Later this month the European Tour will visit the north of England for the first time since 2005 – and Golf365 celebrated with a visit of our own.
Of course The Open has been played in England’s North during the last 15 years, but you have to go all the way back to the 2005 Seve Trophy for the most recent visits by a regular European Tour event.
Which is why there is high excitement about the British Masters being hosted by Lee Westwood at Close House in late September.
Whilst that takes place in the North-East, we headed North-West, to the MacDonald Portal Hotel, Golf & Spa, a few miles outside Chester and an ideal location for weekend and group golf, being within 70 miles of Birmingham, Leeds and all of the North-West – perfect for friends getting together from all parts of the country.
Location is not the only advantage of Portal because it also features two superb 18-hole courses, an academy with a 9-hole course, full spa, plus great dining and bar facilities – all bases covered for a complete stay with zero travel once your arrive.
The Championship Course winds around the hotel on undulating ground that throws up nice contrasts.
It opens with two enticing short par-4s which allows you to hit the third tee with either boosted confidence or with a foolish sense of false pride. That third tee box sits amongst a beautiful corner of trees and plants, offering a wonderful view of a par-5 that ends with a green protected by an attractive pond.
The course then climbs back towards the hotel and skirts the higher levels of the land. The challenge is ideal for groups: it’s wide from the tee so won’t hurt low handicappers or leave groups searching for lost balls, but at the same time good players have a challenge, gleaned from attacking doglegs, taking on water hazards and firing at par-5 greens in two.
On the back nine the signature holes are the par-3 15th, protected by a pond with a stunning backdrop of mature woodland, and the 16th, a par-4 with a similar challenge for the approach.
After golf it’s time to hit the pool and spa, maybe the gym if you’ve got the energy. The pool is big enough and long enough to get plenty of laps under your belt, but the real highlight comes from the sauna, steam room, scented steam room and ice room – the perfect wind down before dinner or pick me up before the second round.
The Scottish Steakhouse enjoys wide panoramic views over the property and serves excellent food – classic dishes with a modern twist – whilst the lounge bar is the perfect place to close out the evening.
The Premier Course is just up the road and offers a smart challenge: the front nine sucks you in, with five shortish par-4s in the first eight holes, then the 441-yard ninth hints at what is to come – long par-4s on the back nine, plus a long and tough par-3 17th which sits between par-5s at 16 and 18.
Both courses have great views of the Cheshire countryside and sweeps across the contours of the land, testing approach play with up and downhill shots.
All in all Portal is a great venue for a trip: a fun and attractive golf test, good food, an excellent spa and big bedrooms too.
To visit the website, click here.
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