished product is anywhere near as good as the Himalayas, then golfers are in for a real treat. In the meantime, I can’t urge you strongly enough to beat a path to Prince’s this summer and see for yourself. You will not be disappointed.

For tee time reservations and golf package details, visit www.princesgolfclub.co.uk or call 01304 611118.

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Source: Golf News Course Reviews