Our partner from That Golfing Vlog, ex pro Phil Palmer and his higher handicapped accomplice Stuart have been to visit one of the top Golf Resorts in the UK to review the destination and find out what all the fuss is about - The Marriott Forest of Arden Golf & Country Club
Playing a game of golf on a course you've wanted to for years is an eye opening experience. However is the championship course at the Marriott Forest of Arden one for the golf purists or can it be enjoyed by all on a golf day? Luckily we sent Phill and Stuart from That Golfing Vlog down to the Warwickshire based golf resort to live that dream for a day.
As a 7 handicap, ex-pro, Phill has wanted to play the Forest of Arden golf course ever since he heard the name years ago as a destination for pure golfers. Somewhere the top golfers in the country go to practise, train and level up their golf. However off 32, Stuart is a brand new golfer that's fighting to get his handicap down while also losing a number of balls. The prospect of a course with more water than the lake district was a scary one, but is it too difficult or a rewarding challenge.
Upon arrival the entrance is a stunning glimpse into the stunning example of what a heritage golf course looks like. Beautifully kept greens, tee boxes you could level a wall with and stunning bunkers that wouldn't look out of place on a tropical beach.
The pro shop was fully stocked with every top end brand you can imagine with Stuart buying a Forest of Arden pitchmark repairer and a new J Lindeberg cap for me 🙂 We started off grabbing a buggy from the shop and I can pleasantly say they had more than 20, no more having to compromise. With two courses, the Arden (Championship) and the Aylesford, you can spend a weekend here and not have to play the same hole twice. Continually testing and fresh, even if you're not.
There's a starter hut ready to get you moving with a great starter keeping the game on time, and not judging those bad shots either. The front nine on the Arden course is a true test of golf. You have to plan and plot your way around each hole with a testing approach to the green if you're out of place. There are holes on the front 9 that you'll never forget. The 8th hole in particular was of our favourites. A green and tee box surrounded by water, not only is it challenging but it's also fair with tee boxes well within the range of all golfers. You'll also spot a number of bunkers on the front 9 with a sprinkling of water.
Stuart, 32 Handicap "Not the easiest of front 9s, it requires plotting around and encourages risk free play. Very little margin for error off the tee where I lost a few balls but kept our match within sight, especially with the quality of the greens and surrounds."
Phill, 7 Handicap "This was pure golf, very few courses make you have to be switched on to play well. Despite hit a couple of perfect tee shots, as I didn't know the course I was either too far or blocked out. Couple of gettable holes where a long straight drive left you close and the greens were receptive to a good shot too. Challenging!"
The back 9 is a very different story despite the continuation of quality and nature. Unfortunately the halfway house was shut but I did spy a few beers through the window, so for those battered by the first 9, there's a little respite. The second half opened up and really gave Stuart more of an opportunity to come back. If the front 9 was reducing risk, the back was a chance to get the rewards. Shorter more open holes with opportunities to pull some shots back, should you decide.
Unfortunately I went for a lot of shots such as the 5 wood into the Par 5 over water to the green. Utterly awe inspiring. Playing in such a beautiful location, with deer running across the fairways, it didn't matter though. It felt like we were playing a course in America, not Birmingham. If the 10th is an exceptional start, the 18th is an utterly thrilling finishing hole. Nearly 200 yards from the whites, it's about 135 carry over the biggest lake I've seen on a golf course. It honestly looks around 300 yards so make sure you get the yardage and play to the number. There's a bail out right with it getting longer the further left you get.
Stuart kept his head down after a challenging first 9, taking advantage of the openness off the tee, having really got into the grove of playing the course and making the most of true greens. Our match ended up all square over the 18 holes which I think is fair considering the nature of the course. I took a lot of risks on the back 9 and unfortunately they didn't come off, leaving Stuart to keep it straight and come back.
The Arden course really is a true golf course with something for everyone. The rough is long if you go way off, the bunkers are huge but well maintained, fairways are rolling but fair and the greens large but receptive. This is a venue for large groups and tailored for all. It's a competitive venue if you're playing Strokeplay but can easily become fairer for all in Stableford and perfect for Texas Scramble.
Phill, 7 Handicap "You can't fail to love the course. It's risk and reward all the way round. Bad shots are punished but great shots are rewarded with opportunities. After years of wanting to play, I want to play again and bring all my friends."
Stuart, 32 Handicap "I couldn't believe the standard of the course and the beautiful surroundings. That's not even taking into account our game. It was really challenging on the front 9, lost a couple of balls but kept my head down and it opened up on the back nine, and really gave me the opportunity to fight back. A great experience and one I'd love to come back and try again."
The golf course isn't where it finished for us though and we made sure we had a quick beer in the bar after. This is tailored for visiting groups as there were multiple places to sit for all in groups, with a fantastic outdoor seating area and a brilliant atmosphere. Include a great selection of beers, food and staff that really engage and ask you how your game went. It's a venue that we'll play again in the future and hope we can take our friends with us too.