Nestling in 15 acres of landscaped grounds, in the Heart of England, a region renowned for its castles, cathedrals and canals, and within easy reach of the historic cities of Warwick and Coventry, and the cultural attractions of Birmingham, Nailcote Hall Hotel, Golf and Country Club features a restaurant to tantalize the taste buds and a par 3 golf course to test even the most time-served of golfers.
Warwickshire not only has more than its fair share of historic houses and a good helping of market towns and pretty villages, but also links to William the Conqueror, the Gunpowder Plot, Lady Godiva, and William Shakespeare. Explore pretty byways, quaint villages and scenic towpaths such as at Lapworth, junction of two canals, with its flight of locks; discover chapters of history in Dunchurch – Dick Turpin’s base and the ‘Gunpowder Plot village’; uncover the legend of sassy Lady Godiva in Coventry, and follow in the footsteps of the Bard of Avon in Shakespeare Country. Coventry is renowned for its cathedrals, and cosmopolitan Birmingham for its world-class art galleries and myriad attractions.
To a serious golfer, it’s rare to hear another rave about a par 3 course. We all tend to want to play on a long and challenging 18-hole golf course. Nailcote Hall’s par 3 gem, however, is like no other – it’s wicked. Reckoned to be the best par 3 course in the country by Today’s Golfer magazine, every year Nailcote Hall hosts the Farmfoods British Par 3 Championship, attracting legendary golfers Tony Jacklin (keen proponent of the par 3 format) and Ian Woosnam (the first Masters Champion to play in the Par 3 Championship). There’s a shiny new clubhouse, too, for special events and corporate golf days, which has a glass-fronted balcony overlooking the immaculately kept parkland course.
The pretty 9-hole, par 3 Cromwell course is deceptively laid out with a cunning use of water – it takes a few holes, and the loss of several balls in watery graves, to realise it’s all a wily optical illusion: distance is difficult to gauge because of the varying sizes of trees, and clubbing even more so as many holes are all carry from tee to green. Cromwell takes no prisoners. Think elevated, sloping, small or upturned greens. Water on six holes, protected greens (hole 3, ‘Woosie’s Pond’) or greens with a narrow entrance (hole 5, aptly named the ‘Needle’s Eye’), overhanging oak trees, threatening bunkers in front of – and out-of-bounds a few yards away from – greens, make for a thought-provoking round. This is a kill-or-cure course for anyone with short game problems but, after all, “practice makes perfect” says an 8-handicap golfer when asked what he thinks of the course. “A real challenge” he adds, playing it for the nth time “it’s a great little course”. As for novice golfers… there’s no need to feel daunted, the course is tucked away to the side of the hotel and there are plenty of trees and shrubs to shroud any embarrassingly miss-hit balls.
Infused with character, the black and white timber-framed Jacobean manor features period rooms in the original building (ask for one that enjoys garden views). If ‘contemporary’ floats your boat, consider opting for one of the swanky, spacious rooms in the new wing. Fitness enthusiasts can freak out in the well-equipped gym, chill-out in the steam room, bliss-out in the Jacuzzi, and take a relaxing dip in the 14-metre Roman-style pool.
As for the Oak Room Restaurant, think cuisine fit for a foodie – this restaurant is definitely a hotspot for gastronomes, the flambé dishes cooked table-side are to die for, the food presentation to admire. For a casual eatery, slip downstairs to Rick’s Garden Café, or for a scrumptious afternoon with freshly cut finger sandwiches and melt-in-your-mouth macaroons book yourself into the Oak Room. For that extra kick, swap the blend of tea for a G&T.
Nailcote Hall makes a fine base for history and heritage buffs, architectural historians, and National Trust members (downloading the local tourism, EH and NT apps onto your smartphone will prove handy for information and opening times). Nailcote manor itself was damaged by Cromwell’s troops during the Civil War on their way to assault Kenilworth Castle – now an impressive English Heritage site less than 4 miles from the hotel. Kenilworth Castle, the haunt of Queen Elizabeth I and home of Robert Dudley, the queen’s great love, features recently installed stairs that ascend to the very top of the soaring tower and a recreated Elizabethan garden.
Not to be outdone, the National Trust really comes into its own in the area, so pack comfy walking shoes. Green-fingered guests will be in their element at the nursery and gardens of 16th Century Charlecote Park (26 miles from Nailcote), where fans of Victoriana can linger in splendid interiors. Just north of historic Warwick (7.6 miles from Nailcote), visit the late-16th-Century moated manor house Baddesley Clinton – a Tudor refuge with its hidey-holes for persecuted Catholic priests; its walled garden and vegetable patch will satisfy the ambitious horticulturalist… as will the overflowing herbaceous borders and yew topiary gardens at Packwood House, a Jacobean-cum-Edwardian style house 8 miles from Baddesley.
It’s not all culture-vulture stuff in the Heart of England though. Walkers, pack some stout boots if you want to stretch your legs along with your imagination, to wander Warwickshire’s network of trails, lowlands, woods and towpaths, popping in to a canal-side inn for a pint of ale. With such a wealth of attractions within easy reach of Nailcote Hall, it is no surprise that, like Tony Jacklin, increasing numbers of golfers are becoming keen proponents of the less time-consuming par 3 format. Nailcote Hall Hotel, Golf and Country Club has successfully killed two birdies with one stone… giving golfers the best par 3 course in the country, as well as time in hand to discover Warwickshire.
Cromwell course holes that can make or break any scorecard:
- Nailcote Falls (Hole 7, 133 yards) demands accuracy off the tee to avoid a potential 3 putts, ponds at the front and back, and the feature oak tree on the right.
- Torrance’s Twin Oaks (Hole 8, 106 yards) features a highly elevated, small green where an over-hit will be met by water; fall short and a deep bunker awaits.
- Moulie’s Bridge (Hole 9, 146 yards) presents a daunting view from the tee of a riveted bunker and water running the full length of the hole – nothing but a perfect shot will do.
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.