The South Staffordshire Club is always a special visit. Nestled in the leafy suburbs of Wolverhampton, a traditional members club with a much admired parkland course that never fails to impress. Messrs Vardon, Colt, Braid and more recently Donald Steel have all played their parts in creating a layout that charms, teases and yields a low score very reluctantly.
This Championship standard layout resembles a classic English country park in looks, the manicured rolling fairways, tree lined with rows of mature oaks, pines and conifers are as pretty as a picture yet demand tip top accuracy off the tee to negotiate your way around them for a clear path to distant greens.
Not as much as a puddle in sight for a water hazard but the bunkers are well placed, out of bounds is a frequent consideration and it’s certainly a place to test your short game. A few raised and contoured putting surfaces feature banks and subtle slopes designed to lead your ball toward nasty spots where rescuing pars will be tough.
The opening holes contain the better birdie prospects especially at the short fourth, and the following hole, a reachable par five. Not long after you need to probably adopt a defensive mode to survive the stretch between seven and 14 where only the short 11th offers any relief from a demanding spell of 400yard plus par fours.
Hopefully you can emerge with confidence intact to attack the final three greens, all a little easier to reach in regulation than what’s gone before although you may find that these could test your putting skills a little more severely, South Staffordshire never gives anything away too easily. The tight tree lined penultimate hole with its twisting putting surface is a delight.
MG Pick – 18th 316 yards Par 4
What a setting for a finishing hole, playing your final approach to the undulating 18th green, with the distinctive clubhouse behind is one of the nicest looking scenes in West Midlands golf (main image). Yet to fully appreciate it, you need to play it well and that’s not easy. No place for a driver, rein it in from the tee a bit instead as it’s all a little narrow and you need a good fairway position to attack the green and avoid the deep traps that surround it.
Traditional facilities inside, and there is a good range of visitor and society packages and menus available for all occasions. The Clubhouse offers very comfortable surroundings where you can relax before or after a round of golf, including lounge bar, spike bar and terrace, television lounge and restaurant all of which enjoy the splendid view over the 1st and 18th holes and the countryside beyond.
The family owned and run Manor (Kingstone) GC, situated on the outskirts of Uttoxeter is a club on the rise, and there’s no better time to discover its unique charms than in mid-summer.
Countryside charm in the heart of the Staffordshire countryside, from the clubhouse balcony you can literally see for miles over fields of peaceful farming land. That’s how The Manor got started back in 1992, as a local farming family decided to do something completely different with their land, firstly as a nine hole course, then not long after they made it up to the full 18.
They’ve worked tirelessly ever since, USGA greens have been added to almost half of the holes and course definition improves year on year. New tee signage is in place for this summer. It’s been a real labour of love for the family and it hasn’t always been plain sailing, but what they do have at their disposal, and it’s 100% natural, is absolute beauty in their surroundings.
From the higher points, enjoy the panoramic views and some inspiring looking tee shot sights. From the lower parts of the golf course, enjoy two beautiful looking riverside stretches, peaceful and teaming with the local wildlife population, just take care that your ball doesn’t join them!
The golf course measures in at just over the 6,000 yard mark but tends to play a little longer than that, as changes of elevation are frequent. Although there are a few ups and downs it’s never too tough to walk and there’s plenty of variety out there to enjoy, something to test every club in the bag.
A water aperatif at the fourth, ‘Ivor’s Island’ which in past times was basically a long iron off the tee followed by a wedge over the pool to a large green. A little too easy it seemed, and lately they have pushed the tee back significantly, a far tougher proposition awaits now.
Before and after the river gets involved you get a pair of strikingly similar monster par fives, one for each nine, both of which stretch all the way to 570 yards of length. Wonderful driving holes that offer width and friendliness from high tees, and they both come with the most glorious of backdrops. The closer you get to the business end though, they toughen up, with narrowing fairways and two slippery, well contoured greens to find. All in all mid handicappers can consider themselves pretty proud if a couple of pars can be achieved here at the third and later on at the 17th.
If the beasts are tamed you’ll enjoy the beauty just that little bit more, From the lower parts of the golf course, enjoy two gorgeous looking riverside stretches, three holes on the front nine and your signature challenge later on. One of the loveliest spots in Staffordshire to play golf, peaceful and teaming with the local wildlife population.
In amongst this variable collection of holes sit some very pretty short ones, deserving plenty of respect, more than their modest yardage suggests. Nice example at the 16th, a lovely looking hole with an elevated tee attracting any swirling breezes that might be around. The recently added front bunker on this par three has made it lot tougher than it used to be.
MG Pick – 14th hole 277 yards Par 4
Named ‘Enigma’ and aptly too, where the River Blithe winds its way all the way down the left side and dares you take on the full length from its tall tee. If you can draw the ball around the corner and miss the water threat, a receptive green awaits and a certain birdie surely, maybe even better………..easier said than done though!
The closing hole is of slightly less yardage, but turns a corner and travels uphill, the society guy chasing late points to win the day might fancy cutting the corner and trying to at least get very close to the green, a very well defended one though.
19th hole – When it’s all over and you’ve hopefully conquered a lovely course with all of its quirks you must stick around to enjoy the very friendly facilities, cosy club room and lovely home cooked food whilst relaxing with a well earned pint. Enjoy the special welcoming spirit that the on hand family team have created here, it is the friendliest club we know.
Plus if you’ve been fortunate enough to play on a sunny day, take your pint outside for a seat on the balcony and recount your triumphs and woes with a view to die for, over practically the whole course and miles beyond, it’s a special spot.
Pro Shop – The Manor’s first full time professional Phil Cary has been here for three years now, revamping the club shop and marketing the club efficiently too, which has seen a big rise in society numbers. The club’s first junior academy, under Phil is just getting under way this year over on the practice ground, running alongside the first hole. Extra buggies are now available to hire.
Situated close to The Potteries just an hour from the centre of Birmingham, Barlaston is very a attractive riverside location designed by Peter Alliss in 1977. The club is a hard working and sociable venue with a great tradition, past and present of bringing up quality junior players.
After a fairly gentle beginning the River Trent provides a challenge as well as an attractive border running alongside holes three to five, an area which has seen many course improvements in recent times to guarantee quality all-weather playability.
‘Old Swampy’ (above) is a formidable seventh, a long par four with it’s 90 degree dog leg, undulations and a tiny looking punchbowl green protected by its pond and swamp surrounds. A terrifying looking approach in store and many will play it as a par five, but overhitting an approach isn’t a bad ploy as the banking you can see on the right of the image carries on all around the back of green and may bounce your ball back in the right direction.
The ninth (main image) shows Barlaston off at it’s very finest, a superb tee shot view over the lake on this short par five, the temptation is just how much of it you are prepared to take on for the reward of a shorter second shot.
The back nine follows a more traditional parkland path, tree lined on gently undulating land with more than a few twists and turns. The long par three 13th is the toughest test as the water returns, one demanding tee shot to avoid the drink, and the out of bounds on the right.
There are enough testing holes here to follow the adage not to be fooled by the modest yardage on the card, to play to your handicap at Barlaston will require some good course management skills. Enjoy too a wide variety of wildlife and the many different tree species guarantee a beautiful and varied look for each passing season.
Off course facilities include a full range of good quality and reasonably priced meals and snacks in the club’s large clubhouse lounge.
Societies are frequently attracted to the charms of Barlaston by competitive pricing and a tailor made approach to group days. Weekend society bookings are now also available by prior arrangement
Contact: Jim Pickerill (manager) or Darren Martin (professional) on 01782 372867
Drayton Park Golf Club is situated on the same entrance lane in Tamworth, Staffordshire as Drayton Manor theme park. Turn right for the roller coasters, it’s left for a more subtle ride, costing less – and far more rewarding.
The club, then known as “Tamworth Golf Club”, was founded in October 1897 and its first home was at Glascote, Tamworth. Local residents protested at the fencing off of the land, over which they had previously had free access. The first subscription was ten shillings (50p) for gentlemen and nothing for ladies.
The club moved to land in Bonehill in 1912 and became a limited company in 1922. The number of members rapidly grew, requiring an increase in the number of holes from 9 to 18, and as the necessary land was not available at Bonehill, the club moved again to its present location in 1935/36.
Situated in parkland formerly part of the Drayton Manor estate, the seat of the Peel family – of which Sir Robert Peel, the founder of the police force, was the most famous – the course was designed and set out by James Braid, five times winner of the British Open Golf Championship.
There’s always a little bit of extra confidence in quality when you visit a James Braid designed course for the first time. They don’t normally alter much over their lifespan, maybe the odd tee goes back a little to counter the advances in modern technology but that’s generally about it. Braid layouts always stand the test of time, and this is a prime example.
MG editor Phil was joined on the round by the first couple of Midlands Golf, Mandy and Jean-Louis. Mandy, a Staffs county player is very familiar with DPGC and soon went on to smoothly plot her way around the course. JL was less knowledgeable, Phil was just plain rusty! Their woes on the day epitomised what this course is all about, early generosity from the tee is soon replaced by a sterner examination as the ever tighter fairways and well placed bunkering which form the course’s best defences really can bite. But despite the struggles, the boys did manage to salvage themselves some pride with sharp short games and a few good putts that were rewarded on the smooth and true greens.
So keep it in check and nice and straight from the tee and a good score is achievable, and then you can fully appreciate the surroundings just that little bit more too. It’s a soothing environment, peaceful and serene with a different look for each passing season. Occasional water features are dotted about, look out for the well fed carp underneath the bridge that takes you from 10 to 11 looking for a morsel or two from a passing golfer.
Holes fluctuate in challenge, and there’s so much evidence of Braid’s influence here, and his liking for a tease, you’ll find that not everything is always quite as it seems. Some lovely short holes too such as the picturesque sixth above, all are well defended and give you a good test to make par if you slip off the dance floor a little.
— Midlands Golfer (@MidlandsGolfer) June 28, 2020
The ninth takes you back to the clubhouse, so a two hour round is always a possibility here. The inward stretch continues the high quality quite effortlessly with a stretch of lovely holes, the 14th is a scenic wonder, a short four at the far side of the course, out of bounds right, trees and woodland increasing in strength the further you go up on the left side. Then a great challenge for the lads, the 17th is a par three for the ladies but at 260 yards it’s one the biggest tempters in the Midlands as a short par four. Very narrow sight from the tee but if you can keep it straight the possibility of an eagle putt is a realistic one.
No glory for the MG boys but never mind, we enjoyed a great round and the on course conditioning which has gone up a level ever since Course Manager Dale Housden took over a couple of years ago was absolutely spot on. Like many other local venues, they’ve worked tirelessly here during lockdown to maintain and improve the quality of the course for the returning members to enjoy. The big increase in membership here since May 13th is testament to that.
Classic Art Deco styled clubhouse built in 1936. Single floor with large lounge/dining room with course views. Sports Bar and snooker table. Range of menus on offer.
Pro shop/practice – New youthful shop team Dan Whitby-Smith and Matt Fieldsend now have a full range of teaching facilities including their Trackman launch monitor. The most accurate high speed digital camera system available takes the guess work out of coaching and custom fitting. Outdoors is a new short game area with three target greens and practice bunker.
Located in an elevated setting on the outskirts of the town and bordered partly by Uttoxeter racecourse, this is one of the region’s best kept secrets, a club celebrating 50 years in existence in 2020.
The club originally opened in 1970 as a nine hole venue with a further nine added later when the land became available. The course sits on a hillside and provides lovely views of the racecourse and across the Dove Valley to the edge of The Peak District in the far distance. What you’ll learn as you go along is that this is one for the creative and adventurous minded, those looking for a flat out and back bit of parkland are going to have their eyes opened. But if you’re anything like the MG fourball that took on Uttoxeter on a balmy late May Friday evening in May, you’re going to absolutely love it.
The opening holes take you through a contoured and tight pathway down to the bottom corner of the course where the racecourse is situated, no need to reach for driver just yet although you may find a dash at the 251 yard second difficult to resist.
The knowing Uttoxeter member will plot a mid iron route around the tight corners and blind alleys of the early holes, an unknowing visitor might be tempted to adopt a bolder approach (guilty as charged!)
Another seemingly driveable two-shotter comes along at the seventh and quite uniquely the tee shot to this one sits very adjacent to the starting stalls, a potential distraction you just aren’t likely to find anywhere else. From the eighth onwards though, any runners and riders that are about will fade into the far distance as you head to the highest points of the course with a spell of eye catching and inspiring driving holes through tree lined valleys.
A few lengthier challenges do come along later on, so you will eventually find some use for the driver. The 15th is a stunning long par four, a gentle dog leg and a big ask to find the distant green in two over the ravine.
The 18th is a great finishing hole – a lovely par four that shows you a great view of the final elevated green and clubhouse for one last approach shot from the valley floor. A photogenic and fitting finish to a golf course packed with charm and challenge. Considering the terrain, Uttoxeter handles the weather pretty well and you’ll get a game on full tees and greens in all but the most extreme of conditions.
MG Pick – 12th 172 yards Par 3
One of the most inspiring and picturesque short holes in Staffordshire. The 12th has it all, a gorgeous view from the raised tee and a big test ahead, the greenside pond, bunkers and trees plus a left to right sloping green all lie in wait to ensure that a par is very well earned. Image below shows the 12th looking back up to the tee.
Head professional Adam McCandless has a well stocked shop with good practice facilities on hand. A great society venue too, with 7 day a week availability and some competitive packages to play and relax in the clubhouse in a welcoming environment with a good range of refreshment options. If you live close by, you could do a lot worse than to consider membership here, always lots going on competitively and socially. A proud member run club that does things right.