Cumberwell Park Stay Play Review
Review by Golfshake Ambassador Andy Picken
Cumberwell Park lies on the A363 in Wiltshire, a couple of miles outside Bradford-on-Avon and seven miles east of Bath. It is a parkland course with a number of diverse ecological habitats. These range from rough grassland, lakes, streams, wetlands, plantations and ancient woodland.
It currently provides 45 holes of quality golf holes with more planned for the future. Its first 18 holes opened in 1994 – today’s Red and Yellow nines. The facility includes four loops of nine holes together with an excellent par 3 short course that features a replica of the 17th at TPC Sawgrass.
Keep an eye out for this as you drive down towards the clubhouse.
This is a family run facility that has always adhered to its basic principle of Golf for All. I love this ethos and it was plain to see with the number of younger golfers I saw using and practicing. This was one of the courses that provided a first introduction to the game for 2020 Amateur Champion Joe Long.
He still keeps in contact with one of his first coaches, John Jacobs, who is Head Professional here, and who I presented the Golfshake Highly Recommended status on behalf of the venue.
It also benefits from a superb driving range and a short game practice area that is a delight. It is also a holder of both Golf Mark and Club Mark status.
There is a clear pride and interest in ensuring that the facility is as ecologically sound as possible with excellent communication between the groundskeeping staff and the membership. The grounds staff have a separate Twitter account and local non-golf groups have been offered guided tours of the area.
John Keepen is the Head of Conservation and he has a high profile within BIGGA and STRI. “Conservation Corner” provides information regarding new initiatives on the course and a direct email is provided for members to communicate with greens staff. The course won the Bath Life Environmental Awards in 2018.
The clubhouse offers a range of golfer friendly food and drink and also has some excellent accommodation on-site for the visitor. The accommodation is in the form of lodges or cottages that can hold groups of up to 10 in total. The cottages are very well equipped and the en-suite bedrooms are extremely comfortable. There are also free laundry facilities if the weather goes against you during your visit. Shared patios areas outside each venue allow for post round socialising for groups who travel together. Many of the current customers I met are repeat visitors and I see this as a good indicator of the quality of the venue and its welcome.
Membership categories are various and priced for popularity. Please check out the website for current deals. It is a regular venue for PGA EuroPro events and is rapidly becoming a highly popular destination for society days across the South West.
The Golf Courses
Designed by Adrian Stiff, the 36 holes provide different challenges for golfers of every ability. The courses encompass a real blend of rolling countryside, lakes, streams, and woodland. Each of the nine-hole layouts start and finish at the clubhouse. All greens have been constructed and maintained to the highest USGA specification providing all year play. Tees are built with a sandbased root zone mix and are very well conditioned.
I spoke to Adrian about the design process and he described for me. “Cumberwell evolved from a design as far back as 1989, much of which is the Orange 9 that was not opened until 2006 and was the last of the four nines. The Red and Yellow opened in 1994 and the demand meant the Blue 9 followed about five years later. We planned a fifth nine between the Red, Yellow and Blue but that it is still on the drawing board.”
It is clear that this was a blank canvass project and that there was a lot of trust between architect and landowners in its early stages.
For my review, I played the Red and Blue, then I sampled the excellent practice facilities. I also completed 9 holes on the short par 3 course designed by James Edwards.
The Par 3 Course
These holes are all properly and fully formed with non-gender specific tee boxes enabling the golfer to select those that give him or her the most enjoyment. They range from 100 yards to 178 yards in length. This was all achieved in an afternoon and evening. I enjoyed the Fortress green at the 1st, Amphitheatre at the 2nd, Biarritz at the 4th and Redan at the 9th. I really loved playing the 8th hole which is a copy of the 17th at TPC Sawgrass.
The greens and approaches are all of excellent quality and this was a real pleasure to sample after enjoying the main courses.
The Blue Course
This course opens with Hole 19 on the card, which is a par-5 measuring 602 yards from the tips. Ten bunkers are actively in play. The hole has a 90 degree dog-leg supported by a well-protected green complex. Not an easy opener but a strong golf hole.
Hole 20 is a difficult par 4 requiring a tee shot over water to a fairway that is well protected by bunkers. The opening tee shot should be long and accurate up the hill, avoiding the bunkers, and towards the double tiered green. Ideally, leave a comfortable distance for attacking the pin on the green.
The 21st is a short par 4 requiring strategic play for success. A risk-reward hole offering a multitude of playing options. Ideally the tee shot will be close to, but not in the lake, allowing an approach shot to a double tiered green.
Skipping ahead to the 23rd, which is a difficult driving hole requiring a shot that follows the shape of the left to right dog-leg. A lake is supported by OOB along its left flank right the way to the green. The right aspect of the hole is also protected by a necklace of bunkers.
The 25th is another challenging drive requiring a draw to avoid well-placed bunkers with a slight dog-leg from left to right, while the 26th is probably the signature hole for this particular loop of nine.
All loops return to the proximity of the clubhouse. Each is expected to take around two hours for a four ball. I was able to play the next loop without any wait or issues. It opens with a par 4 up the hill towards a bunker guarded green complex. The driving range runs to the left of this hole and is not in play.
The 2nd plays 450 yards from the white tee. I found the fairway bunker with my drive and that hampered my approach shot to the green. The 3rd provides an interesting short hole challenge from the elevated tee box. A lake protects the green short with bunkers placed all around the kidney bean shaped green. The 4th offers the opportunity to open the shoulders to try to take the fairway bunker out of play. I aimed for the widest point of the fairway using this bunker as a reference point and it provided the best angle of attack for the approach into the green.
The 5th is another par 4 but the fairway is tightly shaped and the second cut is grabby and penal so an accurate shot is required. The 7th is another interesting short hole played from an elevated tee. Slopes and swales protect left with bunkers covering long and right. The 8th is the most difficult hole on this loop at 409 yards but is challenging because of the cut of the fairway, its camber and the number of trees that are brought into play with an errant shot. The green is partially concealed over a water hazard protected by a number of established trees. This hole makes great use of the existing terrain and structure and looks entirely natural. It is a definite challenge as the player nears the end of the round.
The final hole of this loop is 606 yards from the tips and is well structured with bunkers placed strategically at average landing points for both the drive and the second shot. Few will reach the green in two so accurate layups are needed.
This is a relatively new facility that has proved to be extremely popular with its members and visitors. I love its ethos of encouraging all to come and try the game. It is accessible and fun, in particular for younger golfers.
The practice facilities are superb and well used by those wishing to play better.
It is a perfect example of having a layout that allows for users to decide how much time they wish to use to play. The short course par 3 takes around 90 minutes and a full 18 holes will usually take around four hours.
The clubhouse provides golfers food and beers and is exactly what this type of venue needs. The accommodation for those wishing to visit and stay and play is also excellent.
The course design blends well with the local terrain and offers a decent challenge for all levels and standards of golfer. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and will undoubtedly return to try the other loops I missed during my visit.
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|Cumberwell Park Golf Club
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