Located adjacent to Higher Hyde Heath Nature Reserve, Dorset Golf & Country Club lies at the heart of a special site of scientific interest, which obviously limits the scope for developments around the property, affording the site a certain air of tranquillity.
There’s twenty seven holes available for play here, consisting of two championship 9-hole circuits called Lakeland and Parkland, and the much shorter, more enclosed 9-hole Woodland which is carved through a Rhododendron Forest to complement the main 18-hole layout.
Martin Hawtree set out the fairways in the early 1990s and the main characteristic of the design becomes apparent right away – large, clover-shaped fairway and greenside bunkers which proliferate around the property in significant size and number.
Highlight holes on the Lakeland & Parkland layout include the shortest of the par threes at the 160-yard 7th (the other three short holes all measure in excess of 200 yards), the short par four 10th and the final par five on the scorecard at the 537-yard 16th.
We played the two Championship nines at the Dorset Golf & Country Club which although called Lakeland (holes 1 to 9) and Parkland (holes 10 to 18) are very similar in nature. The courses are surrounded by vast SSI heathland with lots of wildlife and many bird species. I would regard the course style as Parkland with trees and many large clover-shaped bunkers the predominant features. Water and ditches are a threat on a handful of holes, with good-sized fairways and greens a constant feature.
The away-from-it-all feel is strong and the golf holes are nicely varied. Although from the championship tees the two nines measure over 7000 yards, we played from the more accessible yellow tee blocks at just under 6200 yards. From these tees the short holes were no more than a mid iron and it was only the raised green at the 4th that proved difficult. The par fives were all excellent challenges with the long 540 yard 6th the best, and only the hidden central bunker easily reachable from the tee at 16 a slight disappointment. The par fours had great variety with the shorter ones generally requiring tougher shots into the greens, but none at more than 410 yards from our tees. The more memorable holes here were the short doglegs at 3 and 10, and the most difficult the 5th which requires a drive into a narrow landing area before sweeping right to a two tier green well protected by bunkers.
The course was in good condition considering we were playing in the middle of a very dry summer, with greens and fairways running well and the many bunkers challenging but fun to play from. Although being near to the holiday area of Bere Regis, this golf track is far tougher than a typical holiday course. However if you think your way around, as I did well around the Lakeland but a lot less well around the Parkland, it is quite manageable and possible to complete within your handicap. It seemed a long trek, but overall we all walked off having enjoyed the experience.
I have just returned from a golf weekend here and, given the lack of reviews so far for the club, I thought it would be good to write one to help others who might think about making the journey here! This was our 3 times rearranged event, first booked for 2020, so the anticipation was high, and I am pleased to say the club really delivered. It has 27 holes so over 3 days we played each 9 twice in 3 different combinations, so the set up is perfect for a short break.
Of the 27 holes, the Lakeland/Parkland combination is considered the premier 18, but I have to say the Woodland is a nice complementary 18, providing something a little different.
The course is set in a beautiful Area of Special Scientific Interest, away from any town, with hardly any buildings to be seen anywhere – you really are away from it all here, although we were surrounded by the sound of tanks on Monday as the proving grounds at Bovington are only a mile or 2 away! Not something you hear on many golf courses! The surrounding land is heathland, but in reality the courses are parkland in nature.
It’s a fair course, perfect for groups of mixed ability, most of it is there in front of you, sometimes it’s quite tight and penal but there are no tricks – hit the shot required or be punished! I really enjoyed the challenge. The overall condition of the courses is very good, with the greens running well, the thoughtful design elements creating some lovely shapes & views, the greens in particular sit into the landscape really attractively and provide for some intriguing shots and recoveries. On the downside the fairway grass was a little long, so we were still placing and on the Monday the bunkers were unplayable due to huge overnight thunderstorms. The bunkers are very distinctively shaped and attractive to look at creating a unique feel to the layout, but the sand was a little firm & cement like, possibly resulting in the drainage issues on Monday which meant they filled to a great depth, to such an extent you could lose your ball in them! I guess this would not be an issue in most normal climatic conditions.
Off the yellows (the only tees we played) you must think your way round the course, you can’t just stand on the tee and hit driver. There are many holes where you have to think where to lay up, and some are so tight that even if you are on the fairway you can be blocked out, and have to manufacture a recovery. It may not be the fairest in those cases but it created some extra interest and posed a challenge that you don’t always get on courses these days, so I enjoyed unlocking the puzzles. Having said that it really helped when you had played those holes once before; second time round you knew what you were doing. Doesn’t mean you can execute the shot of course.
I won’t detail all 27 holes, but the best holes include:
On the Lakeland, the 3rd is a tough short par 4 where you have to layup in the right spot before a mid-short iron into an attractive, sloping green. The 5th is the first of a few holes where you have a diagonal ditch to negotiate off the tee, that makes you think about the drive and then a long second to a 2 tier green, whilst the 6th is a long par 5, probably the best one, which is stroke 1 for a reason as you have to plot your way down to the green avoiding well placed sand and water
On the Parkland (interestingly named as it probably has as much water as the Lakeland), the 3rd is an intimidating hole with water up left and then in front of the lovely looking green. The 5th is a sharp dogleg where the drive, probably a 3w or less, is crucial, avoiding the ditch and the trees on the corner of the dogleg to give you the best chance of reaching the well defended green, sitting behind a massive bunker; it’s a good example of how this course is not all about length, but more about precision.
The 7th is a nice par 5 with a centre-line bunker to avoid off the tee, while the 2nd shot is all about setting up the pitch across a ditch to the green. The par 3 8th is a typical Dorset Golf Club par 3, a good-looking mid length, fairly flat hole, to a well-sited bunker-surrounded green. Most of the par 3 were lovely but maybe all a bit samey in terms of length (although I am a massive fan of 150-170yd par 3s, rather than longer ones so it wasn’t as much of an issue for me). They all face different directions so a offer a different challenge, while some had trees in front of greens to add a little quirk/thought.
The Woodland is much shorter, but like I said earlier complements the main 18 well. It really is tight in some spots, mainly from holes 2-8, with rhododendrons everywhere, which as we were in May were beautiful. If you were as little as 2m off greens /fairways you would be dropping a ball. Some would say this is unfair, but its there in front of you – just don’t go in it! The 2nd is a great driving hole with bunkers, bushes and a diagonal ditch to avoid before a straightforward approach to the green having done the hard bit off the tee! The 3rd and 7th are probably too tight to be honest, with literally no margin for error. If you are not within 5m of the centre of the fairway you are dropping a ball or blocked out and having to be creative! But both have their charm, with lovely greens. Golf was never meant to be easy!
To complement the courses, they have good practice facilities, a great halfway house (although they ran out of food on both days too soon, but did deliver 4 sausage rolls to one of our groups on the course, which is an example of the customer service you can expect). It is set up for groups like ours with good clubhouse food, as well as having pool/darts/table football in the room next to the bar which gave us some great evening entertainment. I found all the staff to be helpful, rooms in the hotel were fine and the lodges look good, but I cannot comment as we stayed in the hotel rooms.
So based on the scoring system it’s a 4 to 4.5, it merits a full day and it’s a good location for an overnight stop due to 27 holes and the beautiful location and good facilities. However, based on my other reviews the course is probably a 4, it’s not in Broadstone/Parkstone league when it comes to Dorset courses but not many are, the ranking might be about right, but I haven’t played all the others. It is a very good club & course and excellent value when booked as a short break! I really enjoyed it and would definitely go back.