There's plenty of golf to be played at the leafy Portal Golf and Country Club in the northwest of England, forty-five holes in fact. Donald Steel has fashioned several courses in Cheshire but maybe he saved his best for the Portal Championship course, which opened for play in 1990.
We're not buggy lovers, but the Championship course is sufficiently undulating and definitely long enough at 7,037 yards from the back tees to make a cart tempting. The land was once a battlefield and two of the named holes include the opener "Agincourt" and "Waterloo" the penultimate hole. Choose your tee carefully unless you want a personal skirmish.
There are also some strong golf holes on the Championship layout. The 3rd is a monster 602-yard par five and it's a ball-striker's delight from the elevated tee. Only the game's longest hitters will try to reach this green in two and undoubtedly some big hitters will have tried and failed, only to find their ball in the lake which guards the front of the green.
The par three 14th, called "The Horn", is a delightful short hole, with its green also surrounded by water. At "Waterloo" the par four 17th, you may meet your very own Waterloo by going into Adam's Well, where an inscription once read: "Tho' if of this ale, you drink a pail, you'll never ail."
Well enough maintained but not great conditions as you would expect with a well used hotel course like this. Couple of long holes and couple of interesting ones but nothing of particular note.
I booked to play the Portal Championship course today and thought I’d read the reviews. Bear in mind I submitted one a couple of years back myself. In truth we came close to cancelling and going elsewhere... Well thank god I didn’t!
I used to play here in the 90’s. It was ‘the place’ to play. In reference to the previous review, it was ‘the mighty’. I would go as far as saying that 25 years ago it was up there in my top 10.
When I played it a couple of years back, I was horrified. If you read my review, you’ll see why.
Look, let’s get the nasty bits out the way. The course isn’t now owned by a wealthy man with a passion for golf anymore. It’s owned by a hotel chain who want to make a profit. In reference to the previous review, yes the bunkers aren’t amazing, the paths do have weeds on them and I have to say the bins are desperately in need of being emptied. The course is in desperate need of some extra hands to see to it.
Yet I post this review as a positive. I will start by saying I thoroughly enjoyed it. Make no mistake this is still an outstanding layout. I was gutted the white tees weren’t out as it adds that bit extra yet even off the yellow tees it’s a real tough test. One thing that will never change are the fantastic views.
Today the greens where in fantastic order. I agree it’d be nice if they were faster, but they certainly aren’t slow. They held the ball very well on the 13 greens I hit in regulation. The rough is rough, but not to the point of losing a ball. It’s the type that prevents one striking a long club from it, so I call it fair. It’s just a pity their isn’t a semi cut. The fairways are nice. Again it’d be wonderful if they improved the cut around the greens. However it’s uniformed, it’s just rough.
Today the speed of play was good. We got round in 3 1/2 hours.
Look, this may not make your top 10 but it’s £23.00 a round. I doubt you’ll find a better course for that!
I come away today so much happier that the fall of this course hasn’t continued. I will forever have a soft spot for it. It’s worth a visit and is no push over. This course may never return to its glory days but my group agreed it was very good. Would I recommend you play it, “yes”! It’s not Wentworth or Birkdale but it’s good. With a couple more greenkeepers to bear the load it truly would be in much better condition. It just needs those areas sorting that those in its catergory get right.
How the mighty have fallen!
John Lilley the creator of what was once a wonderful golf facility will be turning in his grave as he looks down on his creation.
Under the Stewardship (and I use the term advisedly) of the MacDonald Hotel Group the place has gone to wrack and ruin. I used to love playing this course, one of the best of the new breed of course introduced in the 90's. It still has the basic layout and character that Donald Steel brought in his wonderful design, but a course once manicured to within an inch of its life is now the equivalent of a golfing desert, all that's missing is the Tumbleweed.
Notwithstanding the current Covid crisis, the course has gone downhill over the last five years or so, but last Friday was almost certainly it's nadir.
The bunkers are effectively mud, the greens uneven, bumpy and slow (the course used to pride itself on having its green speed at a minimum of nine on the Stimp on an average day), paths weed strewn, one cut of rough, which is uneven.
It wasn't worth a quarter of the £22 green fee they were charging!
I last played Portal some 15 years ago so this week I wanted to return. I always remembered it as a quiet course with little traffic, kept in the greatest condition with the greatest views across Cheshire...
Well it's now been taken on by the hotel chain of MacDonald Hotels. The scenery is still there but the rest has gone! I was surrounded by golfers who'd never been on a golf course before... I even had to tell the male behind to rake a bunker after he walked his adidas trainers straight out the front of it.
The golf course could truly be a great. It has the land and the set up but I sadly suspect they have few staff to now keep it in the condition it so requires.
I played the Championship Course about a month ago and was disappointed to see how far downhill this course has gone: course maintenance seems to have disappeared completely! The greens were particularly poor, and despite the hot weather other clubs are keeping their greens in good condition. I played the Premier Course a fortnight later and this was a far better course. Top 100 Course - I think not!
Played on Sunday and I must say the course was in superb condition with some very memorable holes, especially the par 3 14th across the lake. Greens were slick yet receptive. Panoramic views of the Cheshire plains from the very top of the course are breathtaking.