10 of the Best Courses in Gloucestershire
GLOUCESTERSHIRE is one of the prettiest counties in England, famous for the beautiful Cotswolds and home to Cheltenham, home of the world-famous racing festival, when it seems that half the population of Ireland arrives for the week. Unsurprisingly, it has been the setting for many TV series and films, including Die Another Day, Hot Fuzz, Dr Who and Butterflies. There are also a host of wonderful hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation.
Tourist attractions include Berekeley Castle, Gloucester Cathedral, Sudeley Castle, and Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetland Trust. It is also home to some glorious golf courses. Here, we look at just 10 of the best.
Cleeve Hill Golf Club
Green fee £18
Par 71, 6,400 yards, heathland
Cleeve Hill is the setting for a wonderful heathland course, providing great views of the surrounding countryside. It is a municipal golf course open to the general public but do not be put off by that. Located in an area of outstanding natural beauty, encompassing the highest point of the Cotswolds, the course has the feel of a links and, because of its height, the wind is a key feature here, so you need to be able to manipulate the golf ball and keep the ball low. The signature hole is the 13th, a par five played to a green sent in an Anglo Saxon encampment with glorious views from Cheltenham to the Malvern Hills, the Black Mountains, Forest of Dean and Severn Crossings. The 15th, a par three of 152 yards, has a carry of 130 yards. That sounds easy enough until you realise that the carry is over a an old stone quarry and if the wind is blowing the wrong way you may need to go at the green with a utility club or even a fairway wood.
The Players Club (Codrington Course)
Green fee £48
Par 72, 7,106 yards, parkland
Stranahan Course, Green fee £24, Par 68, 5,457 yards, parkland
Championship Course, Green fee £48, Par 72, 7,716 yards, parkland
There are three superb courses at the Players Club. The Codrington was opened in 2002 and is one of the toughest golf courses in the southwest. From the back tees the course stretches to 7,106 yards, but from the medal tees it is 6,625 yards. With a par of 72, the Codrington offers a true test for any level of golfer. It combines a blend of modern and links style design with bunkers and lakes coming into play on almost every hole. The undulating greens are fantastic. The Stranahan opened in May 2010 and is very different. At 5,457 yards and with a par of 68, it rather more golfer friendly. Gordon Brand Jr once went round this course in 59. The front nine on the Championship course measures a mind-boggling 4,077 yards. It is primarily the Codrington course but featuring a different second and third hole and the seventh and eighth holes are combined. If visitors ask in the pro shop and its quiet on midweek mornings it is possible to play the Championship course - after the first, the 17th on the Stranahan is played as the second hole then from the Stranahan 18th tee play to the second green of the Codrington. Every hole is the same until the 7th of the Codrington where golfers play from the seventh tee to the eighth green. From the ninth onwards all the holes are as the Codrington.
Forest of Dean Golf Club
Par 69, 5,925 yards, parkland
Green fee £15
The Forest of Dean Golf Club at Bells, which is set in beautiful countryside, was founded in 1973. It features unique rolling parkland, lakes, streams, bunkers and woodland,and panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The second hole is a lovely par three measuring just 150 yards, but here is the catch - it is blind. So make sure you find the right line before going for the green, which is surrounded by trees, and bear in mind that it almost always demands one more club than you might think. The seventh is a terrific par five that measures 537 yards. It calls for an accurate drive and if you are a long hitter and decide to go for the two-tie green in two then you need to blank out the water that eats into the right side of the green. There is a tricky bunker short right. Many say that the 12th is the best hole on the course, even though it measures just 370 yards. It is a delightful looking hole, with an approach played to a green surrounded by water, so make sure you get your club selection right. The 367-yard 18th is a great finishing hole, with trees only a few yards off the fairway both right and left. Finding the fairway from the tee is essential, if you want to find this par four in two. The approach is uphill to a green protected by two bunkers -again, take one more club than you might think.
Cotswold Hills Golf Club
Green fee £38, winter £30
Par 72, 6,800 yards
Opened in 1976, the course is a fine test of golf and is considered to be one of the finest courses in Gloucestershire. It is a past venue for the English Ladies Amateur Championship. The third is a 459-yard par four played through an avenue of trees. It often plays into the wind, so requires two mighty blows to get home. A drive down the left hand side of the fairway will keep your ball in the middle left of the fairway and open the green. An accurate approach is required as bunkers guard both left and right of the deep green. The eighth measures 401 yards and calls for a drive down the middle between the marker posts. Ensure you don't get tangled up with the trees. An undulating green is the next test. The 13th is a 486-yard par five that can be reached in two. The ideal drive is to the right of the left fairway bunker. The slopes draw the ball right towards bunkers on both the drive and second shots before arriving at another gently sloping green. The course closes with a 419-yard par four. Trees guard the fairway and will block out a wayward drive before an approach to a well-guarded green.
Minchinhampton Golf Club (Cherington Course)
Par 71, 6,459 yards, parkland
Green fee £50
Minchinhampton features three courses set in the Cotswolds and dates back 125 years. The Cherington opens with a proper par five, measuring 527 yards. Long hitters will take on the bunkers from the tee and aim to get home in two. But the recommended line from the tee is to aim for the right hand bunker and then lay up before an approach shot to a green guarded by sand on the right side. The eighth is magnificent 454-yard par four that demands a long and accurate drive. Aim for the left side to leave the best angle for the second shot. Strike the approach to the left centre of the green to avoid the grass swale that protects the right half of the putting surface. The 14th is only 302 yards and will tempt many to go for the green but there are trees lurking, as well as bunkers, and if you go too far left you will have a blind shot to a well contoured green. The 18th is a good finishing hole, a 417-yard par four. Confident players will attempt to thread the ball through the fairway bunkers, but it might be best to go right. The two-tiered green is small, has a narrow entrance, bunkers left and right and mounds at the rear.
Naunton Downs Golf Club
Green fee £30
Par 71, 6,185 yards, parkland
Naunton Downs is situated in a beautiful area of Cotswold countryside located outside Cheltenham. The course makes the most of the natural terrain. The course opens with a 360-yard par four. Drive between the fairway bunkers and the left hand gorse to have the best angle into the green for your second shot. Avoid the bunker short right and do not go over the back of the green, where lots of trouble awaits. The fifth is one of those risk-and-reward holes that every course should feature. It is a 250-yard par four which can be reached, giving you an eagle opportunity. But a large tree, bunkers and gorse on the right could see you running up a big number. Better to take a mid-iron and come up short of the fairway bunker and then go in with a wedge. The 13th is a 530-yard par five and the view from the tee over the surrounding countryside is spectacular. Get that out of your mind though. There is out of bounds on the right, so the drive should be aimed in the direction of a wall on the left. A series of fairway bunkers must be avoided with the second shot. The 18th is a 391-yard hole that plays longer than its length. The perfect drive is to the left of a small tree, from where the ball will roll slightly to the right, leaving an ideal angle for an approach to a raised green protected by two bunkers.
Painswick Golf Club
Green fee £15, winter £12
Par 67, 4,831 yards, parkland
Founded in 1891, this 18 hole ridge-top course features great views of the Severn Valley, Malvern Hills, Brecon Beacons and Cotswold Slad Valley. What a delightful little golf course this is and, once again, proof positive that you don't need to have a course that is 7,000 yards long to provide a good test. There are some fabulous short holes here, and a couple of excellent longer ones too on a course that has a real links feel about it. The sixth hole is a fantastic par three of 203 yards requiring a long iron to a green that slopes from right to left, with swales right, left and centre. A par on this hole is a really good score. The eighth is the longest hole on the course, a par five that measures 489 yards and has a wide fairway shared with the ninth. There is a lot of trouble on the right. The green is set in deep hollow. The ninth comes back in the opposite direction and is another long hole, this one measuring 469 yards. A fairway bunker and trees right and left are to be avoided before a second shot to a raised green with a narrow approach surrounded by trouble. Painswick closes with a 140-yard par three. It should be a simple, short iron, but a large tree short of the green catches a lot of golf balls, and there is out of bounds behind the green and to the left.
Long Ashton Golf Club
Green fee £40
Par 71, 6,378 yards, parkland
Founded in 1893 and set in 220 acres of parkland, Long Ashton is located just 10 minutes from Bristol. It is also the home club of European Ryder Cup player Chris Wood. The course starts with a 307-yard par four that some will attempt to drive, but beware the out of bounds on the right. The large green is protected by a deep bunker on the left. The seventh, at 418 yards, is an uphill dogleg, usually played into the wind, with water on the left and trees on the right. There is a bunker short right of the green, and a second to the left. What you see is what you get at the 405-yard 12th. It is uphill and, once again, normally plays into the prevailing breeze. There is out of bounds on the right and gorse on the left, before an approach to a well-guarded green. The 17th is a par three. It is 179 yards long and it needs a big hit to reach the green if the wind blows. It is made all the more difficult by the fact that you cannot see the three greenside bunkers from the tee.
Lydney Golf Club
Green fee £10
Par 72, 6,488 yards, parkland
Lydney is a nine-hole course with 18 tees which was founded in 1909. The first hole is a 394-yard dogleg, with out of bounds on the left, a water hazard to the right and a ditch at approximately 160 yards that together make it a tough and challenging opening hole. The second is another dogleg, this time measuring 335 yards. The decision is whether to take on the hedge and cut the dogleg, while risking going out of bounds, or playing safe with an iron down the middle. The approach is to a sloping green. The sixth is a challenging par four of 454 yards with water to the right and a ditch that requires a carry of 170 yards. There are trees to the left of a steeply-sloping green - miss it and you face a tough chip. The eighth, at 485 yards, is a par five where the player is required to plot his or her way over two ditches to what amounts to an island fairway. A hedge to the left is to be avoided, and runs down the fairway to the green. If your approach is too far you will end up in the water hazard behind the green.
Lilley Brook Golf Club
Green fee £26, winter £20
Par 69, 6,212 yards, parkland
Set in the Cotswold hills, this is a mature parkland course designed by Alister Mackenzie, who was also responsible for Augusta. It offers fabulous views of Cheltenham and the surrounding countryside and provides a challenging par of 69. The 365-yard first hole features trees running all the way along the right side of the fairway. A good drive to the left of centre will ensure an easy approach to the green, but go to far right and a huge walnut tree blocks a green guarded by bunkers left and right. There are more trees to the right of the 395-yard sixth hole. Long hitters should be aware of a ditch that runs across the fairway and can be easily reached - if your ball finds it you will be dropping out under penalty. A well positioned bunker protects the front right of the green. The 11th is a delightful little par three that measures just 143 yards, but the green is a small one and it is guarded by a couple of deep and punishing bunkers. A large willow in front of the left bunker provides another hazard. The final hole measures 378 yards and is a dogleg right that heads back towards the clubhouse. Out of bounds and trees run down the right of the hole so think twice before trying to cut the corner. Take time on the tee to enjoy the beautiful view of Cheltenham and the Black Mountains of Wales in the distance.
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