The Lakes Course
Cheese and port. Salt and vinegar.
Some things just naturally go together.
Another is historic homes and great golf courses.
For history buffs, the house was built in 1545 by Sir John Wentworth, a member of Cardinal Wolsey’s household, and hosted Royal visits by Queen Elizabeth I throughout the middle of the 16th century.
During the French Revolution, it was the home of King Louis XVIII and his Queen, Marie-Josephine-Louise of Savoy, who had fled France. History does not recall what he was like with a 9 iron.
Now it is home to the Gosfield Lake Golf Club, complete with a splendid Clubhouse, boasting the 18-Hole Lakes Course, designed by World Golf Hall of Fame’s Henry Cotton, and the 9-Hole Meadows Course.
The Lakes Course is a gloriously understated test in a sublime country setting.
The Par 5 1st Hole is gentle enough, other than from the winter tee, a massive ancient tree which sits plumb in the middle of the fairway. Do you attempt the draw, the fade, or hope the old saying about there being more air than branches is true?
Whichever you decide, you will still probably hear that distinctive thwack of ball meeting bark.
After the gentle Par 3 2nd, the course really comes alive at the 3rd, the first example of how its historical setting has been sympathetically moulded to create some beautiful challenges.
At 360 yards, it is not the longest par four, and a decent drive to the typically generous way fairway sets up a nice approach to a tight green.
However, in front, a lake awaits to catch any ball which is not crisply hit. There is a safer landing area to the right but if, after three holes you are playing safe, it is probably time to have a word with yourself.
The delights continue on the 4th. The white tee is not the faint hearted, hitting over water down a narrow-wooded copse, but the yellow tee hardly negates the holes challenges.
This 427-yard par 5 doglegs twice, with trees left and right waiting to punish the wayward. Again, the prize at the end is a beautifully conditioned subtle green.
After the Par 3 5th, again hitting over water, and the superbly placed bunkers waiting to ensnare you on the 6th, you are starting to appreciate the course’s attractions, the main one of which is subtlety.
The fairways are not too tight, you can usually recover from the rough and the bunkers are not to numerous, there are opportunities to score well. To do so though, its length means you must be hitting the ball well, you must find the right areas of the green and play sensitively.
The Course is there to be taken advantage of, but it is not giving up without demanding some finesse. In hard ground conditions, “grip it and rip it” will simply see you slowly leak shots to those with more subtlety.
The 7th is another drive over water while the 9th brings you under the gaze of the galleried Clubhouse.
The 10th is, again, about finesse. The fairway dogs sharply to the right with a lake sitting 220 yards from the tee. Hit it too hard and you could end up wet. However, a safer iron will leave you more than 200 yards to the green; and what a green. With three tiers and three bunkers, there is plenty of opportunity for three putts.
Bunkers straddle the 11th fairway but there are reasonable scoring opportunities to the 14th where another lake challenges you to try and reach the green in two. Are you hitting it well? You had better be.
The 16th is tighter than most, with trees lining the fairway, while the 18th again asks for intelligence rather than brute force. From the tee there is a bunker big enough to lose a camel in and over that, a lake effectively cuts the fairway in two. Once again, placement and intelligence are more important than power.
This is a beautifully sculpted, understated, mature parkland course.
With wide fairways and gently undulating greens it could undoubtedly give you a decent score.
But with lurking lakes, the trees in full foliage and hard ground it could also leave you wondering just where all those shots went.
Visit once, and you will be back.
Driving range: No (full open air hitting area).
Putting green: Yes
Chipping practice area: Yes
Short course: Yes (full nine-hole Meadows course)
Golf shop: Yes
Changing and shower facilities: Yes
Buggies for hire: Yes
Clubs for hire: No