Although we golfers have been treated to a brilliant – and long awaited I might add – summer, winter is a hard fact of life and I’m afraid to say it’s going to arrive eventually. Fear not though because, despite the fact that some courses will inevitably become soggy and dreary, there are others in and around the UK which boast enviable sandy turf, perfect for draining away any unwanted moisture, that means they are in tip top condition year round; perfect then for a winter golf break!
Head in any direction towards the coast in the UK and Ireland and eventually, you’re bound to stumble across an age old links which, no matter the weather, will be boasting fast running fairways and slick greens; two of the most important things for any enjoyable round of golf.
In the South East the Kent coastline is replete with excellent courses – the “Great Triumvirate” of Royal St George’s, Royal Cinque Ports and Princes Golf Club are among the best in the country – many of which are of the links variety. For true pedigree, you can’t get much better than Royal St George’s – a current Open Championship host – but for value for money, Princes simply cannot be topped.
Offering 27 holes, Princes offers variety as well as undeniable quality. The course is a former Open Championship host and a current venue for Open qualifying; a true test of the purist form of the game. The Lodge at Princes also makes things extremely easy throughout your stay. Situated right on the shoreline and just a stone’s throw from the beach, this relatively new accommodation option boasts excellent rooms, a fantastic restaurant and bar, not to mention a full sized snooker table that will keep the competitive juices flowing off the course.
Head 500 miles North and across the Scottish border and another winter golf specialist and Open Championship classic – this one’s still on the rota – awaits.
Turnberry has long been viewed as one of the most special Open Championship venues thanks to iconic battles such as The Duel in the Sun between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson. The latter of course came within a whisker of winning a second Open at Turnberry in 2009 at the ripe old age of 59.
It’s not just about the history here though as its two courses are of the highest quality – The Ailsa is among the very best in the world – and there is infinite luxury to be enjoyed in the 5* hotel that sits proudly overlooking the golf courses, Ailsa Craig and the iconic Turnberry Lighthouse. Considering the considerable prestige of this famous venue, you might be surprised to learn that, on selected dates through to March 2014, 1 Night B&B and 2 Rounds of Golf, one on each course, can be enjoyed for as little as £180!
While we’re on the subject of winter golf in Scotland, we’d be remiss not to mention another famous golfing hotspot just a couple of hours further North. St Andrews is the Home of Golf and can boast a concentration of world class links courses unrivalled across the globe. Of course the Old Course leads the charge but with that perfect sandy links turf ever present throughout (and the fact that, let’s face it, the weather in these parts of Scotland is just as likely to be good in January as it is in June!), any selection of courses chosen as part of a St Andrews Golf Tour will provide many special memories.
Of course links courses aren’t the only UK based course to enjoy the benefits of that fast draining, sandy turf that must be the envy of countless greenkeepers up and down the British Isles; England’s classic heathland courses do too.
Head to a venue such as Thorpeness Hotel & Golf Club and you can enjoy a charming James Braid designed layout and the relaxing benefits of a fantastic hotel from just £89. While the value for money at Thorpeness is unquestionable, for something a little more special, Woodhall Spa is the answer.
Home to the English Golf Union and with two superb heathland courses on offer, one of which, the Hotchkin, is ranked inside the top 30 courses on the planet, Woodhall Spa is a special place to play golf. The firm heathland turf is the basis for the Hotchkin’s character, where the majestic holes are lined by towering birch pine and broom and littered with cavernous sand traps. If you struggle escaping bunkers, bring a bucket and spade with you as you might get stuck in one for some time.
While there are plenty of excellent options for winter golf breaks across the length and breadth of the UK and Ireland, it is fair to say that sometimes, we all just fancy hopping on a plane to soak up a bit of sun.
Of course the list of sunshine hotspots is an endless one but when it comes to golf in particular, there are a few that are particularly suited to a winter break.
Abama Golf & Spa Resort sits on the popular holiday island of Tenerife which enjoys extended periods of sunshine year round. Home to a spectacular course designed by Dave Thomas, the man responsible for many renowned courses including The Brabazon at The Belfry, Abama offers championship golf, 5* accommodation and a whole host of exciting or relaxing activities to keep you entertained away from the fairways.
Slightly further to the East, in North Africa, there lies a group of countries that are among the fastest emerging nations in golf tourism. Egypt and Tunisia boast excellent resorts such as Taba Heights and The Residence Tunis respectively and in Morocco, there is an endless procession of top class hotels and courses, not to mention the absorbing local cultures that can be explored in any of these fascinating countries.
One of the best resorts for golfers to visit in Morocco is the Mazagan Beach Resort. A stunning Gary Player designed beachfront golf course is complemented by a beautiful hotel featuring luxurious facilities, elegant surroundings and no less than eight restaurants.
You see, despite the fact that winter will inevitably arrive on our doorstep; there are plenty of options for those who want to keep hitting the fairways over the next few months.
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