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Course Guide

Golf courses the society has visited

Reviews of some of the courses are also included

Aberdovey Golf Club

Date of last visit: November 2006 (report supplied by Graham Adams)

Thanks to our Society Secretary being a member here I had long looked forward to visiting Aberdovey, even more so as I had missed our similar visit two years ago. Having only managed 14 holes of golf since the society played Druids Heath at the end of April, I was more certain than ever before that my name would not figure on the roll of honour at a BUNGS event. This certainty was bolstered by the pre-dawn journey across Mid-Wales through stiff showers and blustery winds, which held until all were assembled at the club. By the time we stepped onto the first tee, however, the showers had blown themselves out, the wind also abated during our round and (on both days) the hours between 12 & 2pm belied the fact that we were here in the middle of November, as the sun shone and gave us a little warmth in which to “perform”.

As can be read from many other sources, Aberdovey is a true “out-and-back” links course, squeezed between the dunes and the railway line. The prevailing wind means that the front nine is predominantly into the wind, and we felt this to full effect as we teed it up at the start of our rounds.

The Course Guide (one of the least useful examples of these I have ever seen) suggests that your aim here at the first (420yds, par 4) should be on the line of the Pump House. Succeed in this and you still have a tricky shot to a green guarded left and right. A newcomer to the course arriving on the 3rd tee (157yds, par 3) may well wonder where the green is, as it requires a blind shot to a hidden green. Playing your shot only after you have recce’d your target, you must then wait until you get up to the green before you can locate your ball.

Although Aberdovey is ostensibly an out-and-back course, the variation is that the holes actually run in a figure of eight, with the par 3 5th (193yds) cutting at right angles to the course. Slicers are now in danger of losing their ball onto the railway line, as the fairway of the 6th (331yds) runs alongside this. Nowhere on the course do the drainage ditches come into play more than on this stretch. Go slightly off the fairway and you run the very serious risk of getting your balls wet!

Negotiate the turn and you are faced with the prospect of the 12th – Aberdovey’s signature hole. A par 3 of only 131yds, the green is way above the tee, perched on top of a dune and open to all the wind Mother Nature throws at it. Pull your shot and your ball will bounce and roll all the way to the bottom of the hill, push it and you'll be on the beach. Get it right and be rewarded with a fabulous view across Cardigan Bay.

The par 5(539yds) 13th and par 4(383yds) 14th run along with the dunes to your right, with the 15th crossing back towards the railway line. At only 281yds, the 16th is possibly the shortest par four I have ever played, but with a fairway on the side of a hill and a green cut into the same, how interesting! Those attempting to lay-up on the fairway will invariably see their ball feed down to the left, leaving a chip up to the green. Big hitters can get on, but too far right and your ball will rest on top of (or to the right of) the crest of the hill, too far left and you're on the railway line and OOB. A great hole!

The 18th(419yds) requires an accurate drive (sic!) before playing to the large green under the balcony of the Clubhouse. This building is quite new as the previous edifice was razed by fire in 1995. This splendid new building was built with the help of Lottery funding and was opened by the Duke of York in 1998 – and VERY nice it is too!

I really must get my domestics sorted as this lovely course has once again whetted my appetite for the game, and a return here at some point in the future during the summer months is definitely now on my list of things to do. Hopefully, we won’t have to play off mats…

(All yardages quoted are off yellow tees)

25 players gave their ratings of the course, which averaged as follows:

Quality of course: 8/10
Condition of course: 7/10
Catering/Service: 9/10
Overall experience: 8/10
Value for money: 9/10
Would you like to return: 100% YES / 0% NO

Some comments received were:

'Did not like playing off mats' (numerous replies echoed this)
'Come again in the Summer'
'Great trip'
'Overall excellent'

The Astbury

Aston Wood Golf Club

Barlaston Golf Club

Beau Desert Golf Club

Date of visit: May 2005 (report supplied by Graham Adams)

Such is the reputation of Beau Desert I was really looking forward to playing here – and was not to be disappointed. Set within Cannock Chase the course wends its way through an ancient forest of huge, impressive trees interspersed with penal rough. Very true. I’d heard from many quarters that it was tight off the tees - enough to give me more than a degree of trepidation given my recent lack of form. However, the sun was warm and the winds (fairly) light, so a positive state of mind ruled as play began.

This was soon dented when faced with a daunting first tee shot. It’s not that the 1st, at just 291yds and uphill, is particularly difficult, just that you are faced off the tee by a deep, rough filled “hollow” demanding a carry of about 120yds to find the other side. Again, not particularly difficult (although I managed to screw it up) but very intimidating.

The 5th (392yds, par 4) is a lovely hole – and S.I.1. From an elevated tee, your drive first of all requires a carry over the ever-present heather to a fairway which falls away from you and doglegs to the left. At the turn, the fairway starts to rise up again to the green. Your 2nd shot must carry a cross-fairway bunker placed just 30-odd yards from the front of the green.

The 7th (par 3, 147yds) looks tighter than it is. From the tee all you can see is a jumble of deep, unfriendly rough (contained in another hollow, similar to that faced on the 1st.)between you and the green, including a large tree in the centre. To the left and right are more mature trees making the whole quite daunting. However, beyond the right hand trees, there is a large area to where you can “bail out” and play either a chipped approach or a long putt. (On our visit the flag was on the extreme left edge of the green.)

To those confident enough, the 9th is a drivable par 4. At only 252yds it can theoretically be reached with a well hit 3-wood. Beware though, as there is nothing between tee and green but trouble as the ground falls away from the tee to rise again to the well elevated green. Another elevated green is to be faced on the 10th, but here it is only 110yds away. Major clubbing decisions are to be taken here as anything just short of the green lands you in a very deep bunker!

The 12th (S.I. 2, 416yds, par 4) is a “Double dog-leg”, left right first, then right-left. Your drive needs to be well placed off the tee to leave you any chance of a decent approach to the green. The par 5 15th, at 516yds the longest on the course, marks the start of a cracking end to your round. Just at (a well hit) driving range the fairway is bisected by a chain of humps and hollows. Only the brave (and long) will attack the green from here as your view of the green is obscured by the contours of the land and anyway, it is protected by a well-placed bunker in front.

16 is a short (135yds) par 3 with a bunker the width of the green between you and the flag. 17 is another long (417yds) par 4 with a ditch across the fairway in the area where your drive is likely to land. The 18th (par 5, 476yds) once again puts you in the position of flirting with a chain of bunkers and mounds across the fairway at driving distance. With 200+yds still to the green there is one final hazard to negotiate: 60yds short of the putting surface is a hollow filled with gorse bushes waiting to gobble up any ball not purely struck.

The ground staff and green keepers deserve special mention, as all 18 holes are kept exceptionally well manicured, and the greens are fast, true and in great condition. All greens have subtle borrows to be negotiated, but are a pleasure to putt on. At 5961yds, the shortness of the course is easily offset by its difficulty, which in turn lends much it interest and charm. Excellent Clubhouse facilities and an idyllic setting (the only sounds heard during the day were birdsong and the wind rustling the leaves) Beau Desert rightfully deserves its reputation as one of the best courses the Midlands has to offer.

The Belfry (Brabazon course)

Date of last visit: March 2007

(green fee paid £50 which included: coffee and bacon sandwich, bucket of balls on the range, free course planner and 18 holes on The Brabazon)

20 players gave their ratings of the course, which averaged as follows:

Quality of course: 8/10
Condition of course: 7/10
Catering/Service: 6/10 (meal was taken at the nearby Beehive Inn)
Overall experience: 8/10
Value for money: 8/10
Would you like to return: 95% YES / 5% NO

Some comments received were:

'Can we eat at The Belfry next time'

The Belfry (PGA National course)

Date of visit: March 2003 (report supplied by Graham Adams)

Green fee paid: £25*
* This was a special winter rate green fee which represents good value for money for the condition of the course at this time of year.  However, the summer green fee is around the £70 mark, which I would say is too steep a price to pay for this course.  They do have 2-4-1 offers throughout the year which would certainly make the price of a summer visit more acceptable.

On what would have been a fabulous day had the weather been kind, a rainy early March day made this opener to the BUNGS 2003 season a potentially miserable affair, and as a result none of the assembled 30 members saw the course at it’s best.

If you are a first timer at The Belfry, two things help to lift your spirits before a ball has been hit. Arrive early and have a coffee, then take a wander through the golf complex, including the Pro Shop (advertised as being the largest on-course golf shop in Europe .) The aura created by the European Ryder Cup wins here in 1985, 1989, 1993 and 2002 is almost tangible. You feel as though you are somewhere special.

After your coffee, get your clubs and warm-up on the Putting Green, but don’t forget to walk the extra few yards to the tee for the 10th on the Brabazon Course, appreciate the beauty of this hole, and imagine you are Garcia, Woods, etc as you contemplate how you would drive the green!

The PGA National is one of the trickiest non-championship Courses in the country. It was recently given an “Honourable Mention” in the  “Today’s Golfer Good Course Guide”, losing out to Carnoustie in the “Hardest Course” category.

Standing on the first tee armed with this information, you wonder why. This has a wide-open fairway stretching ahead with a single line of trees separating it from the returning 18th fairway, and seems to offers few terrors. The PGA National is indeed a fairly flat course with very few trees. Water (potentially) comes into play on 11 holes, and it is this combined with well-placed bunkers and the manufactured contouring of the holes that provide the test.

The first real test comes on the 4th. There are two lakes connected by a brook and the fairway doglegs between them, with bunkers guarding the “kink”. A 180yd carry is required over the first lake (off the yellow tees) to bring your ball into the “kink” of the fairway. Those able to drive a ball 300yds need to be careful though, as at this length the second lake awaits.

Again, a long tee shot could leave trouble on the 10th, as there is a brook which traverses the fairway. In all cases, prudence dictates that you keep the ball on the fairway, some of which have a very narrow entry off the tee. Spray the ball wide and you can end up in the sort of snaggly rough that can ruin your scorecard. To compound all this, all holes have deep, strategically placed bunkers placed just where you don’t want them!

All in all an excellent course with some really challenging holes and a venue with a mystique which adds to your day. Well worth a visit for golfers of any ability.

Bloxwich Golf Club

Breadsall Priory Golf & Country Club (Moorland Course)

Date of visit: December 2003 (report supplied by Graham Adams)

Lets make this quite clear: I'm crazy about the game of golf. Less than good at it, and with a determination to improve, but never happier than when I'm pitting my wits and lack of talent against the control of a golf ball around the 18 holes of a course. As such, when I write these course reports I have the tendency to wax lyrical about the beauty of the surroundings, the views on offer and the testing nature of some of the holes.

This is where I struggle with the authorship of this report: It's not that this course doesn't have any of these elements to offer - I'm sure it has - it's just that for the second year of playing here in the BUNGS "Christmas Clock" I've yet to see it. 12 months ago the Society met here and we played on a course hidden by a mixture of fog and fine rain. This year the fog was replaced with more rain - lots more rain!

Breadsall Priory was once the home of Erasmus Darwin, Charles Darwin's grandfather. The evolution of this property now sees it owned by the Marriott Hotel Group, owners of 11 Hotels and Country Clubs throughout the country. Breadsall itself has two courses: The Priory course was created in 1977 and is of the Parkland variety. The Moorland course is younger but has the advantage of having been created on land that drains particularly well. This gives the Hotel a "cash-cow" in that it has a Golf Course that is more-than-likely to be open all 12 months of the year, regardless of the weather.

It is a pity, therefore, that this course is not more interesting: there is little distance between opposing fairways despite the open nature of the course, and in keeping with the naming of the course, the designers have made sure there are few trees that come into play, and there is little in the way of contour. True, the 3rd (292yds, par 4 off yellow tees) presents an uphill 2nd shot to the back-to-front sloping green, but this is perhaps the highest point on the course. On this, our latest visit, the flag was only 3-4 yds from the front of this green and 2 of our 3-ball saw our downhill putts sail yards past the flag and on down the hill, requiring a chip back onto the green!

After playing back down the hill on the dogleg 4th, the 5th (357yds, par 4) goes back up again, playing to a deep green on the top of the hill. Beyond this the course flattens out again, with only small undulations and changes in contour between tee and green.

Trees do come into play the 6th hole, but only if you over-club as at only 118yds this is merely a 8 to 9-iron to the green. Your drive on the 7th (285yds, par 4) is through the same trees towards a marker post, the green only coming into view for your 2nd shot after cresting a shallow ridge.  The only other hole with any trees is the 15th (385yds, par 4) where trees surround the right side of the green.

The 1st hole (172yds, par 3) and the 18th (330yds, par 4) are not only set apart from the other 16 holes (the bulk of the course can only be reached by crossing a road.) but also different in character, as they mirror more the parkland type of holes found on the Priory Course.

The clubhouse here is also different to the norm, as the hotel boasts a pool and other leisure facilities, and the anodyne bar area overlooks this. Bar snacks are available at all times you are likely to be there, and there is a Function Room where societies etc can congregate for a more substantial meal. As you will no doubt gather, this is not my most favoured course. That I haven't seen it at it's best is undeniable, yet I get the feeling that even on a perfect summers day I would come off the 18th with little sense of either achievement or satisfaction. It would be nice, however, to finish a round here dry!

Breadsall Priory Golf & Country Club (Priory Course)

Breedon Priory Golf Club

Brocton Hall Golf Club

Bulwell Forest Golf Club

Burton on Trent

Cannock Park Golf Club

Cavendish Golf Club

Charnwood Forest Golf Club

Chesterfield Golf Club

Chilwell Manor Golf Club

Date of last visit: October 2006
25 players gave their ratings of the course, which averaged as follows:

Quality of course: 7/10
Condition of course: 6/10
Catering/Service: 7/10
Overall experience: 7/10
Value for money: 7/10
Would you like to return: 72% YES / 28% NO

Some comments received were:

'Good condition for the time of year'
'Worth coming back'
'Needs a course planner'
'Very challenging course'
'Greens in poor condition - come back in the Summer'

Collingtree Park Golf Course

Conwy (Caernarvonshire) Golf Club

Copt Heath Golf Club

Coventry Golf Club

Coxmoor Golf Club

Date of last visit: April 2007
20 players gave their ratings of the course, which averaged as follows:

Quality of course: 9/10
Condition of course: 8/10
Catering/Service: 9/10
Overall experience: 9/10
Value for money: 9/10
Would you like to return: 100% YES / 0% NO

Some comments received were:

'A bargain'
'Very enjoyable day'
'Stunning course'
'Best course we've played'

Drayton Park Golf Club

Druids Heath

Edgbaston Golf Club

Enville Golf Club

Erewash Valley Golf Club

Fleetwood Golf Club

The Forest of Arden

Formby Ladies Golf Club

Fulford Heath Golf Club

Date of visit: April 2004 (report supplied by Graham Adams)

BUNGS members got a shock when the society visited Fulford Heath at the end of May. The weather we enjoyed was so good that all were subjected to the sight of my knees! Donning my shorts (for increased comfort only) for the afternoon 18 holes did not however have the desired effect on my game. I found this course to be very expensive, losing more balls than I care to remember on a course where tight fairways, heavy rough, mature trees and water in abundance took no pity on the slice (not present during my previous round) that I had hauled around the M42 that morning! Easy to find, and very accessible (allowing for traffic jams – but that’s another story) given it’s proximity to the motorway, Fulford Heath was, nonetheless, an enjoyable, if very demanding, course, with a variety of holes presenting challenges to all present.

A course of the Parkland variety, and without too much contour (but enough to make it interesting), Fulford Heath GC was laid down in 1933 and wears its maturity well. Not long (5959yds off Yellow Tees), it has many holes where the “thinking” golfer will profit, having narrow fairways combined with doglegs to contend with. Of little help, however, was the course guide, being one of the poorest and least informative I have come across. (and at £3 not cheap, either) Three lakes (one of which represents the whole of the “fairway” on the par three 16th, of which more later) are linked by the River Cole (little more than a stream), which criss-crosses the course repeatedly.

After “warming up” on the straght 1st, the 2nd (314yds, par 4, S.I.10) is the first of the doglegs. Those trying to cut the corner (or Slicers like me) can fall foul of the first of the lakes here. As with most of the holes, this is lined with trees of varying maturity, and if your ball lands even just off the fairway it will nestle down into rough (which on our visit was 2-3 inches deep) and makes your next shot “interesting.”

The 5th (127yds, Par 3, S.I.18) is the shortest hole on the course, but has a narrow green guarded by 4 bunkers, so anything off target is likely to mean your Sand Iron is your next club.

Hole 7 (379yds, Par 4, S.I.8) proved interesting on both our rounds of the day. A left to right dogleg, your first shot is into the angle of the dogleg. On our morning round, one of my partners played what appeared to be an almost perfect drive (with cut) around this corner, and we were all confident his ball would lie in the middle of the fairway, ready for his 2nd shot to the plateau green up the hill. Despite searching for the allowed 5 minutes we were all left scratching our heads as no ball could be found! Similar tales of woe accompanied all three of us when we played the same hole in the afternoon.

The 10th (Par 5, S.I.9) starts back near the clubhouse and rises all the way to the green 532yds ahead. The “river” cuts across the fairway at around driving distance, leaving a 2nd shot uphill toward the flag. The plateau green is, however, tucked around the corner of the trees to the left, guarded front left and right by bunkers.

The 12th (324 yds, Par 4, S.I.3) was my most expensive hole of the day: a wicked left to right dogleg around a lake which consumed 4 (yes FOUR!) of my ball stock! Why at least one of them didn’t hit a member of the large flock of Geese here and stay dry I’ll never know! (As I said, it was a frustrating day.) The Geese are a common feature here, along with many other birds. Coming off the par 3 11th we were delighted to see a Heron striding through the “river” looking for its tea!

The 16th, although only S.I.15, is a great hole, and deservedly the signature hole on the course.  At 155yds it is not long, yet all of this is an intimidating carry over water, with a steep rise off the pond to a raised green. Club it correctly, ignoring the water, and it is fairly straightforward. Anything under-clubbed will have your ball doing the Dambusters two-step!

To end the round, the18th (504yds, Par 5, S.I.13) is a fine finishing hole. Another, though gentler, left to right dogleg, it has a sloping green with misleading borrows. Indeed, this is a common feature: there are no “simple” greens here, as all are fast (and immaculately manicured) and not easy to read. Being fairly new, the clubhouse “complex” fulfils all the requirements of the tired golfer: Changing rooms are generously sized (with great showers), the Bar offers a good selection of liquid refreshment, and the kitchens serve well prepared provender.

Be in no doubt – this is a fine course, requiring straight hitting, correct club selection and good course management. Much practice required before I return here then!

Great Barr Golf Club

Handsworth Golf Club

Harborne Golf Club

Hesketh Golf Club

Hill Valley Golf & Country Club

Hinckley Golf Club

Horsley Lodge Golf Club

Ingestre Park Golf Club

Date of visit: September 2003 (report supplied by Graham Adams)

For anyone deciding on a day’s golf in September it is really a matter of taking potluck with the weather: it’s generally either raining, blowing a gale or, as we had, a gloriously sunny day with blue skies. Having missed the previous three Society days I was really looking forward to getting in harness again, and on a course I had previously heard only good reports of.

 Ingestre Park Golf Club is nestled in the rural Staffordshire countryside, some 7 miles north west of Rugeley, and is set in the former grounds of Ingestre Hall. The hall, a magnificent Jacobean structure, was built in 1613 and was the former home of the Earl of Shrewsbury. Now owned by Staffordshire County Council, it is currently Sandwell Local Education Authority’s Residential Arts Centre. The house can be seen clearly from the 3rd fairway, and your golf is accompanied by the “music” emanating loudly from within!

The course itself is of 6352yds (white tees) and Par 70. All holes are named, (The Hall, Chase View, Shugborough, etc) lending a charm to the proceedings, and features 4 par 3’s.

The 6th (The Haywoods) is 169yds(Yellow tees), with the green well below the teeing area. The green slopes steeply upwards from the front leaving a tricky downhill putt if you over club.

The 13th (Churchfield) is “only” 142yds (Yellow tees) yet plays much longer as this time the landing area is well above the tee, and the green is a 2-tiered affair. With the pin on the upper (back) tier this leads to difficult selection of what club to use. (On our day this was one of the nearest the pin holes. Nobody got to within about 12 feet!)

Stroke Index 1 is the 459yd (Yellow tees) par 4 7th (Wren’s Church). All fairways are bounded by multitudes of mature trees (of great variety) and this hole is no exception. Any errant drives to the left will be collected by the foliage, and even though it is a fairly wide fairway, slices and pushed shots will be collected on the right. Your 2nd shot begins the climb to a blind green, your only indication of where it is being a marker post set at the top of the hill. A tough hole indeed.

Big hitters will enjoy the par 5’s: at 528yds (Yellow tees), the 9th (Chetwynd) and the 18th (Kingston Hill, 506yds off Yellow tees) both are just reachable in two shots.

The greens throughout can be very tricky, with slopes leading to subtle borrows and a couple of greens given the upturned saucer treatment, testing your putting skills on every hole.

Green-keeping staff were much in evidence during our visit, and preparation for next season is obviously underway: many of the greens had been hollow-tined (yet on only 3 or 4 did it affect the roll of the ball) and one fairway (12th?) had been sand-seeded to improve drainage. With many Rabbits and Squirrels scampering about, an already pretty course was made very easy on the eye, and left an impression on your correspondent of what lucky people the members of this club must be – to play such a lovely course as this is, and on a regular basis, must be a real joy!

Kedleston Park Golf Club

Kenilworth Golf Club

Kibworth Golf Club

Date of last visit: August 2007
24 players gave their ratings of the course, which averaged as follows:

Quality of course: 8/10
Condition of course: 8/10
Catering/Service: 7/10
Overall experience: 8/10
Value for money: 8/10
Would you like to return: 96% YES / 4% NO

Some comments received were:

'Great course'
'Food portions too small'    

Kilworth Springs Golf Club

Kings Norton Golf Club

Kirby Muxloe Golf Club

Ladbrook Park Golf Club

Leek Golf Club

Date of visit: April 2003 (report supplied by Graham Adams)

Ever fancied going for a holiday roaming the foothills of the Himalayas? If so then the course at Leek could provide you with a training ground to prepare your body for the rigors of at least the lower slopes. Indeed, it may even be easier to play a round of golf in the foothills of Mount Everest: on icy mornings you may need crampons to negotiate the steeply sloping car park! Of the 18 holes at this venue, only one or two can be called flat. The rest are to varying degrees either uphill or down, and when exposed at the higher altitudes this can mean that a biting wind can eat into your bones as well.

This is not, however, to the course’s detriment. Without exception, every hole presents as well as only a mature moorland course can, and each poses demanding technical problems. Irrespective of whether the tee is higher than the green or vice-versa, there is danger to be found on all 18. It is undoubtedly a course where precision wins over power.

April 2nd, 2003 saw the Society visit Leek and the venue provided for the usual enjoyable day. The wind blew hard off the Pennines causing problems for all with regard to club selection, and more for those whose control of the ball was limited. Yet the weather remained fine. When out of the wind the sun shone warmly and much changing of sweaters, etc was required.

A tight entrance to the 3rd green (on top of a hill, of course) makes for an interesting approach shot. Following this, the 4th is a lovely 155yd par 3 from an elevated tee position to a plateau green surrounded by bunkers.

The 8th and 10th (a par 4 and par 5) are both noteworthy because of their fast sloping greens: leave yourself a downhill put (as I did!) and a tap on the ball will see it sailing yards past if you miss the hole.

Taking the steep, uphill path after completing the 12th, look to your right: most of the course can be seen spreading out below you in a magnificent panorama, for it is here that we reach the highest point, at around 600ft elevation. (Though it seems more.)

After the climb, the 13th is a daunting par 3. At 178yds to the pin, most of this is a carry over the ravine that falls away to your left, where you can look down onto the roofs of the nearby factory! An elevated green on the 13th naturally leads to the high tee of the 14th, requiring a near 200yd carry over scrub and bracken to reach a fairway set far below, guarded by the inevitable bunker.

The 15th is a nasty right / left dogleg, again with a bunker set just where your ball is likely to carry if off-line. A 398yd par 4, this is Stroke Index 1, and again you fire your ball to an elevated, sloping green with your 2nd (or 3rd!) shot. A great hole.

The Clubhouse has all the comforts needed to help relax you after your strenuous exercise, with a welcoming atmosphere, good food and friendly staff. As a golfer of limited talent, I found Leek a struggle, but would gladly return for another crack at it in the future, if only to test myself against the problems it poses and to gauge any improvement in my game – or perhaps in preparation for that holiday!    

The Leicestershire Golf Club

Lilleshall Hall Golf Club

 Lindrick Golf Club

 Lingdale Golf Club

Llandudno (Maesdu) Golf Club

Longcliffe Golf Club

Luffenham Heath Golf Club

The Manor (Kingstone) Golf Club

Market Drayton Golf Club

Date of visit: April 2004 (report supplied by Graham Adams)

Such was the impression this course made on me I sat down prior to composing this report and tried to remember the courses I have played. In the few years since I sliced my first ball off the tee at the local Municipal I reckon I've played something like two-dozen. Not many, I grant you, but as each new course presents me with different problems to overcome and teaches me more about this game of ours, so it also gives an appreciation of how "complete" the design of a particular course is and, in writing my reports, I can compare the latest to previous tracks. Market Drayton can be instantly placed high up within my personal top 5.

In concert with most of my fellow Society members, much of the after match discussion following our recent visit here was about what a fabulous course this is. Every hole has something to make you think. There are many tight fairways (with lots of out-of-bounds) cutting through the hills and trees of this parkland course, both right-to-left and left-to-right doglegs, uphill par 4's and downhill par 3's. Even water, although it will only come into play if you are wayward off the 3rd tee. It is also a course that obviously drains well: the previous week had seen days of heavy rain, and yet evidence of this was limited to the tricky greens, still slow from receiving such a deluge.

 Despite a grey start to the day, and a forecast for more rain, we were treated, in the end, to a lovely spring day, with warm sunshine for the afternoon 18.

After the gentle rise from the tee on the 1st hole, the course first shows what elevation there is to be coped with on the 2nd, "Salisbury Hill" (334yds, par 4, S.I.5). Off the tee the fairway falls away gently, only for it to rise steeply in the landing area. This is where the fairway also starts its dogleg to the right. Too far left off the tee with your 1st shot and the elevated green can be blocked out by the large tree, 60yds short of the green,  in the middle of the fairway.

At the top of this hill, and to the back of the green, is the 3rd tee. Another left-to-right dogleg, here the green falls away from the fairway, giving more pause for consideration on club selection. This, however, is little compared to the dilemmas you will face when selecting your clubs for 3 of the 4 the par 3's!

First of these is the 4th, "Pell Wall" (164yds, S.I. 17). With the well-bunkered green well below the teeing ground, it is easy to under-club here (as proved in the nearest-the-pin competition, where the winner was in excess of 20 feet short!) The next par 3, the 7th, is called "Drop", and this says it all! At 127yds, S.I 18, it is the easiest hole on the course, yet the two-tiered green cannot be seen from perhaps the most elevated tee I have ever played from. Your aiming point is at one of the Silver Birches at the back of the green. The 12th gives alternate problems. "Wrekin View" is 206yds and S.I.14: 4-iron off the slightly elevated tee? 3-iron? More....?

The closing hole on the front-9 is also of interest: "The Ravine" (528yds, Par 5, S.I.7) has a split fairway to begin, from the left for Ladies and the right for men. Best line is to the left of the marker post visible off the tee as this allows your 2nd shot to carry the ravine and not be blocked out by the trees in the elbow of yet another right-to-left dogleg. Your only aiming point to the green here is a large yellow disc high in a tree overlooking the green.

The 10th tee nestles to the left of the 1st fairway, but allows a wide view to enable safe play from players on the 1st, with the fairway extending at right angles to the first. This is "Gadd's Gem" (528yds, par 5, S.I. 7) and is a gentle right-to-left dogleg with OOB on the right - great for us slicers! Another elevated green, this cannot be seen until approximately 150yds away.

Hole 14 is "The Bungalow" (326yds, par 4, S.I. 10). Our three ball wondered what the notice board by the side of the tee was about, but after arriving on yet another elevated green we discovered that there is a bungalow for rent situated there. At £625 per week (sleeps 6, includes golf) this represents good value!

A par 3 and three relatively straightforward par 4's end the round on what was for me an extremely enjoyable, if strenuous course.    

Maryport Golf Club

Matlock Golf Club  

Maxstoke Park

Date of visit: December 2006
27 players gave their ratings of the course, which averaged as follows:

Quality of course: 7/10
Condition of course: 6/10
Catering/Service: 9/10
Overall experience: 8/10
Value for money: 8/10
Would you like to return: 96% YES / 4% NO

Some comments received were:

'A good winter course'
'Return, but only in the Summer'
'Was a bit muddy'  

Melton Mowbray Golf Club  

Minehead & West Somerset Golf Club

Date of visit: July 2004 (report supplied by Graham Adams)

To the north of Minehead lies the Bristol Channel, and spectacular views across the Bridgewater Bay of South Wales. At the eastern end of the town a compact golf course, the oldest in Somerset (dating back to 1882) is laid out on the narrow strip of land between the sea and the road running parallel to the local railway line. Whereas its situation is that of a Links course, right next to the sea, there are some holes that have the characteristics of those found on Parkland courses. Laid out in the 9-out, 9-back form, it features a practice green at the back of the 18th and a practice chipping area to the right of the 1st tee.

Following the short par 4 1st, (237yds off Yellow tees) the 2nd (354yds, par 4) returns with the 1st fairway on its right. The first hole of any real interest is the par 3 4th, 206yds over marshy ground bounded by a loop in the dyke that runs along the length of the course. This hole plays inland, at right angles to the beach, and the green is the first that displays signs of behaving in a parkland-type manner, being noticeably slower.

The 5th is the first of the par 5’s, at 475yds, and is a slight left-to-right dogleg running along the extreme inland boundary of the course, as do the remainder of the holes to the turn. Best hole on the front 9 is the last, a par 4, of 397yds, and S.I. 1. Requiring a good drive to the centre of the fairway, your 2nd has to negotiate a ditch crossing the fairway about 100yds out, and a bunker guarding the approach to the green. OOB runs the length of this hole along the right-hand side and there are a further 2 bunkers on the right edge of the green.

Another slow, parklandesque green is the 10th. Of varying lengths (according to pin position) it is carded as either 132yds or 148yds off yellow tees. The approach is through an avenue of trees and should your tee-shot find the front of the green then it is all-uphill to the hole from there.

Mounting the 11th teeing area by the old Pillbox is the third and last par 5, again at 475 yds. From here the course changes character as most of the back nine runs parallel to the beach and the onshore breeze / wind, the only real exceptions being the 13th &14th. Obviously, us “Slicers” need to beware as anything wild off the tee finds the ball OOB on the beach. However, considering their proximity to the beach, and the elements, these closing holes are, according to the S.I. tables, the easier 9.

The par 3 14th plays longer than its 127yds by virtue of the fact that if the wind is blowing, then your tee-shot is invariably into it. Squeezed between the 3rd and 15th tees, this hole has a raised green protected by three bunkers just off the front edge making distance control imperative. The final par 3 is the 18th (197yds). This hole is tucked tightly against the raised bank of the dune structure at the back of the beach, and your tee-shot must be either faded in or held straight, flying close to this natural barrier.

The spacious, comfortable and well appointed clubhouse has a bar area overlooking this last green, together with an eating area where food from a Carvery can be enjoyed.

This was only the third Links course I have played, and I obviously haven’t got to grips with them yet, as I found this course less than satisfying or interesting. Perhaps this also had something to do with the fact that after four rounds over the previous two days I felt a little jaded, and nor did I play particularly well. I can, however, understand the comments of my Society colleagues more experienced in this type of golf who opined on what a good course this was. The greens, whether of Links or Parkland variety, were particularly good with only the variable speed to catch out the unwary. Of greater concern (to me) was that on a couple of holes on the back 9 you have to aim your tee-shot over the previously played green (the 15th tee / 14th green particularly) – surely not the safest of design features! Overall, I would need to replay this course when in a more positive frame of mind to gain a better impression of it.  

Moor Hall Golf Club

Morley Hayes Golf Club

Nefyn & District Golf Club

Date of visit: June 2002 (report supplied by John Shaw)

"This is the most beautiful course I have ever played" the website for Nefyn and District Golf Club claims most visitors state after playing this course!  This is a bold statement for any club to make.  We visited this course on our June 2002 weekend away when England was playing Denmark in the World Cup (more of that later).  It was a sunny June day with clear skies and little wind (thankfully).  We played the "Old Course" which is a Par 70/71, measures 6138 yards, with a SSS of 71. The first 10 holes of the course are shared between both courses.  The first hole is a fairly straightforward downhill hole.  The 2nd, 3rd and 4th holes however follow each other along the side of the steep cliffs that makes driving fairly nerve racking.  The 5th hole, a tricky par 3, has a spectacular tee jutting over the sea, which gives fantastic views. The route back to the clubhouse from the 6th to the 10th has great views of the surrounding scenery and was fairly undemanding on the day we played.  However I would presume any wind would make change their nature.  

I played in the morning with Karl Hughes as we were both keen to watch the football game at lunchtime.  We did manage to play the course in less than 3 hours.  However it took me a few holes after the 10th to realise that I was looking at the "new course" in the course guide rather than the old (sorry Karl).  

The back eight flows around the peninsular which surrounds Porth Dinllaen bay and gives dramatic views of both the surrounding bay and cliffs. This is the old part of the course and as all the foibles of courses that were planned because of the complexities of the terrain.  There are many blind shots with lots of local knowledge needed for the fairways and greens.  The 11th is a short par four which as a short flat fairway which rises to a small green on the top of a little hill.  The 12th hole is a blind drive onto a sloping fairway and then requires a mid to long iron over the public footpath to an undulating green.  The drive on the 13th hole is over the sea and is probably best played with an iron off the tee unless you wish to be brave (or foolish) and "go for it" across the cliffs. When I played the second time I did just that and managed to get a par after finding my ball 100 yards below the fairway down the side of the cliffs!  The 14th is a shortish par three which is tricky to club even in calm conditions.  The 15th is a difficult drive alongside the cliff tops but fortunately is short.  The 17th is an interesting par 5 with a tight fairway.  

When we had finished for the day many of us felt that this was one of the best courses that we had played.  The greens were great and the course was an extremely interesting challenge.  When playing the last 8 holes of the “old course” one sensed the history of this part of the course.  I am told that one has to be sceptical of information on the World Wide Web however in this case I have to agree that this is (one of) the most beautiful courses I have played!    

Newcastle-under-Lyme Golf Club

North Shore Hotel & Golf Course

North Wales Golf Club

North Worcestershire Golf Club

Notts (Hollinwell) Golf Club

Date of last visit: April 2008
25 players gave their ratings of the course, which averaged as follows:

Quality of course: 9/10
Condition of course: 7/10
Catering/Service: 7/10
Overall experience: 8/10
Value for money: 8/10
Would you like to return: 96% YES / 4% NO

Some comments received were:

'Course fantastic but poor catering'
'Better to play later in the year off proper tee positions and when the greens are good'  

Nuneaton Golf Club

Oakmere Park Golf Club

Olton Golf Club

Ormskirk Golf Club

Oxley Park Golf Club

Patshull Park Golf & Country Club

Penn Golf Club

Porthmadog Golf Club

Purley Chase Golf Club

Redditch Golf Club

Rothley Park Golf Club

Royal Cromer Golf Club

Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club

Royal North Devon (Westward Ho!) Golf Club

Date of visit: July 2004 (report supplied by Graham Adams)

“To win an Open a player must be comfortable with playing golf on what much of the time – especially for an American – doesn’t look or feel like a golf course at all.” J. Nicklaus

 I stood in the car park: So this, then, was a Links course! I surveyed the scene with a mixture of dread and anticipatory exhilaration. I’d heard and read tales of how the wind, blowing straight off the sea over these unprotected and unsheltered links courses, could be strong enough to wreck the game of even top pro’s. Here, today, the flagsticks were having trouble staying upright such was the power of the “sea breeze” – what chance my limited game?

RND, the oldest Links course south of Hadrian’s Wall, is laid out on the Northham Burrows, to the north west of the town of Bideford, North Devon. Golf has been played here since 1864, however it took its present form in 1908 when the original “Old” Tom Morris design was updated by Herbert Fowler, arranging the selection of holes into their current form. The 6424yds (Yellow tees), par 72 course left behind has, apparently, remained unchanged almost ever since.

The view from the 1st tee sees the famous Pebble ridge to the left, without which, it is said, the Atlantic would probably flood the course! The right-hand side of the fairway is bounded by a drainage ditch next to a road to the north end of the beach. This ditch cuts across the fairway just short of a green 31yds deep and bounded, like all the others, by a wire fence. These are designed to keep the flocks of grazing sheep (and the local herd of horses) off the greens!

After negotiating another couple of fairways so flat that they wouldn’t look out of place in a Billiard Table factory, the 4th offers something a little different. Here we have “Cape”, 344yds (yellow tees). The unique thing about this hole is not that it presents the first real sight of any gradient on the course, but the bunker you face off the tee. Reputed to be the widest bunker in the world, it is a huge affair, approaching 100yds wide (with a “finger” extending towards you from its middle) and easily 25 feet to the top of its near-vertical, sleepered face. On our morning round of foursomes I managed to put my partner in here, and his tactic for getting out was to hit his sand-wedge very hard and hope that the rising ball would cannon off the face! He managed it too, but left me a shot with the ball only 9 inches from the edge, and a stance that left me teetering on the edge of the precipice, with my right foot atop one of the sleepers! Having played the par 3 5th (136yds) to a green well above the teeing ground, the tee of the 6th (397yds) offers a spectacular sight of the Bristol Channel. Or at least it would have if the skies had been clearer! The high wind was accompanied by skies as grey as on any November day. Luckily though, we only suffered the occasional light shower.

From here until the 16th, the land is not quite so flat, with the course rising and falling with the undulating coastal dune structure. On this part of the course you will also find the fairways bounded by giant sea rushes, flora so hardy that they have been known to spear a golf ball landing on them! Go off line into a patch of this and your ball, though perhaps occasionally visible, is rarely recoverable without risk of personal injury.

The 13th is probably one of the shortest par 5’s on the planet, but with good reason. The 423yd hole almost always plays directly into the prevailing wind. A seasoned Links player will have learned the techniques necessary to tackle a hole such as this; not so your correspondent, who was glad to escape the green with a hard won 7 on our afternoon round. An equal dilemma for the links novice is club selection: Our Society Captain played the 136yd 5th, into the wind, with a full 5 iron (and won Nearest the pin), yet flew the green on the downwind 184yd 8th with a 9 iron!

If the 13th played hard, I found the last par 5, the 546yd 17th almost impossible! Again playing directly into the wind, it was all I could do to advance the ball. Here the road  has to be re-crossed when playing the ball (finally!) to the green from the fairway. Typically, this green has only a couple of bunkers: There is little need of sand on this course, as the terrain, the rushes and the wind, (if present) make it difficult enough, and with greens as large as those here, it is an unfortunate golfer who finds a greenside bunker.

The Clubhouse provides a welcome area of calm following the rigours of the course. Here one can wander about viewing vintage clubs and balls displayed in the Edwardian splendour of the comfortable seating area, or take up position on the veranda and look through the powerful binoculars at those still battling their way up the 18th.

It may not have been the Open, but as the Golden Bear (my golfing hero) said, compared to my previous experience of Golf Courses, RND didn’t look or feel like a Golf Course at all. For me it had been more about survival this day. I hadn’t won either of my matches (nor had I performed particularly creditably), but I had survived, just, and no one was happier to recover to the Clubhouse Bar than I, there to contemplate on what a baptism of fire I had endured. I had undoubtedly learned an awful lot at RND this day: how to adjust technique to suit the prevailing conditions (yeah, really!) or to play shots to the middle of the green, as they would invariably go bounding over the back fringe! (Too little, too late) If Links Golf is such an acquired taste, I need more time to acquire it.  

Royal Norwich Golf Club

Royal St. David's Golf Club

Sandwell Park Golf Club

Saunton Golf Club (East Course)

Date of visit: July 2004 (report supplied by Graham Adams)

Emerging bruised and battered from the previous days efforts at Royal North Devon, bright sunshine (and lighter winds, thankfully) greeted us as we arrived at Saunton Golf Club. Immediately apparent was that here was a course with much more contour than its near neighbour, with a stiff climb to the Starters Hut by the 1st tee, for here the holes are fitted between the dunes, some of which provide formidable barriers to your ball either from the tee or to the green.

At 5741yds, par 70 off Yellow Tees, the East Course is not particularly long by modern standards (editor's note: off the white tees, which the marshall suggested we play, the course is somewhat of a different challenge being a 6,427 yard par 71 - don't ask about the championship blue tees!), but the club is making efforts to adjust this to take account of the advances in technology: (Our Starter informed us that the 2nd has recently been lengthened by 70yds, and so the yardage book was wrong on that hole.) The original course was laid out in 1897, and redesigned in 1919 by (as at RND) Herbert Fowler. It is a true Championship Course, with the 1997 British Boys Championship held here being won by one Sergio Garcia. It will also host the 2006 British Seniors Championship.

If RND was something of a course removed from my previous experience, here I immediately felt more at home. Being a Links Course the greens were still lightning fast with tricky borrows to boot, but overall it resembled more the type of course I knew.

 Following the 393yd par 4 1st (Gullpit), the 2nd is a par 5 of 480yds (Lobb). The 5th (Tiddler) is, at 110yds, the shortest hole on the course, yet looks quite demanding off the tee. The green is anything but flat, and falls away steeply to left, right and the front, making it difficult to get the ball close.

The 8th (Sandhill, 308yds, par 4) sees you standing on the tee with no view whatsoever of the fairway, as all you can see is the huge grassy dune in front of you. If you can draw the ball then you may attempt to aim the ball to the right of this (as I did on our afternoon round – but then, I can’t draw the ball!) otherwise you are required to go over the obstacle, getting your ball high and risking the effects the wind can have on its flight. Your 2nd to the green is through one of the tightest approaches I have ever seen, with a gap between the dunes of mere feet.

After exiting the raised green of the 10th it is but a short step to my favourite hole of the whole course. (but only so because I hit my best shot in ages here!) The 11th (Field, 306yds, par 4) is a left-to-right dogleg with requiring a 200yd shot to the corner of the angle. From here to the green it is relatively straightforward apart from a bunker in the centre of the fairway to be negotiated.

The par 3 13th (“Saddle”, 136yds) is a cracking hole: from the tee the land falls away before rising again to the green, and you must carry the ball almost all the way to that green to avoid a lengthy hunt in the foliage between. The green falls away down a steep bank to the right, whilst a deep bunker protects the left side. The 392yd par 4 14th is called “Narrows”, and rightfully so, as the fairway narrows dramatically 150yds from the green, calling for a very accurate approach.

“Fowler” (the 16th, 362yds, par 4) bears the name of the architect and is another blind tee shot. Trust the marker pole here, as the fairway beyond is quite generous. Right hand side of the fairway is to be preferred though, as the twisting, raised green is tucked away on the left at the end of the hole. On our  afternoon round here, one of the best “live” putts I have ever seen, a twisting, turning down-hiller of about 30 feet deservedly won the hole for our opponents. The 18th (“Isaac’s Slopes” 353yds, par 4) is as good a closing hole as I’ve ever played. From an elevated tee there are obstacles to be negotiated on either side of the landing area, with 5 pot bunkers on the left edge of the fairway and a huge dune covered with deep rough on the right edge. From here the hole rises to a green, overlooked by the Clubhouse, with as many borrows as any other on this wonderful course.

The previously mentioned Clubhouse is quite a modern edifice, combining changing rooms, a bar (with seating providing the view over the 18th green) and a well-appointed eating area serving food from an extensive menu (The large, well-stocked pro-shop is set apart from this building). During the last 2 years turning out at BUNGS events I have been blessed in playing some lovely courses, but this is without a doubt the best course I have ever had the good fortune to play, and by a country mile. My comment to a member during a chat in the changing rooms summed up my feelings, when I said that he was a “Lucky, lucky man!”  

Seacroft Golf Club

Seascale Golf Club

Seedy Mill Golf Club

Sheringham Golf Club  

Shifnal Golf Club

Date of last visit: May 2007
34 players gave their ratings of the course, which averaged as follows:

Quality of course: 9/10
Condition of course: 9/10
Catering/Service: 9/10
Overall experience: 9/10
Value for money: 9/10
Would you like to return: 100% YES / 0% NO

Some comments received were:

'A brilliant day at a fantastic place'
'Best course we've played this year'
'Bunkers could have been in better condition'  

Shirley Golf Club

Silloth-on-Solway Golf Club

The Shropshire

Southport & Ainsdale Golf Club

Stratford-on-Avon Golf Club

Date of last visit: October 2007
18 players gave their ratings of the course, which averaged as follows:

Quality of course: 9/10
Condition of course: 8/10
Catering/Service: 8/10
Overall experience: 8/10
Value for money: 8/10
Would you like to return: 63% YES / 37% NO

Some comments received were:

'Experience spoilt by stuffy/petty members'
'Golf good - members idiots'    

Sutton Coldfield Golf Club

Date of visit: April 2004 (report supplied by Graham Adams)  

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life, and as a BUNGS member I have in the last 18 months been lucky to visit a number of courses whose style and type have left me either accepting of my lack of ability (very few) or inspired me to go and practice harder and more often. Sutton Coldfield definitely falls into the latter category.  

To call Sutton Coldfield well established is an understatement. Although initially founded in 1889, none other than Dr Alistair McKenzie, who later helped to design Augusta National and Royal Melbourne, designed its present layout in 1924. This gives the course a fine pedigree, which the passage of time has not dulled. Laid out within the bounds of Sutton Park it is a course of the Heath land variety, which since it drains extremely well meant that despite the previous night's heavy rainfall it was in perfect condition for our visit for the Enterprise Cup in early April. This was also the first time this year I'd been able to tee up on anything but mats, which was a pleasure in itself.  

Having arrived at the Clubhouse and partaken of coffee and biscuits (but no bacon rolls!) players had to cross the busy Chester Road (with the aid of a Pelican Crossing) to the area of the first tee and practice green. A nice touch was that an official starter started each group - obviously to keep an eye out for any real "Hackers!" (This jovial Scotsman later commented on the good standard within the Society, so we may be ok for a return visit!)  

All holes are named, with the first (Icknield, par 4, 297yds) having a "generous" fairway, typical of most of the course. Also typical was the green: like most of the others it sloped, was pretty fast and had many subtle "borrows," whilst it also (again typically) unfortunately still showed the effects of hollow tining.  

Slightly less typical (of other courses) are "Rowton" (476yds), "Long" (490yds) and "Road" (455yds), a run of three par 5's that together form the 5th, 6th and 7th holes. After the slog of these three, the 9th, "Avenue" is an uphill 140-yard par 3, and even at this time of year, with few leaves on the trees, it is very pretty. As it has an opening between its four protecting Oak trees of only 50 feet, and is also surrounded by five bunkers, accuracy is essential here.  

The back nine is, we were informed, tighter than the front, and a real card wrecker amongst these is the 12th  ("Beacon" 416yds, par 4, Index 3). With a ditch and stream 100yds from the green for longer hitters to be aware of, the green is elevated enough from the fairway to require at least one extra club to reach.  

The 15th ("Fox Earth," 175yds, par 3) is another demanding hole. Again uphill from the tee, you are faced by the deepest bunker on the course (12ft) on the front left, with another huge bunker caressing the right side of the green. The green also slopes back to front, with the slope being more severe the nearer the front you are.  

The 18th ("Thornhill", 390yds, par 4) is fine hole. A long carry off the tee is required over ditches, gorse and heather to a fairway that is always rising - over 40ft from tee to green. Another twisted piece of manicured grass forms a green with virtually no straight putts on it.  

On many holes around here your view of the drive is obscured by large Gorse bushes and other encroaching foliage, and less than a few of your drives also need to carry the heather that is much in evidence around here. I got the feeling that had we been visiting in mid-summer, with Mother Nature in all her glory, we would have found this course a still stiffer test. A final diosyncrasy here is that all greens are ¾ surrounded by a single wire fence, with a small hoop for the purposes of entrance and exit (presumably by pygmies!) to the green.  

Back across the road we enjoyed the benefits of the comfortable Clubhouse, offering a spacious changing area and comfortable Bar and Lounge. Whilst the after-match meal was not perhaps up to the standard of some we have enjoyed, I can recommend the Sultana & Lemon Cheesecake - lovely!  

Despite the fact I'd left most of what golf game I possess at home, I really enjoyed our visit to Sutton Coldfield, and would relish a return in the future -perhaps at a time when the trees, gorse and heather are in full bloom. What is an already very pretty (and tough) course would then be seen, I think, at it's very best.    

Swindon Golf Club

Tadmarton Heath Golf Club

Date of visit: October 2003 (report supplied by Graham Adams)

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing:  something dangerous that presents itself as friendly.

Imagine the scene: A cloudless, blue, mid-October sky, allowing a still warm sun to shower its light on the green, brown, red and gold of the assembled arboreal foliage. Whether you have travelled 8 miles or 80, in these conditions I defy anyone not to feel light-hearted and relaxed on arrival at this golf club set in the North Oxfordshire countryside…..

So I arrived at Tadmarton Heath. Relaxed, happy, almost stress-free (I’d missed a turn at Banbury Cross which made me late!) and ready for a fine day of golf. The only difference from the perfect weather I describe above was the stiff wind blowing from the east. Having climbed imperceptibly from Banbury, the golf course sits higher than you may otherwise think, and consequently catches much of the windy weather that sweeps across this part of the country.

After a quick cup of tea, and having taken a few turns on the practice putting green, it was off to the first tee. Feeling confident (I’d recently come off one of my best ever rounds) I lined up my first – and fired it straight into the fairway bunker! This unfortunately set the tone for the rest of the day, and resulted in me having one of my worst golfing experiences for 3 or 4 years.

The Wolf in Sheep’s clothing? Well, on first view most of the holes appear to be quite simple: the course is not long (5682 off yellow tees) and most of the fairways are quite wide, with few hazards facing you off the tee. But those bunkers! There are many, mostly deep, and they all seemingly have steep faces placed immediately between your ball and the direction you want to hit it. (Lesson 1: Stay out of the bunkers.) The other major hazard on this course is gorse. If there isn’t a bunker protecting the green then, almost invariably, there is gorse – lots of it!

The green on the 6th, or at least its surrounds, is worthy of note. Slightly elevated, with one small bunker at the front left, the ground to the right falls away steeply. Put your ball in the bunker here and you will be aiming your next shot back towards the tee, as you will be faced with vertical railway sleepers between you and the green.

Immediately following this is the only hole on the course with real contour – the short (139 yard) 7th. An accurate tee shot is required here, over a ravine with a stream at the bottom, to a small green with out-of-bounds to the left, the right and behind, and set tightly against large trees to the right. Considering the wind, a really testing short hole.

The back nine has been described elsewhere as being of a different character – rather like a Mr. Hyde to the front nine’s Dr. Jeykell. As a none-too-subtle introduction to this we come to the 10th. Only 109 yards from the tee, but all you can see of your target is the top of the flag – and a sea of gorse!

The 14th, at 361 yards, is a superb left to right dogleg, where your second has to squeeze between a hedge on your right and a stand of fir trees on your left to a small green guarded by more foliage and a bunker. The 18th is another dogleg, of 423 yards, but this time from right-to-left. A tee shot to the right of the fairway in excess of 220 yards is required here, otherwise you can be blocked out by a large Oak tree at the turn.

Thanks to the long, dry summer the greens were very hard and very fast, yet were true and played without much of the borrow expected at first sight.

My comments may be coloured by my experiences on the day, whereas my society colleagues stated that they thought the course could be approached aggressively – if on your game. It may be noted however that the record on this par 69 course is only a 5 under par 64 (recorded in 1994), and my thoughts are that from anyone’s viewpoint that must have been some round!

The comfortable and relaxing Cotswold Stone Clubhouse (converted from the Farmhouse originally on the site apparently) provided a welcome bolthole for me after my troubles, the well stocked bar being (largely) avoided as I had the drive home to come. Dinner was another matter, and I am happy to recommend the catering here to all – truly excellent. As I headed for the car park so the chilly east wind, which had been increasing all day, gusted again, as if to say, “You’ll remember your visit here – won’t you!”

Tamworth Golf Club

Trentham Golf Club

Date of last visit: September 2007
players gave their ratings of the course, which averaged as follows:

Quality of course: 9/10
Condition of course: 9/10
Catering/Service: 9/10
Overall experience: 9/10
Value for money: 9/10
Would you like to return: 100% YES / 0% NO

Some comments received were:

'Course in good condition'
'Fairways immaculate'
'Greens wooley/disappointing'
'Shame about silly rule regarding jackets in the private dining room' '
Worth another visit'  

Trentham Park Golf Club

Uttoxeter Golf Club

Walmley Golf Club

Date of last visit: May 2007
23 players gave their ratings of the course, which averaged as follows:

Quality of course: 9/10
Condition of course: 8/10
Catering/Service: 10/10
Overall experience: 9/10
Value for money: 9/10
Would you like to return: 96% YES / 4% NO

Some comments received were:

'Great day'
'Absolute highlight - the waiting staff'
'Waitresses were GORGEOUS'
'This club understands the meaning of good service'
'Neil's eyes nearly popped-out into his soup at lunchtime'  

Walsall Golf Club

Date of last visit: May 2008
27 players gave their ratings of the course, which averaged as follows:

Quality of course: 7/10
Condition of course: 6/10
Catering/Service: 8/10
Overall experience: 7/10
Value for money: 8/10
Would you like to return: 70% YES / 30% NO

Some comments received were:

'Course not helped by the wet weather'
'Come back in the Summer'
'Average parkland course - not BUNGS standard'
'Very wet and the tees needed cutting'
'Good showers'

The Warwickshire

Wergs Golf Club

West Lancashire Golf Club

Weston-super-Mare Golf Club

Westwood (Leek) Golf Club

Wharton Park Golf & Country Club

Whetstone Golf Club

Willesley Park Golf Club

Date of last visit: March 2008
25 players gave their ratings of the course, which averaged as follows:

Quality of course: 7/10
Condition of course: 5/10
Catering/Service: 8/10
Overall experience: 8/10
Value for money: 8/10
Would you like to return: 92% YES / 8% NO

Some comments received were:

'Return in the Summer when the greens are better'
'Greens disappointing for the time of year'
'Greens were poor but it still is Winter'
'The food was excellent'
'Poor practice facilities prior to round'
'Course decent for the time of year'    

Whittington Heath Golf Club

Wollaton Park Golf Club

Date of visit: May 2003 (report supplied by Graham Adams)

More years ago than I care to remember my parents went to Wollaton Hall for a family day out. Although only 7 or 8 years old, I vaguely remember it as being somewhere with a big house and nice grounds.

My regard for the Hall, and more specifically it’s grounds, has increased significantly having now experienced the Golf Course set within them. A gently rolling parkland course of 6251yds (Yellow Tees) and Par 71, it does real justice to its reputation as one of the midlands top courses.

Created in 1925 following the purchase of the Hall and grounds by Nottingham City Council, the visitor first sees the very charming and characterful, Mock Tudor Clubhouse, little more than ½ mile from the (very) busy Nottingham Ring Road. On entering, there is a definite feeling of history and tradition here, with the emphasis on creating a comfortable atmosphere for the golfers rather than pandering to those who prefer everything stark and modern, whilst still supplying all the modern conveniences.

The course itself is roamed by herds of Fallow and Red Deer , who will graze the parkland irrespective of the wayward balls coming their way. An interesting local rule is that if your ball lands in a hoof mark in a bunker, a free drop is allowed!

With 3 of the 4 Par 5 holes in excess of 500yds, and 5 of the Par 4’s over 400yds, this is a course suited to the longer hitter. All holes present wide, open, tree-lined fairways, with the flag in view off the tee on all but 2 or 3. Straying off-line lands your ball in short, tangly rough grass, which can be difficult to escape from if too ambitious with your 2nd shot.

The length of the Par 4’s and 5’s is countered by 2 of the 5 Par 3’s (2nd and 8th), each of less than 130yds. Whilst this sounds easy don’t be fooled: a wayward tee-shot will be penalised by either bunkers (situated in prodigious quantities around the course) or a testing chip back onto the green.

All greens are generally well sized and fairly flat, with only the subtlest of borrows here and there. Though true, they seemed fairly slow, though that may have had something to do with the weather!

Our visit was overshadowed by grey skies and persistent showers. Seen at it’s best, with a gentle breeze blowing under a clear blue sky, the gem of a course that this is will sparkle!  

Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin and Bracken courses)

Woodhall Spa Golf Club became the home of the English Golf Union in 1995 when Neil Hotchkin, a former President of the Union, sold them the course. Since then a 2nd course, extensive practice facilities and a Conference Centre have been built. 27 BUNGS members visited the National Golf Centre in November 2005, spending a Friday playing the Bracken Course followed by playing the Hotchkin Course on the Saturday.


When the EGU acquired WSGC from the Hotchkin family in 1995 they also secured enough land on which to build a 2nd course. The services of Donald Steel were retained and work started on what would become the Bracken Course (so named because it stands on the former site of “Bracken Wood”), which opened for play in 1998. By nature a US-style “target-golf” Parkland course it is by no means as severe as it’s older sister, but still serves up a good test. USGA specification greens are large and undulating and require good “reads”. On the day we played this course the wind was up, which made for some “interesting” club selections.

The first notable hole is the 3rd (345yds, par 4) that doglegs to the right and has bunkers placed both sides of the fairway around the landing area of your drive. The 4th is the longest hole on the course – a par 5 of 523yds. A good drive to the left of the fairway will allow a view of the green, which is tucked off to the right. Going for the by now reachable green is fraught with danger however, as it is protected to the front by a lake.

The longest hole on the course is immediately followed by the longest (but by no means the best) of the par 3’s. 187yds to the middle of the green, anything just short will lead to a drop as there is a stream (from the previous holes lake) offering protection.

More water must be carried on the 8th. Although only 288yds to the green, water comes into play twice as another stream cuts first right-to-left and then left-to-right again across the fairway before the green is reached.

The 10th is another left-to-right dogleg with large trees and a narrowish opening to the fairway in the apex of the turn. 14 is another par 5 (504yds) where a long drive will allow the green to be attacked with your 2nd.

The 16th is the best of the par 3’s. 153yds long, water surrounds the green. On our visit this hole was directly into the wind, causing one of the more interesting club selections of the day. (Still didn’t manage to hit the green!) The return to the clubhouse is via a fairway fringed by large trees

Not only are the bunkers on this course not as deep as on its sister, there was nowhere near as much sand in them. This, considering it was mid-November, was perhaps my only criticism of the condition of the course: the fairways were in good condition, the rough wasn’t too penal (?) and the greens rolled truly.

This course – wide fairways and undulating greens, etc - in no way prepares you for the test of golf that is the Hotchkin, but is, in its own way, reasonably enjoyable. Having only been in play for 7 years it is, perhaps, still a little young. A serious golfer would not visit this part of Lincolnshire just to play this course, but as an addendum to playing it’s older sister it is more than adequate.

(All yardages off yellow tees.)


Talk about a sense of anticipation: “Best Inland Course in England” (Golf World, Nov, 2002), “22nd Best Course in the World” (Golf World, Nov, 2005), and “Don’t go in the bunkers!” And with the day dawning bright, clear and windless (and unseasonably warm) we had the perfect day for our round. Whereas the Bracken Course is of the Parkland variety, the Hotchkin – 100 years young this year - is a classic Heathland course: lots of Heather and Gorse penned in along tree-lined fairways, and just a little contour (well, it is Lincolnshire!)

After getting your swing going with the ease of the 1st (must be – I got a nett birdie!) and (to a lesser degree) the 2nd, the serious golf begins. The 3rd (408yds, par 4) tee is set tight against the trees to the right, yet the hole eases to the right, meaning that effectively there is only half the fairway to aim for. Small swales festoon the landing area, and there are more on the approach to the green.

The 5th is a superb par 3 of 143yds. There is nothing but heather between the tee and the 2-tier green, and this is protected by no fewer than 5 bunkers. The front right bunker is one of the Hotchkin’s deep variety, with about 10 feet of sand face to negotiate for those unlucky enough to put their ball in there.

The 9th  (545yds) is the longest hole on the course, and one of only two par 5’s. Fairly straight, longer drivers of the ball run the risk of their ball rolling into one of the 3 bunkers straddling the fairway. The entrance to the green is a real bottleneck, and reaching the green in 2 is a real achievement.

After a snack at the halfway house, the 10th (328yds, par 4) again has bunkers threatening your drive before the wide fairway doglegs to the right. In contrast to this the 11th (405yds, par 4) has a really tight fairway. (The back-9 is generally more intimidating and testing than the front)

The 14th (457yds, par 5) is another tight driving hole, with a small green protected by a single small, but deep, pot bunker. Throughout, we played on standard, “summer” greens and off 17 standard tees. The anomaly was the 15th. Ordinarily this hole would play 315yds off the yellows, but was shortened to a tee which stated “209yds to centre of green.” This made for a clubbing decision: Go for the green or lay up? The sensible play is to lay-up, as this is a raised green with two HUGE bunkers protecting its forward flanks. Of our 3-ball only one of us finished the hole!

Ascend the 18th (442yds, par 4) tee and you are presented with what is supposedly the most picturesque hole in English golf. It may be, but I’ll have to take it on trust as by now the sun was falling towards the horizon and was so low that we could hardly see the fairway! 

For the time of year all holes were in fabulous condition, no doubt thanks to the excellent drainage qualities of the course, and the (flat, in comparison to those on the Bracken) greens ran true, even allowing for the recent hollow tining.

The wooden clubhouse, probably from the 1920’s, has been sensitively modernised and extended to provide a welcoming atmosphere, and the comfortable, if basic, restaurant served food that was excellent. Since the EGU took control a modern and extensive Pro-shop has been added and also a Conference Centre.

Prior to the trip, and again before writing this report I had plumbed the interweb for information about this course; all correspondents supplying reports to the comments page of UK Golf Guide ( waxed more lyrical about this course than about any other I had read: “It is simply perfect.” “Every hole is so special.” “Superb in every way.” With my humble experience I cannot counter this in any way. I have had the pleasure of playing some wonderful golf courses since joining BUNGS, but this one tops the lot. If, as they say, the cream rises to the top, the Hotchkin Course is quite simply my Crème-de-la-crème.

(All yardages off yellow tees.)

Worcester Golf & Country Club

Worfield Golf Club

Date of visit: March 2006 (report supplied by Graham Adams)

The very end of March does not, perhaps, hold the promise of the very best of weather. On the Society’s visit to Worfield this axiom held true. Society members were repeatedly told that when the weather elsewhere is calm, here it is always windy. Well, the previous few days had seen stiff breezes across the country and here on this exposed and elevated course, true to form, the wind BLEW! Coupled to this the afternoon round was treated to occasional, but short and light, showers.

All in all, no one could seriously complain about the weather though. And no one could seriously complain about the course either. Worfield is situated in the rolling countryside just a couple of miles east of Bridgenorth and provides impressive views of local countryside both near and far. This is facilitated by the course being one of major contour, with perhaps only a couple of holes being “flat”.

This is evidenced by the 1st (408yds, Par 4). Your drive (should) carry the gentle downhill slope from the tee and find the start of the uphill slope to the green. Even longer hitters will still have 150-200yds before reaching the green, and all of this is uphill. Much has been made on reports of the first four holes being a good test. The opening two par 4’s are followed by a short par 3 and then a stiff par 5 of 509yds. This hole has just about everything: a short bunker at about 200yds out, more bunkers in the lay-up area, ditches left and right and a multitude of trees both young and mature.

Throughout the day the wind would prove to be a factor, but if played for it frequently failed to deliver it’s effects when required. Those whose game usually falters because of lack of carry through low ball flight tended to profit as their balls flew under the effects of the wind. Any ball which gained altitude was picked up and the shot punished as the wind bared its teeth.

Back to the course: the par 5 4th is sandwiched by par 3’s. Of these the second is the tougher. At 188yds tee-to-green the hole is not over-long, but with the wind coming off the left and the ground feeding everything to the right all shots I saw on the hole (mine included) finished in the right rough. The 7th is another par 5 of 482yds: a fairly flat fairway rises gently to a green, with small bunkers protecting it’s opening, tucked away around the corner of the hill on the right.

The 9th is common to quite a few holes on the course: a high tee with limited views of the landing area. This is the third of the par 5’s and the longest at 539yds. Both the 9th and the 18th share a lake in front of the green. (Both claimed balls on both of our rounds) Of the two, the 9th has the easier approach, as the green is quite a way beyond the water, meaning a full third shot into the green is possible.

This course is advertised as an All-Year-Round course, thanks to being created on very free-draining land, and uses no winter-greens or tees. The greens certainly showed signs of the wear they are subjected to, being quite bobbly in places and all recovering at the time of our visit from the hollow-tining completed just a few weeks before. One of our number is a member here and confirms that in the height of summer the greens are both fast, true and generally in very good condition.

The 10th (342yds, par 4) is another hole which rises all the way from tee-to-green, the fairway running on the side of a hill which means everything runs off to the right. The small green is cut into the side of the hill just below the 18th tee. The 12th completely threw (and annoyed) me. After a good (for me) drive I was left with a shot to a green I couldn’t see – all that was in view was an aiming post which I guessed was short of the green. WRONG! It was a red / white post signifying that it was at the back of the green, and of a sort that I’d never seen before. The green itself is in a sunken “pit” just a few yards short of this. Ball lost, no points – lesson well & truly learnt!

The 14th is the last of the par 5’s(479yds). This hole features another raised tee and certainly the first 150yds of the fairway is out of view as it falls away rapidly from the tee-box. Ideal position for your drive is middle left as this opens up the green for those long enough to “go for it” in two. (Another BUNGS member who had previously played the course scored his one and only ever gross “eagle” on this hole.)

Step off the 14th green and walk the short distance to the 15th tee behind the tall conifers and you are presented with one of the most uphill par 4’s you are ever likely to see. Although only 273yds, this is all steeply uphill. New bunkers have been built on this hole over the winter creating a narrow opening to a small green. The general advice here for your second shot is, apparently, to decide on which club you are going to play and then “select one more!”

Somehow, at the highest elevation on a course which has such good drainage, the Designer and Greenkeeper has managed to include and maintain a water hazard (and a very pretty one at that) on the 16th (337yds, par 4), which protects the front left of the green. Finally, the 18th runs alongside and traverses the same lake as the 9th, but this time it is only a par 4 of 320yds.

Although only opened in 1991 and still improving I have to admit that with my liking for courses with gradient and contour I was very taken with Worfield. On top of that, it is a very fair course where good shots WILL be rewarded. Could do with a little less wind though…..

(All yardages are off Yellow Tees.)  

Worcester Golf & Country Club

Worksop Golf Club



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