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Carpet-like greens, striking scenery and some impressive nineteenth holes, here’s our pick of the UK’s best courses for groups.
One of the most imposing settings in which to play the game, Turnberry – on Scotland’s northwest Ayrshire coast – offers all the luxuries you would expect of a five-star resort. However, it is the venue’s golf facilities that inspire the most, with the Ailsa course – a four-time host of the Open Championship – serving up the finest stretch of oceanside holes in the UK, with views out towards the Mull of Kintyre and Ailsa Craig. Uncompromising it may be when the elements are against you, but few links are as welcoming when the sun beats down in the summer months. The 18-hole Kintyre course is far too often ignored, but along with the nine-hole Arran, it offers a decent alternative for the less-accomplished player. With 150 rooms and suites, the hotel, renovated in 2009, makes Turnberry an ideal location for big groups.
TAKE large conference parties – the many off-course activities
ensure that there is plenty for non-golfers
to get involved in.
WE LIKE the iconic 9th hole with the famous Turnberry Lighthouse on the coast.
Turnberry, Ayrshire, KA26 9LT; tel: 0165 533 1000
The Grove, in Hertfordshire, has quickly established itself as one of the UK’s finest stay-and-play venues. This Kyle Phillips design swings back and forth through the surrounding countryside, with a number of well-placed water hazards and sprawling sand traps. Away from the course, the Grade II-listed Grove mansion, once home to the Earls of Clarendon, has 26 rooms while a further 201 are situated in the Grove’s more recently built West Wing. Post-round, there are a number of eateries and bars, but the Stables is a popular gathering spot close to the course.
TAKE big numbers in the summer – the Grove’s restaurants and bars cater for large parties.
WE LIKE the greens. You’ll struggle to find better ones anywhere else in the UK.
Chandlers Cross, Hertfordshire, WD3 4TD; tel: 01923 807807;
The Gleneagles Hotel first opened its doors in 1924 with the Perthshire countryside as its backdrop. In 2014, it will welcome the 40th Ryder Cup matches, Jack Nicklaus’s Centenary Course taking centre stage. The course delivers with a procession of testing but varied holes. There are three other layouts to sample: the King’s has been recognised as one of the UK’s finest inland tests since opening in 1919; the Queen’s is a picturesque track that twists sharply while riding up and over the ridges of the estate; and the PGA National Academy is a quirky nine-holer that welcomes all levels of player.
TAKE top-level clients – and take in an overnight stay to make time for a round on both the Centenary and King’s courses.
WE LIKE the Andrew Fairlie two Michelin star restaurant.
Auchterarder, Perthshire, PH3 1NF; tel: 0800 587 8806
Goodwood may be known first and foremost for its racecourse and motorsport, but golf has been played here since the late 19th century. There are two courses, each different in its level of difficulty, but both of superb quality. The Downs is the elder statesman. It is a tough examination of ball-striking with a number of tricky doglegs and undulating greens. The Park course, which opened in 2006 and plays through the surrounding Goodwood estate, is more suited to higher handicap players, although it lacks nothing in terms of quality and design. To add to the golf, the venue offers an abundance of off-course activities, with a flying school, sailing and fishing.
TAKE large parties of up to 72 to tackle the
mighty Downs course; Goodwood makes a wonderful summer venue – a suitable base for conferences
and company away days.
WE LIKE the fine views over the Sussex Downs.
Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 0PX; tel: 01243 755000
The Celtic Manor Resort has grown from a cosy 70-bedroom manor estate with the addition of a 330-room hotel built in 1999. With its 54 holes and the hotel’s buzzy ambience, the venue caters well for large numbers. For serious players, the 2010 Ryder Cup course (the Twenty Ten) is the star attraction, wending through the beautiful Usk Valley with a number of water hazards adding to the challenges. The Roman Road and Montgomerie courses are more playable for beginners: the Roman Road is a flatter, parkland affair and the most gentle of the three, while the Montgomerie sweeps high up in the hills, taking in impressive views above the resort.
TAKE large conference parties. Golf in the afternoon and an overnight stay is recommended.
WE LIKE the Twenty Ten’s 18th, which delivers a thrilling climax to your round, tempting players to go for the green in two over water.
Coldra Woods, South Wales, NP18 1HQ; tel: 01633 410252
The Woburn Estate has become one of the most popular venues for corporate golf, capable of hosting huge numbers across its five venues. However, its three championship courses are also well suited to smaller groups who want to sample some of the best inland golf in the UK. The venue boasts plenty of professional pedigree, with the Duke’s course a long-time host to the British Masters. The shorter Duchess is tight and tree-lined, while the Marquess – the most recent addition to the Woburn portfolio and arguably its most impressive course – stretches out over 7,000 yards.
TAKE small incentive groups of four to eight to make the most of the three courses.
WE LIKE the course’s almost claustrophobic feel, with pine trees towering over the fairways.
Little Brickhill, Milton Keynes, MK17 9LJ; tel: 01908 370756
Nowhere can rival St Andrews for its golf courses. There are seven in total, scattered in and around the town, with the Old Course – the home of golf – taking centre stage. Bespoke corporate packages can be based at the Old Course Hotel, which enjoys views out to St Andrews Bay and the Old Course’s 17th hole that runs alongside it. No visit to the ‘Auld Grey Town’ would be complete without a round on the Old, but the nearby Duke’s course – a 10-minute shuttle ride from the hotel – delivers a rare heathland test that is all too often overlooked in favour of the area’s imposing links.
TAKE clients who know their golf and their own game. Large groups can be managed, but the emotions of playing the Old Course make it no place for beginners and handicap certificates are often required.
WE LIKE crossing the Swilcan Bridge from the 18th tee to the 18th fairway, knowing that you are following in the footsteps of every great who has played the game.
Old Course Hotel, St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, KY16 9SP; tel: 01334 474371
Wentworth is a venue that feeds off the reputation of its world-famous West Course, but you should not ignore the qualities of the neighbouring East and Edinburgh layouts – the former a short-but-tricky heathland test, the latter a more modern parkland design. Then there is the executive par-three course, fun for beginners and novice players. That said, the West remains the big box-ticker for corporate days. Just a 45-minute drive west of London, it is more suited to intimate meetings than grand parties.
TAKE valued clients who can make a quick getaway from the capital.
WE LIKE the iconic clubhouse. It’s a haven for celebrities, and filled with lots of memorabilia of top-class tournament golf.
Virginia Water, Surrey, GU25 4LS; tel: 01344 846334
This article was first printed in Square Meal Venues & Events, spring 2013.