Cheshire’s finest hotel and golf complex continues to push forward despite the restrictions on 2020 progress forced on the hospitality industry.
The loss of wedding and function business has been costly for everyone and Carden Park is no exception, yet when you’ve got 36 holes of golf as they have here with the sort of leisure benefits they can offer in conjunction with it, they have the assets to fare better than most.
MG editor Phil and MG Staffs ambassador Karl visited in late September to play the flagship Nicklaus Course, designed by the great man himself alongside son Steve, opening for play in 1998.
Both of us are familiar with Carden Park and have been for many years, in fact, it was here on the Nicklaus course back in 2010 that Phil shot his one and only hole in one on the 162-yard third.
Ten years later and playing it again, it was a mere par recorded, but with a still impressive six-iron to the green. I’ve only lost a mere shred of accuracy in all that time (if only!)
The Nicklaus Course, Carden Park
Very much contrasting in appearance to its older neighbour, the Cheshire course, this signature layout is set on open parkland, and in true American style features many water hazards plus large and abundant sand traps.
Teasing elements exist with a couple of par fours at seven and 15 which contain double fairways, taking on the tougher to reach one will naturally give you an easier approach.
It’s not difficult to spot the Championship credentials of The Nicklaus course, from the back tees it can play very long, especially if the elements play a part.
Yet, five tee positions exist and ensure suitability for all standards, it gives you a fair chance to score with plenty of run on the fairways and the greens are smooth and receptive. More a case of good course management winning the day on this impressively designed track, with a signature hole never too far away.
Carden – Nicklaus 17th signature
MG Pick, 17th 317 yards Par 4 (Yellow)
The second of two par fours with daunting tee shot views across lakes, yet this scene-stealing one is also placed right in front of the hotel lawn and you drive right past it on your way in.
It is possible to drive the full length to reach the green, but only just. The more realistic dilemma is just how much of the corner of the water is taken on for a shorter approach shot. Too conservative and that second blow can be very treacherous to a sloping green where everything runs back towards the lake. A memorable test of your nerve.
Unashamedly and we do find this a popular opinion among our readers and social media followers, the Cheshire Course is ours and most people’s favourite.
Designed by Alan Higgins, the Cheshire opened for play in 1993 and by five years is the older of the two. The layout fits into a classic heathland category with an increasingly woodland feel to its closing holes and it boasts some fine scenery throughout.
It’s just a little bit more natural in landscape and feel. Less obvious water hazards feature here, only really around the 12th green and 18th fairway will it potentially cause a headache although there are a few hidden ponds around.
Carden Park – 14th – Cheshire
Carden Park – 16th – Cheshire
It’s the sand traps that can provide serious grief, there are many of them, and the small pot bunkers here especially on the fairways are steep lipped and offer little hope of much yardage, just to get the ball back in play may be what you have to settle for at times.
The 14th hole is the supreme example, assuming you manage to avoid the clutch of traps that feature on the left-hand side then there are five more little terrors right in front of the green to deter those going for it in two on this short but uphill par five.
Then there’s the Ha-ha, a hazard we have never encountered before on a golf course, and maybe never will again. Remaining from the early days of the estate it features on four of the holes, especially on the long 11th.
A steep ditch with a five-foot wall in front of it, the penalty for landing in the Ha-ha is a likely trip out sideways or backwards and a frustrating hiccup for your progress.
The Cheshire Course is an enjoyable picturesque challenge throughout yet it’s the last five holes where it achieves truly memorable status. From the bunker strewn uphill 14th it turns into a woodland wonder, taking in a cute tree-lined short par three before climbing again along a tight and beautiful 16th with a coniferous forest running along the right-hand side and a delightful raised green.
A longer par three, equally as striking follows before you reach a fitting climax, raising the bar even higher.
Carden Park – 18th – Cheshire
MG Pick – 18th 314 yards Par 4
The tee sits high up at the very highest peak of Carden Park. This challenging hazard packed hole is all down there right in front of you, tempting you to have at go at the green with your driver. Unlikely as it may appear, you might only be here once, right?
Take a minute before your big decision to soak up your surroundings as well, just to the side is a sandstone cliff with fantastic views of the Cheshire Plain and the North Wales hills beyond, complimenting further this stunning conclusion to a layout that starts out very good and just keeps getting better.
Both the Nicklaus and Cheshire courses have their own practice putting greens. Halfway huts with hot food and drinks plus seating are also on both layouts. GPS buggies are plentiful and on the courses, everything is all mapped out and well signposted. The complex has a fully covered driving range which is a car drive away from the clubhouse yet worth your while given the challenges that lie ahead.
The clubhouse boasts large leather-clad locker rooms complete with sofas, wide-screen TVs and saunas. Jacks Bar is the eatery and lounge upstairs with a fabulous looking menu and panoramic views of The Cheshire Course, especially looking back up the spectacular closing hole.
All of the little golfing extras are done very well yet it is the quality and variety of its 36 holes that will define a play and stay visit. The two courses are both challenges to relish and compliment each other nicely.
From the wide-open spaces, water hazards and risk and reward posers on The Nicklaus Course to the naturally scenic, more subtle Cheshire with its eye-catching climax there’s something there for all golfers to enjoy at Carden Park.
Carden Park Hotel
Eye-catching and luxurious 4-star hotel with 198 rooms of many different types, large reception area, two restaurants, Morgan’s Bar and huge secluded outdoor space to wind down.
Refresh and Relax
Ladies and couple’s golf breaks at Carden Park are even more of a mouth-watering prospect now that the £10million Spa at Carden has reopened since lockdown. It really does have absolutely everything and is attracting rave reviews of late. www.cardenpark/spa for full details.