Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Tunisia Five years on - part two

Part 2 - Gammarth, Tabarka and back to Tunis via Sidi Bou Said





As the week hots up, so does the quality of the golf, next stop The Residence.  This Robert Trent Jones II course is one I enjoyed previously.  Quite open in its design, I found it harder to see the RTJII usual design go to’s- not such a bad thing to show his diversity of design.  Again the grass was quite brown, but this didn’t detract from its playing ability.  Water was in play for a few holes, and playing around that water bought in the inevitable narrowing of the fairway.  Playing 6285 from the back and 4804 meters from the front tees, it is a fair test of golf.  Hole 5 was the start of the water side holes.  A pretty par 3, 153/80 meters, SI7 had water cutting in from the right, the water was planted with high reeds and beyond that, a green side bunker - clever in design and clever in aesthetics. The par 4, hole 6 kept the water expanse to the right before moving away with the water behind us as we played hole 7, another par 3 of only123/82 meters.  These were some of the holes I stepped back to play them slightly longer.  Three pretty holes in succession with a huge beach just beyond


the reeds.   The openness of the course is ever more apparent on these few holes.  Arriving at the 11th, one can see the string of bunkers guarding the green and again narrowing the landing spot of this par 4.    I also liked the 15th hole a 176/116 par three hole with scrub to hit over and little bail out.  Funnily enough the tee signage showed the shrub as water, so maybe during high tide it is water?  The day we played it was shrub, a little like heather with patches of sand between.  With many undulations across the course, playable bunkers weren’t in short supply, great putting surfaces and water either in play or picture framing the fairways - I thought The Residence is a course of beauty and one I’d like to return to again.  Great food too!









A journey North towards the Algerian boarders to play a new course for me - La Cigale in Tabarka.  A grey day met us to play this little, but arguably the best course in Tunisia.  The course was set in amongst trees with wonderful elevation changes throughout.  Being North near the Algerian border the temperatures aren’t always as high as in the South.  But the damp air did not damped the course, its condition or our spirits- maybe having more rain enabled the course to shine?  Unfortunately the course had been hollow tined on some of the fairways, leaving small plugs dotted along the fairways but this wasn’t on all of the holes, and as I’ve said before, I’d rather see maintenance than see the course not being managed or invested in.   Besides the greens were the best I’d played in Tunisia.  I understand that the signage was being upgraded, so the tee box boards weren’t as helpful as they will be when the new ones have been installed.  That said, the course and its strength in design carries off any anomalies with ease.  More like playing an established course in the UK any other Northern European country, the lush greens against the white sandy bunkers and

imposing trees was a pleasing sight.  The topography of the course did mean it was up and down hill a bit, but in truth, it encapsulated the changes in elevation and worked with it.  Hole 3 with its elevated tee and the sweep of the green fairway swishing around to the distant far reaching views of the ocean and drew the eye towards the flag stick just before the ocean.  This par 4, SI 18  measured 301/275 meters and was as inviting as some of the best with the waves crashing against the back of the hole - well the sea was actually a bit further away, but the visual effect was that of the waves crashing agains the back of the green!  Lovely.

Sadly the rain came in and my game went to pot!  It came back a few holes later, but not without pulling some horrible shots left almost into the ocean then having to recover over a wire fence - but an image tells that story better!

So taken with this course that a few of the holes remained me of Kawana in Japan or Whalsay in Shetland with their oceanside holes - different oceans, different parts of the world but all similar in terrain and appearance.

The 8th took you away from the Ocean and into a parkland style of course again.  I particularly liked the bunkers at La Cigale, the sand was gritty and the club came through with ease to pop the ball out. 

A big tree is in play the par 5 9th which forces a strategy of careful play - I’m not best known for safety shots.  But you need to keep the ball fairly left on the 494/428 meter hole.

For a pleasing vista view, take stock on the 14th tee with its through the valley far reaching views framing the ‘castle’ in the distance.  Deceptive off the tee the 18th, with its floral tee exit looks difficult with water in play, another sign of a good well thought through design lends itself to a great finishing hole with a water fountain marking the end of this wonderful course.  A course that transports you from natural beauty to the modern designed club house which weirdly sit in harmony with each other.



There are plans for La Cigale to be changed; more bunkers added and of course new signage, so watch this space to see how these new improvements also benefit the overall experience on the course.


Obviously travelling so far North, you need to stay somewhere and the luxury La Cigale Hotel is only minutes to the golf course.  Comfortable beds with each room being given plenty of water bottles to go about your day, not to mention the evening meal being superb, sadly the breakfast was a little sparse but did the job.  This hotel and course are, in my opinion, worth the journey North, but allow yourself some time to enjoy it.







Travelling back to Tunis didn’t take as long, but we did take a slight diversion via Sidi Bou Said - the picturesque ocean side village painted in strict blue and white shades offset against the blue ocean was a welcome stop over.


As I had time to reflect on this latest trip to Tunisia, I came back to my original question - has Tunisia sunk or swam during a global torrid time?  I guess, a bit of both.  Some hotels and golf offerings were not up to par, others offered the same good experience and one stood out as a must visit.  The hotels were, in the main, better than five years ago, with the exception of one which was dated and tired, the others were upbeat, clean, welcoming and modern or traditional in equal measures.  Could it be a golf destination to rival other more established ones?  Most likely but not yet - however, it could be a great destination which has golf.  A destination for all the family and who knows one day, with some investment and cohesive thought, it could well be one to watch in the future.



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Friday, 29 July 2022

Tunisia - Part One

Tunisia Five Years on - is it a golf destination?


Introduction


Five years ago I visited Tunisia and wrote about how I was struck by the determination and fight of the golf courses and tourist board to overcome any negativity of the country and what it can offer.  Money was clearly tight in places back then and the lack of tourism was evident when you looked beyond the facade.  Now five years later, and I’m back - but has Tunisia and golf in Tunisia flourished or sunk further behind better established golf destinations without Tourism boosting the economy due to the added negative impact of the covid years?






As a week long trip produces lots of content - this piece is split over two smaller articles - so I don’t bore you to death but also to help you with the geography and what is achievable when visiting Tunisia.  Just a three hour flight with Air Tunisia from Heathrow makes Tunisia easily accessible from the UK.


Part 1 -  Hammamet and Sousse


Staying in the Magic Hotel Manar in Hammamet was a big improvement on the hotel when last in Hammamet!   A welcome fruit plate in the rooms followed by a late dinner was served by way of a buffet.  The food and service certainly had improved if this was anything to go by, the diet was surely going to be tested!   A comfortable, large suite with good bathroom facilities, Hotel Manar is a great place for the couple of nights we stayed.  Directly outside the room and shared with the neighbouring room was a small pool for added holiday luxury and privacy.   Hotel Magic Manar is a large family friendly hotel with multiple large buildings centred around a communal pool and entertainment area close to the beach.  Being on an all-inclusive basis meant pre-dinner drinks and a place to meet was a relaxing start to the evenings.  The large lobby area with clean lines and traditional style artistic mosaics adorning some walls for added authenticity.  





Being a golf and wellness trip I visited the 5* La Badira, a Leading Hotels venue, for some spa treatments whilst most of the group went to play golf.  To be honest, I was torn between golf and spa all week, but think I managed to balance it out to benefit both.  La Badira draws you in as soon as you walked through the first automatic door into a dark corridor with ‘floating’ white model fish at varying heights against the black background.  Underwater scenes set the mood of relaxation before popping out the other end through the second set of automatic doors to a stunning view from the reception area and beyond to the ocean.  Modern artwork, water features and lavish, but not over the top, decor greets you.  In to the spa, and being given the one size fits all paper thong, (not flip flops for my Australian readers!) a wonderful massage ensued after a body scrub with salt.  The most stressful thing about the whole experience was trying to figure out which way round the disposable thongs went on!  

Hair on end, flushed in the face but feeling relaxed, a spot of lunch in the Citrus clubhouse before playing 9 holes in the late afternoon sunshine.  Just a quick nine playing Les Oliviers front nine then quickly scooting around the back nine stopping to play the odd hole as time allowed.  I did play both courses at Citrus last time, but it was great to see that the few holes I played this time hadn’t suffered the cruel covid fate of no investment, although it could benefit from better irrigation in places.  With a gentle come and get me opening hole you could the hear the rumble of traffic.  The olive trees dominate the course adding some depth and worth.  As it meanders around the course flourishes in its maturity.  The irregular shaped bunkers were good to play from and the easy rolling putts meant the design had allowed it to evolve with time.  Hole four is a good example of the bunkering which was very much in play from the back tees, but sadly not so much from the forward tees, but I guess being a par 3, SI 17 (131/69 meters), its meant to be reasonably easy!  Quite a pretty course with huge aloe vera plants growing freely in the bunkers for extra texture and of course, difficulty! 



A fairly flat front nine draws you in, with the back nine coming into its own as a moreundulation, arguably interesting nine.  I could kick myself I didn’t remember this with only having time to play 9 holes!!  The 10th hole, a par 4 with elevated tiered tee boxes dropped down 358/322 yards to an inviting green.  As the sun sets, the hazy images take on a romantic image of golf.  Even the sporadic watering of the greens became part of the dying days twilight ritual as we plotted our way around to the 19th - a welcome end to a hard days golf and spa.





The next day took us to, it has to be said, a course that has not flourished in the covid years - well maybe it had flourished so much it had actually gone to seed.  Yasmin Golf Club certainly showed signs of lack of love, attention and most likely money- shame really as it could have been good with a little TLC. As a holiday golfer, Yasmin might be perfectly fine, certainly its layout was good, nothing at all wrong with the holes and their design, but sadly the condition did let it down.  As one stood on the first tee, all looked well, but as you got into the belly of the course, the grass wasn’t grass- more a mat of weeds. In some cases the weeds had turned into flowering weeds - and whilst quite attractive off the tee, it was a nightmare to find the ball - white or yellow - on the fairway.  Happily not all of the holes were like that - some had been mowed some had not - the bunkers contained little sand, some had weeds taking over the bunkers, affecting their definition.  It was all very sad to see as I did remember it better five years ago.  So looking at the positives - the greens had been mowed and ran very quickly, the edge of some of the fairways had allowed flowers to establish which outlined the

fairways but were a bit of a nightmare if you went off piste.  It was also lovely to see a tortoise wandering along the back of the green.  If their desire was to re-wild and benefit the flora and fauna - they did it well.  We were given a caddy on this course as they only had a couple of buggies, and whilst a good caddy, I don’t believe a caddy should tell you how to play your game, more give you directions for lines where necessary or when asked.  That said, he turned out to be such a nice chatty man who did indeed have lots of knowledge of the course and how it played.  In all I have mixed feelings about this course, as it really could be something much better but it did give me the opportunity to develop a new category of golf course - we have parkland, heathland and links - this one was in the newly developed category of meadowland.



Being whisked off immediately after golf to the Hasdrubal Spa Hotel I was treated like royalty in this highly regarded beautiful spa hotel.  Two treatments ensued with with me being plonked into a salt flotation tank - again wearing the obligatory paper thongs - which by now I’d got the measure of as to which way round they went on!!  A warm feeling overtakes the body as you gently get pummelled and rocked back and forth in this massage water bath.  In another treatment room I’m wrapped up after being smothered with a body detoxifying ‘mud’ - lying there thinking I could get used to this, I must have dozed off as the next thing the water is being drained from underneath the ‘mattress’ and I’m unwrapped - all sticky like a toffee which had been left out in the sun.  The cleansing shower at the end meant I was ready once again feeling great but heaven knows what I looked like!


On this elastic schedule week long trip the next day I’m back on the course.  El Kantaoui in  Sousse .  There are two 18 hole course here, the Sea Course and the Panorama Course.   Starting on the Sea course, I found it amazing how quickly my memory returned from playing here previously.  The take you away first hole, a par 5, SI10 450/372 meter hole begs the question why a par 5?  I have the theory that it was just being kind to get you going with ease.  I really liked the way the course appeared to have embraced the natural landscape and palm trees, which looked good splitting the fairways plus the odd white buildings of yesteryear made for a pleasant Tunisian scenes.  Residential buildings edge the course in places, without themselves being intrusive, the road noise on the opening holes provided a buzz, until a lorry came along that is!  But once you’d played a live game of ‘frogger’ to cross the road after the 4th, the road noise soon faded.   Good greens, narrow entrances to some of the greens and some deep sided bunkers.  El Kantaoui, Sea course  was shaping up to be a good thought provoking course to play.  Water in play, eucalyptus and olive trees make you realise you’re in a nice warm country enjoying some golf.



The Sea course takes on a different  appearance once you’ve taken the tunnel under the road to the 12th hole - this is the start of the sea views with 12 leading you towards the Mediterranean ocean.  Whilst your eye is drawn to the blue sea, the course slips gently away for the next few holes.  Before you realise it, you’re heading back down the 15th with the ocean behind you.  These few holes did show signs of heavy play or maybe in need of some water.  I thought hole 14 was a hole of stand out hole.  A par 4, 370/304 meters the tee box sits with the sea to the left.  A slight dog leg left, the drive is important to place centre right.  Too far left and the inside of the angle is fraught with danger by way of palm trees and a bunker to the raised green which in itself takes a slight turn left closer to the sea.  

Despite these few holes being ocean side, it was a shame the high fencing was a little tatty and giving you the feeling of being locked up.

As mentioned, I did love the huge palm trees taking centre stage on the fairways, but I also noticed that playing the forward tees actually put these palms in play, so think about the best tees for you and your game so you can just enjoy the experience.


Quick lunch and onto the Panorama Course.  Of a similar condition the the Sea course with big structural olive trees and the same great tee box boards showing the hole ahead in clear detail.  Although more built up with residences the course is worth taking some time to play - time wasn’t something we had, so a quick round was needed once again!

I recall the 7th a 371/312 meter dog leg right to a narrowish olive tree lined fairway, bunker right to a nicely elevated green.  Despite the warm weather turning the grass brown, both courses played well although there were a few bare lies.  That said the greens weren’t too bad and did play well.    Also worth a mention is hole 17, par 4 312/269 meters SI13) with its panoramic elevated tee.  The fairway makes it way around the water in the shape of an orange segment with water on the inside of the crescent.  Visually it was a pretty hole to play.  A small stream runs across the front of the green, so a decent tee shot and a careful approach shot is best for an easy two putt par.    The 18th - SI1 par 5 hole  (576/474 meters) is fairly wide off the tee box, but narrows as the water shrinks the approach into a narrow entrance to the green.  The Panoramic course is slightly shorter than the Sea Course by approx 300 meters, depending on which tee box you play from.   This could mean you’d leave your driver in the bag for a few holes.



Coming up next - Gammarth, Tabarka and Tunis via Sidi Bou Said

Monday, 11 July 2022

Girls day out - Wrag Barn, Wiltshire

Four lady golfers doing a course review for all golfers.



Never met before but golf bought them together.

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Friday, 24 June 2022

The Hallamshire - Home of Champions

 An incredibly understated and uninviting piece about golf in the local Sheffield Star reads:



“Hallamshire Golf Club is nestled between the Peak District and the City, on Redmires Road.  The club is home to one of the best and most challenging courses in the North of England”


Well thats true, but …






Recent winner of the US Open, 2022, Matt Fitzpatrick is a member here, not only that but other greats such as Alison Nicholas, the winner of the US Women’s Open 1997 and Solheim Cup Captain in 2009 and 2011, lesser known Mary Everard, (recently deceased), was a four time player in the Curtis Cup- all have links to the Hallamshire - in short this course produces winners, quality winners at that.


It is true, Sheffield isn’t known as a tourist trap, its deep rooted industrial heritage in steel surpassed only by the friendly (and sometimes not so friendly) rivalry of the two home grown football teams; the Owls and the Blades. The natural friendliness of Yorkshire people and their, usually deserved, status of ‘no flies on us’ approach puts this city on the map for many reasons - but golf isn’t one of them.


Fitzpatrick admits that his home course is very similar to Brookline, Massachusetts where two historic wins US Open as an Amateur in 2013 and the more recent one of the US Open Champion 2022 puts him as only the second person (behind Jack Nicklaus) to win both these titles at the same course.  Matt says of his home course; the Hallamshire is shorter (than Brookline) but the greens can be tour standard and are the best around.


The pro shop, albeit welcoming, is just like any other, the clubhouse doesn’t scream at you despite its commanding elevated position overlooking the course. Truth is, unless you knew it was there, you could easily drive past the club.   But what it lacks in showy appearance it more than makes up for as a challenging, well designed course for all.



A fairly intimidating first hole appears narrower than it actually is off the tee, but the clubhouse popping up into full view once you’ve driven the ball is enough to put anyone off - especially if you’ve hit a poor drive.  Add the OOB on the right and the in your face wind, you’d be happy to survive hole one with a decent score and scurry onto the second tee as you become engulfed in the course.




The 4th, par 4 SI7/1 (460/378 yards) is quite a straight hole called Bilberry Dimpling.  The name bought back fond memories of me sitting atop the Moors picking bilberries for Mum to make jam.  Whilst hole 4 didn’t bring back those comfort memories of home cooking, it is a fairly open yet lovely hole.  From the 4th, over the 8th, you can see the aptly named Snake Pass as it winds its way along the hillside carrying people to endless opportunities in their little square boxes on wheels.


Redesigned in the1930’s by Harry Colt, Hallamshire golf course embraces the natural terrain of hillocks, sways, heather, gorse and of course bilberries. Add the odd bunker - whose level of consistency with their sand and depth of sand was as good as any top course I’ve played, and you’re on to something special.


The 6th intrigued me with its far reaching views of Hallam Gorse Moor with its WWI training camp. 
Even to this day overhead images show the outline of the trenches dug - weird to think that another great golf course designer, Alister MacKenzie was instrumental in the design of the trenches during WWI!   Hidden behind the trees on this par 3 193/127 yard (SI15/17) hole you can just about see Rivelin Dams.  





The (member) legendary 9th, with it’s hard to stop the ball on the green challenges any such notions of making a birdie on this par 3!  Such is he slope of this green that any downhill putt is met with trepidation. This is not a hole you’d give a gimme in a match!




As the back nine is 220/360 yards longer than the front, bagging a decent front nine score could help you with your overall score.


The 10th is a par 5 from the front, par 4 from the back tees.  It is literally laid out in front of you.  A slightly elevated tee off area before it drops down to a water course crossing the fairway.  The green is cleverly positioned to be slightly off centre with a bunker left.  A brave shot over or work you way around into the mouth of the green. Its name  Perfection is one you’d strive to live up to on this hole.


The course continues to work its way around the natural landscape throwing in many challenges, especially for those who haven’t played it before!  Large sways of gorse are in play as they hug the ravines transcending downwards or pop up in places you’d rather they didn’t.  







Hole 15 (above) is called Long.  This par 5 is a test for those who may no hit so far or have left their ‘A game’ in the car park.  Measuring 584/506 SI10/4 this is one hole which you could be punished or rewarded on.









Slightly different in outlook and design is the 17th, a par three over a shallow gorse ravine to a slightly elevated green.  The imposing rock face sits immediately to the right of the hole and green.  A clean hit is required to make it over the gorse and over the multiple bunkers protecting this 134/123 yard par 3.









A sloping fairway right to left closing hole par 5 487/452 yard SI 14/5 is one where you could walk away with pride or hang your head in shame as the clubhouse and any patio loungers overlook the final green.


In summary; the Hallamshire greens were superb, the bunkers were consistent and the fairways offered so many different thought provoking opportunities - from all the tees.  It is a must play for any golfer.  Enjoy the hospitality which is sure to be extended to any visitor.







Words and Images
Sarah Forrest
aka - Travelling Lady Golfer


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Thursday, 2 June 2022

Gorgeous George and Stunning Simola

The last in series of three videos showing Cape Town and along the Garden Route in South Africa.

But not our last for South Africa - something really special coming up on You Tube shortly

Please enjoy and please subscribe..


Thursday, 26 May 2022

Cavendish Golf Club, Buxton, Derbyshire, England




It is no surprise to most of you, I am a massive Alister MacKenzie fan, so when I was offered the opportunity to play another of his thought provoking designs, I jumped at the chance.

Buxton is a spa town in the High Peak borough of Derbyshire, England.  It is the highest market town on the edge of the Peak District National park.  Even the drive through beautiful Buxton got us excited as we started to climb up to the golf course.  Buxton is just 45 minutes from Manchester airport, and about 50 mins from Manchester or Sheffield centres making it accessible by car or plane for those wishing to explore this beautiful area.






In 1923 The Duke of Devonshire allocated some land and requested, the now legendary, Alister MacKenzie to design an 18 hole golf course.  Golf history in the making, the Cavendish course took the name of the Duke of Devonshire and still to this day the family retains  some links to the golf club.  Maybe better known in golf history is Cavendish being the inspiration for Augusta National, with amazing similarities.  Cavendish Golf Club was opened in 1925, some eight years before Augusta National.


A coolish start to what turned out to be a sunny day, we tee’d it up with Lady Captain, Rachel.  A relative newcomer to the sport, Rachel was as keen as mustard  and I was not without a little jealousy at her being able to take up such a great sport on such an iconic course in such a beautiful setting.  Although she did try to tell me it wasn’t always sunny there!



Hole one was the pathway to the course, the gradual leading you into the clutches of the MacKenzie lair.  It wasn’t until hole 2 with its tiered green that it curled its lip and bared the teeth as the course to conquer, or just enjoy, as we did.



Not overly long in length  (5721/5162 yards) and true to MacKenzie ethos, Cavendish is more about being able to play the course rather than the length of the ball one can hit - sure enough having a decent drive doesn’t hurt, especially if you can get yourself in to position A.  None more obvious than on hole 11.  Keeping the tee shot centre left is perfect to take on the ravine with the babbling brook beneath a drop off, and to give yourself a shot to the green.  Slightly shorter off the tee and you have the conundrum of deciding whether to lay up or go for the green across the drop off and water course.  A relatively short par 5 (403/366 yards), SI9 can lead to a birdie opportunity.  


I was looking forward to the MacKenzie greens with their, in places, excessive undulations. The 17th is a large green left to right but a tee shot short and a huge uphill awaits you.  Personally I like the excessive slopes on greens, it means I have to read them.  To me its like playing snooker.   When you’re looking to put the blue in the middle left pocket, what angle do I need to take and do I need to bounce off the side to do so… You might think a bit of a mathematical brain could be needed but I can assure you - that’s not me!!




One thing that struck me at Cavendish was the desire to return the course back to its original state.  MacKenzie is not known to put bunkers in places just to make the game too hard, his bunker positioning is carefully thought through with the regular club golfer in mind.  Cavendish have lost some of their bunkers over the years so I’m delighted to see they are gradually reinstating them.  Not only this but come the millennium year for the club in 2025, all the bunkers will have replacement sand.  Playing the course today, one can still enjoy the course, but it’d be great to play it when all the green have been done and back to the original design.





Snatches of Augusta’s iconic holes catch ones eye as you play the course.  The Scotch pines being prominent in making this comparison.  With just 4 full time greenskeepers and 2 part time ones, their passion is evident in the way they embrace the ethos of the course designer.  Bumping into a couple of them whilst playing was not only an opportunity for some good banter but also an opportunity to acknowledge the pride they took in their work.



Interestingly, the course doesn’t go out in nine and back in nine.  It seems the course layout has been changed either just before or just after it opened so all the hard hole were not all on the back nine.  This ‘new’ change is reverted back to the MacKenzie way for 4 days of the year when the course is taken back to its original design - just for fun.  I really love that idea and might just knock on the door of the Cavendish during that four day period.  That said, the ‘new’ layout does not detract from the beauty of the course and its surroundings, more I like to think that Mackenzie gave options.


Although parkland at first appearance and yes it is true there are plenty of trees in places (needed as there are no toilets on the course!), weirdly the open landscape of Cavendish Golf course site does lend itself to be played like a links in places- the chip and run shot is a good one to have in your bag - especially if the wind is blowing!  But make sure you bring more than that shot to the course otherwise the water courses and the odd tree might get the better of you! 




The white club house sits proud and offers a warm welcome on arrival and a comforting big hug if the course beats you up.   Not an overly large, ridiculous small or ostentatious building, just comfortably sat within its space commanding its position with pride- ready and waiting to greet you.


So, if you cant get to play Augusta, give Cavendish a go, I loved it and would definitely return.

www.cavendishgolfclub.com


Words and Images

Sarah Forrest

aka Travelling Lady Golfer

Freelance journalist

Golf Guru Group


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Sunday, 15 May 2022

Manor House, Castle Combe, England

To the Manor Born

Staying at the 14th Century Manor House Hotel, Castle Combe near Bath last week and playing the Peter Alliss and Clive Clark designed course was a real treat.

The 5* Manor House hotel and restaurant experience was second to non.  Nestled in the award winning ‘Prettiest UK Village’ and being home to masterpiece greats such as Warhorse and Downton Abbey.  The Manor House hotel is a short drive to the golf course. The hotel is split into various accommodation offerings- I stayed in one of the mews cottages overlooking the front car park and gardens beyond.  An oldie woldie style of dark wood and plush furnishings and a huge bed oozed comfort which didn’t disappoint.



Dinner in the Castle Inn was a short walk from the accommodation with breakfast being served in the main hotel building itself - both meals were of both quality and quantity.

In contrast the clubhouse is relatively new, and as such has good break away rooms for golf groups or meetings.  The verandah overlooks the iconic 18th hole which has water in play to the right of its approach.







Hole one takes you over an old motte and bailey, although now the motte is only distinguishable but is in play for the first drive to a dog leg left.  The course shows its colours from hole 2 - an elevated par three of 118/151 yards, SI 13/17 the view is wonderful down to the green as a babbling brook dissects the short fairway and wraps itself around to the left of the green.


The 6th was slightly annoying from the forward tees, in so far as the back tees had a small pond to go over.  The forward tees were, in my opinion, harder than the back tees as the shot of choice was not straight onto the fairway but approached by an angle.  The the line of choice from the tee is to the right of the bumps and over the corner of another stretch of water. That said, being a par 5, there was scope to go off piste and still recover with it being a SI7/15.




Hole 8, par 4 is a big hitters dream at just 239/309 yards (SI13/17) from tiered elevated tee boxes.  OOB left and a few trees right, it didn’t give the appearance of being intimidating either and therefore was drivable for a birdie or easy par.  Looking back from the green to the tee made you realise how high the tee boxes are.

Hole 10 sets the scene for the undulating fairways of the back nine, a slight dog leg left through the humps to an approachable green just around the corner. 






When people talk about The Manor House - hole 12 or 17 are the holes they are most likely to discuss, why?  



Hole 12 - potentially controversial to golfers and golf course designers.  As one rounds the corner, the hole comes into sight and one can see why.

That said I love a challenge so was delighted to give the ball a good hit to the sloping right to left fairway as it runs down the hill - naturally club choice is key off the tee as too far and you’re either into the rubbish right or left or even into the ravine.   The dot to dot fairway climbs quite sharply after the ravine to the hugely elevated, bunker protected (right) fairly large green.  Add a not so insignificant tree to mess with the drive means accuracy is important rather than length on this hole.  This par 5 SI 2 12th (430/498 yards) continues to cause many discussions - personally I think its a great hole and feel it is quite reachable in regulation with carful course management.


Interesting, playable golf continued with shadow casting bumps and humps and the odd small pond to negotiate - then hole 17 came into play.  Now I will be honest here, its another one of my favourites.



As you leave the green from hole 16, unaware of what is ahead (spoiler alert) it hits you in the face as you gradually take a short ride downhill to the tee box.  The tee box is one long expanse right to left with the various tees positioned along its length.  Before deciding which club to take, wander along the tee box - camera in hand, and enjoy the view.  Not one but two greens to play for, one right, one left, you never know which green is in play on the day you’ll play.  Great for the green keepers who can switch them around as weather dictates.  Weather does come into play here as the tee boxes are quite elevated and again have that babbling brook meandering around the two greens, pretty as a picture.  The greens are not small target greens but too short, too long, too far left or right could lead to a no score on the card - and no one wants that!

Up hill afterwards to the closing hole - it is this hill that makes you grateful you hired a buggy!

A good par 4, SI10 finish (322/384 yards) with a favourable drive centre left to avoid the tree right enables a shot to the green to miss the water right and bunkers left.


In summary, an established course set within hill and valley and some lovely Cotswold countryside.  The practice green looks like it had been on steroids with massive elevation changes, but the actual greens were less sloping, with some subtle movement of the ball.  In the main they were in good condition.  Tee boxes were in good condition too, that is the forward and back tee boxes.  Fairways were cleverly thought through to enjoy the countryside yet hold your attention to the game in hand, in short, a great course to visit.  For the ultimate experience, try the stay and play option and immerse yourself into the true English countryside


Words and images from Sarah Forrest, CEO Golf Guru Group

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