Bearwood Lakes Review
Very few golf courses in the United Kingdom exude that aura of perfection as you walk through the doors into the clubhouse. From the very first moment you enter the grounds of Bearwood Lakes, you become fully aware that a flawless all-round golfing experience lies in store. That isn’t to say the golf course, despite being beautiful and expertly crafted, is the best in the UK, but it’s the way every component of the club comes together that makes it such a special place.
The clubhouse - a majestic, large and modern three-floor structure - sits proudly above the 18th green, and boasts a balcony that extends some 50 yards along the entire length of the building. It’s a wonderful vantage point and an idyllic spot with the sun setting over the 18th green. The exposed first tee is also visible from the balcony, and, in truth, it’s one of the more tame holes on a golf course that’s fully of exceptional variety and a selection of fantastic holes. The fairways are relatively wide, but stray off line and you’ll be caught out by severe rough. The greens are extremely quick, but, as with the rest of the course, they are in absolutely immaculate condition. Indeed, the unbelievable definition between the two cuts of green-side fringe and the superb conditioning of the fairways and bunkers is indicative of the quality of the golf course.
The course is laid out through mature oak woodland, with towering trees framing most holes beautifully. Bearwood Lakes is one of the most tranquil golf courses I’ve ever played, a product of ancient woodland, rolling, rough-strewn hills and, as the name would suggest, bodies of water that sit serenely at various points throughout the course. The first four holes are relatively open and hazard-free, but tree-lined holes and lakes start to appear more prominently from the fifth onwards. The stretch between nine – a mid-length par3 over water – and 14, another water-infested par 3 with a severe green complex, is one of the best stretches of holes I’ve ever played.
The par 3s at Bearwood Lakes are as good a selection as I’ve encountered on any golf course anywhere in the world, especially the three between the ninth and the 14th. The water for which the course is famed is instrumental in making the short holes such a tough yet enjoyable challenge.
The ninth is arguably the course’s finest par 3 and the best short hole at Bearwood Lakes. Shots are hit from an elevated tee over an enormous, island-dotted lake to a green that’s large and undulating. Water also protects the left side of the green leaving long and right as the only bail-out area, but a quick downhill chip towards water awaits if you chose to play safe off the tee.
The 14th hole – which, at 180 yards, is some 15 yards longer than the ninth – also plays over a significant body of water. At Bearwood Lakes, there always seems to be trouble on at least one side of each hole, and this certainly rings true on the 14th. Anything right will find a watery grave, and if you bail out left, a treacherous green-side bank laden with thick rough presents a hellish downhill chip.
The par 4s are a wonderfully varied selection, and natural features are combined expertly with bodies of water and man-made obstacles to present some picture-perfect holes. The imagination of the course designers must be noted here, and great praise should be given to Martin Hawtree and his team for creating so many naturally beautiful holes that blend seamlessly into the natural environment.
The 17th hole is my favourite par 4 on the front nine because of its innate beauty and the options available from the elevated tee. Bearwood Lakes is just 17 years old, but you’d have absolutely no idea standing on a hole that’s framed by huge trees, sand and dense rough out to the right. If you have a high ball flight, you can take on the trees on the apex of the left-swinging dogleg, but the more proficient golfer will attempt to turn the ball from right to left. If you find the fairway, you’ll still have the best part of 200 yards uphill to a flat green, but one that’s surrounded by two of the deepest bunkers on the course. The course exudes tranquil charm, and that feeling is exacerbated on the picturesque seventh.
The 13th hole is, without doubt, the best and most demanding hole on the back side. The tee is raised, and to find the short grass, your ball must carry a ditch 180 yards away but stop short of another one some 100 yards further up the fairway. You’ll also lose your ball in water if you push it left and find dense woodland if you bail out left. It’s an incredibly daunting drive, and the same can be said for an approach. It’s only a wedge or a short iron, but the green is cut perilously close to water, meaning anything long or right will end up wet. It’s a gorgeous yet treacherous hole that will sort the men from the boys.
The par 5s are probably the weakest feature of the golf course, but such is the quality of the Bearwood Lakes they’d still be seen as above average comparatively. The best among this selection is probably the 11th hole, a stunning hole incorporating all the features that make the course so special. Drives are hit over lakes to a generous fairway, and the second shot demands sensible course management as deep bunkers jut into the fairway some 120 yards short of the green. The prudent play is to lay up behind these traps, leaving a short iron to a right-to-left slanting green that’s protected short right by a steep, rough-strewn bank.
Bearwood Lakes is a truly magnificent golf course and a wonderful, all-encompassing treat for the discerning golfer. No two holes are the same on a perfectly manicured and conditioned golf course, which features some exception holes. The on and off-course feel is as convivial as I’ve experienced and the facilities are exemplary. Overall, I’d give Bearwood Lakes a rating of 8.5/10.
|Bearwood Lakes Golf Club
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