Friday, 5 September 2008

Ryder Cup Picks...

The Ryder Cup wildcard debate has been stirring for weeks and in typical Nick Faldo style his choice caused uproar within golfing circles. I personally think given Nick's status in the game his decision should be universally accepted. He's a six-time Major winner and the greatest golfer ever to emerge from the British Isles, you would hope this impressive CV would spare him questions on his judgment. Although the European team lacks experience with rookie's in the shape of Rose, Hansen, McDowell and Wilson its safe to say the backbone of Garcia, Harrington, Westwood and Jimenez are more than capable of carrying European hopes and expectations on their shoulders. A point should be made as well that despite the youth of Rose, Hansen, McDowell and Wilson their past experience will stand them in fantastic stead. Rose for example is blooming (sorry - couldn't resist it) into one of Europe's major players with impressive finishes throughout 2007 and 2008, plus playing in the Walker Cup in America as a 17 year old is as good breeding ground for Ryder Cup experience. Hansen is one of Europe's most consistent performers with a steady if unspectacular game which will be very useful in grinding out points in foursomes and fourball matches. McDowell has become a serial winner on the European Tour, although his "purple patch" of form including his win in the Scottish Open was in July, his performances have been amongst the best of any European in 2008. I actually have great expectation for Oliver Wilson, a relative unknown on the US Tour who was once ranked as number 1 US Collegiate golfer during his time at Augusta State, his stand-out Amateur career which is a combination of match-play and strokeplay should ensure he performs beyond his years for this his first ever Ryder Cup.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Archerfield Links

In the same mould as other private members clubs such as Queenwood, Loch Lomond and The Wisely, Archerfield Links is opulence defined. From the moment you enter the gates at the mile-long driveway you are whisked away into a world very different from the normal golfing experience.

Despite its youth, from the moment you walk onto the first tee, it becomes very clear this is historic golfing turf. Set between the ancient Championship Scottish links of Muirfield and North Berwick, Archerfield has emerged from these formidable brothers to become a stand-alone Championship venue.

Since its opening in 2004, Archerfield has received rave reviews not just for its two Championship golf courses but also for its 5* elegance. The Fidra and Dirleton courses are golfing paradises, weaving between pine forests and the sea. They offer vastly differing challenges, which contribute to being one of the greatest golfing experiences available in the world. However it is not simply the golf courses at Archerfield which set it apart as one of the great golfing destinations, it is the facilities. Archerfield House itself has been the recipient of a £22 million refurbishment, the result is simply phenomenal, combining the comfort of home with all the luxuries that can be expected from a 5* venue.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Selsdon Park...the golfing retreat awaits

Located a mere 12 miles from the hustle and bustle of Central London, Selsdon Park Hotel and Golf Club is a country retreat like no other. A golfing break which is beyond expectation at a golf hotel unlike any other. Your golf break starts driving down the winding driveway of Selsdon Park, the Jacobean mansion that greets you is an incredible sight, not just in stature but also the sense of history which pours from its every turret. Set within 250 acres of prime Surrey parkland, the golfing treat which awaits is one which captivates the mind and rewards the brave. Your normal golf breaks have a clinical feel, this is never the feel at Selsdon Park.

It is only from the golf course you are able to appreciate the grandeur of Selsdon Park. Looking back towards this mansion, set between the rolling Surrey Downs and the metropolis of London, it becomes very clear you are not looking at your normal golfing retreat.

Golf has been played on this site since the early 19th Century, however it was the 5-time Open Champion JH Taylor who in 1929, set about creating the course as we see it today. The par 5, first hole gently meanders to the right with the gaping oak and pine forest to the left waiting to gather any tee-shots from the less than prepared. The front nine is a steady test with the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 7th the most memorable. It is however, upon starting the back nine that you realise the different test which awaits which takes you. This is epitomised by the tricky 13th, a sweeping par 5 which will only reward a sweetly struck shot. It is however, the finishing stretch which sets this course apart. The 16th is a glorious dog-leg par 4 with strategic bunkering for both the drive and approach, the 17th is a dangerous par three across a valley with emphasis on both length and accuracy. Now with the end in sight, the 18th is a short but potential card wrecker, which will reward only the most accurate tee-shot and approach. With the golf course complete, it is only now you realise your greatest challenge awaits, the 19th hole...

The bars located in the hotel cater for every need from the casual Tempus Bar to the grand formal dining areas. The hotel itself is grand with each of the rooms individually styled, this is rather a cause, as opposed to design due to parts of the hotel being over a thousand years old, meaning each guest is given a unique experience.

The unique combination of history and location make Selsdon Park a treat for any golfer. With golf breaks starting from £89 for a one night stay and two rounds of golf the value is unquestionable.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Turkey Golf Holidays - Golf as it should be...

Just got back from a delightful week golfing in Belek, Turkey. Belek is a sprawling resort town where all the hotels and golf courses in Turkey are situated. The town of Belek itself is compact and has a small shopping centre with souvenir shops and some cafes but that is all. If you blink you will drive past it! Belek is, however, close to a number of interesting sites and there are several exciting activities on offer for those who fancy some culture. The ruins of the Roman town of Perge is an interesting excursion, as is the well-preserved ancient amphitheatre at Aspendos; its acoustics have stood the test of time and it still plays host to the occasional concert. Jeep safaris into the mountains are another popular outing, as are boat trips, watersports, and visits to nearby Manavgat waterfalls and the thermal baths at Pamukkale.

There is a limited choice of restaurants in Belek as most guests eat in their hotels. The nearby city of Antalya, 22 miles (35km) away, offers many restaurants which serve up some of the best of local Turkish food. I would personally recommend Urcan Fish Restaurant - located above the old town overlooking the ocean and the Antalya coastline - it really is a cracking spot and has live music most evenings. `

The nightlife in Belek is largely limited to the large hotels, many of which have their own nightclubs, bars and entertainment. However a night out in Antalya is well worth a break in your 5* food fest - The 'Old Town' is a cracking spot with loads of bars and restaurants and regular boat trips touting for your business. Into the evening 2 nightclubs open up and the locals and tourists can party till the early hours. Well worth a visit to break up your week.

Here is my guide to Belek from East to West :-

Gloria Golf Resort and Gloria Serenity (Half Board) - are next door to each other and you will get better rates at Gloria Golf Club. 45 holes made up of Gloria Old (18), Gloria New (18) and Gloria Verde (9). Nobilis Golf Club is opposite the entrance and is a stunning golf course.

Papillon Ayscha (All Inclusive) - this is where I stayed and it is a truly great hotel. It has a private beach area and is very popular. Papillon Golf Club (Montgomerie course) which opens in September is only 5 mins away.

Cornelia Deluxe Resort (All Inclusive) - next door to Papillon Ayscha - is only 6 years old and really smart. Twined with Cornelia Golf Club (Faldo course) which has 27 magical holes. This was my favourite golf course.

Sueno Golf Hotel (Half Board) - Only hotel not on the beach but still only 400m away - regular daily shuttles. This however is a golfers hotel, pro shop is off reception and even the spa has got golf course views. Two golf courses on site The Pines and The Dunes and both of them are excellent. Offers unlimited golf in September and over xmas period.

Kempinski The Dome (Half Board) - stunning 5* property - head and shoulders above the others but you do pay for it most of the year however they do have a really good offer 05 Dec - 05 Feb as free golf is offered across the road at Antalya Golf Club (Sultan and Pasha). I played the Sultan and it was the best condition golf course I have ever played on.

Sirene Golf Hotel (All Inclusive) - same owners of Kempinski and Antalya Golf Club - totally different experience but again very popular with our clients. The free golf on offer at Antalya makes this a great choice of hotel.

Barcelo Tat Beach - (Half Board) - only recently taken over by Barcelo so probably one to watch. It is a little tired but it does have all the facilities/activities of all the other hotels. Tat International Golf Club is 500m away and has 27 holes. This is a very cheap option compared to the other courses and good for keeping the price down when packaging up lots of golf.

The nearest Airport is Antalya which is only 30 mins from Belek. The following arlines fly to Belek from the UK:-

BA, Turkish Airlines, Cyprus Airlines, First Choice and ThomasCook fly into Antalya from Manchester, Birmingham, Gatwick, Stansted and Glasgow.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Vilamoura...a golfing mecca in the Sun

Last month I went for three nights and three rounds of golf in Vilamoura and what I found was a "golfing mecca in the Sun". It is quite obvious as soon as you arrive in Vilamoura that the town is a driven by golf tourism and places such as the 19th Hole Bar in the Marina and the Dom Pedro Golf Hotel are good examples of the general golfing theme.

I stayed in the Olympus Vilamoura Suites which was a great value option for four lads simply looking for a place to rest their head after a long day on the golf course and even longer night in the bar! We stayed in one of their two bedroom apartments and the convenience of the marina right on the doorstep is second to none and thus making it a great base for a golf holiday in Vilamoura.

The three golf courses we played were the Laguna, Millennium and Pinhal Courses which are all owned by the Oceânico Group and they run a shuttle service from all the hotel's in Vilamoura to and from their golf courses. This is a great service and allows you to relax after your round and have a few beers in the clubhouse.

Here are my reviews on the golf courses:-

Our flight from London touched down at 11am on Thursday and we managed to make it to The Millennium Course clubhouse for midday! As a result we had plenty of time to get ready for our 2pm tee time. The course measures 6,718 yards from the back tees and cuts through the pine forests. The course is very beautiful and strikes the perfect balance of testing the better golfers whilst remaining manageable for the average visitor (like me!). The short 6th is the signature hole where an imposing water feature guards the front of the green.

The Pinhal is the second-oldest course in Vilamoura, and like the Old Course was designed by the esteemed Frank Pennink. The course opened for play in 1976 and the predominant character of the course comes as a result of the rolling landscape that is heavily populated by Umbrella and Atlantic Pines. It was without doubt the toughest of the three courses we played on our trip (made all the more difficult by our hangovers!). Despite the trees frequently getting in the way this golf course is a genuine pleasure to play and is highly recommended.

The Laguna Course is distinctly different from the other two courses and as the name hints, the course is punctuated with water; in fact the network of lakes and streams come into play on no less than 11 holes and between our 4 ball we generally found the water as many times as was possible on this golf course. It would be fair to say that we didn't exactly play our best golf!! The golf course requires you to put the ball in play off the tee and the driver is best left in the bag on this course - something I found out the hard way!

All in all we had a great trip to Vilamoura and as a golfer it is a great place to visit given the quality of the golf courses. However Vilamoura's other asset is that it is a holiday destination with something for everyone; the stunning marina is the town's hub, and in the evening Vilamoura comes alive, with many restaurants, bars, clubs and also the "International Casino".

Monday, 21 July 2008

At last...Poulter lets his clubs do the talking

England's Ian Poulter feels he could have done more in the heat of the battle for the Claret Jug at The Royal Birkdale Golf Club on Sunday.Having jumped up to world number 23 after his impressive display at Royal Birkdale the Englishman will have his sights firmly set on the remaining major of the year and The Ryder Cup in September.

Having finished runner-up to Padraig Harrington - who won for the second year in a row - Poulter was left thinking what could have been despite registering his best ever finish in a major. Poulter - who represents The Woburn Golf Club - is convinced he can go one better in the future.The 36-year-old commented: "There is plenty more in me and I know I can go better. I should have finished a couple more under. I missed a good opportunity on 13 from five feet and then I go and three-putt 17, which is a little bit frustrating. Perhaps I might have pushed Paddy a little bit harder but hats off to Padraig, going back-to-back is pretty impressive."

Poulter's previous best finish was a tie for ninth at the 2006 USPGA Championship and now lies in 12th place in The Ryder Cup rankings.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Foxhills - The Jewell in the Surrey Golfing Crown

Last weekend I was lucky enough to visit a glorious Surrey golf resort called Foxhills. Surrey is probably the best blessed county in England for top quality golf courses and as a result I was looking forward to the trip. Before I travelled I read in Golf World that ""Foxhills is a little like heaven; many people know of it, but only a few of us will ever go there" but nothing could have prepared me for this wonderful golfing escape. Set in 400 acres of Surrey countryside, Foxhills is as luxurious a golfing venue as you will find anywhere in the UK but easily located just off the M25 motorway and located close to both Gatwick and Heathrow Airports. While at the resort it is hard to believe you are so close to London.

As soon as you arrive at Foxhills it quickly dawns on you that you are at a great golfing facility - Foxhills is one of the finest golfing resorts in Europe boasting two 18 hole championship courses, as well as a challenging 9 hole par 3 course. Set in the undulating Surrey landscape, the Bernard Hunt and Longcross Courses represent everything that is great about golf in Surrey. The Longcross Course is widely considered the better of the two golf courses and winds through Scots pine, beech and silver birch trees and is very reminiscent of Sunningdale's Old Course in places. The Bernard Hunt Course is slightly more open however it is by no means an easier course as my scorecard proved! I actually took 5 more shots round the Bernard Hunt than the Longcross. The course is named after Bernard Hunt, MBE, who won 30 times on the European Tour and played in the Ryder Cup 10 times - he is still seen regularly at the club! I was told in the pro shop that he still hands out the odd lesson to members!

Out of the two golf courses I preferred the Longcross (only slightly) however I would guess out of a poll of 100 golfers the vote would be very close of which golf course is better. Both courses are championship standard and only bad golfers would not enjoying either golf course. This is a resort for proper golfers that enjoy a challenge as it provides a 36 hole challenge and it my opinion is a perfect golf break venue for golfers with a handicap under 14.

Away from the golf course the facilities are of the same high standard as the golf courses. There are 70 individually appointed bedrooms in the hotel and three restaurants to choose from; The Summerhouse Brasserie, The XIX Bar and Restaurant and The Manor Restaurant. Other activities on site include three heated swimming pools (one indoors), 12 tennis courts, two exercise studios, gymnasium, sauna, salon, steam room, three squash courts, croquet and jogging trail. Off the golf course there is a lot to keep you busy!