Amateur Golf News from England, Wales and Scotland
The Suffolk Heritage Coast is a corner of England stuffed with art galleries, antique stores and tea shoppes. For candyfloss, fairs and crazy golf head up the coast to Great Yarmouth. On this part of the Suffolk coast you’ll find upmarket restaurants, a shingle beach and windswept courses steeped in heritage.
Southwold’s answer to pitch and putt is the quality nine hole course on common land. James Braid was consulted about the course on several occasions and played an exhibition round in 1898. He was invited back in 1906 but when he asked for a fee of eight guineas he was told not to come. Anti-commercialism had set in.
The pace of life here is leisurely, although the meandering roads get busy in the summer with families seeking nostalgia. The area is excellent for bird watching and we have the Nazi’s to thanks for RSPB Minsmere, the UK’s largest bird sanctuary. The area was flooded to stop German tanks from landing, which created the reedbeds – the perfect environment for the bittern, the logo for the RSPB and one of the UK’s rarest breeding birds. There are a number of trails you can follow through woods and along the dunes which in summer are carpeted with southern marsh orchids. Binoculars can be hired from the visitor centre.
Pre-war, Southwold was adored by the Edwardian jet-set. George VI attended Southwold Summer Camp until 1938, rowed ashore from the Royal Yacht to be greeted by crowds of enraptured locals and visitors.
Southwold may be crammed with nostalgia but Thorpeness epitomizes 1930’s village idyll. The village has little more than a pub, green, pond, windmill and the House in the Clouds, a 1930’s folly. Thorpeness Hotel and Golf Club is approached down a quiet track and has some challenging holes lined with gorse and bunkers fortified with railway sleepers.
Despite the unwillingness of Southwold to pay James Braid his consultancy fee, the great architect was back over a decade later to lay out the 18 hole heathland course at Aldeburgh in the 1880’s.
Aldeburgh is the finest course on this part of the coast. In May the fairways are aflame with the flowering yellow gorse, but there’s no guarantee that the wind will be calmer as it blasts off the North Sea. The greens are outstanding and the bunkers tough, most being lined with sleepers so you need to be bold and confident to get your ball back onto the fairway.
Every hole presents a challenge such as the Par-3 15th measuring 201 yards for men and 188 yards for ladies. Straight into the wind, with a large bunker to the right makes this hole a challenge of mammoth proportions. The Par-3 4th has a horseshoe shaped bunker lined with sleepers, leaving no margin for error. If you want the course to yourself, on Sundays after 3pm the course is deserted after the tourists have headed back to the towns.
Those on the nostalgia path will enjoy the 1930’s clubhouse. Everything is exactly how it used to be. Leather arm chairs, big picture windows and a tigers head mounted on the wall. The guest book has entries scrawled from this era right through to today, and it will probably still be there in another century. This corner of Suffolk has certainly passed the test of time.
The Swan (01502 722186; www.adnamshotels.co.uk) dominates the marketplace in Southwold and has great food, and superb afternoon tea.
Thorpeness (01728 452 176; www.thorpeness.co.uk) offers large rooms in a tranquil setting.
The Crown and Castle (01394 450 205; www.crownandcastle.co.uk) serves the best suppers in Suffolk. Make sure you drop by for a bite. Golf breaks available
Visit the official tourism website at www.visit-suffolk.org.uk
The Chilterns are best visited in the crisp autumn and winter months when the sky is a deep blue against the green rolling hills. The region stretches from Henley-on-Thames and then north-east to Marlow, Amersham, Berkhamsted, leapfrogs over Luton and finishes in Hitchin. A drive in the countryside will take you through traditional brick and flint cottages like Turville, where the Vicar of Dibley was filmed. If you visit one of the village pubs expect roaring fires, a dog or two and a pile of muddy boots by the door.
With its wealth of character and close proximity to London, the area is highly sought after, with property in Henley-on-Thames and Beaconsfield the top two most expensive places in the UK to live outside London, according to a recent survey by a leading building society. These two historic towns are a good base from which to explore the local footpaths and courses. The towns have clung to their character, holding out against shopping malls, hypermarkets and a swathe of starter homes on the outskirts – a reality of many towns today. But despite the expense of land and property, if you know where to play green fees do not have to be extortionate.
Of good value is the heavily wooded Chiltern Forest near Aylebury. Little Hay, a fifteen minute drive from Berkhamsted, is an incredibly popular municipal course in good shape and has a challenging variety of holes. Booking a tee time at the weekend is a must as it gets very busy. On the same road, Boxmoor, is a tough nine hole layout with an 80 foot drop from the tee to green on the 9th.
If you want to push the boat out Ashridge, in the heart of the National Trust estate is particularly beautiful. The deer dash across the dense wooded fairways in herds, probably startled by a golf ball flying above their ears. Last year the course was an Open qualifier, but if you manage to stay out of the woods, you can score well. The 14th has a wickedly sloping green, with a lipped bunker placed directly behind, so make sure your second shot isn’t over zealous.
If you find that bunkers have that annoying habit of ruining what should have been a perfectly honorable score, book a tee time at Berkhamsted Golf Club, a short drive from Ashridge. The course doesn’t have any bunkers but you do need to be confident off the tee to make the carry over gorse. Don’t bother trying to find your ball if you don’t quite make the fairway- it is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. The 18th isn’t for the faint hearted either, as it requires a carry over a road.
If you follow the canal south of Berkhamsted you’ll pass through The Grove, which is one of the greatest new courses to be built in the past decade. You will need to keep your cool on the greens on which the ball will glide over like ice. The course, designed by Kyle Phillips of Kingsbarns fame, is in immaculate condition and is long and challenging. The hotel has outstanding facilities including a luxury spa. In nearby Watford Top Golf is worth a visit. More than just a driving range your ball is micro-chipped so distance can be measured if you hit the target.
In the Southern Chilterns bird lovers will enjoy Harleyford and Temple near Marlow where Red Kites soar above the fairway. Part of the beautiful Harleyford Estate, Harleyford is a Donald Steel designed course meanders through parkland, featuring large greens. Look out for the temple by the 15th tee, and finish your round with a drink in the bar, which has an interesting mediaeval theme.
Close to Cliveden, The Lambourne is a modern parkland course which is warm and welcoming to visitors. Burnham Beeches, the oldest club in Buckinghamshire, is particularly stunning in the Autumn when the leaves turn russet and the period clubhouse is exactly the sort of place Inspector Barnaby would frequent.
The Grove is a new hotel with a stunning spa and excellent restaurants. Rooms from £240. For Marlow the best hotel is the Compleat Angler (0870 400 8100) golf breaks from £395 for two including breakfast, one round and dinner.
Visit the official Chilterns website to plan your visit and find out details of tourist attractions, events and walks. For a downloadable driving map of the Midsomer Murder locations visit the Bucks Tourism Website.
The Costa Brava has similar attributes to many holiday golf destinations in Continental Europe. It’s less than a two hour flight from the UK, it has sun sea and scenery in abundance and truly fantastic local cuisine, but this area, on the north eastern tip of Spain where the Pyrenean foothills tumble down to meet the azure blue waters of the Mediterranean has additional features thrown in for good measure.
Except for the peak months of July and August when the Catalonians from nearby Barcelona virtually take over the area, its courses are relatively quiet compared to other parts of Spain, and the big plus is that golf here is priced much more reasonably!
PGA de Catalunya, only minutes from Girona airport was opened in 1998 and staged the Spanish Open a year later. Water features on seven of the holes and even where it is absent there is no respite, with tight doglegs featuring over an undulating 7,300 yards from the back tees. The Tour course features wider fairways and greens.
There is also an hotel development under way at Emporda Golf Club, just 15 minutes from the coast. The Links course features dune like mounds, large bunkers and tricky undulating greens with several water hazards. The other is aptly named the forest course, the fairways enclosed by statuesque pines.
Serres de Pals, is perhaps the most forgiving test in the area, but a challenge nonetheless. Several lakes come into play and there are some superb par threes. Relatively flat it lies in between it’s neighbours Emporda and Pals and has stunning views over the surrounding countryside, the medieval village of Pals and the nearby Isles de Medes.
Golf de Pals is the oldest established course in the region and a comparatively short 6,900 yds but the visitor should not be fooled as the early dog leg tight tree lined fairways of this Hawtree design demand great precision from the tee. From the 6th the course widens out presenting an opportunity to open the shoulders. Unusually the course has a par of 73, and contains six par fives.
These three courses, Pals, Emporda and Serres have just launched a joint three or five round green fee promotion that will be available through all the local hotels in addition to the golf clubs.
Girona, boasting a magnificent cathedral here is a must, is also home to a great FW Hawtree design. A buggy is advisable as it is a hilly layout, and a huge clubhouse will take care of your every need after the round.
Peralada Golf Club lies on the northern edge of the region a few miles from the city of Figueres, famous for its Dali Museum. There is a five star hotel, a nine hole short course, while the compact 6,600 yard layout has hosted the second stage European Tour School on several occasions. Added to all this there is a castle and winery just a drive and a five iron away!
The Torremirona Club on the opposite side of Figueres in the village of Navata also has its own hotel and rental apartments. The 5th has an island green, the back nine is wide and inviting and there are magnificent views over the nearby Pyrenees.
An extremely enjoyable round can be had at The Golf Costa Brava Club, which has a former Catalan farmhouse as its imposing clubhouse. Measuring 6,200 yards the course winds its way through pine and cork groves over the front nine while the back nine widens out.
Close by Golf D’Aro-Masnou, a thousand feet up in the Gavarres Mountains, has spectacular views over the sea and surrounding hills. The course is surrounded by pines and features more than a thousand olive trees and two large lakes.
The Costa Brava offers a superb selection of modern golf hotels and classic layouts and a taste of the real spain too.
Fly into Barcelona, 70 miles to the south, which is served by British Airways (www.ba.com) from Gatwick, Iberia (www.iberia.com) from Heathrow, EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) from Gatwick and Luton, Monarch (www.flymonarch.com) from Manchester. Girona is served by Ryanair (www.ryanair.com).
PGA De Catalunya
Emporda Golf Club
Serres de Pals
Golf Platja de Pals
Club de Golf Girona
Club de Golf Peralada
Golf Costa Brava
Torremirona Golf Club
The Emporda Golf Resort offers a spa and two layout
Florida layouts team with exotic bird life, glittering natural lakes and sunbathing alligators. Service comes with a smile and the standard of food and accommodation at the largest golf resort in the region, the Ritz Carlton, is outstanding.
The coastline here along the gulf of Mexico is tranquil, with waves gently lapping at the white sand. Greg Norman designed, Tiburon have tempted golfers away from Orlando.
Greg Norman had to come up with something pretty special for the design of his three 18-hole championship courses which surround the new luxury resort of Tiburon.
Appropriately, Tiburon is the Spanish word for Norman’s nickname and logo – the shark – a lighting fast fish showing no mercy to its prey. The same could be said for the greens at Tiburon. Combined with the challenging water hazards which seem to come into play at almost every hole Tiburon is no push-over.
The complex has been carved out of 800 acres of dense tropical foliage and parts are designated as a wildlife sanctuary.
There are four tee positions for every hole and carts are equipped with a well-planned GPS system, which is constantly updated to give players accurate distances to the daily pin position.
Tiburon has host the PGA Tour-sanctioned Franklin Templeton Shark Shootout, attracting some of the world’s top tour players. Practice facilities are complemented by a high-tech golf teaching academy.
The mansion-style clubhouse is located just a short walk from a five-star Ritz-Carlton resort hotel, where guests get priority tee times and reduced green fees.
Each of the 295 guest rooms is elegantly appointed and has private balconies with panoramic views of the golf course. Resort amenities include two restaurants, gourmet coffee shop, card room, billiards room, cigar bar, lobby lounge and an elegant club level. Additional recreation includes a heated outdoor pool, fitness centre, tennis, Ritz Kids and use of the services and amenities at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples.
Although Tiburon is one of the region’s most expensive courses during the high season (January – April) rates can drop dramatically during the hot summer months, particularly for later tee times.
The Naples Grande golf resort is located on three miles of sandy beach and has a waterpark which is great fun for big and small kids and a great way of cooling down after things start to heat up on the Par-72 course set in a tropical landscape.
Naples lies 29 miles due south of Southwest Florida international airport at Fort Myers. United Airlines (0845 8444777 www.united.com) has connecting flights from London Heathrow to Fort Myers and the resort is a two-hour drive from Miami.
Information about golf courses and accommodation in the Gulf of Mexico area can be found at www.wcigolf.com