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Macdonald Portal Championship Course Feature Review

By: Robert Treanor | Tue 14 Jun 2022 | Comments


Macdonald Portal has been ranked as Highly Recommended by Golfshake members in 2018, 2019 and 2021. Golfshake sent Ambassador Rob Treanor along in May 2022 to experience the Championship Course.

Macdonald Portal in Cheshire is home to three golf courses, a four star hotel and a strong set of leisure and spa facilities, making it an ideal destination for a golf break. The Championship Course was designed by Donald Steel and opened in 1990, with the parkland track gaining an excellent reputation since.

Pre-Round Thoughts

Portal Golf

The venue is situated in a tranquil, countryside location with magnificent scenery offered from the expansive views. In the near ground, beautiful planting and topiary greets visitors from the moment they turn into the venue. The Championship course is over 7,000 yards when played from the tips, though most visitors will elect to play from the shorter 6,500 yard yellow tees which offer a more accessible, but still testing and very enjoyable round. As well as the Championship course, the venue boasts an additional 18 hole track called the Premier, making this a golf rich destination suitable for an extended visit. 

The Championship course first opened in 1990, though the mature trees which line the fairways make it seem as though the course has existed forever. The USGA greens and beautiful water features which span the estate have undoubtedly contributed to the many accolades it has since won. 

Front 9 Overview

Following two gentle but interesting opening holes, the course comes alive on the par five 3rd. A downhill drive is played to an inviting fairway which meanders to reach a pond guarding the front left of the green. The tee shot will need to avoid being blocked out by the trees to the right of the fairway and also negotiate bunkers to the left. Those laying up will be relieved that there are fewer impediments for the placement of the second shot, though the approach requires much thought. The green slopes from back to front meaning the ideal position is the front of the green, though the presence of the pond makes this an intimidating decision. For those feeling less brave, a bail out area is accessible to the right, though anything played long of the flag will leave a slippery nudge back down the green. A very good hole.

A very tempting downhill drive awaits on the 8th, with views from the tee box extending for miles into the distance. Bunkers to the right hand side of the fairway need to be avoided before the hole meanders left towards a two tiered green. The fairway is undulating and the dominant left to right slope persists all the way to the green where anything to the right will finish in a bunker or worse, fall away and collect in a drop off area. The play is to the left of the green where the high ground will kick the ball back to the characteristically immaculate putting surface.

The 9th is a peach. After a blind tee shot played uphill to a plateau, the hole then winds to the right playing uphill to a gorgeous elevated green framed by mounding and trees beyond, giving the impression of an Amphitheatre. The apron has a steep gradient meaning anything short will return back to the fairway so taking enough club to reach the green is essential. A great finish to the strong front nine.

Back 9 Overview

Portal Golf

There isn’t a single weak hole on the Championship course, everything has an interest and a purpose. The sequence of holes from 14 to 16 is particularly strong, with each hole requiring a carry over water to reach the green. The par three 14th is perhaps the pick of the bunch, with the tee shot played over a lake with waterfalls either side of the heart shaped green. There are multiple tiers on the green and some very tricky putts depending on the pin position. This stunning hole will put a smile on your face no matter how you play.

The par four 15th green is protected by a pretty pond and the same is true of the par three 16th. This set of holes will have undoubtedly settled many matches and are rewarding, play fairly and will live long in the memory. Whilst water is probably the course’s signature feature, there is not so much of it that it dominates, it is used cleverly to add beauty and challenge to an excellent course.

Post-Round Thoughts

Portal Golf

The little things are very well done here. There is good course signage making it clear where the next tee box is from each green, the rakes in bunkers are holstered in dedicated stands and unusually, are stood up to attention making them easy to find. The flower arrangements and topiary around the course add a level of attention to detail which elevates the entire experience.

Verdict

There is a great variety of holes, great views of the surrounding countryside and the course itself is extremely pretty. Without a dull moment, playing the Championship course at Macdonald Portal is pure escapism and joy.

This is a great golf course, cracking venue and is definitely worth seeking out.

Overall Rating - 9

Course (Conditions) - 9

Course (Hole Variety/Layout) - 9

Course (Green Condition) - 9

Course (Challenge/Difficulty) - 9

Club Facilities & Clubhouse - 8

Practice Facilities - 6

Friendliness/Hospitality - 7

Pace of Play - 8

Value For Money - 8


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