The golf complex at Hawkstone Park extends to forty-two holes – featuring the 18-hole Hawkstone and Championship courses and a 6-hole par three layout – and it offers golfers of all abilities the opportunity to test their game in lovely parkland surroundings.
Set within an extensive property that attracts many visitors to the caves, tunnels, trails and towers of its 18th century follies, the Hawkstone course is a James Braid design from the 1920s that was renovated by Welsh golfing legend Brian Huggett when the estate was acquired by the Principal Hayley Group in the 1990s.Another famous golfing son associated with Hawkstone Park is Sandy Lyle, whose father was for many years the resident professional at the club.
I completed my February golfing/walking break with a stay and play at Hawkstone Park. For £99 for 2, we got 3 course meal for 2, breakfast, stay and a round of golf each - not bad at all. The new owner is clearly spending money on the venue although some aspects look tired - that cannot be said about the new Club house and bar - Lyle’s Bar - which is stunning and when the outside has been completed will be a great place to sit outside and watch golfers finish on the 18th. It is a great shame that huge clubhouse overlooking both courses is now not in use (only opened in 2005) apart from being used for Speed Awareness Courses! So at the start you think that you are walking into a tired property and what is the future for the golf course, but you realise it is a work in progress and so I left feeling optimistic that it can have a brighter future.
To the golf - there are 2 courses and given the recent rains the only one open was the Hawkstone and it was playing on a mix of temps and greens. I have tried to review based on the full length of each hole, not on any shorter versions that I played today.
Having walked the course last night, I was a tad disappointed that more greens weren’t on come today - a sign that no-one had been out and checked as some were firm and could have been used. Coming in February and having arrived post heavy rains, it was clear maintenance had been minimal over the last week or - understandable in terms of fairways not being rolled/cut but disappointing with the greens. That said the temp greens were very good and were not an after thought - proper shaped and cut smaller greens.
The course starts directly outside the hotel and is a gentle opener. Your tee shot will take you over a ridge and in the summer the ball will run long, leaving a short iron into the green. And easy starting par..
The 1st 7 holes are a bit up and down in front of the hotel, the pick being the 2nd, a lovely par 4 playing to a green surrounded by 40ft high banks on left and right - it sits nicely and visually is a good looking hole.
The 3rd is one of only 3 par 3’s and the least of those, followed by a samey feel on holes 4-6. Similar lengths, the best being the 4th, where the green is across the valley (where Hole 2 green is).
The 7th is again long and straight but has OOB on the right and tree lined to boot. At 434 yards a long par 4 into the prevailing wind.
I really liked the 8th - a par 5 played blind over another ridge but then dog legs round to the left and you play to a narrow green framed beautifully by the trees and banking. You also get your 1st glimpse of the famous Hawkstone Follies built over 200 years ago, which frame a lot of the 2nd part of the course.
I also thought the par 3 9th was a delightful downhill 192 yard hole with a sloping green and bunkers to protect.
Then you play down in fron of the Follies to the par 5 10th. Again a blind tee shot over the marker post - beware the bunker on the left hand side of the fairway. The green has a backdrop of one of the follies perched on the cliff top. Again a lovely looking hole.
The course was wet around this point and onto hole 11, not surprising given the rain, but I do think come the Spring and with cut fairways, the entire course will be a pleasure to play. I shot 3 over on a mix of greens and temps with no run on the fairways, so this does say that the course is not that hard. As long as you are straight off the tee there isn’t that much trouble. Trouble can come from the tree lined fairways or bunkers, but otherwise it is limited.
The 11th is a good case in point. Woods down the right hand side but the fairway is wide and open so really difficult to get into any trouble. You play your 2nd shot upto a green on the hill to your left, before you play the 12th, the best of the par 3’s visually - surrounded on 3 sides by water, you tee off high above the hole, hitting 145 yards downhill.
The 13th and 14th then play out and back from the farthest point of the course and beside a lake. I loved the 13th green, sat deep below , but not a hard hole to make par or better. Sloping back to front, leave your ball below the hole for a birdie or 2 putt par. The 14th is a short par 5. Play away from the lake as the fairway slopes that way and for longer hitters, can be reached in 2.
Then follows 2 short holes, the par 4 a15th at 310 yards and the par 4 16th at 254 yards. The 16th is straightforward up the hill but I loved the green which sat out of sight in a small dell. A lovely little hole.
Then 2 good (and straight) holes to finish. Playing with the Follies to your left, you play the 17th over a blind ridge to a green that is sat down below you and protected by bunkers, followed by the 18th, at 417 yards a reasonable length finisher. A good tee shot leaves a medium iron into the green which is situated in front of Lyle’s Bar. A short step away and you’re having a welcome post round pint.
So having arrived thinking the place was a little run down and why was this Shropshire’s No2 course (was the County so lacking?), I left realising what a friendly bunch of staff they had, exquisite food and good breakfast and a golf course which was improved after the 1st few holes, had a few standout holes (2, 8, 9, 12, 16), was in reasonable condition especially given the weather we have just had, and a venue that is absolutely ideal for a golf break, with the potential for significant on course improvements if the owner continues his current of programme of investment. Still shame about the 1995 clubhouse. That was an amazing building and overlooked both courses and I hope it gets back into use, so the overall place has more of a feel good factor to it.
Really enjoyed the Hawkstone course. In the Shropshire countryside, a nice clubhouse with balcony views over the course, a well organised team event and well presented golf course with good greens, all helped by a nice sunny October day …. what is there not to like ?. A well established mature parkland course but more than that because it makes full use of the natural ground and features and in places almost has a moorland type feel, for example the second green is set in a gulley with banks either side and this extends into a ravine short of the fourth green. It is an undulating course but the design is very clever as you never feel you are hitting uphill, and the many side slopes makes it an interesting driving course where placement is more important than length. The first hole is typical where you need an accurate drive between the fairway bunkers (making sure you don't go too far into trouble), then it is about club selection downhill to a visible flag and when on the green it is a case of judging the slope/line on a well paced green. Only three par 3's and three par 5's, and a great variety of par 4's with no two holes the same and many dog-legs. Not too many straight holes, although the par 4 7th (stroke index 1) is pretty straight but narrow with trees left and OB right. I thought all holes were good, but the par 5 8th was probably just my favourite; a dog-leg requiring an accurate tee shot (gorgeous views of the autumn tree colours on the hill beyond from the tee) although there is a risk (huge I think) and reward tee shot over the corner for bigger hitters, and then you approach a fairly narrow target with bunkers, trees and slopes to negotiate. Generally the course is in a delightful setting but an added feature as you wander around holes 10-13 are the Hawkstone follies which are fascinating to gaze at. Personally I would rate The Hawkstone course higher than Oswestry and at least on a par with Llanymynech, infact possibly higher because I felt there were a couple of weaker holes at Llanymynech. Well worth playing and wouldn't hesitate to play again
Hawkstone Park Golf Club is a venue that benefits greatly from having two 18-hole parkland golf courses. There is also a six-hole par three academy course on site making this one of the most popular venues in Shropshire. Both of the main courses offer something slightly different.
The older of the two layouts, the 'Hawkstone' is a peaceful, tree-lined course which after an 'up and down' start wanders around the historic Hawkstone Follies. And it is the holes just after the turn that come close to these fascinating cliffs, crags and caves that are also the best on the course.
The front nine will test virtually every part of your game with no easy holes with the seventh being the toughest. There are a few blind drives where placement is required rather than length, this is especially the case the first and eighth where the fairway falls away from you at around the 200-yard mark. The first half of the course closes with its best hole, the impressive downhill par three ninth with a tricky green, bunkers to avoid and out-of-bounds close to the putting surface.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.