Radcliffe On Trent – The Rain Finally Stops

When the invite came from Karl Adams to play at Radcliffe on Trent Golf Club we quickly packed our bags. If, like us, you’ve been heartily sick of the rain then you can bet your life the golf clubs are too. They have had a tough time with closures for waterlogging but, on the upside, the sun has started to shine, albeit haphazardly, and summer is beckoning, (or so we thought).

Entering the Pro Sop we had a warm welcome from Claire who has been at the club for 15 years now. We were kitted out with scorecards, water and the customary chocolate bar to replenish lost energy.  The sky was looking ominously dark as we eagerly set off.

All three of us  got off well at the first  with high hopes of beating the Bulwell Forest  scores. As I didn’t play there I was on a winner, anything under 100 and the honours were mine.

Lefty took the Tiger line over the trees and declared that  “he had deliberately left it short of the ditch”. He’s full of rubbish like that.  I say that with confidence because he lost his ball on the next shot.  Then I looked for the camera to take a photograph and realized I’d left it on the floor outside the clubhouse, so off Lefty drove at speed to get it.

As there was a two ball waiting to tee off after us we did the gentlemanly thing and let them through. That lull should have allowed us time to take a breather and capitalize on our good drives.  I did get to walk over the bridge though and was happy to see my ball on the fairway.

My second shot was not long enough as I under clubbed leaving me short and having to decide which club to use to get onto the green. I needn’t have bothered because again I fell short.

I’ve realized, the more I think about the shot the worse I hit the ball. But I was pleased to come off with a 5. Newby went off to the left and into the trees and then had to get back to the green and came off with a six. Three perfectly achievable pars ruined. That’s golf for you.

The second hole affords a gently sloping downhill shot. We all felt that the bunkers were incredibly well placed to catch the mid handicapper. It’s a dog-leg right. Watch out for the right bunker as it’s a  beast to get out of. I thankfully landed my third shot short and managed to chip within three yards of the hole. I needed a miracle to avoid a 6 but I didn’t get one. Two putts and I came off with a six.  The greens were playing magnificently and  pretty quick. It’s a struggle to get used to them after a winter of soggy greens. Your game has to change.

On the Third, a dog-leg right, Lefty parred it. A great tee shot that was long and true just bisected the fairway giving  him a  super approach shot  to the green with a 9 iron, and two putts saw him dancing with joy. He should have birdied this one after such a good start.

The 4th. This is a long par 4 at 437 yards and Newby got the second of his three pars.  At stroke index 3 this is a tough hole and I scraped a five, which was hugely disappointing . I’d read up on the holes on the web site and it said this about this long par 4,  “Don’t go left, trees await” I should have listened!

The  5th hole. I really don’t want to write about this one. I’m sure it’s a good hole. Aren’t the trees nice at this time of year?

6th. Newby thought he had nailed it but the green narrowed alarmingly and his shot went slightly left which left him a nasty downhill chip from out of the rough. The chip didn’t go as planned and the ball refused to get up to the green in sufficient distance to get another par. Lefty went into the bunker. In fact I’m sure he was the only player to do so which is unusual because we all catch one normally.

By the 7th hole the rain had decided to get a bit heavier and to be honest it spoilt what was a most enjoyable round so far, but we have to bear with that in England, it makes the game even more difficult but hones your skills.

The greens slowed a little at this point but I found that my putting was getting better as I could punch them a little harder to get up close and even into the hole.

Before we played the 8th we were caught up by a couple of  friendly local lads (pictured) who were as wet as us.

The 8th is 192 yard par 3. The bunkers are not as near the green as you think. You need a good 170 yard carry just to get past the middle bunker. I landed a yard short leaving me to pitch onto the green. I scuffed it and ruined my chance of a wet birdie. Newby took a 5 iron and wellied it but only made the front of the green. Lefty went into the left bunker and said he did a 4.  We are convinced that his score converter is rigged similar to the euro against the pound and at the minute his currency is strong against the par.

The 9th. We were quite soaked by now and the shots were not impressive as I ended in the rough on the right and seemed to stay there for the next three shots feeling soaking wet. Just in the distance we could see the clubhouse and a pint of Speckled Hen was calling out to me, so we decided that we would follow the procession to the clubhouse and come back to fight the back nine another day.  The greens really held up well to say that the rain came down pretty heavy and the course was still good underfoot. A real treat to play.

While we were ordering drinks and perusing the menu Phil, complete in cooking gear,  said that the steak pies were good. To prove the point may I direct you to the picture of the magnificent steak pie, presented to us elegantly by Louise, which we devoured along with chips and peas. Our efforts were so appreciated by the members that one came across to congratulated us for finishing it. We were convinced it was a ‘pie for four’ but nevertheless  in true Desparate Dan style and not wanting to appear rude we ate it all.

Phil and Louise really looked after us well in the clubhouse and we appreciated the time they gave us even though they were obviously busy.  Our thanks to all at Radcliffe on Trent GC for a super day.  We intend to come back on a sunny summers day to play the back nine and have another super steak pie.

PS:  Just to clarify things, we were playing off yellows. In fact the yellows are only 174 yards shorter than the white. ‘We should play off whites”  I said, but no one listened. Not that I would play any better, but I like the elongated views of holes.

Ashbourne Golf Club – Tranquillity at last!

When I think of Ashbourne and sport, the first thing I think of is Shrovetide Football, what a sport!! 2 teams consisting of hundreds of players fighting over a ball, running, kicking and many scrums. When someone scores a goal, they’re lifted high up on the shoulder of one of his team mates and carried around to applause! It’s generally chaos!

In complete contrast, up on the hill, high above the village sitting in tranquillity, is Ashbourne Golf Course, where it’s anything but chaos! A place where you’ll see no fighting, running, kicking or scrums, and only rarely will anyone be paraded around on someone’s shoulders (this is usually after a hole-in-one, or a particularly good committee meeting!)

For me, it’s the tranquillity that draws me to a round of golf. Just a couple of good friends, the open fairways and peace and quiet. Away from work, away from the troubles of life! And being a fair-weather player too, our trip to Ashbourne Golf Course on one of the best days of the year so far was something to truly look forward to!

The first thing you notice about the course is the location (Sounds obvious I know!). It sits high up above the village and looks out over some of the best views you’re ever going to see, stretching far out  into the Peak District. On a clear, sunny day it’s truly breath-taking!

The course eases you in gently with the first few holes being pretty flat, a big dogleg left on the first hole is a bit tough to judge if its your first time at Ashbourne. It’s a little bit of a “hit and hope” hole unless you’ve played before.

As you turn onto the 3rd hole the course begins to reveal its true colours. A long par 3, lined with trees and with a big right-to-left sloping fairway, that also falls away down to the smallish green. It’s a tough hole that easily has the potential to ruin your card before you’ve even got going. Sadly there really isn’t a safe way to play the hole, it’s green or bust from the tee!

This hole sets the tone, as you start playing your way up and down the fairways, each hole either rising or falling in front of you. Personally I’m a big fan of courses like this, I get a little bored if the course is flat. The extra challenge at Ashbourne of judging the length of your shot really adds to the challenge of playing there, whether an amateur or professional. Deciding whether a 100 yard shot is sand wedge or an 8 iron depending on if you’re facing the Eiger or the precipice! And this course has those sorts of shots in abundance (although without a buggy I might not be quite as enthusiastic!).

The 6th hole is a great example of this, a 152 yard par 3 steeply up hill, with the green sloping steeply towards you. There’s a big bank at the back of the green to catch anything too big like mine, but two putting from above the hole is a huge challenge. Landing below the hole is ideal, but incredibly tough to do.

The 10th hole may lead you to think “the front 9 were hilly, I’m glad its flattening out now”! Don’t be fooled, the 11th is right back in the vein of the first 9. The fairway slopes down and steeply to the right. Land on the hill on the right and you’re in trouble and go right and it’s out of bounds. The only option is to land on the fairway, but with that sloping strongly to the right, you’re not guaranteed to be safe either.

My favourite hole on the course has to be the 12th. A long iron downhill (no surprise there!) will leave you laying up before a large pond, you flirt with danger as you see how close you dare get. The closer you are the easier the next shot. Then you have another iron over the water, up the hill (again no surprise) onto the green. It’s not the hardest hole to play, but it’s a great challenge and a fantastic hole.

After playing your way through the hills, the last few holes are back on the flat as your work your way back to the club house, with a fantastic closing hole. A dogleg right from the tee leaves the decision as to how greedy you’re going to be. I suppose this depends on your card really, protect your score or go for the big finish. Your second is approaching the green with water and the club house to your left. So a good finish is a must especially on a sunny day when the members are outside enjoying the sun watching you return home.

Without the buggy I reckon I’d have felt as if I’d played in the Shrovetide match, but as it was we had a fantastic round. The green’s rolled beautifully, the fairways were all in fantastic condition. You may not be able to guarantee the weather, but this course will never let you down. On a clear, sunny day, it really is a fantastic place to play.  Newby

Chevin – Up up up and away!

I would say that Chevin Golf club is one of our better courses in the area, and certainly one of the most picturesque, as the course winds its way up and down with cracking views towards Derby and beyond. If you talk to some local golfers this puts them off playing here because it is quite a walk, I always thought that this is the reason they play golf, not because of the golf, trust me I have seen them play! This now is not a problem, because the club has invested heavily in brand new golf buggies,which is a game changer for them. I’m sure a lot of you reading this will now take advantage of this new investment as we did, and I can assure you we reviewed this course on one of the hottest days of the year but came off the course not shattered like the last time we played here.

Along with the addition of golf buggies, Chevin has also invested in new mowing equipment. This has made the biggest change of all in our eyes, the definition between rough, edge of green and the greens themselves is to be applauded. Also they have employed a new golf manager, Andy Mellor from St Austel, who we met in the club house after the round, we were impressed with his driving ambition and passion for the club.

So all in all Chevin have all the right pegs in the right places, so the only thing to do now is get onto the course to play. Newby was my playing partner today and we took full advantage of  having buggies and stocked up on golf balls and water from the very well stocked pro shop. The first is a steady hole to get you warmed up, a 349 par 4. The fairway is forgiving, so for your first tee shot of the day there is not much to worry about even with my slice!

From this point you will start working your way very quickly up the hill creating some tough up hill shots, but also some cracking holes. One of these holes you ‘will or will not enjoy’ is the stroke index 1, hole number 3 simply called “The Hill”. From the tee it looks quite a straight forward shot but what you don’t realise is that the second is an uphill shot onto a blind green. To hit the green in two would require a lot of skill and a bit of luck. I walked away with double bogie and was happy with that as it is a potential card wrecker.

The bonus I think, of having a course built on a hill is that it creates some cracking par 3’s, so after being humbled by the 3rd you get relief on the next hole. “The Spinney” is a par 3 at 124 yards long. Basically on this hole hit the green first time, as anything to the right of it will roll off into the trees.  Anything short will more than likely go into the bunkers guarding the front. Both Newby and I hit the green and walked away with pars. Even though I was a good way from the hole I did rattle it for a par, this is the beauty of investing in new cutting equipment as the greens were stunning, the ball ran fast and true the way I like them.

On the front 9 you get two par 3’s that follow each other, the 6th being a long 228yards while the 7th is 124yards, the 6th is a trick shot especially if you have not played it before as it’s a blind tee and the fairway slopes up away in front of you. It’s really deceiving but not that far. I wrongly used a driver and managed to hit the back of the green and out of bounds.  A well struck wood will see you get near if not on the green. I learned a lesson there. The green itself has a green moat around the front and a steep bank at the back so you do have a good chance of hitting short and rolling onto the green which Newby did.

Let’s move onto one of the most talked about holes amongst Derbyshire Professionals. Why you might ask, especially as this hole has no bunkers on it, easy!!

It’s called “Tribulation” for a reason. If you are playing in a competition this hole is always at the back of your mind, it will not forgive a wayward drive. OOB down the right and left on this tight fairway that slopes away left and right, you have to hit the middle. After doing this, it’s all up hill. A difficult uphill 2nd shot to a green that has OOBs on the right, and over the wall at the back of the green is challenging too. Both Newby and I found the OOB and nearly took a woman out walking her dog, who got revenge on us by popping the said golf ball in it’s mouth and  running off with it…The dog not the woman! If you come off hole with a par, pat yourself on the back as you managed something that most pros cannot do.

You really are now starting to climb. The 9th is called “The Beacon” you will see why when you stand on the green, the views are stunning. I will now hand over to Newby who will carry on the story as it’s my turn to drive the buggy, Lefty.

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I can’t remember any of that happening Lefty! Especially the birdie!! 😉

And on with the round as we continued to climb on the 10th hole, an interesting driving hole, where you have to circumnavigate three fairway bunkers with your drive. Laying up short is an option, but one that leaves you a 175yd  minimum approach shot, as a higher handicapper I’d go for this all day long. A 5 on your card here is not a bad result at all.

The 11th hole really starts messing with your mind, not so much the golf, but more the fact that you’re going up hill still! Surly an 18 hole golf course going up and down a hill will have 9 holes going up and 9 down. How are we still climbing on the 11th? What’s about to happen? Does the club provide oxygen or should I have brought my own? How steep are the remaining 8 holes? Spoiler alert! The answer comes at the 17th. But for now the par 3 11th is a lovely little hole, with a massive 2 tier green, hit the wrong one and a 3 is a very good score.

And so the descent begins!

Starting with a drive, with a little slice I sent one flying over the two bunkers on the left and round into the middle of the fairway of the 12th, my best drive of the day by far. The additional distance due to a good tail wind, playing down hill and a thin altitude (Maybe the last one is an exaggeration, but it is high!). The green is surrounded by bunkers, with just a small opening to play through if you land short, which unless you approach from the right is incredibly tough. Then comes the views, and what views they are too. I’ve yet to play a course that can match Chevin for the incredible sights from some of their tees. Words cannot describe how good they are, fortunately the camera can! The view from the Ladies on the 13th cannot be beaten, take a look even if you are not going to play it.

The sweeping holes back down the course continue, with the par 3 14th  being a stand out hole, where precision is key. It’s less than 150 yards, but miss left and you have nothing to do but hope it either sticks above the bunker or, if you’re longer hope it rolls down, go right and… well yeah, you’re in trouble. You’ll finish at least 20 feet below the green and a 4 is a good score.

Earlier I mentioned the 17th as being the hole where you eventually end up back playing on the flat. It’s a hole that seems to have divided opinion with some of the members really not liking it. Here’s my opinion for what it’s worth. It’s a good hole! Standing so elevated above on the tee, you have to drive down the hill, but not so far as to reach the brook or rough. Then the approach to the green is a big uphill iron over the brook. If your drive is left or right of the fairway, the bottom of the hill determines how big your approach will be, varying by at least 50 yards. It’s a real challenge, yes it still looks a little open and new, but it will mature, the trees will grow, when you have a buggy it’s not that tough to walk down. I like it!

But then again I like the whole course, it is mature, well laid out, a real challenge. Add all that to the improvements they have made to the condition of the course with the new equipment, it’s now a genuinely top course. With the buggies you no longer have to be Edmund Hillary to get the most out of the course as well. All in all, over the past year, the club have taken another big step forward.

Ganton – History Tradition & Quality

Up-and-down the country there’s only really a handful of golf courses that you would honestly categorise at prestigious. St Andrews, Royal Birkdale, Royal St Georges to name a few. Ganton is certainly a course that can be discussed in the same breath as these. Ranked Number 9 in the U.K.’s top courses, and having held the Ryder Cup the Curtis Cup and the Walker cup, the club has some real pedigree.

First opened in 1891 as Scarborough Golf Club the course was soon put on the map by the great Harry Vardon, the then captain. The course continued to develop and change, with the likes of Harry Colt, Alister McKenzie, and Tom Simpson all making their mark on it. That was until the late 1930s, since the course has been left pretty much alone in its design. To get an idea of how highly regarded this club is, just check out the long list of competitions it has held over the years on their website. The standouts being the 1954 Ryder cup as well as the Curtis and Walker cups at the turn of the century.

When you arrive you instantly realise that you are in a world where golf is changing and rules are constantly being relaxed, Ganton have taken the approach of sticking to their traditions. Myself lefty and Spence found this out straight away. Spence particularly being clad head to toe in Adidas golf gear, he wasn’t allowed anywhere near the club house, instead he was banished to the patio. A long debate, about how long, long socks should be, ensued. Gantons policy of ‘tailored shorts may be worn but only with single colour knee length socks’ might catch a few out. This meant on a baking hot summers day Spence was forced to wear trousers. At least his weren’t made of thick wool like mine. Ball management was the order of the day, both on and off the fairways!

We did receive a very warm welcome at the club, both by the Secretary Richard Penley-Martin and the Caddiemaster Paul Harrison. Richard  sat with us as we enjoyed our coffee and explained the direction the club was going in. Keeping it as traditional as possible whilst also keeping the course in top condition. The main focus over the next few years being the completion of the renovation of the 100+ bunkers.

 

The Course itself has an inland links feel to it, fast, sandy and gently undulating fairways, weave around the gorse and heather. This is explained by the fact that thousands of years ago the area would actually have been a beach. One of the standout features of the course are the bunkers, put simply, you will end up in one. Placed perfectly around the course to catch anything slightly wayward, they are the main obstacle to try and avoid, and, when you first go in one, you’ll want to avoid them even more! The vast majority have been revamped recently and the sand is perfect to play out of. But the depth of them is just something else.

The sand base of the course means that there isn’t really a perfect window to play Ganton in, it’s as good both in the summer and the winter. So look out for their winter offers. It might not be the cheapest round you play, but pound to quality wise, I can’t think there’s anywhere better.

Our thanks to all at Ganton Golf Course for a great days golf.

Breadsall Priory – Moorlands

The Moorland course at Breadsall Priory was designed by architect Donald Steele back in 1991 and is viewed by many as the Priory’s little brother course. However, to the members this has always been the course of choice.

Why so? Well, there’s no doubt that visually the Priory is an outstanding golf course and a photographers dream, with its big green rolling fairways, huge undulations, beautiful water features and mature trees, it really does look spectacular. However, in the words of the Moorland creator, Donald Steele;

“Making courses impossible is easy. Spectacular holes undoubtedly lift any course but enjoyment is the watchword and golfers find little enjoyment in losing balls attempting long carries over water or in knee high rough. Too much modern architecture is the slave to colour, irrigation, power and the lob wedge” In short then, how spectacular a golf course looks comes second to how it actually plays.  And that is where the Moorland course wins with its members.

We had chosen the best day of the year so far, blazing sunshine and blue skies met us on our arrival.  As this was our first round of the year, we were keen to see if we had lost any of our sharpness from the previous year.

Test number one; we arrived at 10:30 and our tee time was 10:50, could we squeeze in a bacon cob, a Starbucks coffee, get our golf clubs together, our shoes on and be on the tee in time for our tee slot?  Absolutely! Last year we had virtually turned this into an art form, so it was nice to know that we hadn’t lost any of our sharpness.

Test number two; actually playing golf!

As I mentioned, we had chosen the most beautifully sunny day, it was perfect for golf.  We’d had quite a bit of rain in the previous few days, but as the Moorland course is based on sandstone, the drainage is excellent and keeps it from getting boggy. This is one of the reasons this course gets played a lot more than the Priory, especially during the winter months. With this in mind, I was expecting the course to look a little bit tired and well played. But this simply wasn’t the case.  The course looked fresh and well manicured throughout, with the greens in especially good condition.

You start with a short par-3 which in fairness was not all that inspiring, however, when you cross the road to the second hole the course really opens up in front of you and you start to see why it’s held in such high esteem. After a dodgy start by myself and Lefty on the first, the ground staff did us a real favour. As they’re currently finishing work on the second tee, this hole had been shortened to about 300 yards. A great opportunity for some pars and a birdie, but at its full 452 yards, it’s a real challenge so early on in the round.  

Onto the third fairway; firstly it drops away in front of you, then rises up over a brow, then drops away again, and then rises back up to the green! This makes it look great, however, none of it should really come into play.  A good drive on a dry day will leave you on the fringe of the green. I landed just a couple of yards short and the Badger landed just to the right.  A simple chip onto the two tiered green should leave you with a steady par.

The 4th tee gives you a great view across this city of Derby. As we stood in our short sleeve shirts and shorts looking at the city we took a minute to appreciate that there are far worse places we could have been on a Monday morning. Maybe this is how all Mondays should start! Myself and the Badger were pretty much trading blows for the first nine holes going out in 6 and 7 over respectively. The wide dry fairways really lending themselves to good drives, it’s amazing the extra carry you get on a dry well cut fairway, and the difference it makes to your approach shot.

The sixth hole is a beautiful little par 3, at just 118 yards it’s only a wedge, but with bunkers either side and rough behind you have to be accurate.  The tall trees wrap around the green and frame it beautifully. 3 shots on to the green, three pars, golf can be such a simple game sometimes! One of the big changes we noticed since our last visit was the reduction of the rough, if you miss the fairway you will still find your ball, but your next shot will be a challenge.  Again this goes back to the philosophy of Donald Steele, golf is all about enjoyment, not about loosing 10 balls a round. This course punishes you for a slightly wayward drive, but it doesn’t completely destroy you. It’s a great balance .

The back nine follow the flowing, lightly undulating nature of the first nine. It’s a very open course, which means you can see many of the holes from the elevated tees, and on a busy day many golfers too. But lines of trees, bushes and stonewalls keep you on your toes. Venture too far off the fairway and you will be struggling to get to the green with a chance of a respectable score.

The Moorland course isn’t the greatest challenge of golf, it’s nowhere near as challenging as the Priory, but it’s incredibly enjoyable to play, it’s in great condition, you will most likely (but you can’t hold me to this!) make one of your better scores here. I don’t know about you, but I play golf as a hobby, to help me relax, to enjoy myself, and you can’t help but enjoy yourself on the Moorland. In the end I shot my best score for a long time but it wasn’t quite enough to beat the Badger, who beat me by just the single shot….but it was a great tussle throughout. And as for Lefty…… well let’s just say he took some great photos!

The Brabazon @ The Belfry

Back in May 2014 yours truly Lefty, Newby and Spence were invited to the relaunch of The Belfry and when I say relaunch I mean 22 million pounds of investment to turn this once tired hotel and course back to the prestigious place it used to be, in fact the paint on the walls was still drying and the smell of fresh carpets filled the air.

Did this investment pay off? Have the businessmen returned to impress their clients? Have the golfers returned to once again do battle with the Brabazon? Well we decided it was time to return to see for ourselves, if these questions had been answered.

As you would expect from this huge investment the hotel interior looks stunning, in fact they have gone for a ‘Great Gatsby’ feel in the lobby; sweeping into the breakfast lounge, which was full of business people  on sofas with laptops on tables, creating a buzz in the air. The pro shop has also benefited from the investment. The changing rooms feel that you have arrived somewhere special. It beats the time we came here  7 years ago when myself, Newby and two putt Plant were literally the only 3 people staying in the 200 plus room hotel!

We though were here today for the golf.  The Belfry has three courses, the PGA, The Derby and the one we all want to play – The Brabazon. This too has benefited from the revamp, a course that was, back in 2010, looking tired and to be honest scruffy, has been brought back to its former glory befitting a course that held the Ryder Cup more than any other venue in the world.

The welcome we got on the first tee from the starter put us all at ease. The first is a relatively easy hole with an open fairway to forgive a wayward shot. Both Spence and I got away clean, Newby on the other hand decide he would take the pictures as he had pulled his back the night before at his Zumba class! The one thing you cannot stop thinking about is the golfing legends who have walked these fairways. You start to think about Seve’s drive onto the 10th green, Sam Torrance’s famous putt that won the 1985 Ryder cup match or Christy O’Connor Jnr with the most brilliant shot on the 18th hole using his trusty 2 iron.

This does heighten your playing experience, the course itself despite the very damp winter we have had, played well and the greens were playing true. I played steady golf on the first 5 holes and even got a couple of pars but then came the 6th and 7th – on these holes you will find the large expanse of water comes into play. Basically you are teeing over it. I must have lost 6 balls and  at one point I had taken a drop then managed to hit it straight back in the water only 3 feet away!

But my moment of glory followed shortly after these two holes, strangely enough on a stroke index 1.

The 8th is 409 yards par 4 with the water running down the left side of the fairway. What makes this hole tough is that the fairway is narrow and the front of the green is protected by a water filled ditch. I managed to avoid all of these hazards and got on the green for 3, but I was still 26 feet from the hole and NOW my moment had arrived as I sank the putt!! Where are all the cameras when you need them? It would have made great television.

One hole on the course that people love is the 10th as you can attack with your driver or lay up short for the shot over the water. Walking onto this green can send shivers down your spine, so take your time and enjoy it. Even though the course is primarily flat you really appreciate the different undulations you get on the greens. It was an enjoyable change not to do the 3 putt walk of shame! We must mention the par 3’s on the course. There are three of them,  one on the front nine the other two on the back. These are a real challenge and my favourite was the 12th.

The green keepers were working on the yellow and white tees so we had to play off the blues. Now we were playing Ryder Cup style which took the hole from a respectable 179 yards to a “which club do I use?” 226 yards. Just to make it extra hard the whole front of the green is protected by a large pond. I shouted over to the green staff “You really don’t like us do you” to which they replied “You will be fine, Seve always hit the green from there!” Thanks for that!

Newby risking his dodgy back went first with a wood, and came up short straight into the water, Spence did the same, I don’t have a wood in my bag so I opted for my driver which turned out to be the right choice as it sailed over the water and landed about 6 foot from the hole! A clap from the green staff, a bow from me, and some mumbled words from Spence and Newby which we can’t print here. I got a solid par.

Spence was still waiting for his ‘moment’. He waited, I would say, until one of the greatest finishing holes you can play – the 418 yard par 4 18th. ‘A daunting drive followed by a daunting approach,’ is how this hole has been described and I would agree with that. As you stand on the tee you are looking at a dogleg left over water. Once you have negotiated this you have another long shot over more water to an elevated green that slopes towards you. If you don’t get a tee shot with just the right amount of draw and distance, your second shot will have to be the shot of your life as you will still be miles away from the green with  the water coming very much in play. In fact you will have to re-enact  the brilliant shot from Christy O’Connor Jnr,  on the 18th hole.

Spence played this like a pro – a great tee shot with just the right amount of draw and a second that landed on the green, he missed the birdie but got a respectable par on this potential card wrecker. That hole really made his day. That’s the beauty of the Brabazon, when you sink a par or even a birdie you almost find yourself waving at an invisible crowd pretending that you are playing in the Ryder Cup. The investment that has been made to the hotel and course has brought back the glamour and prestige it once held.  The Belfry is  once again living up to its name and the expectation you would associate with a place that calls itself the ‘spiritual home of the Ryder Cup’.

Renishaw Golf Course

Back in 1911 Renishaw Hall owner Sir George Sitwell decided that he would create a golf course on his estate. His plan; 9 holes played within the parkland of the hall, and 9 holes running alongside the River Roth. The 16th century hostelry would be converted into a clubhouse and later extended with the addition of a new wing. Wind the clocks forward to today and the well-established course and beautifully characteristic clubhouse have really come into their own and stand out as one of the areas classic courses. The member’s certainly have a lot to thank Sir Richard Sitwell for.

It’s not always been easy sailing for the club though, in recent years they’ve had a lot to contend with. In fact the last time County Golfer visited the club it was starting to recover from a major flood, that had left the whole of the back 9 under water. Now though, fully recovered, myself and Lefty would be playing Renishaw at its best and with the sun shining on us, we set out on the perilous navigation across the A6135 (you have to be quick and have nerves of steel!) with Spence in tow, to see what Renishaw had to offer.

The old cliché of a game of two halves is never more relevant than here, the front 9 is hilly and tight, a driver requires real accuracy (not my current strength), especially this time of year too. As with most courses in the autumn, if you land in the trees there’s a blanket of leaves on the ground waiting to conceal your ball. Irons were definitely the order of the day, for the opening 9 at least.

The opening hole has been used for the front cover of the clubs officially brochure, and it is easy to see why. It feels as though it’s the only golf hole for miles around, with mature trees to either side and below the elevated tee. “I could drive this” was my initial thought, but club secretary Andy Smith convinced me otherwise, “yes it’s drivable, if you’re very accurate with your drive, if you miss the fairway though you are in trouble”, simply put, he was right. An iron down the fairway and a simple chip onto the green for a par/birdie builds your confidence nicely.

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Being a fair weather golfer; when the sky is a brilliant deep blue, I’m down to a t-shirt and playing a course as mature and beautiful as Renishaw, then I’m in my element. The gold autumnal trees only add to the picturesque nature of the course. I love to see big mature trees on the golf course, though I’d rather it be from a reasonable distance, close up is not so good, which is where I kept finding myself. The greens staff have done a fantastic job of maintaining the course, so when you’re off line it makes your life tough, but not impossible. A yard off the fairway and you’ll be fine, then if you are under a tree you can still find your ball with ease, and it will still be playable. No one likes missing the fairway by two yards and never seeing their ball again, it takes the fun out of the game for anyone that’s not playing scratch. It’s a fine balance that’s needed and I think Renishaw have hit it perfectly, it’s an example of how rough should be.

The 9th hole is the course’s signature hole, and it’s a sight to behold, as with the majority of the front my driver stayed firmly in my bag, even though it was a straight 304 yard up hill par 4. You just can’t afford to be left or right, or even short for that matter. Left and you’ll vanish into infinity with a 0% chance of finding your ball. Right is a little better, it’s a big wooded area that’s virtually unplayable. The only thing to do is to land on the right hand side of a narrow fairway that slopes to the left. Now I’m fully aware that my description of this hole makes it sound like torture to play, but it’s really not. It’s an absolute cracker, you just have to wind down the power and hit 2 accurate iron shots. It’s a beautiful challenge! (Unless you get it wrong of course, in which case it might be a nightmare!).

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One final comment on the back 9, there is a vicious rumour that there are no bunkers on the front 9, this is not correct! Spence will vouch for the fact that there are at least 3, and that’s how many he ended up in!

The back 9 couldn’t be any different if it tried, the front 9 is open and has 6 par 4s and 3 par 3s, where as the back 9 is open and has 4 par 5s. This makes it a good all round test of your game.

For me one of the outstanding features of the course are the greens, they are immaculate, smooth, true and fast, the sort of conditions that you’d expect to find on tour courses. They’re an absolute pleasure to putt on, and with very little variation between each green, once you’ve tuned in to them, you can really putt with confidence.

Once back in the 16th century clubhouse, reflecting on our round, we we’re caught up in the banter of the members that had just finished playing a fiddle. The camaraderie and the atmosphere amongst the members really goes to show why they have such a strong membership.

All in all, it’s a great all round course, great challenge of golf, great clubhouse and great members. Give it a visit; you’ll be glad you did.

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Alfreton Golf Club

Situated close to Alfreton and the A38 and set  in an idyllic setting of peace and quiet, Alfreton Golf club is a hidden gem.

We arrived at 9.15 on a sunny September Friday morning to see a couple of four balls finishing their round and nipping into the changing rooms.  By the time we had a quick chat to pro Nev Hallam. they were back out all suited and booted ready for a day’s work. “That’s good enough for me too” I thought.

“Let’s get a coffee” said Brian but the clubhouse was closed until ten, so off we went. (I was a touch miffed because my idea of golf is bacon cob and coffee before the off.)  However, the way I played,  I’m stopping the cob and coffee lark because it must affect my game in a bad way!

I’ve been determined this year to improve my game.  I talk to so many who tell me they play off 8. I know I’ll never get there but you have to have dreams. But for once in my life I would like to go round in 15 over and smash my handicap.  The only other option is just to do nine holes. That should bring it under 100!

The first thing I’ve done is ditch the driver as I’m far too wayward with it. I’ve become quite attached to my three iron as it’s getting me fair distance and a little bit better accuracy on occasions.  For instance on the steep uphill seventh ( or is it the 9th?) I went straight up and over the hill something I have rarely done with a driver because I get too excited and, wanting distance, I fluff it every time.

My next quest was to keep my head down. I’m sick of people keep shouting “head up”.   If I hear that again I’m sure someone will have “head off”.

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So into the first at Alfreton. Which is er…well as we have played over the years here generally been opposite the clubhouse main entrance. Reading the scorecard later we realised the first is now behind the clubhouse giving four par four holes in a row so please add two to every hole you read here, the first is the third, fourth sixth etc which makes the clubhouse the twenty first!  If you are playing the full 18 you will go to some holes twice but play off different tees and share the fairway with someone playing the other hole. At this point deduct two from the first number you thought of and just play golf on this lovely course. Sun shining, head down and away. I went towards the trees and Brian went deep into them.  “I went in the ditch last time” he said.  Being a straightforward hole at off the white tee, this should be a relatively simple par but once on the green I had to contend with the downward slope. The greens were in beautiful condition and fast. That’s my excuse for gliding past the hole leaving me an uphill putt which I left short. So, teeing off good – now my puttings gone awol.  Isn’t golf great? Brian had decided to relive old times and try to get in the ditch again but missed it! (Just) Bizarrely I won that hole!

Playing hole two off the elevated tee we got off well. My second shot though was a bit wild. I was connecting well but not as accurate as I would like, as my second shot sailed past the first tee and a chip over (through) the trees which by some miracle landed on the green.  Brian had slightly over hit his second to the back of the green and had a tricky uphill put to win.  He did.

Alfreton is a pretty tight course. You need to be accurate which makes it a good test of your game. There’s no gung-ho hold here on the front nine.  You can do that on ten and eleven.

Brian was straight and true on hole 3 (276 yards) He came away with a par. On a summers day you can get a nice run down the slope if you drive a bit short, but today the dew was quite heavy and held my ball up- five for me here

Hole 4  is a tricky par 3. Get clean over the  water and then ensure you are below the flag as the green has a nasty slope. The flag was pretty central so I opted for left of it. I did get there, albeit a little more left than required and carded a four. Brian fell a little short but chipped up well and finished off with a clinical putt.

Goodness knows where my ball went on hole 5. I watched it follow the line of the trees nicely and then drop but we couldn’t find it amongst the rough and leaves. “Stick to the fairway”, said Brian. Do you know I can never see the flag on hole 5. Every time  I look up it’s gone!   Anyway this was Brian’s hole.  The greens were playing straight and true as usual which is a very strong point at Alfreton.

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I went long on the downhill par 3 173 yard 6th. But I was happy because keeping my head down was working. Club choice is next job.

I got 4. Brian got par. Grrrrr.

I’ve told you about my glorious uphill shot at the dogleg 7th, my second was slightly short but a chip saved the day. Honours even here.

Again my driving was good and long on the 8th albeit a little to the right. I was happy to come off with a bogey.

Driving over the little bridge is the fun challenge for me at Alfreton, because you only need a chip on to the green and then a putt for a par.  Brian got it right. I didn’t. Distance good. Accuracy slightly askew.

We had to shake hands on the 9th as duty called for Brian and we needed a bite to eat before departure. We admit to being slow players on the day but there was no one following and so we chatted and played the longest nine in history.  So a re- match is planned.

The clubhouse has been run by  Anje and James Gordon for nearly a year now. It’s a twofold arrangement. Anje cares for the clubhouse and James runs a street food business. His bright yellow Citroen van  is often seen at the club

They have a nice skill with food although I do fear that golfers who just want pie and chips on the cheap are missing out on some very tasty food from these two foodies. You can’t have both guys. Quality food isn’t cheap. Cheap food is cheap.  Get your hands in your pockets and stump up some cash. Stop ordering pots of tea with four straws!

We had a super morning of golf and would encourage you to put Alfreton on your list of places to play. Whilst you do go round 7 of the holes twice, the tees are set challengingly to ensure they give a different aspect to each hole. The top quality greens are a testament to the dedication of the small team of greens staff. They really do look after this course,   as one member said “I’m sure if a leaf falls they’re out instantly sweeping it up”. You’re in for a real treat at Alfreton.  Don’t miss out.

Ps. If you haven’t played here for a while get a scorecard. In that way you’ll start on the right hole !

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Breadsall Priory Golf Course

The Priory Course at Breadsall Priory Country Club opened in 1977 and offers some of the best golf in Derbyshire. The 6054 yards on the card play a lot more as you wind through steeply undulating parkland around the hotel. There is a premium on accuracy on the Priory as you play through tree-lined fairways to small undulating greens.

Well this winter just does not want to get started and for a fair weather golfer like myself I could not be happier, so as you will see in the photos we took on the day it looks like the height of summer! This has had a positive effect on golf courses in that they are looking pristine, no more so than the Priory course at the Marriott hotel Derby.

County golfer had been invited down to play the Priory course, to see the improvements that have been made to the course over the year, but more on that later. After meeting up with our players of the day, ‘Stav the Greek,’ ‘Badger’ and ‘Newby’ we headed out to the first, which is a nice hole to get you warmed up, a 314 yard par 4. Basically you need to keep your ball up on the right of the fairway as it slopes right to left and can leave you with a difficult uphill shot out of the rough, I know, because that’s where I ended up. My second shot however, ended up on the green this is basically down to me becoming such an expert on hitting it out the rough as that’s where I spend most of my time!

I walked away with a par, a good start I thought. Just a note, the next hole is to the right not the left as Stav thought which made him think that the hole was a par 3 at 656 yards long…yes he was looking at the wrong flag. The temptation not to tell him he was facing the wrong way on the tee was high. It was only the thought that he would take out some unsuspecting member on the 3rd fairway that turned him round.

After we had turned him the right way round he found the green and nearly got a birdie, but as we found out the greens when we played were so fast in fact I must say they were the best greens we had played on so far this year, but saying that it did lead to 3 putt walk of shame!

To be fair we were all playing steady golf, I was still wrestling with my slice, but now, after many lessons I know why I’m slicing, no not because I’m a left handed golfer, I’m just not bringing my hand over the top to close the club face.Breadsall-10-Aug15

After winding your way down hill on the 4th, you reach your first par 5 at 430 yards long, it is not the longest par 5 in the world, but what makes this an interesting hole is when you reach the green it is raised up high and wrapped behind the green is a high bank. This does help you for your second shot, if you have done a good drive, the chance to have a go at the green.

Badger, out of the three was the only one who did a good tee shot, so was the only one in contention to go for it, which he did. He struck the ball but scuffed it, it went flying across the floor, up the bank in front of the green, cleared the green, hit the bank at the back and rolled back down to within a foot of the hole, not the way I’m sure he envisioned it, but it worked.

The next hole needs an accurate tee shot, anything to the left leaves you having to tee off again, let’s just say the reason why is, if you don’t have a chainsaw in your bag then forget it.Breadsall-2-Aug15

This does lead us however to a cheeky par 3, which is only 120 yards long but is slightly down hill, you either have to drop it on the green like a bomb or just short and then roll on, but with the greens the way they were, this was not an option, I went for the bomb shot and landed on the green and managed a solid par. I don’t think there is any thing quite as satisfying as landing a well struck ball high in the air and dropping it next to the flag.

We were playing steady golf now, and getting to grips with the greens and really enjoying our golf on this hot sunny day.

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Let me bring you along to  arguably one of the best driving holes in Derbyshire, in fact I challenge you to let me know if you think there is one better. It is a real thing of beauty the 11th 358yrd par 4, you stand on an elevated tee looking down on to an immaculate fairway, you know the type, you can see the lines, where the greenkeeper has mowed that morning. If you don’t believe me go to our Facebook page and see the photos and while we are on this subject you can watch a video of us teeing off on the 9th a tricky par 4.

I must admit we teed off twice on the 11th just because we had to!Breadsall-8-Aug15

Now let’s move on to some of the improvements that have been made this year. Steve Turner the director of golf at Breadsall and the greenkeepers, have identified where the new improvements needed to be made, this is especially evident on the 15th where they have made good use of the water. It now runs down the side of the fairway in the form of tiered ponds. When it comes to the green they have made it so that  the water cuts close around the back of the green giving it an island feel. It’s a nice improvement.

I must mention the 17th as this is a cracking par 3. You stand on a really high tee looking down on the green. I love holes like this one that look visually stunning and also get you scratching your head as to which club to use. I must admit I changed clubs three times after watching the others tee off – here is a tip for you –  it is an a 8 iron.

After we walked off the 18th we reflected on good and bad shots but mainly the 11th . The improvements made by the 15th hole, the greens which, as stated before, were in top condition. It is good to see that Steve and his team have a real vision for the Priory Course and are still looking to bring in new features. Let’s face it we all love playing a course where you see new developments from the previous time it was played. We look forward to returning to see more.

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Golfing In Kent – A Golfer’s Paradise

The county of Kent’s rich tradition and history of golf, dates back to over a century ago. The ‘Garden of England’ is home to over 100 courses which boast magnificent views of the county’s picturesque landscape, whilst its coastal courses offer dramatic, panoramic seascapes over the English Channel and the celebrated white chalk cliffs of Kent. Natural clusters of golf courses can be found around Kent’s main towns, all set against a backdrop of rich and varied culture, buildings of historic interest, bustling seaside towns and magnificent, inspiring gardens.

As the oldest county in England, Kent boasts a plethora of visitor attractions from the magnificent Canterbury Cathedral, founded in AD 597, to Dover Castle where you can experience life from Roman times to World War II. Other historic castles include Hever, Deal, Walmer and Rochester, whilst the stunning gardens at Sissinghurst are world-famous. Kent’s coastline is ideal for walking and cycling. Featuring seaside towns like Broadstairs, Charles Dickens’ favourite resort, and Margate, home to the Turner Contemporary Art Gallery. Testament to the quality of the golf courses in Kent, the county has over the years hosted 17 British Open Championships, 1894 at Royal St George’s, marking the first time that the Major had been played outside Scotland.

Recognised as one of golf’s most prestigious tournaments, The Open Championship has since returned to Royal St George’s 13 times. Now it was time for The County Golfer team, Newby, Spence and the Yorkshire Terrier (who for the benefit of this article will be known as YT) and myself Lefty to stay and play Royal St George’s rated the Number 1 golf course in England. Next stop at Tudor Park Marriot Hotel to play their course, designed by Donald Steel and set in more than 200 acres of ancient deer parkland.

DAY 1:

DERBYSHIRE TO ROYAL St GEORGE

A 5am start on a rainy Tuesday in March for our 4 hour journey from Derbyshire.  Tee off time was 11am so plenty of time to arrive early and have a good look around. You reach RSG by driving through an industrial estate and then majestically into the very picturesque village of Sandwich, down a country road from which a brown sign points you in the direction of a private drive. No big billboards or flags flapping, the whole entrance is very understated. Who needs big signs and flags when you’re the number one golf course in England!

After falling out of our tightly packed car we headed all suited and booted to the clubhouse. At the front door we found a sign saying “Non members please ring for attention”  I rang it twice thinking that it didn’t work, it does, so don’t ring twice! The secretary came and said “You do not need to wear a jacket and tie until after 11am”. I could feel eyes burning in my back as I had made the lads wear them for 4 hours in the car! The first thing that hits you in the clubhouse is the smell of polished mahogany, always a sign of a prestigious clubhouse. As well as the history, golfing memorabilia hangs on the walls and in glass cabinets. Everywhere you look there’s a story to tell. The large changing rooms have some of the best showers I have seen, complete with plenty of towels all neatly stacked.

The clubhouse retains much of its original charm and ambiance, with portraits of past captains lining the corridors, to give you a feeling of stepping back in time.  You could imagine Ian Fleming sitting there while dreaming up the classic match between Goldfinger and James Bond. This is the course where it took place in his book. The Pro shop is as you would expect well stocked, and has plenty of RSG merchandise.  A nice touch, I thought, is that they give away complementary tees.

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Our round.

We were supposed to tee off in front of the Caddy Master Alan but, as there was gale force wind and driving rain, he wasn’t daft, he was in the pro shop keeping warm! He pointed to the first tee and shouted “keep it down the left of the fairway but not too far” I think he said that, or it could have been “You’re  all mad!”

The 1st – Par 4, 399Yrds

With the rain stinging my eyes I thought “just hit it straight and hope for the best” which seemed to work. The fairway gave the illusion of being flat. It wasn’t.  As Spence was taking his second shot all I could see was the top of his head! The bunkers on this hole sweep across the front of the green and, as you know, on links courses most bunkers need a ladder to get in and out of. The greens were running true and in good condition but this didn’t stop us all walking away with a six. Spence and myself were taking on Newby and YT so the banter, like the rain, was relentless.

3rd – Par 3 180Yrds

This is the only par 3 on an Open Championship course without a bunker, but it doesn’t make it any easier, as statistically it’s  one of the most tricky Open holes, the difficulty being the two tiered green which, was fast even on the day we played, so you can imagine it on a hot, dry, summers day. Needless to say no one got a par, the best was a 5, 1 up to Newby and YT.

4th – 415Yrds Par 4

One of the great championship holes, the fourth, is an intimidating prospect.  A towering bunker, perhaps the tallest in Britain, faces you off the tee. The shot is to the left of this and even then it’s a long way to the green, which is a dog leg left, with various pot hole bunkers to catch you out. No wonder it’s stroke index 1. I found every hazard! Spence tried to hold off Newby but the best he could card was a 7 to Newbys 6. Two up to them.

5th – 406Yrds Par 4

This is my favourite hole on the course, as the elevated tee gives the first sight of the sea. It took ages to work out the dogleg left because we couldn’t see the flag.  It’s a straight drive, then a shot between two mounds onto a hidden green. I got a par but unfortunately so did YT.

6th – 142yrd par 3

The Maiden, named after the shape of the towering dunes surrounding it. The long two-tiered green can be a real card wrecker, but first you have to reach it! Not one of us hit the green because the headwind was so strong the ball was almost coming back to where we teed off. Spence managed to land at the front of the green and get a well deserved par, so it was back to one up to them.

At this point we took shelter in a thatched roof hut to check the score and to get out of the wind.  Newby, who was marking the card, had to admit that even the scorecard had given up and was starting to disintegrate in the wet.

More sips of whisky from my hip flask and we were away again. You now find the first of two par fives. “Time to pull one back” said Spence.  For this hole you need a big drive, which gives you a chance of an Eagle, as the hole turns slightly left. If you’re brave you can go for the green. All of the eagles achieved during open championships at RSG are made here. We gave it a go, but the best we could manage was a par. YT did, so three up to them.

YT  for some reason seemed to like the conditions and he went on to win the next hole, 4 up and they were pulling away.

After the 9th you start making your way back to the sea dunes proudly shaping the fairways as you go. The wind and rain started to ease allowing Spence, who is a fair weather golfer, to start playing. He produced the shot of the day on the 13th hole a par 4 420 yards long.

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This fairway is dotted with pot bunkers and you need to be accurate with your driver. Spence’s drive was massive, he still had a shot of about 160 yards to the green with a couple of pot bunkers protecting it, left and right. I was on the edge of the green for 3 and up to this point I had been carrying Spence, which I kept letting him know. This is what probably fueled his second shot, as he hit it as sweet as a nut. It sailed majestically through the air onto the green and in the hole for an Eagle! What a shot, I tried to convince Newby and YT that, that, has to be worth at least three points but they were having none of it. Spence on the other hand, didn’t care what anyone thought, as he had just got an Eagle on the 13th at Royal St Georges. He’s still smiling as you read this article.

14th – 507 yrds par 5

A long straight hole with OOB all the way down the right.  I laughed at the lads and said at last a Lefty hole, then hit my drive straight onto Prince’s adjacent fairway! Needless to say it was OOB.

15th – 435yrd par 4

Stroke index one warning! Standing on the tee you wonder why it’s stroke index 1. Well, it’s the clever placement of the bunkers  – 5 waiting for you midway up the fairway. If you drive over these you still need a long iron to hit the green, which, yes you’ve guessed it, is protected by 3 pothole bunkers that stand guard at the front. I got a bogey on this hole and walked off like I had got a birdie, it was tough.

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Needless to say Newby and YT beat us in the end but, as we made our way down the 18th fairway, the rain stopped and the sun made an appearance. Even though the waterproofs had given up a long time ago a big smile came across our faces. Why? Because we had just played somewhere special. Whilst  the course took a beating that day, at no point did I step in a puddle or on to a squelchy green as it was in excellent condition.  As the sun spread shadows over the course you could see the contours of the fairways and the dunes which stood proudly framing most of the holes.

Back in the clubhouse, sinking a nice pint of Shepherds Neame from a sliver tankard, we all agreed even on a sunny day this course will give you a challenge, it’s a beautiful beast that punishes wayward drives, but rewards a good shot.  It’s a true links course, characterised by humps and swales, dunes and wild rough, fast running fairways and deep bunkers.

This has to be on your “courses to play list,” it’s the number one course in England for a reason.

Our thanks has to go to the club steward David Peregrine for making us feel most welcome, it’s not every day you meet someone in a painting!  Also to the catering staff, who very kindly waited for us to get back into the clubhouse to warm us up with a nice hot beef sandwich.

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DAY 2

TUDOR PARK MARRIOT HOTEL AND COUNTRY CLUB

We chose to stay at Tudor Park Marriott Hotel which was about an hours drive from Royal St George’s as it’s a great central location to reach other courses and takes an hour off your journey back to the East Midlands. Like most Marriott Hotels you have a spa, gym and more importantly a bar called “The Mezzanine” which we found a relaxing place to continue thawing! The hotel is benefiting from a 5 million pound modernisation programme so it’s a good time to pay a visit to the nice new modern rooms.

Nestling in a 200-acre ancestral deer park, deep in the Garden of England, Tudor Park, a Marriott Hotel & Country Club, offers tranquility and invigoration in equal measure. The Tudor Park Course was designed in 1988 by Donald Steel, one of Britain’s finest course architects. 6085 yards of beautifully varied holes, accompanied by delightful views over this picturesque corner of Kent.

As at many of Steel’s courses, there is an enticing mix of long and short holes, many featuring tight fairways bordered by beautiful, mature pines and other woodland areas. The best of the bunch are arguably the par-3 4th, the par-5 8th and the par-4 16th. But every hole at Tudor Park has its own personality – some friendly and relaxing, some that will test your skill and accuracy.

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In recent years, Tudor Park has hosted prestigious events including the EuroPro Tour on three occasions, the Kent PGA Pro-Am and, in 2010, the English PGA Championship (South) qualifier.

After a first class buffet breakfast I put on my wet waterproofs again and headed to the 1st, the rain at least had stopped. We even had a bit of sunshine but this was false hope.

Spence and myself took on Newby and YT trying to seek some revenge.  At the tee a very friendly starter gave us some tips on the 1st hole. We all teed off well. I say teed off, more of a scuff and roll, not one of us got away clean, to which the starter said with a smile on his face “have a good game lads”.  What I’m sure he would have really liked to say was “have you played golf before?!”

The1st and 2nd holes are wide and forgiving. The 1st to get your eye in sweeps downhill and the 2nd comes back up. Newby and YT won both holes as they came flying out of the traps with 2 pars.

Spence and I had a team talk as we couldn’t let them beat us again. We approached the 3rd hole 300yrd par 4 determined not to lose! On this hole you stand on an elevated tee looking down onto the fairway, which then sweeps left up to an elevated green. Spence hit a massive drive which left him with just a wedge onto the green which he did and sunk it for a birdie, I got a par just to make sure we won the hole. Game on Indeed!

The next hole was a par 3 176yrds, again an elevated tee looking down onto a green with water to the right of the green. Newby hit a sweet shot right onto the middle of the green  and then it happened!  – The weather turned on us with a vengeance as the wind picked up to gale force and the heavens opened but this time not rain but hail, all four of us knelt down on the floor, sheltering as best we could behind our umbrellas. Even the bench blew over.(Go to our Facebook page to see the video) 10 minutes later it still hadn’t rescinded  so we headed back to the clubhouse as Newby’s hand was turning blue. Thoughts of Scott and his team came to mind as Newby said “I’m going for a walk I might be some time”. It was unbelievable and, needless to say the storm shut the course, which was a real shame as the course was just starting to come alive.

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We have been invited back which we will do, but in the meantime make sure you book yourself in, the hotel is in a good central position to stay and reach other golf courses in Kent.

Our visit to Kent was most enjoyable. The county boasts a long tradition of golf, three Open venues,  majestic parkland and inland courses, and clifftop gems like North Foreland, excellent accommodation for golfers and a plethora of off-course attractions such as Dover Castle.

We would like to thank Sinead from Visit Kent and Helen from Heady PR for arranging the trip for us and the hospitality of Royal St George’s and Tudor Park Hotel and Country Club for showing us Kent is not only the “Garden of England” but a fantastic golf destination, and now known for the place Spence got his Eagle!      Lefty

www.golfinkent.co.uk