Barum Golf Course Review – Portmore Golf Park
Course Name: Barum Course, Portmore Golf Park
Location: Landkey Rd, Barnstaple, Devon, EX32 9LB, UK
Date Played: May 2022
Course Type: Parkland
Portmore Golf Park consists of a 9-hole par-3 course (Landkey), 18-hole course (Barum), a driving range, bar and restaurant.
The land had been used as a dairy farm but the owners decided to pivot after a new road to the area split their property in half.
The driving range is fairly well laid out and the restaurant and bar look quite pleasant. You can even avail yourself of Toptracer technology although it looks a bit pricey to me!
This is going to be a review of the 18-hole Barum golf course.
If you’ve read any of my other reviews for courses in Devon then you’ll realise that many of them can be a bit hilly.
The Barum course at Portmore definitely fits into the hilly Devon mould.
It was built on a sloping piece of land just outside Barnstaple with views of the town from the higher vantage points on the course. It is a little under 20 years old having been completed in 2004.
The course winds up, down and across this hilly area and includes a number of water hazards to keep you on your toes with 10 holes on one side of the driving range and the remainder on the other.
The first hole has a wonderful view of Barnstaple and allows you to open your shoulders as there is little in the way of hazards between you and the green 300 yards away.
The 3rd hole is one of the more interesting on the front 9 with a drive through a chute of trees over a water hazard before turning almost 90° to the right in order to play your second to a well-bunkered green with a run-off area at the back.
The only par-5 on the front 9 runs from close to the entrance to the property along the course boundary. Like a number of former farms, the Barum features a few old hedgerows as obstacles and this hole is one of the ones where you may fall foul. If your layup isn’t on the fairway then you may find yourself blocked out behind an old hedge.
There’s quite a deep swale just in front of this green so make sure your clubbing is correct on your approach as well.
The next hole is a nice downhill par-3 although there were a couple of large sections of green removed which did detract a little from the experience.
Make sure to check your course planner on the 7th as your second shot needs to clear a water hazard that’s not visible for most from the fairway.
On the second par-3, you have to carry the corner of a small lake so you will need to strike it properly and the 9th is an awkward uphill dogleg with the green set well above you and an uphill lie for your second shot.
The first eight holes on the back 9 seemed to play mainly across the slope leaving you with a number of lies where the ball is above or below your feet.
This section of the course seems a little more ‘artificial’. There are also quite a few unused bunkers in this section.
The final two holes are probably the most enjoyable on the back 9 or at least they would be if the water hazards didn’t attract Canada geese! As usual, they make quite the mess!
For many people, myself included, the condition of the putting greens is all-important for the enjoyment of your round. After all, roughly half of all the shots you play are on the green.
Unfortunately, I found the greens to be in a below-average condition. While it is still a little early in the year perhaps to expect tiptop condition I was certainly disappointed.
The rough was generally long enough to make your shot more difficult but not so long as to slow play down too much. Although most of the holes on the back 9 did have some quite long rough it was generally a long way off the ideal line!
As stated above I felt the greens were well below par. They didn’t look particularly nice and they didn’t really roll particularly well. As an added bonus they were also pretty slow.
Many of the greens had fairly large sections of turf removed near the edges. Not sure if this was due to disease or some other form of damage.
I feel I must make special mention of the bunkers as a high percentage of them seem to be devoid of any sand and were presumably ground under repair. The sand that had been used wouldn’t rank amongst my favourites either. The design of the bunkers meant you often had a steep vertical lip about 12 inches high which would lead to some awkward positions if your ball finished at the front of the bunker.
Relative to the greens the fairways were in reasonable condition although they still featured plenty of weeds and daisies. There weren’t too many issues with unrepaired divots which is always a nice bonus.
The teeing areas were plentiful although some weren’t in the best of condition or all that level.
The Barum course will definitely test your ability to play from a variety of sloping lies. For older golfers or those whose fitness is not up to scratch then it will probably give you a nice workout as well!
There were plenty of bunkers dotted around the course both to catch your tee shots and greenside but a fair few are out of play. It would be interesting to know whether the club are intending to fill in those bunkers long-term or reopen them.
The greens were fairly large and probably would have offered a good test if they were in better nick. Unfortunately, their speed meant you were usually having to hit the ball pretty hard just to reach the hole so eliminating a lot of the break.
Off The Course
There is a pleasant clubhouse attached to the driving range with a bar and restaurant available for post-round discussions! I’ve always found the staff to be pleasant and courteous.
If you feel like your game needs some work then you can book lessons with the PGA professional attached to the club.
You can also arrange private events in their function room.
Barum Golf Course Review: Summary
The condition of the greens left a lot to be desired. In addition, the number of bunkers that were out of play didn’t add to a feeling of the course being well maintained.
North Devon isn’t exactly overflowing with good value for money public golf facilities so it’s a shame that Portmore isn’t able to keep up the maintenance on the golf course to better standards.
Presumably, it’s a chicken and egg situation. If you don’t have the revenue you can’t spend on maintenance so you get less revenue because people aren’t happy with the condition. Undoubtedly the situation with the pandemic did many businesses no favours as well.
Having been treasurer of a golf club I can certainly appreciate the difficulties trying to balance incomings and outgoings however it doesn’t change the fact that in their current state the greens just don’t cut the mustard even for pay-and-play/municipal golf.
If you prefer golf courses with decent greens then I’m afraid Portmore at the moment wouldn’t tickle your fancy.
To be fair I probably enjoyed the front 9 much more than the back 9 which seemed to be squeezed into a parcel of land that was perhaps too small.
The normal green fee is £30 which is probably about average these days for a pay-and-play course but personally, I don’t think it represents great value for money.