Many people go to Castle Combe for the motor sport. It’s one of the longest established circuits in the UK where, in 1950, a young Stirling Moss won the 2.5 litre race. But the 13th century village of Castle Combe is something entirely different and light years away in feel and pace to the race circuit. The village is simply gorgeous and undoubtedly one of the prettiest, most beautiful in England. In fact, it was recently voted the most picturesque village by English Heritage Magazine.
Situated on the southern edge of the Cotswolds, the Manor House Hotel and Golf Club is set magnificently in 365 acres of rolling countryside. The course is a relative youngster, opening for play in 1992 and Peter Alliss and Clive Clark designed it. The maturity of the setting makes the course seem much older, where stately oak and beech trees line the magnificent fairways. Alliss and Clark made the most of the undulating terrain and they’ve fitted the course into its surroundings like a silk glove. The River Bybrook punctuates the layout bringing its share of beauty and drama, especially at “Burton Brook” the 17th, one of the best and most exciting par threes you’ll find anywhere.
Today’s Manor House course stretches out to around 6,500 yards. It’s no championship layout but it will provide an enjoyable test for most golfers and real challenge from the tiger tees.
We’ve already mentioned one par three, but there are four other excellent one-shot holes on this unusual but dramatic par 72 layout. With five modest length par fives, birdie opportunities are there for the taking. The par five 3rd, called “Doolittle”, is perhaps the exception. This is the stoke index one and it’s a corker, where the land tumbles downhill and a valley requires negotiation before the sanctuary of the green is reached. The 7th, another par five, is a strategic test with its curving doglegged shape, which is further defined by an avenue of trees.
Just like the village of Castle Combe, the closing hole is one of the prettiest finishes in England. The green on this par four is guarded jealousy by numerous bunkers and a series of interconnecting ponds. A par here will be a fitting end to one of the most enjoyable and exciting rounds of golf you’re likely to experience in the whole of the British Isles.
This was the last leg of our tour to the area – crossing the border from Somerset to Wiltshire. Manor House is rated 2 in the county and we could definitely see why. From the point of arrival, to the courteous staff and unbelievably helpful team in the pro shop, this was a memorable day played on a superb course.
The course is relatively new and the design is fantastic, if you like picturesque holes that is. Two magnificent par 3’s (2nd and 17th) some breathtaking views from raised tees (8th and 12th) and a delightful finishing hole. Some of the early holes have an inland links feel about them with the raised contouring between adjacent fairways and although one or two of these holes felt a little similar in style, it didn’t detract from the overall quality of the course.
The course is manicured to high standards and for sure is a pleasure to play. The greens ran true and fairly quick and were typically large with an american feel to them.
One note of caution, the course is designed with buggies in mind. The course itself does have one or two climbs to negotiate, but the bigger issue is with a few of the walks from green to next tee and in all honesty without a buggy for those walks it would have been very demanding and tiring.
If you feel up to the challenge then Manor house is a course worth a visit. We can’t speak highly enough of the service we received from everyone at the club. We couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome.