Travel Awards 2015

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We launched the Today’s Golfer Travel Awards in 2011 and they have got bigger and better with every year. Once again this year golfers voted in their thousands for their 17 favourite courses and venues across the UK and Continental Europe.

They’re the awards everybody in the golf travel industry wants to win – and over the next few pages we reveal who came out on top, why they’re so special and the qualities they’ve displayed over the past year in order to emerge as category winners. We’ve even included a special deal, many exclusive to TG readers, from each and every one.

Congratulations to all the winners, including reader Gary Slatter who won a golf break in Majorca for two simply by voting for his personal best venues at home and abroad.

Travel Awards 2015

   Continental Europe's Best Value Destination

    The Algarve, Portugal

Algarve

The Algarve has hit back in style. After missing out last time round, Portugal’s long- established golfing paradise is well and truly back on top of the pile. Most visiting golfers head for the many on and off-course attractions of centrally-based Vilamoura, a short drive from Faro international airport and home of the collection of Oceanico courses including the magical Old Course, Portugal Masters host venue Victoria, Pinhal, Laguna and Millennium. Nearby you’ll find the superb 27-hole resort of Vila Sol while a short drive away you’ll discover the legendary resorts of Quinta do Lago and neighbouring Vale do Lobo. The former boasts three stunning and contrasting 18-hole layouts while VdL offers the regal Ocean and Royal courses.

San Lorenzo is an old established favourite and has been captivating golfers since opening in 1988. It’s one of the Algarve’s finest and the stunning par-4 6th and 7th holes, both played from elevated tees overlooking the coastal Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, will take your breath away. The Algarve has come a long way since 1966 when Sir Henry Cotton created the now legendary Penina – a short drive from the two Amendoeira Resort layouts (Faldo & Christy O’Connor jnr) – from an old rice plantation. Wherever you are in the Algarve, you’ll never be too far away from a great golfing experience: there are some fine courses in the East with the Nicklaus-designed Monte Rei being the stand-out while head west and you can try three contrasting nines at Onyria Palmares, modern resort layout Boavista and the region’s newest and fast-improving venue Espiche near Lagos.

The Algarve has it all, including where to stay – ranging from budget to luxury accommodation options – plus terrific food and drink. Wherever you venture you’re likely to encounter service with a smile too.

Travel Awards 2015

   Spain's Best Course

    Valderrama

Algarve

The best is getting better and better. Widely regarded as one of Continental Europe’s leading layouts, Sotogrande superstar Valderrama still reigns in Spain – but there is no way the club is resting on its laurels. Indeed it has benefited from a renovation led by leading US architect Kyle Phillips and more recently has been further improved with the installation of a new and costly irrigation system.

Make no mistake, Valderrama guarantees a highly demanding test of golf as you follow in the footsteps of the golfing greats, including those who starred in Europe’s Seve Ballesteros-inspired Ryder Cup victory over America in 1997. Plus, of course, it’s always in immaculate condition.

Travel Awards 2015

   Spain's Best Hotel/Resort

    La Manga Club

Travel Awards 2015

The legendary Murcia resort has remarkably emerged on top for the fourth year running. It caps a year to remember for the world-famous resort following the opening of a new €1m world-class golf tuition facility with, as its centerpiece, a David Leadbetter Golf Academy – the only one of its kind in Spain.

The Academy – described by Leadbetter as “comparable with anything I have seen worldwide” – is equipped with the latest technology and sits next to the remodelled range which has been extended to 300m. Set in 1,400 acres – three times the size of Monaco – the multi-award winning venue enjoys a mild year-round Mediterranean climate and boasts unrivalled facilities, including three 18-hole courses (South, North and West), a 28-court tennis centre and a huge spa and fitness centre. It also offers the choice of a five-star hotel, four-star serviced apartments and townhouses and more than 20 bars and restaurants.

Main attraction is the South course, which has staged the Spanish Open five times and is slightly more challenging than its North neighbour while the wonderfully undulating, parkland-style West is a completely different examination.

“To win the award for a fourth successive year is a wonderful achievement and shows that La Manga Club remains as popular as ever with UK golfers,” says José Asenjo, La Manga Club’s general manager. “We are very proud of La Manga Club’s reputation as Europe’s premier golf, sports and leisure destination and we will continue to offer the best possible service and facilities to our visitors.” 

Travel Awards 2015

   Portugal's Best Course

    Vilamoura Old Course

Travel Awards 2015

It’s four out of four for the ‘grand old lady’ of the Algarve, which duly celebrated its fourth consecutive victory in this highly-competitive category. Other legendary Algarve layouts Quinta do Lago (South) and San Lorenzo both put up stern resistance but in the end were well beaten by Frank Pennick’s masterpiece which unfolds majestically across rolling terrain flanked by rows of umbrella pines.

The Old Course has been challenging and thrilling golfers from all over Europe since opening in 1969, three years after the Algarve’s great golfing revolution got underway at Penina.

“In a competitive category of world-class venues, the accolade is a true testament to the Oceânico golf team’s on-site delivery and their ability to retain the Frank Pennick design as a firm favourite for British and international golfers,” said Chris Stilwell, chief executive, Oceânico Golf.

Travel Awards 2015

   Portugal's Best Hotel/Resort

    Quinta Da Logo

Travel Awards 2015

This is another significant feather in the cap of this outstanding central Algarve resort, which has been at the forefront of European golf since opening in 1972 and boasts three quality courses plus outstanding practice facilities. Away from the fairways, the resort’s extensive leisure facilities guarantee there is plenty to keep everyone occupied with events, tennis, cycling and watersports just some of the activities available.

But golf has always been top of the agenda and that has gone up another notch following the re-opening last October of the redeveloped North course. It was carried out by renowned American architect Beau Welling and 2014 European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley and is set to become one of the new stars of European golf. Built to the highest specifications with a €9.6m investment programme, the new-look North has been revamped with the emphasis firmly on precision and strategy. It was named ‘Europe’s Best New Golf Course’ at the 2014 World Golf Awards and is poised to replace the South course (which has staged eight Portuguese Opens) as the resort’s no.1 layout.

QdL’s third layout is the stunning Laranjal, which opened in 2008 and impressively weaves within a gently undulating orange grove. But the golfing fun doesn’t end there: the resort is a true golfing paradise and you can also sharpen up your game at the only Paul McGinley Academy in the world and the new unique short-game area which complements the facilities available at the McGinley Academy and TaylorMade Fitting Centre. The resort offers plenty of quality accommodation options including the luxury Conrad Algarve and Hotel Quinta do Lago overlooking the Ria Formosa estuary.

“To be named by Today’s Golfer readers as the best golf resort in Portugal for the first time is a fantastic achievement and the icing on the cake of what has been a memorable last few months for Quinta do Lago,” said John Dwyer, chief executive at Quinta do Lago. “We’ve received a tremendous reaction from visitors, members and the golf industry alike since the re-opening of the North Course last autumn.”

Travel Awards 2015

   France's Best Course

    Le Golf National

Travel Awards 2015

France boasts some of the best courses in Europe but this superb track near Versailles is where it’s all happening: the home of the French Open, Hubert Chesneau and Robert Von Hagge’s Albatross masterpiece will host the 2018 Ryder Cup and should guarantee a memorable contest.

Combining the feel of an inland links with numerous water hazards, strategically-placed bunkers and big, bold and well-protected greens, in many ways it’s the ultimate test of golf. It’s also a sensational matchplay course capable of causing plenty of joy and despair in equal measure.

It’s part of the prestigious European Tour Properties network, a world-class selection of golf venues, and also on site you’ll find the not-so-demanding Eagle course – the ideal warm-up for the Ryder Cup track – and a Novotel hotel.

Travel Awards 2015

   France's Best Hotel/Resort

    Le Manoir Hotel

Travel Awards 2015

Le Manoir ticks all the boxes but the main one is that it is a mid-iron shot away from the quality Le Touquet courses (Sea and Forest) as well as boasting its very own nine-hole course.

Being under an hour away from the Eurotunnel at Calais and just five minutes from the centre of Le Touquet, dubbed ‘Paris by the Sea’, the three-star 20th century Anglo-Norman country house hotel is the perfect base for a golfing break in this charming corner of northern France.

Le Manoir offers outstanding value and features 41 comfortable rooms, a fine dining restaurant, ‘L’Ecusson and Bar’, outdoor heated pool, tennis court and snooker room.

Travel Awards 2015

   England's Best Course (North)

    Royal Birkdale

Travel Awards 2015

Birkdale is no stranger to awards and accolades, regularly topping Top 100 England and UK Courses listings. And no wonder: it’s a stunning links, its fairways threaded between Southport’s towering dunes. Furthermore, it has staged a long list of major events including nine Opens – most recently in 2008 when Padraig Harrington triumphed – the Walker Cup, Curtis Cup, Amateur Championship and the Ryder Cup. Also, the course hosted the British Seniors Open for the first time in 2013 and in 2014 held the Ricoh Women’s British Open for the sixth time.

Birkdale’s highlights include the long, challenging double dog-leg par-4 opening hole, the stunning short 12th and the three par 5s coming down the stretch.

Travel Awards 2015

   England's Best Hotel/Resort (North)

    Slaley Hall

Travel Awards 2015

Set among 1,000 acres of exquisite moorland and forest, Slaley Hall features two outstanding courses (Hunting and Priestman) and a luxury Edwardian mansion hotel. Both have seen regular European Tour and European Senior Tour action with the likes of Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood and Retief Goosen among the list of winners. Off course, visitors can enjoy relaxed bars and restaurants as well as the modern leisure club and spa.

“We have recently been taken over by QHotels and look forward to continuing our commitment to provide the very best guest experiences, both on and off the course. This latest accolade underlines the resort’s reputation as the best golf resort in the North East,” said head of golf Jeff Mills.

Travel Awards 2015

   England's Best Course (South)

    Wentworth (West)

Travel Awards 2015

Arguably the best known inland course in the UK, Wentworth is steeped in history and pedigree, annually hosting the prestigious BMW PGA Championship.

The world-famous West course has undergone major changes in recent years while the club itself was last year purchased for £135m by Beijing-based company Reignwood. Originally built for the sister of the Duke of Wellington in 1805, the Wentworth Club was founded in 1926, a year before Harry Colt created the West course which sat alongside the legendary architect’s East course (opened in 1924).

The venue of the 1953 Ryder Cup, Wentworth was the home of the World Match Play Championship from 1964 until 2007 and is the headquarters of the European Tour. It’s a true Surrey superstar and is a must play – although it’s likely you’ll have to splash out £300 plus for the undoubted privilege!

Travel Awards 2015

   England's Best Hotel/Resort (South)

    The Grove

Travel Awards 2015

The Grove first burst onto the scene in 2006 when Tiger Woods romped to a record-breaking World Golf Championship victory. Plaques on the 17th tee commemorate his incredible trio of eagles on the par 5, that everyone who was there will recall.

London’s Country Club, as it is often known, hasn’t looked back and has established itself as a world-class venue just outside Watford and a short trip from the attractions and bright lights of the capital. No wonder it’s been the long-time training base for the England national football team.

The five-star hotel provides luxury accommodation including a sumptuous spa; it prides itself on super service and that certainly applies on and around the Kyle Phillips-designed course, which has a great variety of holes, including a classical parkland stretch on the back nine. It’s also highly likely you’ll never play a better-conditioned course and putt out on a faster, truer set of greens.

Travel Awards 2015

   England's Best Course & Hotel/Resort (West)

    St Mellion (Nicklaus)

Travel Awards 2015

Now branded an International Resort, St Mellion delivers on all fronts – on and off the course – and isn’t afraid to run with special offers and packages. Indeed value-for-money is very much the name of the game at Crown Golf’s flagship venue which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Naturally everyone wants to tackle the mighty Nicklaus course which topped the latest 2-FORE!-1 Top 100 listing and in many ways is the ultimate test of parkland golf though the neighbouring Kernow is a splendid layout in its own right.

The on-site accommodation is comfortable and some offer balcony views overlooking the final hole on the Nicklaus – while you can unwind in the health club & spa and dine in two restaurants including fine dining. Having staged six Benson & Hedges International Opens, St Mellion has a glorious past too.

Travel Awards 2015

   Englands's Best Course & Hotel/Resort (East & N Mids)

    The Belfry

Belfry

The new-look legendary West Midlands resort – synonymous with the Ryder Cup – has been upgraded to the tune of £26m – a serious investment designed to ensure the venue’s off-course facilities match its world-class and internationally renowned golf courses.

The only venue to host the Ryder Cup four times has fully-refurbished bedrooms and brand new bars and restaurants, as well as a state-of-the-art leisure club and spa.

The Belfry has come a long way since being converted from potato fields to a world-famous golfing venue. Obviously most Belfry visitors want to tackle The Brabazon but the main attraction is ably backed-up by the neighbouring PGA National and Derby layouts. Don’t be surprised to see the Ryder Cup eventually return to the West Midlands sometime in the future.

“It has obviously been a big year for us, and this award just further validates the great work that has been undertaken,” said Ian Knox, Director of Golf at The Belfry.

Travel Awards 2015

   Scotland's Best Course

    St Andrews Old Course

Travel Awards 2015

The Old Course is unique. It’s the Home of Golf and once again will be the centre of attention in the summer when it stages The Open. Golf was first played here 600 years ago and the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end as you tee off in front of the historic R&A clubhouse. Thankfully, the widest fairway in golf looms large in front of you!

Legendary names – the Swilcan Bridge, coffin bunker, Road Hole and Valley of Sin to name a few – come thick and fast as you tread the most hallowed turf. You can enjoy the golfing experience of a lifetime by entering the daily ballot or taking advantage of the special stay-and-play offer below.

Travel Awards 2015

   Scotland's Best Hotel/Resort

    Gleneagles

Travel Awards 2015

After staging one of the best Ryder Cups ever in its 90th anniversary year, Gleneagles was a clear and deserving candidate in this category. Gleneagles is an extraordinary place to stay and play, being set amid the gentle beauty of 850 acres of Perthshire countryside.

The No.1 course is now the Nicklaus-designed PGA Centenary after it hosted the Ryder Cup but the James Braid-designed King’s and Queen’s are majestic – it was the King’s which went close to toppling the Old Course as Scotland’s best course. There are also sumptuous rooms, a multi award-winning spa, elegant fine dining and a wide range of outdoor activities.

“It’s a wonderful endorsement to be voted Best Hotel in Scotland by the readers of Today’s Golfer,” said Bernard Murphy, Gleneagles’ MD.

Travel Awards 2015

   Wales's Best Course & Hotel/Resort

    Celtic Manor

Travel Awards 2015

Celtic Manor offers exceptional value breaks, with or without, golf. The resort has three 18- hole courses (the Twenty Ten, Roman Road & Montgomerie), two hotels providing a total of 400 rooms and an array of facilities including a stunning spa and activities such as archery, adventure golf and laser combat.

In 2014 Celtic Manor opened the new Hunter Lodges – a luxury self-catering base for golf groups that sleep eight people in four en-suite bedrooms and even boast their own private sauna and outdoor hot tub. Hunter Lodge golf escapes start from £237pp and include two nights’ accommodation and rounds on all three courses.

“We had the strange sight of seeing tanks and fighter jets on our Roman Road course in 2014 when we hosted the NATO Summit. This award shows we didn’t neglect our loyal golf customers during this momentous year for the resort,” said Director of Golf, Spa & Leisure Will Hewitt.

Travel Awards 2015

   Ireland's Best Course & Hotel/Resort

    K Club

Travel Awards 2015

The 2006 Ryder Cup venue is plotted within 550 acres of countryside beside the river Liffey. The K Club is home to two awesome layouts (the Ryder Cup Palmer course and the Smurfit) plus a five-star hotel offering sumptuous accommodation and spa along with several dining options. It opened in 1991 and was Ireland’s first AA Five Red Star property. Although it enjoys a rural location in the pretty village of Straffan, it’s just 30 minutes from Dublin airport and the capital’s many attractions.

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