For someone who’s a self-confessed links and heathland snob, I had a lovely day’s golf at Bearwood Lakes recently. Frustratingly, this is one of England’s few privately owned clubs that’s closed to the masses, so whilst its access is limited to members and guests only, it’s well worth a visit if you’re able to rustle up an invite or play in one of the rare charity events that are hosted here.
As you’d expect for a relatively new and exclusive club such as this, the facilities are out of this world. Despite the clubhouse exterior being architecturally a little disappointing and unimaginative in its design, it’s fairly plush inside and the practice facilities, a stone’s throw from the clubhouse and proshop are wonderfully well equipped, suitable for a tour professional to use as a base.
The course itself is located in the grounds of the classically beautiful and historic Bearwood College and has a really pleasant balance between parkland and lakeland. The holes skirt around large lakes and between pinetree-lined fairways, but the real distinctive feature that makes the course stand out from other parkland courses I’ve played is the thick fescue rough. There are even patches of gorse and heather, which to my own disappointment the club have tried to eradicate due to it not fitting the appearance of the rest of course. The turf also lays upon a clay base which is at the detriment of drainage, so like many inland courses, can become saturated after spells of heavy rain. Otherwise the conditioning is excellent with the greens, which themselves have been laid on a sand-base, running smooth, true and quick.
Whilst the beauty of the lakes will draw visitors to the course, I was surprised to find that I personally enjoyed some of the more tightly treelined holes such as the 6th that has the direct line to the green obscured by a large fir, or the majestic 11th, itself a fantastic driving hole that scrambles up to a raised angled putting surface from a fairway that bends around some bearded bunkers ahead of the green being my favourite hole of the course. The lakes themselves don’t come into play on every hole but beautifully frame the holes where they dominate the surroundings such as at 8, 9, 10, 13 and 14. Architecturally, there’s plenty of interest too. Most notably, an interesting walled timber structure that bisects the fairway 40-yards in front of the green at the 16th attempting to answer the question of how to make the second shot on a par five more interesting. Design-wise this won’t be to everyone’s liking, but it’s a good example of Bearwood going the extra mile to differentiate itself from other parkland courses and create a more engaging design.
As inland courses of the non-heath variety go, I’d rate Bearwood Lakes as one of the best I’ve played. I’m yet to have the honour of playing Wentworth (I’m open to an invite), but it’s in the same league as Lough Erne in Northern Ireland and a notch up from my recent experience of playing The Belfry. So if this style of golf is indeed your bag, then a visit to Bearwood Lakes is a must.
Date: November 21, 2019