Manor House, Castle Combe, England
Staying at the 14th Century Manor House Hotel, Castle Combe near Bath last week and playing the Peter Alliss and Clive Clark designed course was a real treat.
The 5* Manor House hotel and restaurant experience was second to non. Nestled in the award winning ‘Prettiest UK Village’ and being home to masterpiece greats such as Warhorse and Downton Abbey. The Manor House hotel is a short drive to the golf course. The hotel is split into various accommodation offerings- I stayed in one of the mews cottages overlooking the front car park and gardens beyond. An oldie woldie style of dark wood and plush furnishings and a huge bed oozed comfort which didn’t disappoint.
Dinner in the Castle Inn was a short walk from the accommodation with breakfast being served in the main hotel building itself – both meals were of both quality and quantity.
In contrast the clubhouse is relatively new, and as such has good break away rooms for golf groups or meetings. The verandah overlooks the iconic 18th hole which has water in play to the right of its approach.
Hole one takes you over an old motte and bailey, although now the motte is only distinguishable but is in play for the first drive to a dog leg left. The course shows its colours from hole 2 – an elevated par three of 118/151 yards, SI 13/17 the view is wonderful down to the green as a babbling brook dissects the short fairway and wraps itself around to the left of the green.
The 6th was slightly annoying from the forward tees, in so far as the back tees had a small pond to go over. The forward tees were, in my opinion, harder than the back tees as the shot of choice was not straight onto the fairway but approached by an angle. The the line of choice from the tee is to the right of the bumps and over the corner of another stretch of water. That said, being a par 5, there was scope to go off piste and still recover with it being a SI7/15.
Hole 8, par 4 is a big hitters dream at just 239/309 yards (SI13/17) from tiered elevated tee boxes. OOB left and a few trees right, it didn’t give the appearance of being intimidating either and therefore was drivable for a birdie or easy par. Looking back from the green to the tee made you realise how high the tee boxes are.
Hole 10 sets the scene for the undulating fairways of the back nine, a slight dog leg left through the humps to an approachable green just around the corner.
When people talk about The Manor House – hole 12 or 17 are the holes they are most likely to discuss, why?
Hole 12 – potentially controversial to golfers and golf course designers. As one rounds the corner, the hole comes into sight and one can see why.
That said I love a challenge so was delighted to give the ball a good hit to the sloping right to left fairway as it runs down the hill – naturally club choice is key off the tee as too far and you’re either into the rubbish right or left or even into the ravine. The dot to dot fairway climbs quite sharply after the ravine to the hugely elevated, bunker protected (right) fairly large green. Add a not so insignificant tree to mess with the drive means accuracy is important rather than length on this hole. This par 5 SI 2 12th (430/498 yards) continues to cause many discussions – personally I think its a great hole and feel it is quite reachable in regulation with carful course management.
Interesting, playable golf continued with shadow casting bumps and humps and the odd small pond to negotiate – then hole 17 came into play. Now I will be honest here, its another one of my favourites.
As you leave the green from hole 16, unaware of what is ahead (spoiler alert) it hits you in the face as you gradually take a short ride downhill to the tee box. The tee box is one long expanse right to left with the various tees positioned along its length. Before deciding which club to take, wander along the tee box – camera in hand, and enjoy the view. Not one but two greens to play for, one right, one left, you never know which green is in play on the day you’ll play. Great for the green keepers who can switch them around as weather dictates. Weather does come into play here as the tee boxes are quite elevated and again have that babbling brook meandering around the two greens, pretty as a picture. The greens are not small target greens but too short, too long, too far left or right could lead to a no score on the card – and no one wants that!
Up hill afterwards to the closing hole – it is this hill that makes you grateful you hired a buggy!
A good par 4, SI10 finish (322/384 yards) with a favourable drive centre left to avoid the tree right enables a shot to the green to miss the water right and bunkers left.
In summary, an established course set within hill and valley and some lovely Cotswold countryside. The practice green looks like it had been on steroids with massive elevation changes, but the actual greens were less sloping, with some subtle movement of the ball. In the main they were in good condition. Tee boxes were in good condition too, that is the forward and back tee boxes. Fairways were cleverly thought through to enjoy the countryside yet hold your attention to the game in hand, in short, a great course to visit. For the ultimate experience, try the stay and play option and immerse yourself into the true English countryside
Words and images from Sarah Forrest, LC Ambassador