What do I say about the two Golf Tours centred at the Petwood Hotel, Woodhall Spa? Firstly, the hotel, steeped in history, especially with the RAF and Dam-busters connections, looked after us very well. Friendly staff, excellent food within an atmosphere of a bygone age and a splendid patio overlooking extensive, well attended gardens for that pre dinner aperitif.
The main purpose of these weeks was to experience the Hotchkin course at the EGU Headquarters, Woodhall Spa – my very favourite golf course. At this point I have to say not everyone left with the same view as me, but all were warned!! Consistently voted the best inland course in the UK (Sunningdale Old recently pushed into second position) and in the Worlds top 100, it was never going to be easy was it? Good carries over heather, heather left and right, those famous deep bunkers, not only surrounding greens but cleverly positioned along the fairways too – it could be described as relentless! It will jump out and bite any errant shot, but is eminently fair if the ball is kept on the short grass and out of the sand. Yes, some of the carries are testing especially into the wind and anything other than a sand wedge and the shortest route out of the heather is asking for further punishment, while the same club needs to be wielded with some skill from the bunkers. The fairways however, are in the main, reasonably generous and in superb condition, as are the greens once you reach them! Give the course lots of respect, take your punishment, apply lots of patience and it is quite playable as Doug proved with 39 points himself in the final day fourball of week 1. And it was my great pleasure to mark Neville’s card on the final day of the second week, who like so many found his first round very testing and said his second round challenge was to beat his first attempt of 18 pts. This he comfortably achieved, walking off the 8th green with 19 pts accumulated!
We commenced the first week on Woodhall’s second and newer course, the Bracken, a Donald Steele design which, in contrast to the Hotchkin, challenges one on the undulating greens rather than getting to them! Arnold, Richard & Lesley won the team event on 68 and the first round of the best 3 from 4 individual was a close run thing – 32 Arnold, 31 Richard, 31 Doug, 30 Steve.
We drove a few miles to Blankney GC for the second day and discovered a lovely rural parkland course south east of Lincoln. I used to play here occasionally as a junior and remember greens surrounded by barbed wire, sheep grazing (both long gone), but not one of the holes on a course which has been extensively upgraded since the sixties! It would be remiss of me not to mention the warm welcome we received too. Don, Richard & Rita were team winners on 68, while, Don 33, Rosemary 32 and Andy 30 were leading individuals.
Day 3 was for the vast majority their first introduction to the championship Hotchkin course.
Arnold, Alan & Tony amassed 70 to win the team event while Steve, a member at the fabulous links at Siloth, another hidden gem, was probably not as daunted as some on his first round here and scored an excellent 34. Andy 31 and Tony 30 his nearest rivals.
Canwick Park was our Thursday venue, built on the hillside as one approaches Lincoln from the south and looks down onto the City below and across to the magnificent Lincoln Cathedral sitting above the city to the north. Again we enjoyed the warmest of welcomes from Paul, past Captain, who along with wife Gill joined our inaugural Swedish Tour, and other club members. I have two stand out memories from this day. Firstly, while several holes could be mentioned, the two par 3’s (5th and 13th) could grace any golf course in the world. The 13th reminded me so much of Valderrama. Secondly, the first hole measures some 560 yards and into a very strong wind my first tee shot, hit quite well for once, finished one yard in front of the ladies tee. Two further 5 woods came up ten yards short and a chip and a putt felt like a birdie 5!
Doug & Tony won the 4bbb on 42 and Alan partnered by David G were on 40. Alan’s 37 lead the individual easily that day and boosted him into third place of the overall individual, one behind Andy on 89, but Doug quietly snook through the field to win on 92. Our leading lady being Andy’s wife Jane.
The final days 4 bbb back at the Hotchkin course produced several very respectable scores but it will be no surprise to know that Doug’s individual 39 mentioned earlier put him and Rosemary out in front on 41, followed by a very creditable 38 from Jane & Tony.
The second week started with a fine day on the Bracken course and following the previous weeks scoring I felt confident my team with Ronnie, Tricia and Trevor had every chance of winning with 79 only to find Kate, Liz, David H and Tony were one better! Frieda led the individual scoring with 32, one ahead of Kate.
Unfortunately the weather forecast proved correct and we were rained off on day 2 due to be played at Blankney. A great shame as it was much enjoyed the previous week. With the rain forecast to continue the following morning, Woodhall Spa managed to accommodate a change to an afternoon start on the Hotchkin and a dry round was most welcome, albeit the golf course was a comfortable winner! Ronnie, Michael and Vic won the team event with 67, while Ronnie 30 and Kate 29 led the individual scoring.
A drive to Louth in the Lincolnshire Wolds and the myth of Lincolnshire being flat was quickly dispelled. A lovely undulating parkland setting and a section of the course from 8 to 14 was a tough test, playing much longer than the overall length on the score card would suggest. Here we played a yellow ball with the yellow ball counting double. 105 from Paul, Tony and Neville was well ahead of Trevor, Fraser and Kate’s second place 95. Ronnie’s 32 finished one ahead of husband David in the individual and tied her joint first in the Individual with Kate, Paul finishing leading gent.
The final days play back on the championship Hotchkin belonged to the ladies when three teams each scored 62 while Katrina, Topsy and Liz accumulated 70 for a clear win.
While I know some found the championship Hotchkin course a step too far, I still think it a course that should be experienced and a challenge relished. A combination of the two courses and the Petwood Hotel at Woodhall Spa will feature in the 2018 calendar and it is still my favourite golf course!
Hope to see you soon.