Few approaches to golf clubs are as grand as the entrance to the 2,000-acre Bowood Estate. The Golden Gates are huge and imposing, the approach road passes through grounds landscaped by “Capability” Brown. This is quite something – apparently the Black Prince used to hunt here – but what is the course like?
Well, it’s essentially laid out on farmland. But don’t be put off, Dave Thomas designed Bowood, and Thomas was well-versed at subtly transforming farmland into great golf courses – you may remember he co-designed the Brabazon course at the Belfry?
Bowood opened for play in 1992, to much acclaim. Despite its agrarian beginning, this is a solid golf course, making best use of the estate’s mature woodland. There’s a fair amount of water, but rarely does it come into play because the fairways are generous. On the other hand, Bowood’s length is extraordinary – measuring a monstrous 7,300 yards from the back tees. But Thomas thought of everything, he created numerous teeing areas to cater for golfers of all standards.
There is a lovely feeling of peace and spaciousness at Bowood – it’s definitely a course of which the members are rightly proud. It is usually kept in immaculate condition and often plays every inch of its length. The pick of the holes: The 3rd, "Cascades" – a short uphill par three with the green guarded by a stream and the 17th, "Queenwood" – a huge doglegged par four (stroke index 1) with an inviting downhill tee-shot.
Bowood is a challenging West Country course, one of the best in Wiltshire. Play Bowood alongside the Manor House at Castle Combe – but make sure you take your best driving game along with you.
Bowood is a modern style golf course and very different to the traditional Wiltshire courses. The drive to the carpark is impressive as are the clubhouse and facilities. The course generally seems to be in pretty good condition, however I have played during the winter/wet periods when the course does become very wet. My over-riding impression of Bowood is that fairways are fairly generous but shots to the green are all about carry (often over bunkers at the front of the green) which makes the course play reasonably long. My favourite hole (especially the tee shot) is the downhill dog-leg par 4 2nd, and a bit like another reviewer I'm not sure the reversing of the nines has done the course any favours as the more enjoyable holes seem to be on the front nine. Par 3's aren't fantastic and I don't really think the course design matches the splendour of the drive-in and clubhouse. Having said that it probably is the best course in Wiltshire, which sadly is a reflection of where Wiltshire courses sit in the rankings. Just edges into a 4 ball rating for me based on its summer conditioning.
Driving two hours to play a modern parkland resort course would never be top of my list when choosing a day's golf so with my expectation levels kept in check I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with this typically big and bold Dave Thomas design. There's an unexpected mature feel throughout the routing with numerous impressive tree specimens and historical water features (previously introduced by Capability Brown) often coming into play. My biggest disappointment was undoubtedly the collection of par 3's which really do need spicing up a bit as none of them are particularly memorable, however the longer holes offer up some excellent golf on an undulating and interesting parcel of land.
Following a solid opening par-5 we get our first taste of the rolling terrain at the 2nd, an attractive downhiller which skirts woodland as it doglegs to the right. The 6th is a memorable par-5, again shaped around trees, then past an old water feature to an attractively situated green and the 7th follows the pattern of well designed doglegs this time turning left with a troublesome bunker at driving distance. All very good.
The pick of the back nine would include the back to back par-5's at 12 and 13 which are both interesting holes, the 16th, a cleverly bunkered par-4 and the picturesque 17th with its narrowing tree lined approach to a tricky green. A few hikes from green to tee would be a minor gripe and switching the two nines around some years ago means that the original 18th, quite an exciting hole involving water, has been replaced with the fairly mundane original 9th as the finishing hole.
Bowood definitely rewards and encourages the use of the driver and with no shortage of length and heavy fairway bunkering it provides a tough test for even the most skilled of players.
Really nice track, very few holes in view from adjoining holes. Some tricky doglegs on front nine. Very attractive course, wildlife aplenty with deer, hares etc. Well worth a visit and I would like to go back again.
Pity they let people on in collarless in-tucked in shirts and the person who takes the bookings quotes a cheaper price than the person who takes the money when you get there BUT the £30 for a twilight was still WELL worth it
I played Bowood for the first time in March after the hardest British winter in memory and the grass had hardly had chance to start growing, but Bowood was in incredible shape considering the time of year. Was impressed with the greens which were quick and true and the fairways were also in very respectable condition – the Bowood green staff should take a bow. I’m not a lover of resort golf, nor am I Dave Thomas’s No.1 fan, however, I really liked his effort here at Bowood and it may even be my personal favourite Thomas solo creation alongside his equally challenging course at Abama. Interesting changes in elevation at Bowood make the course very enjoyable and despite the ups and downs, the walking is very easy. I am sure when the trees are in leaf and the birds are singing Bowood will be even better, but even in the stark, bare winter, it’s still a decent golf course.