|Your tee shot on the 191-yard par-3 eighth must reach the green, anything that lands short will stay short. (GolfPublisher.com)|
HEVER, Kent — Set in 250 acres of lovely Kentish countryside you find Kings, Queens and Princes — three fittingly named nine-hole courses at Hever Castle Golf Club.
Suitably named — as just a short par 4 away from the course is a 13th century castle — Hever Castle the birthplace in 1507, and childhood home, of Anne Boleyn who became Henry VIII mistress and, after a bit of skullduggery, his second wife (of six) and Queen of England in 1533. However, she was then beheaded on his orders in 1536 on a trumped-up charge of high treason.
Nowhere near as hazardous, although it does have its dicey moments, is Hever Castle Golf Club, first opened in 1992 as an 18-hole golf course with an additional nine being added in 1998. The main course, the two nines which are consistently put together, are the Kings and Queens and the newest nine, the Princes, is really being marketed as a separate nine perfect for beginners and golfers without handicaps.
It's shorter with a lot of water features and does have a par 5; the raised greens mean that irons into them have to be very accurate. The 356-yard, par-4 fourth is a good risk-reward hole if you cut across the pond, and there's a tricky par 3 with an island green, too. Consequently it makes an ideal practice ground and a good warm-up nine before taking on the long Kings and Queens.
The Kings and Queens par 72 combination is 7,002 yards from the back tees. It's quite an open course, so a lot of the time you'll be looking for as much distance as possible but you also have to hit very accurate irons into the greens.
Need a challenge? Club Manager Jon Wittenberg, a 14-handicap 14, said you don't want to get beaten up every time you play.
"It can be fairly forgiving in places when you spray the old shot — although it not every hole that you get that forgiving element," Wittenberg said. "It's just about OK for me."
Laid out over gently undulating countryside, most fairways on this parkland course are lined with mature trees with only a few fairways emerging into a more open setting. Water plays a prominent part in the design, especially around three of their feature holes — called Amen corner — which begins with a par-4 11th where club selection off the tee needs thought as the water can easily be reached.
It's quite difficult to get close to the pin on the par-3 12th, too, as the sheltered green hugs the water. The par-4 13th entails crossing water twice.
Other feature holes are the fifth, where long hitters can reach the greenside stream in dry conditions from the tee. That's followed by a par 3, which can be taken for granted as it's a small green guarded by a sneaky stream at the front with a pond on the right laying in wait to catch any fade off the tee.
Even if you manage to come out of Amen corner unscathed, there are some difficult holes to follow. First, there's a very long par 3 (218 yards from the back tees), followed by a tough driving hole with a demanding green that has a massive tier in the middle, and then the daunting 17th — one of the longest holes in Europe — a 644-yard par 5 where a carefully placed tee shot is crucial, made all the more difficult to achieve by a strategically placed mature tree at around 226 yards and a pond slap bang on the corner of the right dogleg.
Stuart Pinchin, the assistant professional at Hever Castle Golf Club, said you have to score well on the front nine to get through the difficult back nine. However, it's difficult to tire of the challenge.
With an amen corner capable of ruining any card, combined with a tough back nine boasting one of the longest holes in Europe, it's a real challenge and you need to be playing well. A warm-up nine on the Princes might not be such a bad idea after all.
Located in the middle of the Kent countryside, it's a nice course to be on (particularly during the summer months when the greens are at their best and very true) with plenty of wildlife. You also get an occasional glimpse of Hever Castle, which is open to the general public, as well as views of the castle lake.
Summer green fees for 2006 (April-October) on the main course: the Kings and Queens will cost 37 pounds Monday-Thursday; 40 pounds on Friday and 45 pounds on Saturday, Sunday and bank holidays.
Tee times can be booked up to two weeks in advance. The nine-hole Princess course costs 13 pounds for nine holes and 16 for 18 holes Monday-Friday and 16 pounds for nine holes and 21 for 18 holes on Saturday and Sunday.
On the same estate and 100 yards from the golf club, but not owned by Hever Castle, you'll find the Tudor-style Hever Hotel, which was originally the farm serving Hever Castle. It features a series of individually styled rooms, suites and apartments are located in the converted original stables and cottages.
The Leicester Arms is a traditional English pub in Penshurst village, approximately six miles away from the course. It has seven bedrooms, including one with a four-poster bed.
The older part of Wheatsheaf at Bough Beech was reputedly once a hunting lodge owned by Henry V.
There's a club bar and restaurant menu running during the day at Hever Castle Golf Club itself, which has a fairly comprehensive menu and the chef offers specials every day.
The Stables Restaurant & Bar at Hever Hotel also offers nightly specials, including an English roast on Sundays, an a la carte menu, plus a takeout menu for any hotel guest who wishes to dine in their apartment.
For pub grub, there's the nearby 17th century King Henry VIII, a lovely old English pub right opposite the impressive main entrance gate to Hever Castle and grounds, within one mile of the golf course. There's also the 14th century Wheatsheaf at Bough Beech, still with some of its original timbers and features.
November 20, 2006
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
Darren Clarke learned to play the game at Dungannon Golf Club, a pretty parkland course right in the middle of Northern Ireland. While the course is pretty enough and the green fee is almost embarrassingly reasonable, the appeal of Dungannon is the opportunity to pay homage to the 2011 British Open champion, Clive Agran writes from County Tyrone.
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