Experience all the agony and ecstacy of head-to-head golf at these fantastic UK tracks, where thrills and spills lie everywhere you look.
1 Machynys Peninsula Golf & Country Club
With water featuring on 16 holes, you’ll need balls to tackle this relatively new (opened in 2005) but formidable modern links layout... and probably plenty of them!
The course majestically overlooks Carmarthen Bay and, being the creation of Jack Nicklaus’ design company, is without doubt a matchplay masterpiece. The Ladies European Tour has visited here in recent years and provided plenty of drama, particularly down the stretch. You drive over water on two of the final three holes with the daunting stroke index 2 par-4 16th often played into the wind.
Location: Millennium Coastal Park, near Llanelli, 15 minutes from M4 junction 48.
Green fees: Mon-Fri: £35. Sat-Sun: £40.
Contact: 01554 744666.
2 The Oxfordshire
This thrilling US-style layout provides the ultimate matchplay challenge. To master the mighty Oxfordshire – and your opponent – you’ve got to carefully negotiate your way round five large lakes and over 120 strategically-placed bunkers. Matchplay is all about risk and reward and that is certainly evident at the pulsating par-5 penultimate hole, where there are two fairways to aim at. The safer route involves playing around a lake down the right-hand side, though you’re eventually asked to strike a longer shot over the water. The route you choose and how successful you are can either make or break your round... or your opponent.
Location: 1½ miles west of Thame, on A329.
Green fees: Mon-Fri: £100. Sat-Sun (from 10.30am): £120.
Contact: 01844 278 505.
3 Players Club
It’s long, tough and there’s water practically everywhere. In fact you can get wet on all four par 3s, while at the signature par-4 3rd you’re firing over the wet stuff twice.
Other great matchplay holes include the stunning par-5 15th, which features two lakes on the left side with a cluster of bunkers guarding the green. The latter kickstarts a testing climax – the run-in is fraught with danger and potential disaster so even if you’re three down and seemingly out of the match, all is definitely not lost
if you can keep your ball in play. The venue boasts superb facilities and a new, not so testing, 18-hole Stranahan layout (par 67, 5,084 yards).
Location: Near Bristol, one mile from M4 junction 18.
Green fees: All week: £48. 2-FORE!-1: Mon-Fri.
Contact: 01454 311818.
4 Collingtree Park
This Johnny Miller design will test you all the way, as leading Europro Tour players recently found to their cost. The hardest nut to crack for the pros was the par-3 5th, one of the shortest holes on the course. With water short and long, many struggled to find the shallow green, with several spinning back into the wet stuff. The par-5 9th is a great risk-and-reward hole and if you’ve hit a solid drive you can go for the green (again lurking beyond water) in two. There should be plenty of drama at the end too in the form of a par 5 featuring an island green. You can run up anything from a three to double-figures here!
Location: Northampton, about half-a-mile east of M1, J15.
Green fees: Mon-Fri: £30. Sat-Sun: £45.
Contact: 01604 700000.
5 The Shire
Having been designed by matchplay maestro Seve Ballesteros, you would expect plenty of matchplay fun and games and you won’t be disappointed. You’ll find a thrilling mix of parkland, links and US-style holes with an equal number of par 3s, 4s and 5s (six). The tests come thick and fast, starting with an opening short hole to a green virtually surrounded by water. Others to watch out for include Sawgrass par 3 lookalike the 7th and the par-4 18th, where the approach shot is played over an S-shape (for Seve) stretch of water.
Location: Outskirts of Barnet, Herts, near M25 J23 (A1/M25 interchange on the A1081).
Green fees: Mon-Fri: £50. Sat-Sun (afternoons): £65.
Contact: 0208 441 7649.
6 Gleneagles PGA Centenary
This course is guaranteed to provide plenty of thrills and spills when the Ryder Cup is played at the so-called ‘Palace in the Glens’ in 2014. The back nine should give plenty of memorable moments, particularly the driveable par-4 14th and the risk-reward par-5 16th where water guards the approach to the green.
Location: 16 miles south west of Perth on A9.
Green fees: All week: £155. 2-FORE!-1: Sun-Thurs after 2pm.
Contact: 01764 694362.
7 Mill Ride
He who dares usually wins at this belting Berkshire Donald Steel-designed track. Everything is there for a classic head-to-head encounter, including seven lakes which come into play on many holes, dog-legs, blind shots, tree-lined fairways and mounding. The matchplay magic starts at the intimidating 200-yard, par-3 3rd over water, while the 298-yard, par-4 6th is driveable although the green is well guarded. But Mill Ride’s ace do-or-die holes are the 10th, a rollercoaster of a par 5, and the 18th. You can suffer a watery grave at both.
Location: On A329 between Ascot and Bracknell, off Fernbank Road.
Green fees: Mon-Fri: £45. Sat-Sun (after midday): £60.
Contact: 01344 886777.
8 The Tytheringham
Virtually every hole is a matchplay winner – or loser – at this tough Cheshire venue. There are so many holes which are capable of ending in triumph or disaster, especially on the stunning back nine. The 12th is a classy par 5 with water virtually all the way down the left side and guarding the green. You’re firing from an elevated tee and the views are pretty special too. There’s a big finale in the shape of a right dog-leg par-4 penultimate hole and a thrilling 18th with the elevated green right in front of the clubhouse.
Location: North of Macclesfield off the A523.
Green fees: Mon-Fri: £40 before 1pm, 1-5pm £25. Sat-Sun: £45/£30. 2-FORE!-1: Any time.
Contact: 01625 506013.
9 Five Lakes
This Essex resort boasts two 18-hole courses but if it’s a Ryder Cupstyle matchplay encounter you’re after then pick the Neil Coles-designed Lakes layout. There are five lakes of varying sizes to negotiate with water coming into play on nine holes, starting from the short par-4 2nd where it lurks down the left side. With water virtually all the way down the left of the final fairway you’ll be well pleased – and relieved – to stay dry.
Location: Eight miles south of Colchester on B1026.
Green fees: Mon-Fri: £35. Sat-Sun: £45. 2-FORE!-1: Any time.
Contact: 01621 862326.
10 Wales National
The superb Vale Resort provides a severe golfing exam even if you opt to play off the daily tees. Water comes into play on eight holes, most notably at the short par-4 6th where you’re faced with a 200-yard carry to find the green at the bottom of the hill beyond a small lake. The tight par-5 10th is flanked by trees on the right and water on the left while the following hole, a sharp right dog-leg, is driveable if you’re prepared to take a big gamble by cutting it over the trees.
Location: Near Cardiff, one mile from M4 J34.
Green fees: All week: £50. 2-FORE!-1: Any time.
Contact: 01443 665899.