Dartmouth is blessed with a rolling landscape ideal to design a dramatic golf course and I am pleased to say that the setting out of this layout has used every opportunity to build an exciting 18 holes that maps itself perfectly into the contours. The initial 4 holes give you the right opening impression of the variation of the Championship course, with the first being a long par 4, the second a tight and tricky two shoter, the third and signature hole offering an elevated par 3 over water, while the 4th is a “cricket pitch wide” par 5 between the hillside from which you have descended and a meandering brook in the valley floor. It represents a very stiff opening stretch and is typical of the variety you find on this course. The third is rightly the flagship hole and like all tee positions on most holes will offer a wide range of difficulty from the demanding back tees (yellow) to the very playable blue tees (at 6200yards).
The cunning little 5th hole, a short par 3 with well guarded water and bunkers leads you to your first climb and at this point the blood is truly rushing through your veins for walking this course can be in itself a stern examination. The course though is well catered for with buggies an option, but for many guests the enjoyment of having 3 sets of nine to choose from (with the additional 9 hole Dartmouth course) means that mixing half a round each day is a good way to play the 27 holes that are on offer. As I paused to enjoy the view, piece and simple tranquillity beside the 6th green I reflected on the challenge of the 7th a beautifully crafted par 3 that measures over 230yards from the Championship tees – if ever a hole gave you satisfaction for achieving par then this was it!
As you play back to the clubhouse with two par 5’s you have a fair walk past the clubhouse (an opportunity for some to contemplate retiring?!) to then tackle the hilly terrain to the front of the hotel. The 10th is a classic par 4 carved through the hillside with an exposed rock face to the left which hugs the whole length of the hole and sets to intimidate as one drives to a relatively tight landing area. Overall the back 9 is longer than the front and sets a true championship pace with a sequence of par 4’s in excess of 400 yards. Although many sit on higher and slightly flatter ground you do return to be in sight of the clubhouse by the 17th hole, a strong par to a rising green. The 18th is a second signature hole very similar in design to the 3rd with an elevated tee and water guarding the front. Both are played at around 200 yards in length and are fantastic holes to grace any ranked course. The 18th represents a great finish to the sternest of championship courses.
Dartmouth is a true test of golf, but can be enjoyed by all if you play from the front tees. We felt that playing a mixture of tee placings would give you the opportunity to play the greatest holes as the architect intended, but also not beat yourself up for consistently having to hit long approaches to plus 400 yard holes. I would thoroughly recommend a trip to Dartmouth, the course is very well kept all year round and enjoys the welcome of an extremely friendly and courteous staff. Staying a weekend in the Country Club, in a beautiful spot that typifies the rolling South Devon countryside with 27 holes of golf, Dartmouth deserves recognition as a great place to stay and play golf. Ian Henley
Date: March 01, 2009