There’s no doubt about it. At this time of year the quality of the 19th hole can make or break a golf trip. Winter golf in the UK can be fun, if the rain stays mainly on someone else’s plain, but it’s coming in from the cold into that almost womb-like feeling of a glowing, sumptuous 19th hole that I always really look forward to. Also, if you’re travelling abroad for a winter break, it’s always nice to know you can grab a great meal and enjoy spending some time at the club after your round. I’ve had the chance to sample some extraordinary 19th holes over the years, and these are some of the ones I’d like to ‘replay’ again and again.
Isle of Purbeck, Dorset
The striking Purbeck Stone clubhouse near Dorset’s Jurassic Coast contains fossilised dinosaur footprints and huge ammonites more than 150 million years old, which are all built into the interior walls. That’s not what makes this place so special though. It’s the combination of the warm welcome from the very friendly staff, the superb food, which is of the real hearty variety that you especially appreciate after a winter round (the braised pheasant in red wine gravy with smoked bacon is a favourite of mine) and the panoramic windows, which provide stunning views across the course and countryside.
There’s only limited seating at the small bar, and no views of the rolling Pacific Ocean here, but it matters not. After 18 holes of Californian seaside air, you’ll almost certainly have a hearty appetite and there’s nowhere around here better to satisfy it than at The Tap Room at The Lodge at Pebble Beach. It serves up a warm tavern atmosphere, great steaks and burgers and a brilliant range of wines, spirits, draft and bottled beers. I love the Angus beef, grilled to perfection and topped with its famous ale butter. The huge collection of golf memorabilia gives this eatery a great ambience, with pictures and various items from the many past US Opens and Bing Crosby Pro-Ams.
With spectacular views of the ocean and The Ocean Course’s 18th green, site of the dramatic US team victory in the 1991 Ryder Cup matches, the clubhouse here is a very special 19th hole for any keen golfer. On a warm summer’s day, you can enjoy one of the clubhouse’s famous mojitos on the 24-seat outdoor dining porch, just steps from the ocean, or suck in the views of the Atlantic from the cosy interior in winter, where there’s a 30-seat bar with panoramic ocean views. The Atlantic Room also provides an intimate private dining room adjacent to the main dining room and the seafood here is as memorable as the views.
This beautiful resort in the hills near Lisbon serves up the sublime Atlantic Course, designed by the famed Robert Trent Jones Jr – and the post-golf facilities are among my favourites too. You have a choice to two great experiences here. I love the cool sophistication of the Arola restaurant, a relaxed and chilled eatery that serves up modern Portuguese cuisine. Wines are served from a transparent cellar, situated mid-restaurant, while the views from the floor-to-ceiling windows are unforgettable. I also love the Serra Bar, situated poolside, which is the perfect place to soak up the sun and fresh air and enjoy casual Mediterranean food (the curry flavoured potato chips are fantastic!) with beautiful views of the Atlantic course and the natural reserve from its outdoor seating area.
This luxurious five-star resort features an absolutely stunning clubhouse terrace that overlooks the golf course, surrounding mountains and Mediterranean Sea in the distance. Relax after you round and savour the fantastic array of dishes from the post-golf menu including salads, club sandwiches, pasta and hamburgers, while watching golfers, gazing out at the blue sea, or simply enjoying the serenity and fresh air. Classy detailing and furnishings, plus inviting fireplaces and fantastic cocktails make this one of Europe’s outstanding 19th holes.
Situated on a small hill high above this brilliant links course, the large clubhouse’s row of picture windows provides views that are as good as the golf here. This panoramic view gives a perspective that other courses don’t have. When you arrive at most links courses you are at sea level, depriving you of a bird’s eye perspective. At Cruden Bay however, you can’t help but gawp at the glorious dunes beneath you and the North Sea beyond. You always get an incredibly warm welcome from the club’s staff too and the food is traditional, hearty and every bit as good as the world class whiskies on offer at the bar.
This is a brilliant place to sit out on the terrace and take in the views. And the views here are something else! You can look out across the course to the Atlantic Ocean and when the sun is setting on a long summer’s evening, there really is no better place to be. The restaurant and lounge overlook the 1st tee while the Spikes Bar is conveniently located next to the practice putting green.
The hotel’s Road Hole bar, on the 4th floor, arguably has the best views of the Old Course, including the seminal 17th and 18th holes and the R&A Clubhouse in the distance. There’s a new outdoor terrace perched close to the 17th tee – so close, in fact, you may have to watch for errant tee shots! It also serves up whisky from just about every distillery in Scotland. Spending time here is pure magic at any time of the year.
Augusta National Golf Club, Georgia
Okay, not many of us will ever be treated to a glimpse behind the green velvet curtain of the famous US Masters host, but as one of the lucky ones all I can say is, it’s magical. The lucky few get to sit out on the veranda and enjoy one of the best scenes in the golfing world, with the practice putting green, 1st tee, 9th green and 10th tee in view. Service is as you might expect, discreet, efficient and full of Southern charm. Although the club boasts a world-class wine cellar and high-quality food, the dining-room menu is usually restricted to a few steak, chicken or fish dishes, with only the soups varying much. You’re hardly going to complain though, are you?