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As You Like It: Golf
Fairways Back in Time
By Ron Crowley

Some argue that you aren't a true golf enthusiast until you've played a round or two in the pioneering British Isles. Combine this one-of-a-kind golf vacation with a stay at one of these fabulous resorts perfect for all types of travelers. Hideaways Member Ron Crowley advises leaving the GPS system and expectations of finely manicured courses at home and experience how golf was first played. Double your fun at this hilltop resort, home to not one, but two links courses and a Golf Academy. For a vacation that appeals to a wider variety of travelers, check out this hotel that offers a wonderful combination of Old-World architecture, modern amenities, and plenty of other activities, including fishing, wine tasting, and horseback riding. Lastly, for some more peace and quiet, stay at this 8-room hotel, with one of the finest restaurants in Wales, or stay in a vacation rental next to your favorite course.

I've learned that every golfer who takes the game seriously eventually feels compelled to play golf in the British Isles. The desire to experience golf where the game began tugs at even casual golfers.

Nearly everyone who makes such a pilgrimage develops an irresistible need to tee it up on those historic courses again--real soon! Their reasons vary, but at the core of each is a profound appreciation for a style of golf that's far more simple and honest than the modern version we know on this side of the Atlantic.

Golf in Britain isn't about golf carts with GPS systems; it's about leather-faced caddies with delightfully sarcastic wit. It isn't about perfectly manicured courses; it's about accepting a bad lie, much as in life, and dealing with it. And it isn't about the trappings of luxury; it's about the pure luxury of playing golf in a place that more readily reveals the intriguing fascination golfers have with such a beguiling game.

That's not to say that golf in the U.K. is enjoyed only in rustic or spartan settings. Hardly! Lovely hideaways exist from Scotland south to England and Wales, from the grand to the quaintly charming.

The Turnberry
Ayrshire, Scotland

In a land not known for its golf resorts, it's rather ironic that Turnberry, on the southwest coast, is one of the most impressive golf hotels in the world. It's famous for its golf, yet it's hardly the "golf factory" type of resort we loathe. Just as important, Turnberry is a genuinely friendly destination despite its enormous prestige. It's been that way since I first visited 20 years ago, and I doubt it will ever change.

From its perch high on a hill, I can spend hours looking down at the rumpled linksland, with its tawny dunes and ribbons of green fairway. My eyes are drawn to the rugged shore dominated by a sentinel lighthouse that glistens white against the slate-gray Irish Sea. Out on that cold sea, the muffin-shaped, rocky isle of Ailsa Craig shimmers in diffused light and then disappears, as quickly as my golf swing on the championship course.

A reliable swing you'll need, because Turnberry is home to the Ailsa Course, the famed British Open venue where, in 1977, Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus put on the greatest mano-a-mano battle ever witnessed in golf. Challenging and resolutely fair, it is also one of the few links courses where the sea actually comes into play.

The Ailsa is not alone, however. Turnberry upgraded its golf experience significantly when English course architect Donald Steel transformed the old Arran course. The new Kintyre Course, stretched over high ground near the sea, has given Turnberry a second links course well worth playing--unheard of in the world of golf.

Just as unique is the resort's Colin Montgomerie Links Golf Academy. It is the first golf school dedicated to teaching the game as it's played on old-fashioned links courses. Piercing shots that stay under the wind, bunker shots that climb quickly and land softly, the famous Scottish run-up shot--they're all covered by a team of excellent teachers. I can't think of a better place to begin a golf vacation in Scotland.

Real comfort at Turnberry is found in the two-, six-, and eight-bedroom Lodges and Cottages that are perfect for groups of golfers, friends, or colleagues. Located down the hill from the hotel, they afford tremendous privacy without sacrificing the rich amenities offered by the resort.

Visit for more information.

Bovey Castle
Dartmoor National Forest, England

Not exactly a castle, but certainly more striking than a country hotel, Bovey Castle in Devon is the ultimate retreat for those who enjoy golf in a country setting. It's an amazing blend of Old-World architecture and decor with the modern amenities we've all come to expect: a spa, fine dining, horseback riding, shooting, golf, archery . . . the list goes on.

Despite all those offerings, there's nothing frenetic about the place. A visit feels more like returning to your country home for a long weekend and a few leisurely games.

Stroll past the attentive doormen and enter a world of richly paneled halls lit with tender light suffused by stained-glass windows. Admire the portraits of distinguished gentlemen and lovely ladies on the oak walls. Relax in the reading room and peruse an issue of Country Life or Paris Match. Ascend the stairs to an Edwardian suite with a four-poster bed, a sitting area before a fireplace, and views over manicured grounds and the lower reaches of the mysterious moor.

Then go play. Certainly have a round of golf on a Steel-revised course that's perfectly enjoyable without being needlessly showy. Better still, take a leisurely drive through the countryside and play the world-renowned seaside links at Saunton.

If you're clever, you'll scurry back to Bovey for an intimate tasting in the wine cellar. Later on, you might venture into the nearby village of Moretonhampstead and eavesdrop on conversations about the local farm economy over a pint at the White Hart Inn. Then enjoy a repast in the same dining room enjoyed by stagecoach travelers who journeyed along the same old post road in the 1800s.

Gower Peninsula, Wales

Ah, the Gower Peninsula! It's one of the most naturally resplendent parts of Britain. Bereft of American accents, it offers a real getaway. Where do I go, specifically? Well, off the motorway west of Swansea, through the narrow streets of villages like Penclawdd, and down a tree-canopied lane to the 18th-century country house known as Fairyhill.

Lucky me. It's a haven with only eight tastefully decorated and well-appointed bedrooms. Behind its ivy-covered walls is a tiny band of residents with the good fortune of staying just down the hall from one of the finest restaurants in Wales. Fairyhill's cuisine could be described as modern Welsh, taking full advantage of local produce and blending classical dishes with continental influences. A personal favorite is the rack of lamb with saute of liver, kidneys, garlic, and parsley; Fairyhill's extensive wine list does it justice.

Although it's far from the madding crowd, Fairyhill is convenient to a pair of special golf courses. The links of the Royal Porthcawl Golf Club is simply the best golf course in Wales. It's a true championship links, one where Tiger Woods and his countrymen fell prey to their British and Irish counterparts during the 1995 Walker Cup.

The other course I recommend is Pennard Golf Club. It wouldn't make anyone's top-whatever list, but Pennard offers a priceless trip back in time that is a revelation to those who keep an open mind. Unchanged for decades, the course reveals to visitors just how little modern innovations have improved the game--if at all.

From Pennard's modest clubhouse, you see a golf course perched high above sheer cliffs that plummet 200 feet to the shore, which then stretches down the coast before vanishing into the haze. As your eyes scan the heaving, treeless dunes of the course, try to find the herd of horses that graze wherever they like on this common land. Then begin your round with utter skepticism about the seemingly ragged course conditions, and end it with the recognition that the ground was perfectly suitable, the vistas stunning, and the hike over the dunes invigorating. Golf at Pennard is, indeed, a revelation.

For visiting golfers, that's the way it is in Britain; rounds of golf with subtle but thought-provoking differences. Imagine that.


For more than two decades, Ron Crowley has explored the world of golf, playing the most renowned courses, sampling the finest golf resorts, and revealing his insights in a wide range of international publications.

Call Hideaways Travel Services to arrange all your travel needs at 877-843-4433 (+1-603-430-4433 internationally), or e-mail

At Home Near the Links

Settle in like a local and enjoy proximity to the best of British golf. Hideaways International has a vacation home rental partner in the U.K. that represents hundreds of intriguing country cottages, manor homes, lighthouses, and historic properties throughout Great Britain--many of them near golf courses.

For instance, after a round at Royal Porthcawl in Mid-Glamorgan, Wales, you could return home to one of a handful of keeperis cottages at Nash Point Lighthouse, beautifully situated on the Vale of Glamorgan Heritage Coast. Or, after a day of golf at Trearddur Bay, retire to the cozy warmth of Glan Gors, a country home only 200 yards from the sea.

Wherever you roam across Great Britain in pursuit of the game, you're sure to find a golf-oriented hideaway to call your own.

January 2006

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* Hideaways Aficionado Club is a registered trademark of Hideaways International, Inc.
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All Rights Reserved