Feature Review The Manor House Hotel Golf Club
Review by Golfshake Members Chris Perry (16 handicap) and Matt Holbrook (23 handicap)
The Manor House is a beautiful and classic parkland course set deep in the Cotswold Valleys offering stunning views. On the drive into the course you instantly get a feel for what will be a truly enjoyable experience. When you reach the car park you can see the 18th green surrounded by water and as you look further down, the perfectly manicured fairways.
You get a great feel for the history of the course even with the modern looking clubhouse which holds everything you would expect a course of this stature to hold.
The the 6500 yard, par 72 championship course was designed by Peter Alliss and makes full use of the natural features, such as the hills and valleys that dominate the countryside and the brooks running through the area. The course has a very woodland/parkland feel to it and is well spread out across the land. Unless you are fit a buggy is strongly recommended.
Pre round thoughts
Chris - The course has a different entrance to the hotel but is quite well signposted. The walled entrance to the driveway coupled with the entry road through woods gives a feeling on arrival that this is a high quality course. It doesn't disappoint when you arrive in the car park with excellent views over the nearby holes and a clubhouse that looks very in keeping with the surroundings.
We were made very welcome by Andrew in the well stocked pro-shop, who gave us a good overview of the course layout and features and what we could expect.
We paid a quick visit to the driving range, which is uncovered and adjacent to the clubhouse. Coloured target flags mark the distances and whilst we played off matting, it was high quality deep-pile mat that you can put a normal tee into and feels like playing from grass. The putting green is outside the pro shop and was in very good condition. It ran quicker that the greens on the course and but some of the large tiers on it gave us a good feel for what to expect, though this did make it difficult to find a flat putt. There is also a short game area next to the 10th tee with several chipping targets and lies to play from, though we didn't use this.
Matt - We had a fantastic and friendly welcome in the pro shop. As we were waiting to be seen by the pro in the well stocked shop the gentlemen in front was passing comment on the course "This is the first time I have been here. Quite possibly the best course I have played and in perfect condition. See you again very soon" - This was enough of a recommendation in itself.
Excellent practice range with grass bays in the summer and artificial grass for the winter. Sizeable putting green, which comes highly recommended, as the greens are super fast. Looking through the course guide filled us with anticipation for the round.
Chris - I felt the 5 Par 3's on the course were it's feature, with all but one a tough challenge. The course say the 17th is their signature hole; a short drop-hole coming down 120ft from the top of a steep hill to a double-green below that has a brook winding through them.
Whilst this does stay in the memory, I personally thought the 2nd was the stand out hole. Tucked into the bottom of the valley with a brook running along it's length and around 3 sides of the tiered green and out of bounds in play, accuracy is critical. This is a visually stunning hole from the tee and making par felt like a victory.
Matt - The par 3's really make this course stand out in my opinion.
The 2nd, while only playing at 132 yards from the yellows sound easy enough. Wrong. The elevated tee and the Bybrook running round the left hand side of the green makes club choice key. Even if you do hit the green par is still not assured and when you make your way down you soon realise just how undulating it is.
The 4th offers less water, more sand with a long snakey bunker running from the tee box to the front of the green. It can be avoided, if long enough but a marvelous feature.
The 17th - The signature hole - Plays at 127 yards from the yellows.
Words cant describe how stunning this hole is. As you walk to the tee box you are greeted by a steep 120ft drop. There at the bottom you find two equally protected greens. The green to the left is guarded by bunkers either side. The green to the right is surrounded by the Bybrook. Walk away with a 10 here and it probably wouldn't bother you.
Chris - The Par 4's offer some respite on the course, with many of them reasonably short and all but one a comfortable 2 shot distance from the usual (white/yellow/red) tees. That does not make them easy though with most having features, such as water, bunkers, mounds valleys and hills, that force you to think about your shot and choose your club carefully off the tee.
Many are good holes and the 289 yard 13th will stick in many minds. A tight tee shot over the broadmead brook and between an avenue of trees up a steep incline. If this hole was flat it would be an easy par but the gradient and split plateau fairways make club choice off the tee critical and bogey feel like a positive result.
Personally I think a finishing hole is crucial to any course and I loved the 18th. Attractive but daunting from the tee, out of bounds all the way down the left, a large lake right and back of the heavily bunkered green and a large tree in the middle of the fairway; accuracy is critical! At 377 yards, par is makable but requires two good shots to the tiered green.
Matt - The 8th hole - WOW
You tee off from the top of the valley. The green is at the bottom. The views of the adjacent 12th hole and surrounding areas is breathtaking. Playing 276 yards from the yellows bigger hitters will only require an Iron from the tee. The temptation is just too much not to have a go at the very reachable green in one.
The other par 4's are an excellent variety of either tree lined or bunkered fairways and the odd splash of water to contend with. Nothing is the same and everything is challenging.
Chris - Of the 5 Par 5's, 4 are of the yardage where a big hitter would fancy their chances of being on in two. However, this will come with some risk as all have fairway bunkers, mounding and (on all but one) water in play to protect them. Three sensible shots will see almost guaranteed birdie putts offered up on all of them - that is except for the 12th.
The 12th is, quite simply, stunning and a potential card wrecker. Teeing from an elevated tee to a plateau below, a steep valley at the end running down to the River Bybrook prevents you from taking too much club. The second is a tight shot over the river to land on a narrow fairway between a lake on the left and the 8th green on the right. With that negotiated you are still left with a shot to a green that is about 50ft above your head with trees around the back and left. Anything right will run straight back down to the road below, anything short back down into the waiting large and deep bunkers. When you do get to the green, there isn't a single straight putt as it undulates severely all across the surface. If you played this hole a few times you would get some benefit of knowing the correct club choice but playing for the first time be happy to get past this hole with your card intact.
Matt - The early Par 5's give you a great idea of just how much of a test they are going to pose. Tight tee shots or hitting over water from the tee offer a daunting prospect with the 6th and 7th being back to back par 5's both perfect examples of this.
The 12th hole is easily the most stunning, enjoyable and difficult par 5 I have played. From the usual elevated tee you have be plot your way down the valley and over the Bybrook shot by shot before hitting into a raised green heavily patrolled by 6 of the meanest bunkers. Just when you feel a hole couldnt pose anything else the two tiered green can turn a 5 into an 8 f you're not the right side. Make par here and you're on the right track!
Post round thoughts
Chris - After the round we headed to the spike bar, which is linked directly to the main bar. The bar was comfortable and well maintained and the patio area overlooks the picturesque approach to the 18th green. There was plenty of variety on tap and in the fridges, and whilst the prices were a little higher than a members club they were in line with what you would expect from a resort course. We didn't eat but the food we saw brought out made it very tempting (especially the Eton Mess!) and the prices on the menu were again what you would expect from a resort course.
Reviewing our rounds, we had scored quite differently. I found the course rewarded sensible and accurate play with little benefit to being aggressive; I used my 3 wood off the tee more than my driver as accuracy often seemed more important than distance. There were two holes that ruined my card and both of these were down to me making a mistake and being heavily punished by the course for doing so.
The greens were quite firm but ran quite true and were in decent condition considering the recent poor weather. There were some small bare patches in areas that would see lots of play (like collection areas close to greens) but this is only to be expected on a course that has been able to stay open through all the poor weather due to its good drainage and these will recover quickly.
Matt - As soon as I had finished this round I knew that I had just experienced a course right up there with the best. Perfectly manicured fairways, excellently hand cut greens. Stunning views. It was one of those courses, regardless of how you play, makes you grateful you took up this wonderful game.
The warm welcome we got in the clubhouse pre round was echoed in the spike bar post round. Excellent menu on offer. If you're a real ale man also give the 'Manor House' a go.
Chris - Whilst the course wasn't in its prime being so early in the season, it wasn't far away. In mid-summer I can see the greens being devilish quick and the subtle breaks they posses confounding even the best golfers. The fairways are well maintained, the bunkers well sanded and quite consistent and the water hazards are well positioned to make you think about your shot. No two holes were alike with varying challenges and I didn't feel there was any one that was weak. As for the views and location - simply stunning
We were made to feel very welcome by friendly, polite and courteous staff and this helped make our visit very pleasant. I recommend arriving in plenty of time to soak up the surroundings and use the practice facilities before playing. The course can be very busy with hotel residents, especially at weekends, and this can result in slow rounds
Overall, The Manor House Golf Club is definitely one to visit. The course is challenging but fair for all levels of golfer, the views and surroundings stunning and the staff welcoming. Have a look for a deal if you can, but if you can't get one it's worth treating yourself. Hopefully you will be able to take some happy memories away with you; mine is hitting the flag on the 18th to leave a tap in to finish the round.
Chris's rating - 9/10
Matt - This course sticks out. It will create memories. If someone said to me you can play golf every week for the rest of your life but had to play the same course I would pick The Manor House without thinking. The excellent drainage offers perfect golfing conditions all year round.
Given the chance I wouldn't think twice about returning.
Matt's rating - 10/10
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