Golf fanatics have a tendency to romance about farflung fairways, voluptuous greens, and courses painted onto unimaginably beautiful landscapes. We’re covetous creatures greedily ticking off big-name destinations like Pebble Beach, St Andrews or Valderrama, already planning the next trip before the plane has barely skidded to a halt on the homeward journey.
No sport suits the nomadic traveller better than golf: there’s a big wide world out there, and 18 holes are never far away from the itinerary.
Yet, the grass isn’t always greener. If this wretched pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s to appreciate what’s just outside our window – or at the very least on our doorstep – during our golfing travels. These five courses represent England’s very best stay-and-play venues…
Prince’s Golf Club
Prince’s reminds me of a stunning Tudor home lovingly restored to its former glory. A one-time host of The Open Championship in 1932 (and neighbour to this year’s postponed venue, Royal St Georges), this 27-hole layout on the shore of Sandwich Bay has recently completed an ambitious refurbishment thanks to the genius golfing minds at Mackenzie & Ebert architectural firm.
The resulting course adds modern refinement to a very classic windswept links property: rippling fairways framed by natural wetland areas and sandscrapes leading to vast green complexes with subtle contouring. It’s a stunning walk along the Kent coastline.
There is now also an extensive short game practice area for those who need to tune their eye to Prince’s devilish rough-edged bunkers, while The Lodge offers comfortable on-site accommodation for those looking for a longer gaze at those stunning sea views.
For more info, see princesgolfclub.co.uk
Royal Lytham & St Anne’s
Lytham St Annes, Lancashire
Royal Lytham may not boast the breathtaking location of Prince’s – in fact, flanked by a railway line and positioned alongside suburban housing, it’s perhaps the opposite of conventionally pretty – but this hallowed turf remains one of the most cherished members of the current Open rota thanks to its fabulous idiosyncratic design.
The crux of the course is 174 pot bunkers that seem to draw the ball into their clutches with magnet-like persuasion. Strategy is the order of the day, with players tackling a golfing equivalent of Snakes and Ladders: at times, you’ll feel like you’re ahead, only to find a trap and your score sliding away from you. In my opinion, there are few courses as fun to play anywhere on the planet. It’s that good.
The Dormy House offers modern rooms adjacent to the beautiful Victorian clubhouse next door, no more than a chip from the 1st tee.
For more info, see royallytham.org
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire
The Palladian-style mansion that looms over Stoke Park’s 27 holes of golf may hint at a course that is consigned to history, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even as the destination moves past its 110th year of operation, the Buckinghamshire resort continues to invest heavily in its multitude of facilities.
On the golfing front, each of the nine-hole loops has undergone a bunker renovation programme (including the original and best Colt nine), as well as a facelift to a couple of greens and water features here and there. It’s as pretty as a picture; parkland golf as it was meant to be.
Elsewhere, a £500k gym upgrade has created a 4,000sq-ft space that dwarfs almost any other resort gym in Europe, while the on-site restaurant Humphry’s, is excellent. Some courses are very much ‘golf with rooms’, this is a great resort with the benefit of excellent golf.
For more info, see stokepark.com
For most Brits, Padstow will likely conjure images of a quaint fishing village, a smattering of chippies, and the famous TV chef Rick Stein before it does golf. But no more than a couple of miles out of town as the seagull flies, you’ll find a true English gem of a golf course.
Located on Trevose Head, a thumb of coastline that juts out into the Atlantic, this classic 1926 Harry Colt design is as rugged as links golf gets. Crumbled fairways, swirling wind, and intermittent patches of gorse and long grass require sustained focus, but as players swing downhill to the drop-dead gorgeous signature 4th hole, intersecting Constantine Bay and Boobys Bay, you’d be forgiven for a momentary lapse in concentration to take the view in.
Those brilliant minds at Mackenzie & Ebert have again been instructed here to rejuvenate the property – really, British golf would be much the worse but for their careful interventions. Similar to Prince’s, they have better exploited the natural surrounds, as well as moving a few tees, and making tweaks to bunker and green designs. Accommodation wise, apartments and cottages cater for up to six people: ideal for those looking to stretch out a long weekend.
For more info, see trevose-gc.co.uk
Close House recently played host to the British Masters – the first European Tour event following the pandemic – but if you didn’t get a chance to see the pros in action, it’s well worth making the trip up to Newcastle to see the place for yourself. After almost a decade of operation, the £25m project has now firmly established itself as the premier golf destination in the north east.
Routed by architect Scott Macpherson across a sprawling 170 acres, the Lee Westwood Colt course showcases its position in pristine Northumberland countryside to superb effect. This is a hilly course, which means a fitness-testing walk at times, but with the benefit of exciting changes in elevation from one hole to the next. It’s an English gent that will no doubt only improve with the benefit of age.
More than that, there’s a second Filly course and par-three Yearling course (owner Graham Wylie is a horseracing fanatic), as well as 16 suites available in the Courtyard, and more luxurious dwellings in the form of either the two-bedroom Pavilion cottage or Lodge gatehouse.
For more info, see closehouse.com