Handily located mid-country, within easy reach of the chocolate-box Cotswolds, the scenic Worcestershire countryside and the cultural attractions of Birmingham, and with easy access from a network of motorways, the Abbey Hotel, Golf and Spa has no problem luring golfers to its peaceful parkland course.
To the south-west of the Abbey’s privileged heart-of-England setting lies the Cotswolds, quintessentially English countryside blessed with charming limestone villages, beech woodlands, river valleys, beautiful gardens, castles, intriguing stately homes and cathedrals. To the north is cosmopolitan Birmingham, the second largest city in the UK, offering myriad attractions, including fascinating museums, world-class art galleries and – eat your heart out Willy Wonka – even a chocolate factory.
Designed by renowned golf course architect Donald Steel, the Abbey Hotel’s 18-hole course is attractively moulded over its 175-acre estate. Set amid a variety of trees any arboretum would be pleased to house, the mature course features large greens (some tiered and tricky to read), three wicked par 3s, fairway ditches and ponds that come into play, quite a few out-of-bounds, and some sharp dog-legs. The course looks mature for its age, just 35 years old, but a couple of the holes have been recently reconfigured, happily not to the course’s detriment. The fairways are mostly wide and forgiving, and the rough is kept short to keep play flowing, but there are coppices and stands of trees dotted around the course to which the errant ball can easily succumb.
Brain rather than brawn is needed on the 1st – the tantalisingly short par 4 has a 90-degree dog-leg and, yes, red-blooded golfers can cut the corner but, with a 265-yard carry and fresh on the tee, who’s brave enough to take on the challenge at the start of a game, especially with the magnetic out-of-bounds behind the green? Get thoughts of emulating Tiger Woods out of mind and lay up at the dog-leg with a short club. Club selection is paramount on the well-guarded par 3s as water plays a major part on all three of them. Water comes into play too driving from the elevated 17th tee, which warrants a 140-yard-plus carry over a wide expanse of water – thrilling but potentially costly. There are a lot of good holes on this course including the 18th where the shot over the fairway ditch into the green can be unnerving. It’s a short but picturesque finishing hole – both from the playing angle and from the 19th-hole terrace high above the green.
Before any bad drive or shanked iron can become a nightmare reality, grab some clubs and amble down to the 2-tier, 28-bay floodlit driving range to practice; it’s a golf fanatic’s dream with professional target greens, high grade Srixon range balls, TrackMan technology and heated teaching bays.
Pack comfy walking shoes, update the car’s GPS, and download the Visit Birmingham and National Trust (NT) apps to your smart phone – this region oozes NT properties. For a culture fix, art aficionados should check out Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery to view Old Masters, modern classics, and an awe-inspiring collection of pre-Raphaelite artwork – the largest in the world. Amateur historians might like to potter around Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter, Soho House, the city’s striking St Phillip’s Cathedral, and – to the east – Shakespeare’s Stratford.
Adults and children alike can enjoy jaw-dropping history at Warwick Castle; Birmingham’s new attraction, the Wonderful World of Trains and Planes; and revel in interactive fun in the Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum and Garden. Chocoholics can play in chocolate rain, sip a pot of delicious liquid Cadbury dairy milk, and watch chocolatiers work their magic at Cadbury World.
Architecture and history buffs take the 26-mile foray to Worcester to wonder at the awesome structure and stained glass of Worcester Cathedral which rises grandly above the River Severn – its history dates back to the Magna Carta. Stroll alongside the Severn, or hop aboard a river boat for a 45-minute sightseeing cruise or a traditional afternoon tea cruise.
Green-fingered gardeners can get lost in the extensive grounds and beautiful walled gardens of Coughton Court, just 14 miles south of the Abbey Hotel, Golf and Spa, while inside the house political anoraks can bury their heads in secret plots – they abound at this magnificent National Trust property and home, since 1409, to 20 generations of the Throckmorton family.
Situated a stone’s throw from the very hub of the UK’s motorway network, the Abbey Hotel Golf and Spa sits peacefully in its lush parkland surroundings. True there are some ‘interruptions’ early mornings but, hey, who can possible object to contented golfers teeing off when you’re itching to get out on the course to join them?
Golf tips from the golf pro at the Abbey Hotel, Golf and Spa:
- Know your yardages: It’s important to understand exactly how far you hit each club from a carry perspective. Too many golfers overestimate their distances as they focus more on total distance (with bounce and roll) and assume there is a 10 yard difference between each club. With mid to higher handicappers the carry ‘gap’ tends to narrow from 6 iron upwards. To find out exactly how far you hit your irons/hybrids book in a Trackman gapping session.
- Gear effect: Understand the importance of impact location. A shot struck towards the toe or heel of a club doesn’t just lose you distance, it also massively affects direction/curvature. With modern technology, it’s often difficult to feel exactly where you are hitting it on the face, so during practice try spraying your clubface (foot spray is ideal!) or use face label stickers to see what your strike pattern is and how it affects flight. Notice how slight toe strikes curl the ball left and heel strikes curl to the right with both woods and irons.
- Use the bounce on your wedges: I see too many golfers pitching the ball with the hands too far forwards and digging the leading edge of the club into the ground. Try less shaft lean, a central to forwards ball position and with a shallow angle of attack feel the bounce of the club sliding along the turf at the bottom of the swing. This provides margin for error and any ground struck before the ball can still result in a successful pitch.
Linda Jackson is a golf and travel writer. Former associate editor of Great Golf Magazine, her work has been published in over 40 different titles, including The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal.