An imposing wall looms as the car (and driver) expertly thread their way through the apparent decreasing gap. A little breath in does little to help the width of the car, but does make me feel better with the walls closing in as we transcend into the grounds of Bowood.
On the other side, in tardis fashion the grounds open up and that split second of claustrophobia is quickly cleared as the drive through trees and past the golf course brings a smile to my face.
Drama over, we’d arrived at Bowood in Wiltshire for 18 holes of golf and an overnight stay. The covered floodlit driving range and a cute little 3 hole course which swept up and down the hills, offering in itself a quirky challenge with decent sized greens.
Pro shop staff were expecting us, the welcome was as warm as the small plate of food and drinks before we set off for our game of golf in the late autumn sunshine.
This Dave Thomas design was completed in 1991 as the official PGA course and Academy in South West England. Every hole was covered by bunkers for the approach with hole 3, a par 5 488/568 yards SI1/3 having a double crescent in front of the green. Being a par 5, you could always lay up and go for the fly over this double tier of bunkers, unless you like sand, then you can hop from one to the other before popping onto the green feeling slightly frustrated and a bit grittier than when you stood on the tee!
Bunkers were in play, but on hole 4 it was bunkers left and water right, narrowing the approach for this back to back par 5 460/573 yard SI7. Accuracy is your friend on this hole.
A shared green greets you on hole 5. With the green looming large, the bunker left shouldn’t really come into play if you favour the right hand bank, which gently slopes to the left on the approach. That said be mindful of the green sloping back to front and the pace of the greens. Luckily for us, the greens had been tined so laying up short was another way to score well on this high SI15 hole.
The other side of the shared green is hole 14, a par 4 SI14/12 308/412 yards.
Playing up 9 with the hotel and golf buildings to greet you in the far distance is always a pleasing sight, couple this with a comprehensive half way house, made a good end for the front nine which I can sum up with dog legs, water, sand, a bit more sand, the odd path crossing over and good fairways and decent greens.
Hole 11 with its little meandering brook to the right and slightly across the fairway to the almost dog leg right. Out of bounds to the right, which wasn’t really in play unless you decided to take on the corner, which in itself would be a risk and reward shot as the angle of the dog leg isn’t as acute as 90 degrees!
The short par 3 12th is an uphill shot, an extra club is needed to reach this two tier back to front sloping green, the short fairway is dissected by a brook, which, if you don’t have a range finder, can be misleading as it appears to shorten the holes length.
I did enjoy hole 15, from its elevated tee position. Not too dissimilar to 11, but instead playing 497/542 yards this par 5 SI2/6 was almost a 90 degree dog leg right. Hitting to the middle of the dog leg is optimum, but upon reaching the corner the course sweeps round right and a large tree is in the middle of the fairway. That said I loved these elevation changes and trying to keep the ball right, ie to the left of the tree, through what seemed to be the narrowest part for the shot to the green, was a good test of accuracy.
Hole 16 saw a big advantage for the forward tees, which played 355 yards as opposed to the back black tees at 449 yards. A tricky hole in so far as the forward tees took away any uphill shot or dog legs, however the back tees had it all in play for a blind shot to a sloping right to left fairway.
Homeward bound on hole 18, the end is within sight, the fairway quite wide and the water left as the fairway slightly shifts course to the right. A number of splodge bunkers and no time to rest on your laurels, even if the bar is within touching distance!
In summary, the course played well, the condition, even for that time of the year, was very good and the bunkers were plentiful! The tee boxes could do with some tlc in places, and as the greens had just been tined, were in the process of recovery, although they still kept their line. The elevation changes make this course more interesting and I’m sure it plays totally different in the height of summer.
Dinner bed and breakfast in the hotel that night was comfortable. The only negative I might throw out there was the cost of the drinks in the bar was quite high. The dinner was covered in the package, and whilst you could afford a starter, main and dessert, it was all the lower valued dishes. That said the food was plentiful and very tasty
Just before heading home the next day, we visited the onsite Performance Centre. Our group of 4 were given the opportunity to play some games against each other, which created a fun atmosphere. There were named courses to select and play too. Harry was our coach, he cajoled and laughed along with us – which was great to have him involved. Going on the body balance told its story, so armed with the information I need to transfer to my left foot more, there is no stopping me the next time I play golf!
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