A modern championship layout with a touch of class on the back-nine

Forest of Arden

Forest of Arden Golf Club (Championship Arden)

Date Reviewed
December 15, 2015
Reviewed by Ed Battye
Located in the heart of the Midlands amongst rural Warwickshire countryside the Forest of Arden, owned and managed by Marriott Hotels, is a popular golf destination in the UK.

The Packington Estate venue, originally designed in 1970 and then updated by Donald Steel in the early nineties, has hosted a number of notable professional tournaments including the English Open and British Masters.

It will therefore come as no surprise that the course can stretch to well over 7,000 yards from the back tees and there is a modern championship feel to the de rigueur par 72 layout.

A round on the main Arden course – there is also the par 69 Aylesford course - is very much a tale of two halves and allows you to walk in the footsteps of the stars of the game who competed here just before and after the turn of the millennium. You can count Colin Montgomerie and Darren Clarke amongst the champions crowned here.

The front nine unquestionably suffers from poorer terrain and with the exception of the excellent fourth hole it delivers pretty much what you would expect from a hotel resort-style course; flat fairways lined by lush semi-rough, big American-style bunkers and large greens with minimal movement.

The fourth hole really is the shining light on the outward half. It’s a dog-legging par four that entices you to bite off a little bit more than you perhaps should before playing to a sloping green with water jutting out to protect the front-left side.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with the other holes but, with the exception of the double-green at the third/sixth and the lake-fronted par-three eighth, there are few really memorable moments.

The transformation on the back-nine is quite staggering. The turf is firmer and the landscape has a lovely open, almost heathland, feel to it with mature trees and bracken enhancing the richness of this part of the property. Most importantly though, and undoubtedly as a consequence of the improved golfing ground, the actual holes are better.

The tenth is a fine two-shotter that sweeps downhill before rising back up to the green and immediately tells the golfers that they’ve entered different golfing territory. From here on the golf is of a much finer calibre which you also get to share with deer that roam the fairways.

There are two 'made-for-television' par fives on this side of the estate which both feature water perilously close to the green. You could argue they are a little samey in that they run in the same direction, and adjacent to each other, but both are good holes; they entice you to go for the green if in range but there is a way round the water for us mere mortals if you so wish; down the right at the 12th and to the left at the 17th.

The 11th, 13th and 14th are all pleasing two-shotters but the best hole on the inward half is easily the 16th. There are similarities to the fourth is so much that the hole legs to the right and water protects the green, but this time a little bit more aggressively. A shorter approach and better angle is the reward for hugging the right-side of the hole but this is where most of the danger lurks.

The round closes with the famous par-three played across one of the many lakes that you will come across during your round, however, of all the short holes I actually prefer the 15th which has the option of several interesting pin locations.

As with most courses of this ilk they tend to play better in the summer months when the ground is not as soft, there is more run on the ball and the greens are at their best.

The Forest of Arden is often compared to The Belfry, not least because of its proximity but also because the style is similar and their history of hosting televised golf tournaments. There’s no dispute in my mind that The Belfry is the superior course; it has a couple of outstanding holes that the Forest of Arden simply doesn’t possess and it’s consistently better too. That said, the Forest Arden certainly boasts the most enjoyable nine of both courses (in their back-nine) which is just a lovely loop of golf.

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