The hotel complex at Carden Park is all about luxury but how does the Cheshire course measure up?
Carden Park self-titles as ‘Cheshire’s country estate’ and it’s pretty grand – topping 1,000 acres in all. It was built by former Wolverhampton Wanderers chairman Steve Morgan and alongside 198 bedrooms is two restaurants, a new spa on the way, swimming pool, sauna, gym – you name it, it’s probably here.
There are also 36 holes on site, with the Nicklaus and Cheshire courses. At a recent club captain’s weekend, I had a run at the latter…
What can we expect from the Cheshire course at Carden Park?
Trees, and lots of them. The Cheshire course makes its way through wooded fells behind the clubhouse and there’s a plethora of species – and particularly pine – to wind along. That said, this wouldn’t be the kind of tight parkland you might expect. The trees frame, rather than grab the throat of the holes, and there’s actually quite a lot of room off the tee as the main challenges come later.
The Cheshire starts with a par 3, and 170 yards off the back tees, to a narrow entranced green that is protected by bunkers on both sides. That’s going to require a pre-round warm up if you’re going to come out firing.
In fact, negotiating the par 3, par 5 start, followed by a middling length par 4 that has out of bounds all down the right hand side, can really make or ruin your day.
What were your favourite holes?
There’s plenty to enjoy. The approach to the 10th, that requires a soft landing to a slightly raised green amid a backdrop of Scots pine, lingers in the memory.
You think you’re going to make mincemeat of a par 5 14th that’s only 425 yards off the yellows – only to discover that the second, or third, shot to a crowded green that’s perched is far more difficult than you thought from the tee.
But it’s the finish that really stands out. The tee shot at 16 is one of the few that’s hemmed in and it feels utterly claustrophobic, while the green is blind from the approach. The par 3 penultimate hole, coming back against those trees, is a lovely ‘short’ shot but no giveaway at 201 yards.
The 18th, which looks back across the estate from a raised tee that reminds a little of the closing hole at Alwoodley, is a fitting end.
Tell us about your best bit?
Parring 17, with a my best long iron of the day, and negotiating a pretty difficult sideways putt was pleasing. But with my game still in a little in the doldrums, spanking a drive on the 3rd and then feathering a little pitch over the water hazard to about 10 feet changed my outlook and temporarily lifted the struggles.
Jack Nicklaus had a big role to play in the development of Carden Park. He obviously designed the Nicklaus course and the clubhouse is absolutely full of novelties and memorabilia from his career. Next time, I’ll play it.
Finally, where is it?
This luxury complex is around 20 minutes away from Chester, in Cheshire. You can find more information, including tee times and green fees, on the Carden Park website.
Have you played the Cheshire course at Carden Park? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below, or tweet me.