• On the Course

Home comforts in Dartmouth

Alex Livie May 18, 2012
The 18th green on the Championship Course © The Azalea Group

Holidays at home are an increasingly attractive option for many and ESPN took up the chance to sample some of the golfing options on offer in Devon. Dartmouth Golf and Country Club was our base for a couple of days in the South West and it offers first-class fare.

Opened in 1992, this Jeremy Pern-designed venue boasts 27 holes, set in 225 acres of rolling countryside; the 18-hole Championship Course and nine-hole Dartmouth Course. The Championship Course stretches out to 7156 off the back tees, but there are three other tee markers to cater for all levels of play.

Water is in play on seven holes, the greens are large and undulating and strategic play is required on many holes. When stepping on to the first tee, you are greeted with what is to follow on many holes - namely a tough driving test.

Keeping your ball in play off the tee is vital if you are to give yourself a chance of scoring. If you find the fairways the opportunity is there to find the greens with confidence, but if you are wayward off the tee you are often left with a tough approach to true-running but testing greens.

The third is the first of the par threes, a downhill carry over water to a raised green that runs off steeply to the right, and it is followed by the brutally tough par-five fourth. A double dogleg greets the player who must hit a tight fairway off the tee. If you avoid the stream on the left and out of bounds on the right, the second is a tough lay-up given the penalties for missing right and left are severe. Provided you have found the ideal position in two, the challenge is not over as a narrow green is guarded by water on the left. ESPN played the hole twice and came off on the second occasion with a six and was extremely happy. We are not prepared to reveal what score was carded first time round.

The eighth and ninth are tough par fives, the ninth is a real highlight as the approach to the green sweeps downhill and to the right meaning if you are too far back you are hitting a blind approach. It's a shot that is not for the faint hearted as the green falls away sharply towards the out of bounds area.

A clutch of tough par fours fill up the back nine, but the 18 finishes with a stunning par three. Courses that conclude with short holes are not to everyone's taste, but the 18th at Dartmouth is a worthy finishing hole, a downhill shot over water that from the back tees runs out to 238 yards. Played out in front of the clubhouse terrace, it has the potential to put a blot on your card - but it is one you will remember.

The third green on the Championship Course © The Azalea Group

Being a Championship Course, it is spacious and as such it is a tough course to walk and it would be advisable to make full use of the buggies that are on offer. Monsoon weather had preceded our visit, but the course was in excellent condition and only in really wet weather are buggies restricted to the paths.

Having played the Championship Course once, you will want to take it on a second time - but if 36 holes in one day are too much, the less demanding Dartmouth Course will fill the gap. This is no pitch and putt, although the short opening hole may give that impression, as there are a couple of tough par fives on a course that is a shade over 2500 yards for the nine holes. The Dartmouth is a far more forgiving track, with open fairways to hit to, but the wind can howl high up on the hill and this makes it a real test.

Dartmouth Golf and Country Club offers the South Devon Golf Tour, starting from £149 for three nights stay and play, with the option to play on some of the region's finest courses - including Bovey Castle and Thurlestone Golf Club. The latter is not as demanding a test as Dartmouth's Championship Course, but the stunning views over the Avon estuary and Burgh Island make it a must-play 18 holes. "Stunning Cliff Top Golf" is no idle boast.

For those keen to spend a more relaxed afternoon, Dartmouth Golf and Country Club's Lakeside Health and Leisure Suite includes an indoor pool, sauna, spa, steam room and extensive gymnasium, while the club's restaurant caters for all tastes from light bites to a full a la carte menu.

Dartmouth, with its beautiful streets and harbour views, is a five-minute drive and is an ideal base whether it is golf, walking or fishing that is your passion. A series of superb dining options are available, including Annabelles Kitchen which has an unrivalled position on the harbour front and serves superb steak and fish dishes.

South Devon's English Riviera cannot offer the guaranteed weather of the Mediterranean, but what it can offer is great value golfing options.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Alex Livie was editor of ESPN.co.uk