Every year, as the clocks go forward, a little treat is pencilled into the diary as a reward for enduring another long, dark winter. The Inaugural Spring Break, now in its eighth year, is, much like Augusta, the most eagerly anticipated few days of the year given its place on the calendar. Clubs are polished, bags rearranged, new gloves unsheathed and new balls purchased.
The past couple of years have taken in Fife and South Wales. This year, to square the circle, a trip to the South of England was laid out with the best that Dorset had to offer.
Ferndown would be our first port of call. This is where Peter Alliss learnt the game; his father Percy was the professional at the club for 28 years, and it is no wonder the great man quickly fell in love with the game. Not overly long, at just under 6,500 yards off the white tees, the Old Course – there is also the nine-hole President’s – is a beauty with not a weak hole on it. Within a hole you are away from anyone and anything and into a secluded world of tranquility and calm where the chance to score comes on the three par 5s, all around the 500-yard mark.
However, given that the course has played host to tour events for the men, women and seniors there is plenty to undo a round, whether in the form of heather, the slick and undulating greens or clever bunkering.
Eight miles away lies another heathland gem, Broadstone. Harry Colt redesigned it in 1920 and the course plays pretty much as it was set out then. Bernard Darwin described it as the ‘Gleneagles of the South’ and, even at the end of March, it is easy to see why.
Five holes in you have worked your way up through the heather, pine, gorse and rhododendrons to be presented with magnificent views of the Dorset countryside and this is where the course really begins to impress and the need for accurate driving, and often long, becomes more essential.
For difficulty, the 7th is the standout hole with an approach of something around the 200-yard mark required for the second and the run towards the 15th is as spectacular as it is challenging.
All four par 3s are glorious, the 8th being the best, where picturing the shot is straightforward enough, but pulling it off less so.
Parkstone is a beautiful and mature heathland 18 hole course with lakes, standings of mature pines and a wide variety of wildlife together with panoramic views over Poole Harbour to Brownsea Island and the coastal downs of the Isle of Purbeck. This is one of the most visually appealing courses you will ever play, it has fantastic views from the clubhouse, which continue around the course. This James Braid layout is not long by modern standards, but it has certainly stood the test of time, as it is a technical course requiring strategic thinking and precise execution.
There are no weak holes at Parkstone and many memorable ones, but the magnificent Par 5 17th and testing Par 3 18th provide an excellent finish to a wonderful round.
It is rare indeed that a course of Remedy Oak’s calibre opens these days and rarer still that such a place lives up to its billing. You can expect to hear plenty about this special inland layout to the north of Bournemouth, on the Dorset side of the border with Hampshire, and the reality justifies the hype.
Designed by John Jacobs in 250 acres of mature – ancient, even – woodland, it is a place where spectacular natural advantage has combined with generous owners to create an exceptional experience.
It has a feeling of refined class from the moment the imposing gates silently part and you make your way through a property where silence is broken only by birdsong and the occasional rattle of Titleist against pine. In places, Remedy Oak is not unlike Loch Lomond and is surely at least the equal of the Marquess course at Woburn. A modern take on the woodland theme, it is to Jacobs’ great credit that while this is a 7,000-yard championship layout designed to stand the test of time, it is perfectly playable (from the right tees) for the average player.
Every stretch of testing holes is broken up by something more manageable and in an era when to design a short par four seems almost to be an admission of weakness, Jacobs obliges with two examples. Remedy is all the better for it – allowing the brave player the chance of a birdie on a risk-and-reward basis is to be applauded.
NOTE: Article Courtesy of National Club Golfer