Due to popular demand County Golfer Magazine has extended its coverage into East Stafford so what better way to kick things off than to play The Manor Golf Club in Kingstone, Uttoxeter, Staffordshire.
Yours truly, Lefty and Newby, were dispatched from the office to see what this popular golf course had to offer. First, though let me tell you a little of the clubs heritage.
In 1989, the Bathew family decided that they’d had enough of farming but in order to still get use out of the land, they decided to build a golf course. In 1991 the club was established as a business venture and the family approached Mr Ted Anderson, a local architect and family friend, and asked if he would design the layout of a 9 hole course on the 70 acres of land. This, along with the building of the clubhouse that would eventually overlook the whole course, was the best start the Manor could have. The 9 hole course proved to be great fun to play and as Ted’s first attempt at course design, a great base from which to expand to 18. Four years later some neighbouring land became available and it was decided that as membership was growing, then maybe this warranted a course extension.
In 1994 the club purchased another 33 acres of land and duly brought in a golf course constructor to change the existing 9 holes into an 18 hole golf course. This would involve a complete reshaping of the 9 hole layout, indeed, only the first and second remain from the original Ted Anderson design.
Today you will find a challenging 6,215 yard par 71-course set within a valley, which has some scenic tee shots and some hilly fairways.
You reach the clubhouse by driving through the farm and we laughed as the farm dog, which was lying in the middle of the drive enjoying a nap, was not too impressed when he had to move out of the way for us. The clubhouse itself has a spacious locker room and up the stairs you will find the dining room which is very relaxed and serves food all day, we would recommend having your breakfast here as the Full English looked a real winner.
The first hole, par 4,336 yards is what I call a good starting hole, an elevated tee looking down on a wide sweeping fairway, a good time to really open up. A few golfers had come to the balcony to watch us tee off, no pressure then! The last time I teed off with people watching was in a golf competition at the Nottinghamshire and I proceeded to hit my tee shot about 20 yards into a bush which made interesting viewing on the launch monitor later that day with a little red line going nowhere! This time thank goodness I hit a beauty which just left me a 6 iron onto the green, you do have to make sure you don’t over hit your second shot and go over the back of the green as there is a small ravine which would lead to a lost ball. I don’t think there’s anything worse than playing a great tee shot then completely messing up your second…oh wait a minute there is, a scuffed tee shot!
This is followed by a cracking par 3, only 153 yards long, but your shot is over the ravine to an elevated green with OOB down the left. For me it was a 6 iron that got me nicely onto the green, just a warning though on the greens, I think the Bathew family like to challenge us golfers, let me put it this way, you might get to the green but then you could still do an ‘Ernie Els’ – don’t mention Augusta!
The next hole is aptly called ‘Summit’. Off the whites it’s a monster par 5 at 628 yards long and it’s still a good distance off the yellows at 570 yards, a daunting hole but what I like about it is that you tee off literally on top of a summit as the fairway sweeps away from you below your feet. On this hole you have to produce a good tee shot otherwise forget it. Also, just to make it more challenging the green is two tiered, so no wonder the ‘summit’ is stroke index 1.
Ivor’s island was next up and this is a member’s hole because they know exactly how to play this properly. It’s a relatively short par 4, at 371yards this hole is all about club choice. If you do not hit a big drive you can’t reach the green in two. My drive was good but not long enough and I was in that horrible place where it would feel wrong to lay up to Ivor’s Island, so I decided to try and get over this large expanse of water but came well short, to carry over it you would need to execute a very good fairway wood shot. Sometimes you have to know your limits and play for a bogie instead of wrecking your card thinking you are Bubba Watson!
I must point out at this point that my playing partner Newby had got out of the wrong side of bed and was in a foul mood and even more so as he was having a bad day on the golf course and therefore moaning about everything. I on the other hand was quite enjoying myself on the course especially when I teed off on the 7th 409 yard par 4. What makes this hole scratch your head is that while standing on the tee you see a row of majestic trees about 80 feet high cutting across the fairway. Now you have two options, go over them or, aim to the left and play your next shot out off the rough. On this hole there is no room for a poor tee shot. I decided, “I’m not messing about, I’m going over the trees”. I hit the drive of my life with a bit of draw it was 270 yards plus, to be honest I don’t know what happened, if I could harness what I did differently on this hole rather than on the other 6, I would be a pro! Well maybe not, but I’d at least shave a few shots off my handicap.
Now if you ever wanted to show someone what a true dogleg on a golf course looks like then the 8th ticks the box, it has to be almost a 90-degree dogleg left. Here you have two choices, either go over the trees and take the corner on, or hit an iron into the knuckle. So for the purpose of journalism we decided one of us would take the corner on while the other played it safe. Since my confidence was high after the last hole I decided I would take on the corner, over the trees and over a stream behind them.
I hit another big tee shot over the trees but then lost sight of it, did it carry on over the stream as well? It did and left me with an 8 iron onto the green, but …and there is always ‘a but’! They had obviously thought about people trying this line and have left a great big oak tree which blocks the view to the green so I would have to get distance and height to hit the green, another difficult shot. I did however manage to do this and hit my shot over the tree and on to the green for a birdie chance, but landed a solid par. So taking on the corner will gain you the advantage but you need two good shots. Newby who took the iron option had a clean view of the green but still had a long way to go.
As we turned the corner on to the back 9 Newby’s demeanor improved, why this sudden change of attitude you might ask? Well I think it had something to do with the fact that from this point he parred the next 6 holes, and started to declare how much he loved this course! We are a fickle bunch us golfers. It amazes me how much our mood is affected by how we are playing.
I, like Newby, really enjoyed the back 9 where you will find most of the holes you will remember, and for me that’s the sign of a well-designed golf course. One of the holes though is a real killer; it’s the 15th 369 yard par 4 and it’s called ‘Saddle’. I don’t know why they named it ‘Saddle’ I think a more apt name for it would be ‘Sherpa Hill’ as it’s all uphill which then peaks onto a green which has steep banks protecting its front. It’s one of those holes, that when you put the flag back in the hole you feel like having your picture taken as though you’ve just climbed Everest! Having said that, we both parred it. It now becomes clear why they made you make the climb…the 16th!
This little beauty for us is their signature hole, it’s a cracking par 3, as you stand on the tee you look down onto a green below your feet, if you go to our Facebook page or our website you can see me and Newby tee off and see how we did.
The 18th is a tough finishing hole, it’s a dog leg right and all up hill to a green that slopes back the way you came, in fact while in the club house before we teed off we watched as a golfer ended above the hole, over hit his putt and watched it trickle off the green and back onto the fairway. I also ended above the hole but this knowledge helped me out, I tapped it in with a much more gentle touch, and that’s the point. This is a course you need to play twice, the first time should just be a practice round because you will play so much better the second time around.
This was backed up by what Jane said back in the clubhouse, their members especially the ladies, when they play in a competition at another course mostly win, why? Because this course makes you use every club in your golf bag, each hole throwing up a different challenge.
So how good a golfer do you think you are? Go and find out and measure yourself against the Manor Golf Course. Visitors are made very welcome at The Manor. They are renowned for being one of the most friendly golf clubs.