THE LAYOUT: There were only seven golf clubs in England when Bath Golf Club was founded in 1880, and although famed architect Harry Shapland Colt (Pine Valley, the West Course at Wentworth, Sunningdale, Muirfield, Royal Lytham & St. Annes) refined the course in 1922, it is much the same as it was in the beginning. The course follows a distorted figure-8 routing on a plateau next to Sham Castle (which, true to its name, is only a facade) above the historic city of Bath -- where the Roman baths date to the first century. There are only two par 5s and three par 3s on the course, a par-71 layout that measures 6,442 yards from the back tees and is considered one of the best golf experiences in Southwest England. Unprotected at 600 feet above the city, wind often offers a dimension that can distort the yardage. HEAD PROFESSIONAL: Russell Covey. LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Joe Louis, then heavyweight champion of the world, came to play at Bath Golf Club near the end of World War II. Louis was an accomplished golfer who broke the color line on the PGA Tour when he played in the 1952 Los Angeles Open on a sponsors exemption. The first hole at Bath is an uphill par 4 that measures only 305 yards, but it was closer to 350 in those days before a new clubhouse was built in the early 1970s. Louis astounded the members at Bath by driving the ball onto the putting surface, a shot that requires all carry because of a steep ridge in front of the green. Typical of British golf, there are a number of strong par 4s, including the fifth hole, which measures 466 yards with trees left and right. It's the No. 1 handicap hole. There is a good stretch on the back nine with the 392-yard 12th hole, which can be difficult to hit in two because it usually plays into the wind, and the 469-yard 13th, which is easier to reach because it often plays downwind. They are followed by a cute par 3, 154 yards, over a quarry, and the dogleg left 15th, which is difficult to reach in two because of a tight landing area and a headwind, even though it measures only 494 yards from the back tee. No. 17 is a 305-yard par 4 with a severe dogleg and out of bounds to the right over an ancient stone wall. A minefield of bumps, thought to be a graveyard dating to Roman times, guards the elevated green. The great Henry Cotton, who won three British Opens and probably would have won more if not for a six-year suspension of the tournament during World War II, played an exhibition benefiting the Red Cross at Bath in 1940. OTHERS COURSES IN THE AREA: There are 15 courses within 30 minutes drive of Bath, not counting the pitch-and-putt course in Royal Victoria Park in the elegant city. Arguably the best is the challenging Manor Course Golf Club at Castle Combe, designed by Peter Aliss, the BBC commentator and former Ryder Cup player, in collaboration with Clive Clark. Lansdown Golf Club, a picturesque course with elevated view of the countryside, is located two miles from Bath, adjacent to Bath Racecourse. Five miles from Bath is Kingsdown Golf Club in Corsham, another course that was built in 1880. Cumberwell Golf Club offers 27 holes of championship golf in Bradford-on-Avon and Bowood Golf and Country Club, which winds through the Great Park near Calne, was designed by Dave Thomas -- architect of England's most popular Ryder Cup venue, the Belfry. WHERE TO STAY: The Royal Crescent in Bath, a three-block monolith of stone taken from the quarries outside the city, is considered perhaps the greatest example of Georgian architecture in the world. At the center is the Royal Crescent Hotel, which is included among Great Hotels of the world along with its sister property, the Cliveden House in Taplow, the former Astor estate near London. Also in Bath are the Old Malt House, Oldfields Hotel, the Old Priory, Villa Magdala Hotel, the Bath House Hotel, Dukes' Hotel and the Hilton Bath City. On the outskirts of the city are Lucknam Park Mansion, Limpey Stoke Hotel and the Cliffe Hotel. ON THE WEB: www.bathgolfclub.org.uk. THE LAST RESORT: Stoke Park Club in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, England. THE LAYOUT: The legendary Harry Shapland Colt designed 27 magnificent holes on a revered piece of land, once owned by the family of William Penn, which has a recorded history dating more than 1,000 years. Queen Elizabeth I owned Stoke Park from 1581-1603 before it was taken over by Sir Edward Cooke, who coined the phrase, "An Englishman's home is his castle." In 1998, Stoke Park brought back nine holes which had been dormant since the land was used to grow potatoes during the lean days of World War II, recreating Colt's original 27-hole design. Unlike most 27-hole facilities, where each nine is numbered 1-through-9, the holes at Stoke Park are numbered 1-through-27. Colt also designed the revered courses at Muirfield, Sunningdale, Royal Portrush, Wentworth and Pine Valley, considered by many to be the best golf course in the United States. Movie buffs might recognize Stoke Park from the golf scenes in the 1964 James Bond film, "Goldfinger," especially the car park in front of the distinctive white domed clubhouse. Bond, played by Sean Connery, was driving his souped-up Aston Martin, which was auctioned off in a charity event at Stoke Park a few years ago. Oddjob, Goldfinger's caddie, threatens Bond by throwing his steel-lined bowler like a discus and knocking the head off a plaster statue. The statue is still there because the film's producers created a duplicate for the beheading in the movie. Connery, an avid golfer, hit his own golf shots in the sequence. DIRECTOR OF GOLF: Stuart Collier. LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Stand on the seventh tee at Stoke Park Club and you get the feeling you might be thousands of miles away. Like on the famed 12th hole at Augusta National Golf Club, one-third of dreaded "Amen Corner," so-named by Herbert Warren Wind of Sports Illustrated in 1958. That's because when Colt designed what was then called Stoke Poges Club (which opened in 1908), Alister MacKenzie was his assistant. When MacKenzie was commissioned by Bobby Jones to design Augusta National in 1933, he had a similar plot of land so he simply borrowed the design. No. 7 is part of Stoke Park's own "Amen Corner," a fearsome foursome that can stack up with any similar stretch of holes in the world. First is the par-4, 422-yard fourth hole, a slight dogleg right, followed by the par-5 fifth, a 525-yard test that sweeps left through a row of trees, and then the uphill, 408-yard sixth hole. Only when you finish those challenges do you reach the treacherous seventh. There are other reminders of Augusta at Stoke Park, especially when the azaleas and rhododendrons are in bloom, most notably on the picturesque 156-yard 11th hole, where the tee shot through a grove of trees must carry a large pond. The last two holes for the first 18 are typically strong Colt par-4s, at 418 and 407 yards, which were the setting for the finish of the Goldfinger-Bond match. Goldfinger miraculously "finds" his ball in the rough on No. 17, after Oddjob drops a new one out of a hole in his pocket, and wins the hole. However, Bond turns the tables on No. 18 below the famous Stoke Park dome. OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: Stoke Park, located outside London on the outskirts of Windsor and Eaton about seven miles from Heathrow Airport, is near some other shrines of British golf -- including the Wentworth Club and its famed West Course in Virginia Water; Sunningdale Golf Club in Sunningdale; the Belfry Golf Club in Sutton Coldfield, Europe's most prominent Ryder Cup venue; and Royal Birkdale Golf Club near Southport, which has hosted the Open Championship nine times, the last when Padraig Harrington won in 2008. Also in the area are Lambourne Club in Burnham, the Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel and Country Club in Warwickshire, Woburn Golf Club in Milton Keynes and Foxhills Golf Club in Ottershaw -- which is considered the most American-like club in England. WHERE TO STAY: They will treat you like a queen or king at the five-star Stoke Park Hotel, which in 1999 became a charter member of Leading Small Hotels of the World, and offers 20 bedrooms filled with priceless antiques and original paintings and prints. Stoke Park Mansion, which houses the hotel, clubhouse, restaurants and conference rooms, is said to have influenced the architects of the White House since the dome is similar and both edifices have an oval office. Not far is the luxurious Cliveden Hotel, the former Astor estate, in Taplow. Also close are the Bull Hotel, a 17th century coach stop in Gerrards Cross; Burnham Beeches Hotel, a magnificent structure of Georgian architecture on 10 landscaped acres in Burnam; Grovefield House Hotel, a charming Edwardian country house in Windsor; the Christopher Hotel, the only hotel in Eton; the Castle Hotel in Windsor, a two-minute walk from the front gate at Windsor Castle, and Sir Christopher Wren's House Hotel on the banks of the Thames River in Windsor. ON THE WEB: www.stokeparkclub.com.
- Stoke Park Club
- Bath Racecourse