By Sam Tremlett
Which courses should you look at playing in the county? We take a look.
The Best Golf Courses In Bedfordshire
The Bedfordshire Golf Club is the oldest club in the county having been around for roughly 120 years but by no means is that the only course worth playing in Bedfordshire.
From Luton Hoo to Ian Poulter's Leighton Buzzard, where he turned assistant pro off a handicap of four, we had taken a look at some of the best on offer below.
Related: Golf Monthly’s UK&I Top 100 Courses
The Best Golf Courses In Bedfordshire
The attractive course at Luton Hoo starts and ends in the estates beautiful Capability Brown parkland, and this brought with it a design restriction. While earthmoving would be granted for greens and tees, it would not be allowed elsewhere. Architect Mike Smith could have introduced sand in the land further out which is home to the majority of the playing surfaces, but for consistency chose not to do so. The result is something of a strange brew - a new course with no sand bunkers - and it was built without the removal of a single tree.
Rather, 1,500 oak, beech and sweet chestnut saplings were transplanted from other areas of the 1,000-acre estate creating a course that is partly mature parkland, and partly modern-American in appearance. The absence of sand does not necessarily make it any easier, and water comes into play on a few holes, particularly at the snaking par-5 11th where it will strongly influence the choise for the second shot. The most southerly course in the county, its long but has plenty to offer and is kept in excellent condition.
Bedford & County
This pretty parkland layout just three miles from Bedford torn centre has a real middle-of-nowhere feel despite its relative proximity to the busy market town. There are a number of stirring holes, with the drive over Scots Pines on the 6th among the most memorable heading out. The short uphill par-3 12th is fronted by a huge horseshoe bunker , whilst the long, testing 15th stands out on the final run for home, playing down, round and up to a green with a pretty backdrop of pines. You then have to play over those same pines on the 180-yard par 3 that follows, so no scope for a low punch here.
Regarded by many as the county's premier course, the John O'Gaunt is the older, more challenging and varied of two fine course at the homonymous club. With the exception of the short 16th, the front nine loops round the back and a real joy is that you constantly change direction facing new and very attractive challenges all the way. The stroke indices one to four are all very challenging par 4s, and other memorable holes include two extremely pretty par 3s at four and the, and a most unusual long hole at 17 where the green is set away to the right beyond an old, dry moat. Very enjoyable and highly recommended.
Just five miles from Luton Hoo as the red kite flies, Dunstable Downs could hardly be more different. Designed by the great James Braid, it runs over higher ground in the south of the county and is very much a game of two halves. The front nine is home to both of the long holes as well as three of the four par 3s while the back is made up of eight straight par 4s before ending with the final short hole, which is protected by no fewer than ten bunkers. There are many strong holes, the most attractive of which is the delightful 9th, which is just a pitch to a beautifully-sited green surrounded by sand.
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Bedfordshire Golf Club was founded in 1891 though it wasn't until 2000 that the club moved to its present site just west of Bedford at Stagsden. The course at the clubs new location, designed by Cameron Sinclair, has bedded in well over the last 10 years. Woodland lining one side of the course and a number of old oak trees across the layout give a sense of maturity. The holes flow well over the naturally rolling terrain to challenging, sloping greens.
Millbrook Golf Club was formed in the 1970s and originally called itself Lyshott Heath, however the name was soon reverted back in the early 2000's. Peculiarly, the round starts with two par-5s with both offering birdie opportunities. The first is a severe dog-leg but the main goal here is just to get a good drive away and then you are left with probably a mid-iron into the green. However be wary because Out Of Bounds lurks all the way down the right and long of the green.
The second is a much longer par-5 at 593-yards off the back tees but the only things to say here are; avoid the fairway bunkers, and avoid the ditch. Achieve those things and you will have a chance at a good score here. The third is a long par-4 at over 450 yards off the back, so take a par here and move on to the very short and simple par-4 fourth. Measuring only 261 yards, a well-struck drive will see you onto the putting surface and a two-putt birdie will get one back on the course!
Moving your way through the course, there are some visually lovely holes to enjoy, such as the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 15th.
Aspley Guise and Woburn Sands
The original nine holes of the undulating parkland course at Aspley Guise & Woburn Sands were designed over a century ago, appropriately enough by former Open champion Sandy Herd. Additionally Charles Willmott, club pro for decades, constructed many of the holes. Then, during the 1970's more land became available which led to Bob Sandow constructing an additional nine to push the total to 18-holes.
In terms of signature holes, the stretch of five, six and seven is hard to forget. Five is a par-4 with a slight dog-leg into a green protected by water and bushes left and a large bunker on the right. Six has trouble everywhere. Remove the water in front of the tee from your mind, along with the Out of bounds left and put a good swing together to try and find the fairway. The approach also requires an accurate and well struck shot too.
Finally the seventh is a long par-3 that has a two-tiered green to worry about as well as water to the right. A stunning stretch, you are clearly playing well if you come away with three pars here.
Ian Poulter was the assistant pro at this Bedfordshire course way back before he became a Ryder Cup hero.
Nestled in some truly lovely wooded areas, Leighton Buzzard's signature hole is the delightful par-3 11th. Playing down into a valley, you only have to play a mid-iron but accuracy is the key into this undulating green.
All in all Leighton Buzzard was a truly splendid round of golf.
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