THE HEVER CASTLE GOLF EXPERIENCE: A REGAL FEELING IN ENGLAND’S COUNTY OF KENT

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Would you like to experience royalty without the responsibility of wearing the crown! If so, head to England’s county of Kent.
Historic castles are a somewhat common sight throughout England, but very few of them are inhabitable and affiliated with golf clubs. One of the exceptions can be found in southeastern England – near Edenbridge in the county of Kent. There, you’ll find the historic Hever Castle (www.hevercastle.co.uk) and the nearby Hever Castle Golf Club (www.hevercastle.co.uk/golf/). Yes, you can sleep in luxury inside a real English castle. And, then wake up in the morning for golf after enjoying a Full Hever Breakfast – eggs (fried, poached, or scrambled), grilled back bacon, Speldhurst Cumberland sausage, grilled tomato, and a field of sautéed mushrooms, which can be accompanied by baked beans, black pudding, Castle baked croissants, toast with Southdown butter, porridge, and classic English breakfast tea. You can also order Eggs Royale or Eggs Benedict, grilled kippers or Scottish smoked salmon. Obviously, breakfast is the real deal at Hever Castle.

“I’m not too sure how many castles where you can stay in the United Kingdom, but I can say with every certainty that there are none offering such beauty and history as ours and certainly none with such a terrific breakfast!” said Kate Rowbottom, Sales Manager, Hever Castle.

This story about the Hever Castle-Hever Castle Golf Club affiliation is filled with as many superlatives on Hever Castle as there are on its golf course, which is one of the finest, well-maintained, scenic, and cleverly designed golf courses in England. It’s not a stretch to say that this stay-and-play experience will definitely rank as one of the highlights of your trip to England. It was for me and it will be for you.

The actual Hever Castle has been in existence far longer than the golf course. The castle was completed in the year 1270, more than 700 years ago. To put things in their proper perspective, it’s important to remember that golf was not invented in Scotland until the 1400s. It’s worth noting that Hever Castle was the childhood home of Ann Boleyn, the second wife of the late King Henry VIII. When you take a tour through Hever Castle, you’ll get a chance to visit Ann Boleyn’s bedroom, as well as other parts of the castle where her family dined, read, slept, listened to music, and entertained guests.

Besides getting a chance to tour Hever Castle, the gardens at Hever Castle are another alluring attraction of this destination. It’s quite possible that you will spend more time walking through the gardens at Hever Castle as you will be playing the Hever Castle Golf Club. While touring the gardens, make sure that you enjoy the fragrance from the 4,000+ roses in the Rose Garden, stroll through the Italian Garden, visit Blue Corner, allow your children to play in the Tudor Towers, make the trek to the Japanese Tea House, and pet the miniature horses. But, please, don’t get lost in the Water Maze or the 100-year-old Yew Maze.
By the way, if you stay at Hever Castle, you get 24-hour-access to the gardens. And, the front desk will let you borrow a torch (aka, a flashlight) for any nighttime tours.

When you spend the night at Hever Castle, you’ll discover that every room is different and every room has its own name. I slept in the Pippin Room of the Anne Boleyn Wing. Many of the rooms overlook the castle gardens and the apple orchard, which sits adjacent to the castle moat, and no expense was spared in designing each bedroom at Hever Castle. With all that you expect in a modern accommodation, it’s designed in keeping with the Tudor look and tradition. Both the actual castle and the gardens are magnificent displays of historic preservation (Hever Castle) and artistic agronomy (the gardens).

Golf arrived at Hever Castle in the 1920s when a private nine-hole course was built north of the Hever lakes where today’s championship course now lies. It was created for the personal enjoyment of the then American owners (the Astor family) their friends and business contacts.

The Hever Castle Golf Club, featuring an impressive Tudor-style clubhouse, is less than a mile from the entrance to the grounds of Hever Castle. The golf course features the 18-hole Championship Course, a nine-hole Princes course, and a nine-hole Express course, which is less than 800 yards long, which is designed for new golfers. The Championship Course, which opened in 1992, truly deserves the championship moniker.

There’s a certain amount of symmetry to the Championship Course at the Hever Castle Golf Club, as this 18-hole, par-72 design opens and closes with a par four, while par fives mark the end of the front nine and the beginning of the back nine. The first five holes at Hever are all par fours whilst the front nine concludes with a par 3-par 5-par 3-par 5 combination, all four of which are birdie possibilities, especially the short par-3 6th hole.

Combined, the 11th, 12th, and 13th holes are called ‘Amen Corner’ because water and slick greens are the focal point of three holes. If you can emerge from that trio of holes with three pars, it’s worth saying “Amen.”
The 11th hole at Hever Castle, a downhill par four measuring less than 400 yards from the tips, can best be described as tropically exotic. The presence of a greenside pond is accentuated by a variety of leafy trees and flowering plants which make it very appealing to the eye as you approach the putting surface.

The short par three 12th hole has the look and feel of the 12th at the Augusta National GC in Georgia. Like its Georgia ‘cousin,’ reaching the putting surface at Hever Castle’s 12th requires a short iron shot to a shallow green whose sentry is a small pond, very similar to Rae’s Creek that protects the entrance to the 12th green at Augusta. And, just like the 12th at Augusta, there’s a significant amount of plant growth behind the 12th green at the Hever Castle GC.

Water impacts play from the beginning to the end at the short, par four 13th hole. Avoid water along the left side of the hole on the tee shot. Your approach to the green must cross a small canal, just as the approach to the 13th at Augusta must cross a narrow strip of Rae’s Creek. Concentration, focus, and club selection are the keys to avoiding a watery grave in the final leg of Hever Castle’s own ‘Amen Corner.’

Ideally located, the Hever Castle-Hever Castle GC stay-and-play destination is very close to London and its two major airports — about a 90-minute drive from Heathrow and a short, 30-minute drive from Gatwick Airport.
After a day playing golf at the Hever Castle GC, which is either followed or preceded by a day visiting everything there is to see and do at Hever Castle, it really is a two-day experience and one worth repeating in the not-too-distant future, as one can never get enough of Hever Castle and its golf course. It truly is a regal feeling as you experience royalty without the responsibility of wearing the crown!

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About Author

Mike May

Mike May is a freelance golf writer based in Wellington, Florida. Mike, an avid golfer, is also a member of the Golf Writers Association of America. He traces his roots as a golf writer to the 1983 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale -- which he attended for all four days -- and then voluntarily wrote his own account of that major championship event. In addition to being a golf writer, Mike coaches girls high school basketball, officiates high school soccer, and works with a cause (PHIT America) that is focused on bringing daily P.E. back to all U.S. schools. Mike is a 1985 graduate of the University of Florida where he earned a degree in broadcasting. Mike can be reached on email at: mmaymarketing@gmail.com

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