Archive for the ‘TSG Course Reviews’ Category

The Shire London – TSG Course Review….

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

The-ShireFor all the media training players get these days, it’s no wonder that some of today’s tour players can come across as both drilled and bland when interviewed.

However, for those that grew up in the seventies and eighties with the likes of Lee Trevino, Gary Player, Fuzzy Zoeller and Payne Stewart.

All these guys came with a large dose of personality, the man that stand above all these great players is the one and only Seve Ballesteros.

The man not only had a cavalier approach to the game but also received one the rarest accolades in sport, by being known by one name only….Seve!

Not only was he was full of charm and good humour in front of the cameras but his approach to the game was both exciting and creative.

So when the opportunity to play at the ONLY golf course in the UK designed by the late, great man, we jumped at the chance!

The Shire London  – The Clubhouse…

The Shire London v4The location of The Shire London could not be more convenient for nomadic golfers.

You leave junction 23 on the M25 and head down the A1081 for no more than a mile or two, you’ll be met at the entrance by a modern statue of the man.

The Clubhouse is modern and comfortable with a mix of tables and sofas that offer you a great chance to relax and enjoy a breakfast or lunch before heading out on the course.

Inside there is also a Gym (for members only) and a well-stocked shop with plenty of Seve branded goods to purchase.

We were met by a very smiley Tom, who was quick to show us where everything was and was keen to take the time to chat with us.

This is something many lesser clubs could learn from, as it not only leaves a lasting impression but it also makes the visiting golfer enjoy their day more.

The Shire London Golf Club  – The History…

The Shire London - Seve BallesterosIn early 2000, the Menai-Davis family invited Seve to visit the UK to take a look at a large piece of land north of London, on which they wanted to create a new unique style golf course.

In 2001, just 72 hours after Seve’s first visit, a deal was agreed. Soon afterwards, the Spanish legend and his team set about creating what would become known as  The Shire London.

Over the next five years, the ground was developed into the 18-hole Ballesteros ‘Masters Course’ and the 9-hole Ballesteros ‘Academy Course’.

Seve visited the site regularly in person throughout the build, making himself available constantly to answer questions regarding the design and build process, until the project’s completion in 2006.

During this period, the Menai-Davis family worked on the Clubhouse and infrastructure with the key ambition to make members, their guests and other visitors feel comfortable, relaxed, welcomed without any of the stuffy formality which characterised other golf clubs in the area.

The Course also boasts a small six bay driving range meaning everything is catered for!

On 2nd July 2007, The Shire London opened for green fees, having held a member’s weekend a month earlier.

Later, events would mean that tragically, The Shire London will forever remain Severiano Ballesteros’ one and only golf course design in the UK.

The Shire London Golf Club  – The Course…

The Shire London v5So the first thing you notice on the card as you make your way to the first tee is that this is like no other course you’ve been too.

Yes, it was Seve’s insistence that there should be an even mix of par threes, fours and fives, and that no two consecutive holes should play to the same par…. and it works!

The first hole starts with a pretty Par 3 to ease you into your round but note, you are playing across water.

Just the first of 14th holes on the course that include water in their layout. You’ve been warned.

The holes then rotate with a Par 4, Par 5 returning to a Par 3 again, and so on.

Surprisingly, this doesn’t break your flow, but actually, compliments ts your play.

Of course, the tee boxes are perfect. Of course, the greens are as good as you play anywhere in the area.

And yes, the rough is long, forcing you to play the kind of shot Seve would want you to.

The Shire London v2The standout holes:

Hole 4 – A pretty 140 yards Par 3 (across water) a big flat green to give you a chance

Hole 7 – Another inspiring 118 yard Par 3 that finishes on an island green (across water – again!)

Hole 9 – An uphill 400+ yard Par 4 flanked by mature trees and a well-protected green

Hole 11 – A 500+ yard straight Par 5, but leave enough room to clear the centred oak in the approach to the green

Hole 13 – A short tee shot to the turn and long 3 wood, gives you a birdie chance but go long off the tee and you’ll be in trouble.

The Shire London - 18th holeHole 15 – An ascending fairway with a right dog-leg that invites you to hit an expansive flat green. Another birdie opportunity.

Hole 18 – A good drive on this  365 yard Par 4 will tempt you to go for the green….but beware of the ‘S’ shaped water feature, as you’ll need to be pinpoint accurate if you want to avoid a bogey.

This hole provides a superb vista for those watching you finish in the clubhouse.

Seve clearly enjoyed designing golf course after his retirement from the game and although I am sure he would have preferred to have continued playing, this course allows his name to live on for generations.

We are very lucky to have this memory of him!

The Shire London Golf Club – Green Fees….

The Shire LondonPrices below are valid from May 1st 2017 to October 31st 2017.

Call 020 8441 7649 or 0208 440 4009.

BALLESTEROS MASTERS COURSE

Monday-Friday: £60 (Junior U-18 £25)

Weekends: £75 (Junior U-18 £40)

xxx

FOUR-BALL DEALS in 2017

– Mon-Thu: £195 per fourball, before 12 noon, food included

– Friday: £205 per fourball, before 12 noon, food included

– Sat-Sun: £230 per fourball, afternoon only, no food included

– Bookable up to 7 days in advance.

– NOT AVAILABLE ONLINE – TELEPHONE BOOKINGS ONLY

Please Click Here for our current Special Offers.

The Shire London Golf Club – The Verdict…

The Shire London v7With much to enjoy as you make your way around the course, you will have to be having a very bad day if you don’t enjoy this course.

And you can’t help thinking that the great man is enjoying watching you test your skills on ‘his’ stage.

Given the course is still only a decade old, I can see the trees maturing well as they provided a great backdrop for the course.

One tiny criticism, as with most members clubs, there is limited signage between holes, something paramount for the visiting golfer. However, this is not something that will cause you too many problems, as the scorecard has a useful map on the back.

Overall, we like this course,  you will be hard pushed to find a friendlier, more challenging, and of course more iconic golf course in the whole of the South East.

If you get a chance to visit this course, either on a corporate day or for social golf, do….this is a course that all TSGers will enjoy!

TSG Verdict: 4.5 out of 5

 


For more information, please visit the TSG course page – The Shire – London

 

Burnham On Crouch Golf Club – A TSG Review….

Friday, May 19th, 2017

Burnham on Crouch Golf Club 4It’s often the case that just when you think you’ve played every type of golf course you think there is to play, along comes a golf course that surprises you and forces you to rethink your game. Burnham On Crouch Golf Club in Essex, is one of those clubs….

Burnham On Crouch Golf Club  – The Clubhouse/Shop…

Nestling in the Crouch Valley lies Burnham-on-Crouch Golf Club, a friendly and relaxed members club where new members, societies and visitors are always assured a warm welcome.

Situated on the entrance to the small sailing town on Burnham On Crouch, getting here will take you around 30 minutes from the A127 and 40 minutes from the M25 but if you live further afield, its well worth the journey.

The Clubhouse has a 60’s seaside feel to it but don’t be fooled this club and course has plenty of history.

The main room upstairs overlooks the 18th green and the 1st and 10th tees and is adorned with many Club Trophies from over the years. However, it also provides spectacular views across the Crouch Valley and the River Crouch.

The bar staff were friendly and welcoming and the kitchen staff will cater to most tastes with affordable snacks and food.

Downstairs is a VERY small Pro Shop (enough to fit a desk and a fridge) but chat with ‘Ken’ and he will welcome you with plenty of news regarding the course and the club.

Although he was most focused on the weather when we visited, as with most Essex courses, being clay based, they were desperate for rain!

Visitors are welcome Monday to Friday, (excluding Thursday mornings) and Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Burnham On Crouch Golf Club  – The History…

Burnham on Crouch Golf Club 5Founded in 1923 and now with over 500 members, the course is renowned for its all year round condition and stunning views over the Crouch Estuary and South Essex Countryside.

Originally part of the Creeksea estate, it was one of the twenty-three clubs in Essex mentioned at the inaugural meeting of the Essex County Amateur Golf Union in February 1924.

Historically the town was originally a ferry port, and then becoming a fishing port known for its oyster beds, and most recently a renowned yachting centre, hosting ‘Burnham Week at the end of August.

The Club was first designed as a 9 hole course but was converted to 18 holes in 1993 after the members purchased land from the neighbouring farmer. The course is now a fully developed track, with no two holes the same.

The Club course record is 62 off a Par of 70 from the Whites.

Burnham on Crouch Golf Club 1Burnham On Crouch Golf Club  – The Course…

The first hole starts with a gentle incline but stay on the left side of the fairway allowing for your 2nd shot over water, to green that is overlooked by the Creeksea Church that dates back to the 13th Century.

The second is a gentle short 278 yard Par 4 to the green – drive-able, but stay left.

The 3rd offers you great views over the Crouch River with a hole that drops approx 40 ft, to a green well protected by 4 bunkers with plenty of good sand to enjoy.

All the tee boxes to this point were clean and well kept and this is maintained around the course.

The next few holes offer a good challenge for any golfer and whilst the course is not overly long, you’ll need to be conservative to score well.

The next hole worth of a mention is the 317 yard Par 4, 7th, that asks you to play up to a slightly blind, raised green with again good views. Note: a wayward shot here could cost you a 9!

The 8th is a very pretty Par 3, again to a raised green, at this point we’ve still not seen anyone else? Surely the golfing mariners of Essex know about this gem of a course?

Once back at the clubhouse we putt out on the flat and well-kept 9th green.

We then head back out, playing up to the expansive 10th green, protected my a slight ridge at the sides and back. Chip well or your find another bogey on the card.

Now the next three holes offer some relief with some picturesque fairways and greens, and whilst not blowing on the day, these may be hard to reach if the wind gets up.

With a couple of Par 5’s on the back nine to test the long hitters, the course provides some tree-lined holes and one which is flanked by the local railway.

At its end reaches all the way into London Liverpool Street. However, this is not a bother and actually, offers, even more, character to the course.

With the next few holes offering some birdie opportunities, the course is an array of different holes with lovely true greens (well done the greenkeepers after a dry winter!).

However, one criticism, as with most members clubs, there is NO signage between holes…. why do members clubs not cater to the visiting golfer!

Burnham on Crouch Golf Club 2Burnham On Crouch Golf Club – The Verdict…

This is a fantastic short(ish) course at 6056 yards off the whites and is in great condition that will test your game to the full…overall this is a gem of a course.

Reminiscent of a links course, the fact its set back from the Crouch Estuary means it is somewhat protected from the elements but that’s what’s so appealing, it’s different to so many other courses you’ll play in the area or wider county.

The beautiful scenery at Burnham On Crouch Golf Club, means is well-worth visiting this club.

And with some local history to be enjoyed by way of the ‘Creeksea Church’ this is a course we would recommend you can play again and again.

All the staff and members were friendly and welcoming and happy to chat.

Green fees to visitors are reasonable but could be set lower to attract more visitors, as this is a course that requires some travel if you do not live in the immediate vicinity:

– Weekday: £23.00

– Weekend (pm only): £26.00

– Weekday Twilight (After 4:00pm): £14.00

– Weekend Twilight (After 4:00pm): £18.00

– SPECIAL WEEKDAY OFFER: £76 FOR A FOURBALL

Will we be back to Burnham On Crouch Golf Club anytime soon? Definitely…this is a course that all TSGers will enjoy!

TSG Verdict: 4 out of 5

 


For more information , please visit the TSG course page – Burnham-On-Couch Golf Club

Golfing in Sicily …

Monday, November 7th, 2016

golfing-in-sicily-verdura-resortFirst thing that gets mentioned when people think of Sicily is the Mafia, quickly followed by the movie The Godfather, aka Al Pacino and Marlon Brando… however, when it comes to golfing in Sicily, all the talk is about the Verdura Resort!

And for those that have visited this ancient Mediterranean island, the discussion refers to beautiful coastlines, a temperate climate and the passionate locals – who’s love of fresh food and excellent wines are second to none.

Golfing in Sicily – The Location…

The infamous island of Sicily is found just off the South West coast of Italy’s mainland.

At its closest point it is less than 10 miles, however, the locals see themselves as very different from their mainland cousins.

Famous for its volcano (Etna), the rock that stands tall in the heart of the Mediterranean. The resort is located on the southern coast of Sicily between Agrigento and the fishing city of Sciacca, a 80-minute drive from Trapani and Palermo airports.

Golfing in Sicily – The Resort‎

Since opening in 2009, Verdura Resort, a Rocco Forte hotel has quickly established itself amongst Europe’s premier contemporary luxury golf and lifestyle destinations.

The resort is set in 230 hectares of stunning landscape with 1.8km of private coastline, and offers golfing guests and families a very modern five-star experience.

golfing-in-sicily-verdura-resort-7Verdura features 203 rooms and suites, all with sea view, and is built with the golfer in mind.

Golfers can enjoy the two 18-hole championship courses and a nine-hole par-three course, all designed by world-renowned golf architect Kyle Phillips and playable all-year-round.

Verdura was the host venue for the European Tour’s 2012 Sicilian Open and its three links-style layouts have been built to the highest specifications.

The resort’s Par 72 East Course is ranked as one of the finest in continental Europe.

While the West Course (also Par 72) provides the ideal complement and features one of the most memorable finishes anywhere in the world, with the final four holes set alongside the Mediterranean.

The courses are also supported by an on resort golf academy.

There is even a Par 3 course which is more than a good test, even for the seasoned Pro.

Verdura’s other sports facilities include six tennis courts; a 60m two-tiered infinity pool; numerous watersports, one football pitch,  fully-equipped gym and a collection of running trails through olive and lemon groves.

golfing-in-sicily-verdura-resortThe resort’s award-winning 4,000sqm SPA complex includes 11 treatment rooms, gym, yoga studio, a 25-metre indoor lap pool, four outdoor Thalassotherapy pools, a double-height steam room, male and female saunas and a SPA bar for healthy alternatives.

Guests can sample an authentic taste of traditional Sicily with an array of dishes at one of the resort’s four restaurants and five bars – with  fresh, organic produce sourced straight from Verdura’s own garden.

I enjoyed beautifully cooked steaks and marinated Tuna salads, all with the lashings of Olive Oil made on site.

You can even have Sicilian cooking lessons, which I did and managed to surprise my playing partners and even myself with a fine attempt at the local pasta dish – Pasta Alla Norma!

Verdura Resort has received widespread international recognition and won numerous awards since opening.

Among its most recent honours, it was ranked fourth in Golf World’s inaugural list of the ‘Top 100 Golf Resorts in Continental Europe’ and named by Golf Digest as a recipient of an ‘Editors’ Choice Award’ for Best International Resorts 2016.

Golfing in Sicily – The Accommodation…

Verdura Resort fuses strong, modernist, environmentally-sensitive architecture with design that is firmly rooted in Sicilian culture and inspired by this superb setting.

In keeping with the raw, rugged scenery beyond the property, the architect, Flavio Albanese of Vicenza and Palermo, applied minimalist, contemporary lines to the construction of Verdura‟s accommodation, spa, restaurants and outdoor entertainment arena.

In fact, one of the things you first notice is how low rise everything is.

Rooms are generous and simply designed and each room is self-contained in such a way that you would be forgiven if you thought you were the only people staying.

On numerous occasions we remarked on the peace and quiet to be found around the resort. This is complimented by the common use of bgolfing-in-sicily-verdura-resortikes by all the visitors, thus keeping down noise.

Each room has a private terrace with views of both the sea and the golf courses, the orange, lemon and olive groves, to the mountains in the distance.

In addition, Verdura Resort has green credentials at the heart of its design.

In 2014, in collaboration with the Botany Department of Palermo University, they committed to the creation and naturalization of wetlands, which are a stopping point for migratory birds and nestling waterfowl.

The project entailed the re-naturalization of the land by restoring over 70,000 native Sicilian plants and scrubs species

The East Course – 6200yards – Par 72…

The first tee on the East course is a 360 yard dog-legged Par 4 right with bunkers positioned on either side of the fairway at the turn.

By all means take on the pin with a high fade leaving you a short iron in to the raised green but over cook it and you’ll find yourself heading back to the tee. This hole sets the tone for the rest of your round.

golfing-in-sicily-verdura-resortThe front nine is mostly flat‎ but their are many undulations and protected greens that mean accuracy (not length) and  patience is required to score well.

The signature holes going out are the challenging 450 yard Par 4 with a tee required to clear water and your second needing to avoid the 30 yard turfed gully protecting the raised green  over looking the sea.

This quickly followed by the Par 3 6th, a 110 yard hole with the green surround by the pebbled beach of the ‎south Sicily coastline.

A flat circular green rewards the brave but you will find this a tough if a sea breeze is prevailing.

Finally, I’ll tip my cap to the Par 4 7th but only as a piece of unashamed self-indulgence, as this hole produced the greatest golf shot of my golf life.

A 175-yard end shot into a protected green, one bounce and in the cup for my maiden Eagle! (sorry Ed.)

The beginning of the back nine almost  mirrors the starting hole only this time it’s a dog-leg par 4 and your turning left. Following this, the course opens up.

Expansive fairways, soft sand filled bunkers,  a challenging Par 3’s (200+ yards uphill) but more chances to get a few pars on your card.

Holes 13, 14 and 15 lined by orange trees and sumptuous fairways all test the mid handicapper but once again it’s the 125 yard Par 3‎ where a Mediterranean sea backdrop stays in the memory.

The 17th and 18th also fail to disappoint. The penultimate,  a 400 yard Par 4, framed by roughly terrained hilltop shadowing the green.

The last, a 430 yard Par 4 that suggests a low fade but don’t cut it or you’ll be in the deep blue. The course finishes back at the rusty orange fort like clubhouse with a wide a sloping green that is asking to be birdied.

A comfortable and relaxed four hour round, a beautiful sunset, followed by some excellent local pasta. Bellissimo!

The West course – 6750 yards – Par 72…

Here you start your round by heading away from the shore inland.

The 1st hole is a 495 yard Par 5 that slowly bears left for your approach shot.

The green has a gentle incline moving from front to back meaning you can’t leave it short or you’ll be making bogey.

The stand out holes on this course are evenly spread but the 4th hole (also a Par 5) is a delight.

golfing-in-sicily-verdura-resortFairway bunkers to the right suggest staying on the left is the sensible option and a well placed second shot (again left) should leave you with a simple putt up the apron of the green to an immense green.

However, if you’re at the front, and the pin is at the back, you could find yourself with a 40ft putt, this course clearly needs some strategy.

Quickly followed by the 5th, a very challenging Par 4 with a 30ft drop in the middle of the fairway and up again, to the raised green.

‎As you head back south, the superb 424 yard Par 4 8th will invite you take on the green but be prepared to lay up and putt your way up to the elevated green the accept the bogey, as a wayward shot will leave you in the left side bunker with 8ft face to overcome.

Go long and you could find yourself on the beach earlier in the day than you’d planned.

As the heat of the day builds and given this course can be attacked by some strong winds (it is a links course after all) it’s important to keep abreast with speed of the greens.

They can vary in pace greatly‎.

As you pass the turn‎ hole 11 offers you a chance to open your shoulders and crack your best drive down a 511 yard fairway downhill.

The right side is a wall of reeds for the first 250 yards so stay left.

Two good shots are then needed as the green stand guarded by mogul like mounds. If you make Par, you’ve done well.

As you reach the end of your round, you are then met by arguably three of the best placed finishing holes in Europe.

15, 16, 17 and 18, are all flanked by the rocky coastline, you are challenged by a two shortest Par 3’s and two longish Par 4’s – the last finishing right underneath the clubhouse terrace where many enjoying a chilled beer or more likely a cocktail will clap you in.

Verdura Resort – Other things in the area‎

golfing-in-sicily-verdura-resortGolfing in Sicily is not the only pastime and on any golfing holiday, it’s important to go beyond the fairways and in this instance there is plenty to see and do locally.

Whether it’s visiting the ancient caves (Greek Temples dating back to 12,000 BC) in Syracuse or the regional wineries, which is a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon, tasting and appreciating the local vine culture.

We visited the much awarded Planeta winery in nearby Menfi, less than an hour from Verdura.

Golfing in Sicily – The Verdict…

This is truly fantastic place to visit and perfect for golfers of all levels.

If you are considering golfing in Sicily, this is a superb destination for those seeking Autumn and Winter golf (it would be wise to avoid the hot summer months as it can reach as high as 45C in July) as this is a place I would happily return to, and not just for the golf…

If someone offers to take you to the  golfing in Sicily at the Verdura Resort, to paraphrase Mr.Pacino and Mr.Brando …. it’s an offer you can’t refuse!!!!

TSG Verdict: 5 out of 5


By Ian Mullins

Ashdown West Golf Club – TSG Review…

Monday, July 4th, 2016

Ashdown West Golf ClubIt’s always a pleasure to review new golf courses, so I felt very excited about visiting  Ashdown West Golf Club at Forest Row, East Grinstead to give it the once over.

Previously known as the West Course at  Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club, there’s a lot enjoy…

Ashdown West Golf Club – The Clubhouse/Shop…

Situated only 20 minutes from the M25, the club is very accessible from all directions and is well worth visiting!

Newer than its sister course, on paper you could be forgiven for assuming Ashdown West Golf Club is the “poor relation” to  the “Old Course” but then you would be very much mistaken.

We arrived at lunchtime and met at the West Course clubhouse, a 2004 extension to the main clubhouse, but by no means overshadowed.

A short walk upstairs led to a bar area that was pleasant and very welcoming with two  outside terraces that overlooked the 1st tee & 18th green and the range.

We ordered sandwiches from the lady at the bar (who was very nice indeed); the sandwiches were plentiful, attractive to the eye and, most important, very tasty.

If the rest of the menu reached these standards, which I’m sure they do, then, no one will be disappointed with their choices.

A quick visit to the well-stocked pro shop to collect our cards from the young Pro (they’re all younger than me these days!) a quick practice on the driving range and at the chipping area, and we were on our way.

Ashdown West Golf Club – The History…

Ashdown West Golf ClubFounded in 1888, the Old Clubhouse was built five years later and parts of it still remain remarkably unchanged today. The bestowal of the title “Royal” came in 1893 after a visit from the then Duke of Cambridge.

Very few golf clubs boast two 18-hole courses, both over 100 years old, especially those that differ as much as the Ashdown West and the Old Course.

Ashdown West snakes its way through the heart of the Ashdown Forest that spreads for over 20 square miles in this most beautiful part of Sussex. The ‘West’ was once the longest ladies’ golf club in England.

It was originally founded as the Ashdown Forest & Tunbridge Wells Ladies Golf Club in 1889, barely six months after the formation of the main club and was only the second of its type to be formed in Great Britain, after Sunningdale Ladies.

In 1932 the course was lengthened to 18 holes, the same year that the ladies’ club was awarded Royal status in own right.

Since then it has gone through a number of alterations and now welcomes players of both sexes yet still remains of sufficient quality to be awarded Golf World magazine’s prestigious accolade as the UK’s best course under 6,000 yards.

Ashdown West Golf Club – The Course…

The 1st was a straight, tight, par 4, but a great opening hole to look at.

The fairway and green were in great condition (all them are at West Ashdown Golf Club), even though the previous day had seen torrential downpours; you wouldn’t even have known there had been any rain here.

The first six holes include the only Par 5 on the course which crosses a road mainly used walkers and some cars.

However, as there were not many golfers out this afternoon, I guess that the dog walkers know this and take advantage of the fact.  Whilst unusual and slightly distracting, it is public land so don’t let it  put you off your game.

If you can accept you will see others as you make your way, then you’re in for a real treat for the rest of the round.

The next six holes were tough, even though you are hitting only short irons.

There are no run-up areas to the raised greens from the fairways, meaning no pitch and runs allowed here but instead having to land directly onto the greens.

This was because of having very bumpy, rough, natural raised areas just in front of the greens which compensated for not having a single bunker on the course.

Yes, I’ll say it again – NOT A SINGLE BUNKER ON THE COURSE!

Strange, you may think, but it made the play no less challenging at all.

Included in this six was the 240 yard par 3 eleventh hole. I defy any mid to high handicapper to get down in three shots, What A Hole!!

The last six holes are a real joy, beautiful views, sweeping tree lined fairways and wonderfully true but tricky greens, there was even some water to avoid.

My most memorable shot of the day came at the 14th (index 1), a 450-yard par 4 right to left dogleg. Now, I can’t draw the ball, but I can certainly fade it (some say Slice), with great regularity…

I took on the trees to the left, with my driver and managed to clear them with that familiar shape on the shot.

Only problem was, I couldn’t see the end result; a ramble down the fairway allayed all my fears as, there it was, in the middle of the fairway, oh happy days!

There’s a beautiful downhill par 3 at the 16th which is only 122 yards, but still very tricky. It’s a dream hole to have a hole in one, you look down on the green with a brook just short, and giant oaks and pines for a backdrop.

It’s a dream hole to have a hole in one, you look down on the green with a brook just short, and giant oaks and pines for a backdrop.

You finish on the par 4, 435 yard 18th which has two streams running across the second half of the fairway, even if you have a great drive, take these on at your peril.

You may end up in them, AS I DID!!

Ashdown West Golf ClubAshdown West Golf Club – The Verdict…

This is a fantastic short course in great condition that will test your game to the max…

However, why should this game always be easy?

The beautiful scenery at West Ashdown Golf Club alone is enough just to pay the green fee and, if you play at the right time, you could be going round for just £20 on a lovely Summer’s afternoon with hardly anyone out there to spoil your game.

I will be back many more times in the very near future!

TSG Verdict: 4 out of 5


By Mark Crane

Golfing in Spain…

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

Like all golf trips, it starts with one of your golfing buddies suggesting it’s time you went away for a few days without the family. It then quickly moves to everyone saying which courses they would like to play and in which countries….

Golfing in Spain mapThe next step is that one of you has to stop talking and actually go online and do the research, but where do you start?

Despite the growth of new golfing destinations in the world such as Turkey, Morocco and some of the Central European countries such as Bulgaria, Slovenia and more lately Poland, Spain remains one of the most popular destinations for Brits to head for.

Golfing in Spain – The Stats…

The favourable exchange rate has helped in recent years to make it competitive against the ‘new kids on the block’ but it is the lure of some great golf courses that really keeps the punters coming back year after year.

Whilst cost is obviously a key driver on destination selection, we are looking for more than just a holiday. As one UK operator said: “90% are looking for a deal, 10% are looking for experience” (Courtesy of IAGTO Report 2013)

Since 2012 Spain has remained the no.1 destination for UK golfers and whilst the banks are now running many of the courses (following the crash of 2008), why do so many golfers return year after year?

One reason is the guaranteed weather, however, just as important is the variation of courses you can play.

Be your preference a desert course with testing winds or rock-lined fairways with great views or perhaps a flat bunker-ridden style layout that asks you to consider every shot.

 

Golfing in Spain – Mar Menor Golf Resort…

Mar Menor Golf Resort intercontinental-murcia

Mar Menor Golf Resort intercontinental-murcia

Having decided with my fellow explorer that it was a combination of all three of the above we wanted, we settled on spending four days at Mar Menor Golf Resort – part of the IRM Nike golf (formerly Polaris World).

The quality of golf courses came highly recommended, as did the hotel group hospitality and amenities.

The group hosts six golf courses, all ‘Jack Nicklaus’ designed, although only one was actually designed by the great man himself.

The courses include El Valle (Tournament Course) La Torre (Challenge Course), Saurines (Desert Course), Hacienda Riquelme (Championship Course), Alhama (Signature Course) and Mar Menor (Residential Course).

We decided to position ourselves at the Mar Menor Golf Resort (on the Costa Calida) itself and use this as our base to plot our attack on the Spanish fairways……

N.B.  It is quite common if there are less than four people playing in your group, that you will be partnered with other people. This speeds up play and can be good fun. So if you just want to be alone with your best golfing pals, ensure you only travel in groups of four.

Golfing in Spain – The Courses…

 

Alhama

Cost: Public = 80 Euros / Residents = 52 Euros

Alhama Golf CourseAs stated above, this course is seen as the ‘jewel in the crown’ within the group. It is situated an hours’ drive from Mar Menor but is easy to find, thanks to the great directions given to us by the Pro-shop.

At first, you are slightly disorientated on arrival as the course is within the walls of the residential area, however once this hurdle was navigated, you then arrive at an unassuming car park that leads to The Clubhouse.

Wow! You know you are a course that has not only been designed by Mr.Nicklaus but that it has been sculptured beautifully into the landscape. I can only imagine how many hours the green keepers spend attending to all the tee boxes alone.

The course is long (6500+ metres) but don’t be put off, most of the fairways are wide and forgiving but watch out for the wind. The course is built in a valley are when it blows, it really blows.

The Clubhouse is modern but small and doesn’t match the surrounding but I believe this is a temporary structure and will be replaced by one much grander in style, just like the rest in the group. There is a fantastic open air range to hone your game before heading out.

The first three or four holes are a delight, undulating fairways, bunker-ridden par 3’s but once you get past these, the course starts to stretch out (don’t think I hit a short iron into a  green until the back nine!).

Whilst the fairways are brown and barren (it is Spain), there is a good combination of left and right aligned holes. These contrast the greens are rich dark green and firm (i.e. very difficult to land your ball on).

Of course, most have plenty of breaks and borrows, so don’t expect to leave without at least some 3-Putts on your card.

Realistically this course is built for low handicappers (10 and below), so don’t be disappointed if you struggle to score well. Just enjoy the course, and the views and enjoy it in the manner in which ‘Jack’ would want you to.

TSG verdict: 4 out of 5 stars

 

El Valle

Cost: Public = 80 Euros / Residents = 52 Euros

El Valle Golf CourseAs you walk to the first, you immediately know you will enjoy the day. The vast wide fairway (with strategically placed bunkers) is beautiful with a mountainous backdrop that wouldn’t look out of place in the Arizona desert. The tee boxes again were very good and well tended to and cleared marked for all levels of golfer.

As we made our way around we commented on how well the course was designed and that every hole provides you with a different challenge. Ranging from short-ish Par 4 to tempt you to expansive 450 m+ Par 5’s, this course has something for everyone.

The course twists and turns with slight inclines and drops that won’t leave you out of breath. However, there are plenty of bunkers for you to find (on one hole we counted 10) so you will need to think your way around here.

So to the signature hole: It does take a little effort to walk to the elevated 11th tee, that gives you a panoramic view for miles around. However, once you’ve taken in the view, you’re then faced with teeing off over rocks and on to the fairway 50ft below, where bunker will catch a wayward shot – brilliant!

The greens here were very good. Not too firm that you can’t land on them but quick enough to get you thinking. All were true. Whilst water is not the main feature here, the back nine does require plotting your way around some pretty and challenging water but this all adds to the variety of holes.

Finishing the day back on the patio area, we enjoyed some great service, good food and a refreshing drink, whilst we discussed the ups (there were no downs) of both the course and its layout.  We will definitely be returning to this course again.

TSG verdict: 5 out of 5 stars

Mar Menor

Cost: Public = 80 Euros / Residents = 52 Euros

Mar Menor Golf CourseWe saved this course for the final day giving us plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast in the clubhouse, situated in the main Inter-Continental Hotel building.

The staff were all very friendly and the service excellent.

After meeting with Chris Ahern (Commercial Director), he quickly gave us a tour of the facilities and gave us some pointers on how to enjoy the course.

The atmosphere here is very different to the other course and it has much more of a ’local club’ feel about it.

The first tee situated less than a few yards from the clubhouse and offers you a simple Par 4 start but note the fairway doesn’t start for 150 yards, but don’t worry, the sandy fairway is plenty good enough to play from.

The course then meanders around three or four loops, each returning to the main Clubhouse.

The course is flat and has a layout that nicely rotates between Par 3’, 4’s and 5’s. This means you could play it again and again without getting bored.

Upon reaching the back nine, water comes into play on holes 11, 12 and 13 circling a very pleasant reed-lined lake.

Tricky if you tend to fade the ball as all holes are left to right but equally challenging to those that draw the ball, as each hole is also flanked by apartments.

Having navigated these holes, you then return to a parkland style finish with the 18th positioning you back at the main clubhouse.

The only negative we could aim at this course is that it looks a little tired in places but that comes from the fact that is the most played course in the group.

However, this course is much shorter than the others and suits all levels of player. The food in the clubhouse is very good and the club-sandwich is to die for! All in all, we liked this course and we would happily return.

TSG verdict: 4 out of 5 stars

 

Golfing in Spain – The Accommodation…

Mar Menor VillaThe Villas here have been designed by the prestigious architect Melvin Villarroel and they are based on his concept of “Architecture of the Vacío“.

This is the principle of where architecture and nature meet in a ’comprehensive design’ converging  great garden areas with ‘exuberant’ vegetation in which the main hotel swimming pool takes pride of place.

It’s excellent communication a few minutes drive from the best beaches of Murcia and close to natural landscapes and tourist routes, make this a special place for rest and leisure.

Staying in a privately hired villa rather than in the main hotel, these properties are available to rent either on short or long lets.

They all come in various shapes and sizes but are all clean, modern and packed with everything you would expect, including air conditioning, dishwasher, patio furniture and some have their own private pool.

The resort boasts three restaurants and an ‘Irish’ pub (full of golfing memorabilia) with a big screen, that normally shows golf. So you have plenty of choices to eat and the main Clubhouse bar also attracts many golfers back in the evenings.

Golfing in Spain – The Costs…

Mar Menor Villa 2

We hired a Villa privately on the main road into the resort with two bedrooms (sleeps up to 6) into the resort for £250 (four days) but this may vary depending on the time or year and availability.

Hotel/Apartment bookings can be made via the main hotel website but 2016/17 guide prices* are as follows:

 

2 bed (sleeps up to four)

LOW season (Nov 1st  – 14th Feb, 1st May – 15th July, Sept)

Mar Menor Villa 3

7 Nights + 5 rounds of golf = Euros 303

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2 bed (sleeps up to four)

SHOULDER season (Oct, 15th Feb – 30th April)

7 Nights + 5 rounds of golf = Euros 348

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*rates shown are purely illustrative and will vary.

Mar Menor Villa 4

Bookings can be made direct from at the following website and many others:

http://www.golf-marmenor.com (Ask for Steve McGraw – very helpful chap)

http://golfregiondemurcia.com/en/index.html

https://www.holidaylettings.co.uk/mar-menor-golf-resort

https://www.ownersdirect.co.uk/rentals/spain/mar-menor-golf-resort

Alternatively, you can book breaks via the main hotel sites:

http://www.intercontinental.com/hotels

http://theresidences.marmenorresort.com

Golfing in Spain – Other costs…

Flights to San Javier (Murcia) or Alicante can be booked at all the usual low-cost airlines from as little as £80 (book early) and Car hire was less than £50 for four days.

Just remember to get your CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) cover before you leave, as they will try to charge you another £50+ at the terminal, despite it only costing £8 online.

For information regarding the golf you can visit:

http://golf.marmenorresort.com/en/golf

Or contact Chris Ahern direct on cahern@irmgolfexperience.com

Golfing in Spain – The final say…

We spent four great days in the region enjoying both the golf and the food, and having previously visited a number of the courses in the area (including La Manga, La Finca and Las Ramblas), we can highly recommend this group of courses if you’re golfing in Spain anytime soon.

They will provide any golfer with plenty of challenges and enjoyment… and you are ‘almost’ guaranteed good weather!

Alhama Golf Club 2

By Ian Mullins

Best golf courses in London…

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Although living the UK’s capital can have many benefits, it’s always a good feeling to get out on the fairways and refresh the mind with a good game of golf. However, as space in this global city is always at a premium, finding a great golf course requires some know how…

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the best golf courses in London for you to check out.

The Grove

The Grove

Best golf courses in London – The Grove…

Tucked just inside the M25 north of Watford is the luxurious golf course, The Grove.

This 7,152-yard championship golf course offers all of the premium golfing opportunities that you could wish for, but what makes it all the more inviting is the fact that it doesn’t have a restrictive membership system, so anyone can play whenever they choose.

Set in the 300-acre grounds of an 18th-century mansion, it’s definitely one of the best-looking golf courses in the London area. And with a string of tournaments being held throughout the year, it’s definitely one of the most highly recommended courses out there.

What differentiates The Grove from other courses, is that there is no membership and it is only open to ‘Pay and Play’ and corporate golfer.

And The Grove has recently been named as the host of the 2016 British Masters.

Now whilst its way too early to start thinking about the potential winners of this event, there are plenty of places to find the latest golfing odds. Betway is just one of the sites where you can get all of the latest news, tips, and sporting information including the current Turkish Airline Open.

 

The-ShireBest golf courses in London – The Shire…

Located just outside of Barnet, the Shire golf course offers another great treat to all golf enthusiasts who are looking for something a little extra.

At the turn of the Millennium, the Menai-Davis family invited Severiano Ballesteros to visit England to look at a large piece of land north of London, on which they planned to create a spectacular golf course.

In 2001, just 72 hours after Seve’s first visit, a deal was agreed. Shortly afterwards, the Spanish maestro and his Trajectory team set about creating what would become The Shire London.

Several key principles of golf course design, honed by the Spaniard at over 20 previous locations around the world, were applied: Seve’s insistence that there should be an even mix of par threes, fours and fives, and that no two consecutive holes should play to the same par, being but two examples.

As such, the course is unique in the sense that it has 6 x Par 3’s, 6x Par 5’s and 6 x Par 4’s.

The course has a fantastic layout with many water features that can cause the occasional upset for the amateur, and the separation between the fairways means that it never feels too crowded.

As the course was the only course developed by golfing legend Seve Ballesteros in the UK, it provides the perfect opportunity to try and play like a pro.

The clubhouse itself is also very fresh and modern and the food is very reasonably priced and to a great standard.

 

Best golf courses in London – Walton Heath…

Walton Heath Golf Club

Walton Heath Golf Club

If you’re looking to play on one of London’s most iconic courses, then take a trip to the Walton Heath which is located just within the southern edge of the M25.

Walton Heath is one of the world’s most famous and prestigious clubs.

The members are delighted to share the outstanding facilities with visitors from all over the world.

Established in 1903, the two courses at Walton Health provide some interesting playing options with the rough heather features making play particularly stimulating.

The course was opened in May 1904, with an exhibition match between the legendary Triumvirate of Harry Vardon, J.H.Taylor and James Braid.

The course was laid out by W. Herbert Fowler, a leading amateur golfer. It was his first golf course venture and he went on to become one of the leading golf course architects of his era, both in the U.K. and America.

It is a tribute to his genius that he created one of the finest examples of heathland golf, which so closely resembles the traditional seaside links courses, out of a jungle of heather, gorse and bracken.

Likewise, it is a testament of his creativity that, what became known as, the Old course is still, today, ranked as one of the top 100 courses in the world.

Although the entry fee might be a little extravagant, the sheer peace and tranquillity offered on the golfing greens more than makes up for the cost.

Known for its wild heather and tricky greens, this venue has hosted some great competitions including The Walker Cup.

And with the historic clubhouse offering unparalleled levels of luxurious hospitality, Walton Heath provides the perfect way to play and relax like a professional and truly is one of the best course in London.

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By Ian Mullins

Golf in The Algarve …

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014
Golf in The Algarve

Golf in The Algarve

When one dreams of golf in the Algarve, one thinks warm climate, sun-kissed fairways, immaculate greens and a break from the old routine.

On my recent trip to The Algarve, that’s exactly what I got… four days, sixteen guys, four rounds of golf and two designated drivers, what could possibly go wrong!

Golf in the Algarve – The Tour

This trip we ventured west of Faro having booked through Your Golf Travel (although no sign of Darren!), playing at Villa Sol, Vale da Pinta and twice at Gramacho.

We had a very early start on an EasyJet dawn breaker, we picked up the people carriers at the airport and headed straight for our first stop Vila Sol, the home of the Portuguese Open in 1992 and 1993 before heading to Vale da Pinta/Gramacho where we would be based for the next few days.

Having never played golf in Portugal, I was very excited about pitting my wits against some of the more well-known courses in The Algarve and enjoying some winter sun.

And whilst it was only just December, the warm sunshine was balanced well with a cool breeze coming from the north.

The Courses…

Obviously any golf course review is often biased by the way you play on the day, but I have tried to be objective in my observations and put my own playing ability to one side when writing these reviews….

Golf in the Algarve – Day 1 – Vila Sol

Vila Sol

Vila Sol

This course is well known to me purely because another TSG member has been a member here for a number of years and spoke highly of it, so I was keen to see it for myself.

The clubhouse on first sight is welcoming although quite difficult to find your way round at first.

The course itself is quite tight but not to the point of distraction or frustration and is set out in two loops of nine returning to the clubhouse.

All the fairways are lined with a combination of pine, almond and fig trees, plants, flowers, lakes and streams – and it makes for a good and pleasant stroll.

However, this course, despite its history is very scruffy in places with unfinished housing, terrible fairway weeds creeping across many of the holes suggesting that it has seen better days.

There is poor signage between holes (very important to the visitor).

The course layout is good and the greens are fair and true but I would be lying if I said it was anything special.

Of course, there are some great holes, most notably the Par threes stood out for me but I am not sure I would describe the place as PGA Tour standard.

In addition, the food served pre round was pretty poor, unless you think a deep fried soggy chicken sandwich is standard Portuguese fare.

All the staff were friendly but I am not sure I will be rushing back anytime soon.

Golf in The Algarve – Day 2 – Vale da Pinta

Vale de Pinta

Vale de Pinta

Day two and following a big first night on the local wine, we headed to our second course of the trip.

Now THIS is more like it. What a great course this is!!

And in contrast to the flagship course of the Pestana Group (Vila Sol) this more than lived up to expectation.

This IS why I came to play golf in The Algarve.

Designed by Ronald Fream, Vale da Pinta is considered one of the best layouts in Europe and you can see why.

Vale da Pinta is a parkland course built into the natural contours of the terrain.

After a fairly easy start the course then starts to test you with undulating fairways, plateau greens, stunning views, playing off fairways like carpets. Millionaire golf!

The course has played host to the Seniors Tour in recent years and we were there the day before the regions PGA championship was taking place.

There are two big lakes on the course, which invites you to challenge yourself but I would save my praise for the Par 3 -7th (165 years plateau to plateau) and the stunning approach to the Par 5 – 12th.

Most greens on the course are beautifully guarded with multiple bunkers, but don’t be put off – they are full of soft, fluffy sand.

There are also works under-way around some of the course but all very subtle and it does not detract from the course in any way.

I can honestly say it’s one of the best courses I have had the pleasure of playing (and I have played over 120 in total to date).

The clubhouse is cool and airy and the Pro shop staff welcoming and helpful.

The views from the patio allow you to watch the golfers tee off and play the entire uphill first hole.

However, I have one criticism…. why build a course, so that the last two holes you are playing directly into the sunset?

And why put the 18th green 500m away from the clubhouse leaving a steep walk back, right at the end of your round?!

This is of course nit-picking as most will visit here and take buggies and I would jump at the chance to play here again!

Golf in The Algarve – Day 3 & 4 – Gramacho

Gramacho

Gramacho

We saved this for the final two days as it was our home and the location for our apartments, meaning it was a short walk to the first tee from here on in.

Gramacho is again a great course again designed by Ronald Fream but with the help of former world no.1 and Open Champion- Nick Price.

The layout is forgiving, open and attractive on the eye.

The fairways are wide (mostly) and rewards the big hitter, as many green are drivable if you take the right line. But don’t be discouraged if you aren’t, good placement will also be rewarded.

After a simple start you are then tested by some undulating holes with neatly placed stone walls and palm-lined fairways.

The course loops away from the clubhouse and only returns back at the 18th.

Again you are met with two main water features with fountains and palm shade but don’t stop to admire the course too much. ou will need to concentrate

You will need to concentrate, to tackle the many sloping greens where a three-putt is common and four putts are not unheard of.

I really liked this course. All the tee boxes were in good condition and despite the finishing holes being in the sunset line (Why?!) I would love to play this again.

If there was one point to note for the greenkeepers – I heard one of our party mention that ever Par 3 was the same distance 150m and they all required playing the same club –  a fair comment, I myself used an eight iron on every one. So perhaps something to consider when laying out the course in future.

So perhaps something to consider when laying out the course in future.

That aside, all the staff were friendly and couldn’t look after you enough and very polite. We were even greeted by owner on 1st tee!

After the golf – The Accommodation…

Pestana have built a great complex at Gramacho and all the apartments were roomy, clean with English TV (if that’s your thing) and come with a good size kitchen and patio.

We also had a full cooked breakfast every day made by our in-house chef, although this is not available to everyone, as he was in our party but he had all he needed to spoil us!

Eating Out

Once we had returned to the room and refreshed ourselves, we headed out to three separate eateries each night:

  • Casa De Bife (Carvoeiro) – Stone cooked steak restaurant – very good
  • Rui Marisquiera Restaurante (Silves) – Seafood farye – I am told good, I went for the steak again
  • Joao’s – Casa de Tapas (Ferragudo) – Superb atmosphere and great Tapas, served by the lovely Catarina

The final verdict on golfing in The Algarve….

What a fantastic trip. Great golf, great company and great food. I’ll be back soon.

Obrigardo!

By Ian Mullins