"We stand on a high place, and there, far below us, something over two hundred yards away, is that blessed Bovey guarding the first green", wrote Bernard Darwin.
"How the Bovey contrives to be so ubiquitous I cannot pretend to say; I merely state bald facts. We carry it again with our second shot at the second hole – if we can. When we get to the third it is there also, bang in front of the green. We may hook into it or one of its tributaries at the fourth and at the seventh we try to carry it twice in one fell swoop from the tee."
The Dartmoor National Park is the largest, wildest and most beautiful area of open countryside in southern England. With its ancient moorland, granite tors, wild ponies, cream teas, chocolate box villages and even Sherlock Holmes. There is no doubt that Devon is quintessential England. If you’ve never sampled the magic, we recommend an immediate jaunt to Devonshire.
Bovey Castle is located within the Dartmoor National Park and the magnificent house was built in 1906 for Lord Hambledon. “The Great Western Railway Company bought it and turned it into an hotel,” wrote Bernard Darwin in an article for Country Life which was later reprinted in his 1934 book, Playing the Like, “and then, with Mr Abercromby to show them how, made this most charming of golf courses at its garden gate. I had never before seen the hem of Dartmoor’s garment of red and brown bracken. My knowledge of it was confined to that immortal work, ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles.’ So when I first saw it, after a steady climb out of Exeter through narrow, winding Devonshire lanes, a delicious shiver ran down my spine, and I felt like Sir Henry Baskerville coming for the first time to the home of his ancestors.”
John F. ‘Aber’ Abercromby, the master English architect who fashioned the brilliant Worplesdon and Addington laid out the course at the Manor House Hotel and it opened for play in the Roaring Twenties. The hotel enjoyed prosperity for many decades however, slowly but surely it fell into disrepair. The course was also in need of a serious tonic, with inadequate drainage and irrigation and putting surfaces that had been reduced to a fraction of their former selves. Know anyone with a couple of million pounds to spend?
Step in millionaire Peter de Savary or “PDS” to his friends. The British entrepreneur, founder and former owner of the Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle, was in the market for buying another castle, but this time in the land of his birth. With vision and drive from PDS and a little help from Donald Steel and Tom Mackenzie, the new Bovey Castle course was re-born and the revamped beauty opened for play in the summer of 2004.
From the exhibition tips, the newly fashioned Bovey Castle course can stretch out to an impressive 6,600 yards and the course record of 65, which was held by local Bovey Castle pro Stuart Wells, was beaten by Christopher Hanson during the 2006 PGA Euro-Pro Tournament which was hosted here at Bovey Castle. Hanson recorded an impressive 2nd round 64 which helped him on his way to tournament victory.
We could mention all of the many modifications to the course layout, but one of the most significant and impressive changes must be the excavation of a section of a huge hill, which once belonged to the 18th fairway. The hole is now much improved. The drive landing area on this par four has been softened and the blindness of the approach shot (if your drive is long enough) has been removed, bringing the stunning Abercromby green site into view.
“In short,” wrote Darwin, “this is the ideal course to have at the end of the garden. There never was one better suited to a cheerful foursome, for there is plenty of scope for strategy in deciding who is to drive against who, and at which of the river holes.”