Lincolnshire is home to one of the world’s greatest inland courses and Woodhall Spa is also home to the English Golf Union but apart from Seacroft at Skegness and Luffenham Heath near Rutland Water, the fenland county has little to write home about. That was until 1996 when Forest Pines Golf & Country Club, near Scunthorpe, opened its 27 tees for play.
Englishman and PGA Tour player John Morgan, who sadly died in June 2006 following a long battle against a brain tumour, designed Forest Pines. It is a course that he was justifiably proud, especially as Golf World adjudged it the best new golf course in England opened since 1994.
There is a hint of Woburn and a touch of Wentworth at Forest Pines and with 27 holes it’s a popular and pleasantly informal corporate and society venue. Each of the three loops of nine, called Forest, Pines and Beeches starts and ends at the clubhouse, twisting and turning through the pines along the way. The best and most challenging combination comprises of the Forest and Pines layout which measures 6,859 yards from the tips. The shorter Beeches loop, with its three one-shot holes, makes for an ideal warm up ahead of the sterner championship challenge.
When Barry Ward was Golf Monthly’s Travel Editor he commented, “Being a minimalist, John [Morgan] has produced a refreshingly old fashioned course, one to delight the purists. There’s more than a suggestion of Braid about the mounded bunkering, for instance, and a hint of MacKenzie in the greens.”
I must confess to being mildly underwhelmed by the prospect of my Friday afternoon tee time at Forest Pines. I’m not the biggest fan of resort golf and, knowing very little about the course, I had visions of tediously slow play and divot strewn fairways. However this is a time to hold my hands up and to learn the lesson of not stereotyping a course before I’ve seen it. I really enjoyed our game here and it was certainly one of the best ‘resort’ experiences I’ve enjoyed in England.
The 3 sets of nine holes have a characters in their own right but share a common theme of being framed by particularly impressive mature avenues of statuesque trees (I suppose the clue is in the name). My favourite nine was the Forest course, a real barnstorming run with a number of particularly memorable holes. The 3rd has a feel of 13 at Augusta, as a creek wanders along the left of this par 5 and crosses the front of the green, similarly to the characteristics of Rae’s Creek. The 5th is another brilliant par 5 with a particularly difficult approach. Finally the 9th is a testing finish and is framed by one of the prettiest avenues of trees on the whole property.
One small issue we found was with fallen leaves in the rough and under the trees. Our game was in early April, long after the leaves will have fallen off the trees here, but there were areas on the course in the feasible areas of play that were strewn with piles of downed leaves. Aesthetically this doesn’t look great but practically, it could cause a real issue with pace of play. I think the course would benefit from active management of this leaf problem and clearing of troublesome spots, particularly in areas proximate to driver landing zones.
The conditioning of the course other that that was solid throughout for the time of year, but be under no illusion, this is a busy golf resort and you will certainly see plenty of other golfers out on the course. You will also see some evidence of their play on both the fairways and the greens. I do however feel that this course is well worth visiting as both the routing and the general environment are extremely likeable. In summary, I won’t be so reticent to visit next time I get the invitation to tee it up at Forest Pines. It is a great test, a wonderful setting and has a lot to offer to all standards of golfer.
Three loops of nine is what Forest Pines is about. Pines can be brutal and long off the whites with long par 4s and an uphill par 5, which should not be an issue providing the first two shots are accurate. The 7th a par three is all carry across the water and the 8th is 480 yards par 5 off whites and is a test of strategy. Big hitters can go over the bunker but anything right or left means chipping out. So, I am a member and hate the hole. Iron off tee and lay up to 140 -120 yards in. Easy, but it will be a downhill lie to a very shallow green. Get a five and you have done well. The 9th is tough at 430 yards and if you need a 4 to win, then good luck to you.
Forest is shorter but the first three are played into the prevailing wind. 3, and 4 require accuracy off the tee to score well and 5 can be reached in two. The 6th over water is a strong par 3 with the lake running diagonally left, so do not be afraid to thump it back right and put well off the slope. The 9th is narrow and uphill with two long and straight shots needed to find a small green.
Beeches is the shortest but you need to be strategic. The 1st, a par 3 can catch you cold. The dog leg right second could give you a second shot which would be longer than your drive. 3rd and 5th are interesting medium length par 4s where good placement off the tee is essential. The 3rd has a two tiered green and the second to 5 is hit over a dip. The ball looks amazing as it soars high against the dark backdrop of the trees. 7 and 9 are par 3s but splitting that is the longest par 4 on the course. Trees left and right and a deep pot bunker at the front of the green pars are few and far between. There is no easy nine.
Greens are superb and quick in summer, but golfers do not repair pitch marks as often as they should. It could be that it is a very busy course as the hotel is on site. Worth a Sunday stop over playing two x 18 holes that is for sure.
Nice course in great condition. Extremely tough if you are not on your game. Massively over played as a hotel course - so you are being pushed to finish before you start. Worth the visit though.
This course never fails to leave a favourable impression on me. Especially when its -2.5 degrees, all other courses are closed due to snow and frost and yet FP was still open and playable with 13 greens on.
Playable in that given the frozen fairways the ball could bounce a long way, although it could take some serious detours!
This is a busy resort course and was even on the cold morning this week when I olayed it. But the routing of the Forest/Pines layout is excellent without any weak holes.
The standout holes on the Forest loop are the 2nd (tough tee shot on this long dog leg left par 4), 4th (short dog leg left par 4 where position off the tee is crucial ) 5th (a wonderful long and narrow par 5 played to a green in a dell) and the 6th (a delightful mid iron par 3 played over a pond)
The Pines loop standouts are the 11th (tight from the tee, dog leg right par 4, to a banked and well bunkered raised green), 13th (a sweeping left to right long par 4) 15th (par 5 played over a pond to a narrow and long green with clever bunkers and banking framing the green) and the 18th, a giod standard finishing hole to a green which is protected by a pond to the front left)
The greens have many undulations and alot are narrow and long, meaning accurate approach play required or you find yoirself just off the green with a tricky chip or putting from a long way away.
The course condition is always excellent, especially given the traffic on it, and the routing through pine trees a delight.
The 18 holes on its own would justify a 4 ball ratung but add in the Beeches loop and an overnight stay and enjoyment of the various loop combinations is recommended. Even when it is freezing.
Andy, this and your previous Forest Pines review have a dubious rating. You’ve reviewed the Forest & Pines 18-hole course twice and each time you’ve rated it higher because there is a hotel and a third nine at the facility. I think you should be rating the Forest and Pines course as a standalone 18 and not the peripheral facilities and the third nine. I wouldn’t rate the Red, Blue and Green courses at St George’s Hill as one course and then give an extra half mark for the nice clubhouse!
Appreciate the comments Hugh however not dubious at all. If you look at the ball rating definitions it meets the 4 and a half description for me. Remember ratings are an individual persons opinion, trying to be as objective as possible. Its not for someone else to decide if that is dubious, perhaps simply to have a different view, on the basis they have been and played the course and therefore are in a position to comment.
I have rated this higher than Ed because whilst I agree with his review, this is a course you would stay over in the hotel at and play the different loops on multiple days.
I think FP is seriously underrated. The hotel has recently changed ownership (away from Q Hotels to Doubletree). It has a proper resort feel with spa and nice looking outside seating and decking facing onto the 1st tee of the Pines Loop and 9th green of the Forest Loop
The Forest/Pines combination is my favourite and in that order. Best played off the whites, the 1st is a nice sweeping right to left opener. Get past the tree on the fairway and its a relatively straight shot into a a green that slopes back to front. You then move onto the 2nd which is a lovely looking hole and off the whites there are several bunkers that can come into play. You then follow onto as par 5, 4 , 5 stretch . The short par 4 in the midst of these shouldn’t cause issues but invariably does either being blocked on the left or too big a drive can reach the bunker or worse the shrubs behind it. The 5th par is lovely, long and straight but hitting your 3rd into a green which is in a bowl and with a deep pot bunker behind for any shot that is too big. The 6th is one of my favourites, a 175 yard par 3 over water . This is followed by a nice par 7th hole and to finish the loop the par 4 9th again is a nice hole to play back to the clubhouse.
The PInes loop starts with another par 5, which is rather unspectacular, but the next hole is a gem (aim left of the tree in the fairway) with a raised and banked green. The par 3 3rd again is a lovely hole and you then follow a section of really good holes. The 6th is a good par 5 where dependent upon your drive the water can come into play and a green with clever bunkers and slopes and furrows. The 7th is a long par 3 all over water but a great hole and this is followed by another par 5 - watch for the bunkers that come right across the course where your tee shot is about to land.
You finish on a strong par 4 of over 450 yards, before a well deserved drink on the verandah decking to watch the myriad of golfers heading out for their rounds.
This is a popular course and stay over hotel and the course is always open and rarely greens not in play, even when it is frosty.
The Beeches loop is nice but it’s the Forest/Pines which is a real treat and imo should be Top 100 in England.
I’ve played all 27 holes at Forest Pines on a number of occasions. There are three nines at this Q-Hotels venue, all of relatively similar calibre, and it was the ‘Forest’ and ‘Beeches’ loops we enjoyed this time out. The third nine ‘Pines’, along with ‘Forest’, is generally regarded as the premier make-up for a round of 18 and I would agree with this consensus.
But that said there is very little in it and the 27 holes generally have a very solid and consistent feel to them. The tree-lined nature and relative flatness of the property tends to breed a similarity and remembering individual holes at a later date can be a tricky task as they often blur into one. The reason is probably because there are very few stand-out holes – the flatness of the property probably contributes to that the most – but there is very little that disappoints either.
We were greeted with firm fairways and well-conditioned greens for the time of year and it’s a course I will certainly look to return to during the off-season as it is easily accessibly from the motorway network of Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire.
Whilst the short holes fail to really pack a punch, the lack elevation change a contributing factor, the par fives sparkle as do a number of the two-shotters.
We opted for an early tee-time and had the course to ourselves, however, due to the nature of the facility it attracts a high volume of play, particularly the corporate and society type. Indeed upon finishing the putting green and first tee were heaving with activity as a large group was just starting.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.