Forest Pines Golf Resort Feature Review
Known as one of the best courses in the East of England, Forest Pines plays host to 27 stunning holes of parkland golf that will provide a stern test for players of all abilities with its tight tree-lined fairways that twist and turn throughout on an excellent layout.
Whilst the course has in excess of 500 members, with its 188-roomed hotel on-site, it is also a great spot for golfers looking to get away for a night or two. Swimming, spa and gym are also on-site, meaning Forest Pines ticks every box that you could look for as far as a golf break in the UK is concerned.
The 3 loops of 9 - Forest, Pines and Beeches - are all of the same quality and test, but each also offer something slightly different, meaning there’s plenty of variety.
The professional shop is situated in a separate building to the hotel, along with the spike bar (The Pines Bar) and health club and swimming pool. Given that there are so many members, the pro shop is well equipped to take care of all your golfing needs before you play, and, if you so wish, a good selection of equipment and apparel is also available. If you have time, make sure you have a quick hit on the driving range and putting green too!
With 3 pars 3s and just the 1 par 5, The Beeches loop gave me the sense of a bit of respite, especially from the tee.
The shortest of the 3 loops might not give as many scoring opportunities, but it did feel somewhat more 'open' off the tee - but it’s far from easy.
After a fairly gentle par 3 opening, the 2nd hole requires a nice big cut off the tee (if you're right-handed) if you want to hit driver. The fairway bunkers on the left-hand side of the fairway wait to grab any tee shot too long and the approach into the green is tough as the large bunkers mean that one side of the green is out of sight.
In reverse of the 2nd, the 3rd moves from right to left but it really makes you want to take on the bunker on the corner that’s around a 220-yard carry. There is a big landing area on the other side, meaning a brave shot is well rewarded but a shot that’s not online will get picked up by the trees which are still a feature.
The only par 5 at the 6th is still fairly tight off the tee, but for once a slight let off as there isn’t any bunkers until you get to the green.
The final lengthy par 4 at the 8th is a really tough hole. It is 440 yards from the yellows and feels even tighter from the tee as the large willows up the right-hand side hang over the fairway. The bunkers up the left-hand side are deep and penal so also need to be avoided before another gentle par 3 finishes this loop.
The Forest loop felt like the most challenging to me.
Starting with a couple of par 4s close to 400 yards, the 2nd epitomises this loop of 9. With large bunkers running up the left-hand side, and a tight feel from the tall pine trees either side of the fairway, you feel like you are hitting down into a chute, with a couple more bunkers on the right that also need to be navigated. A long second shot into a protected green will be required to find a par here.
The 3rd is a very clever par 5 that, again, has an extremely narrow feel to it. Playing off the yellows it’s only 465 yards, but the longer you hit from the tee the more right to left the hole moves and the fairway narrows. Because it feels so tight with the pines you almost feel like driver is too much from the tee unless you are really able to shape it - and beware of the ditch running in front of the green regardless of whether you lay up or have a go in 2! This is a really solid par 5.
The first par 3 arrives at the 6th. This is not crazy in length at 157 yards, but the enclosed feeling again is striking from the tee and this time the pond that sits between you and the green may actually come into play if you don’t hit enough club. If there is some wind it can really play havoc as there is every chance it will be swirling around in the trees.
You finish the Forest loop with another testing par 4 back toward the clubhouse.
Most of the holes turn one way or the other on the Forest loop, but not the 9th. Close to 400 yards, again the fairway tightens the further down you look and it feels especially hard to hit as its the straightest hole on the loop.
A couple of fairway bunkers are well-placed about 70 yards short of the green, which stop players who miss the fairway chasing one all the way up. The green itself is very undulating with a bunker front left that may also come into play. Statistically, this is the hardest hole on the Forest loop and I can fully buy into that!
Whilst the Pines loop does take on a similar feel to the Forest in the sense that tall pines line most fairways and it has an extremely tight and challenging feel to it, it does offer up some scoring opportunities if you are hitting the ball okay.
I say this because this loop has 3 par 5s which do offer up birdie chances.
This starts at the 1st - where a good tee shot over the big bunker on the right will leave you a chance at getting on the green, but 2 large fairway bunkers might also be the target as the entrance to the green narrows down with a couple of big trees coming into play around the green - even with a lay-up over those bunkers, a 4 isn’t out of the question.
I did like the 2nd hole on the Pines - a dog leg from left to right, but the fairway has both a large tree and deep bunker in the middle around 200 yards. Playing short of these really does feel like the smart play but will leave around 170 yards into the green that has bunkers short. Braver players might just try and bomb it over the corner but it really doesn’t feel like the smart play from the tee. A conundrum for you to solve!
You jump from the easiest to the hardest hole on the Pines loop on 6 and 7.
The 6th is a gentle par 5 around 463 yards, but longer hitters need to be aware that the fairway runs out and into a water hazard around 250 yards. There will be a bail out from the tee to the right, but if you go too far you'll have to come out sideways, avoiding the pines and playing back towards the water. A fairly small green for a par 5 awaits, but if you can get it up and close then another good scoring chance is to be had.
The 7th is the signature hole. 182 yards from a slightly elevated tee box with 100 yards of water to carry into this par 3. There is a tiny amount of space between the water hazard and the start of the green so clubbing up is the better play, but don’t go too far as the bunker at the back of the green is the last place you want to be playing back towards the water. A lovely hole.
The Pines has a similar finish to the Forest loop in the form of a long, hard, tight par 4.
Just the one bunker to avoid on this fairway, but for the 3rd time in 4 holes, water is very much in play, this time on your approach shot. A tall tree on the right-hand side overhangs and almost sends you towards the water. Playing short of the green and backing your short game might not be the worst thing to do.
It’s worth pointing out that with having 3 loops of 9 you can really mix up the 3 loops to create what you like. Even from different tee boxes, some holes are a par 4 off the yellows but par 5 off the whites, for example, so you really can be super flexible with the way you set up your rounds. I think this is a real asset to Forest Pines as lots of visiting groups may have differing abilities. The flexibility with tee boxes means that everyone can still enjoy all 3 loops.
Condition wise, the course is great. It does take a lot of traffic so you can expect it to not be pristine during the wetter months, but the greens and fairways can't be faulted and it never goes to winter greens - which is another great thing.
It’s a tough course - I won’t tell you otherwise. You really need to be able to keep a golf ball in play around Forest Pines otherwise you won’t do much scoring, but if you can keep it at least somewhat straight then you should be rewarded. The most important thing is to make sure you are smart and don’t try to be a hero should you miss a fairway or two.
What a great venue Forest Pines is! 27 holes of Golf, 188 bedrooms, gym, swimming, health club, spa, jacuzzi, steam room, conference facilities and ample dining options with great menus and a fantastic breakfast too! As far as a UK-based resort goes, for golfing and more Forest Pines really should be on everyone’s radar. I can't wait to go back!
Overall Rating: 9
Course (Conditions): 8
Course (Hole variety/layout): 8
Course (Challenge/Difficulty): 10
Club facilities & 19th/clubhouse: 9
Practice Facilities: 8
Course (green condition): 9
Pace of play: 9
Value for money: 9
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