Bovey Castle Golf Club – Dartmoor Darling
Course Name: Bovey Castle Golf Club
Location: Bovey Castle, North Bovey, Dartmoor National Park, Devon, TQ13 8RE, UK
Date Played: May 2022
Course Type: Parkland
The course was designed by one of the greats of the golden age of golf course design, J.F. Abercromby in 1926. It was finally opened for play in 1930. Set in the grounds of the imposing hotel the course meanders around the estate making full use of the River Bovey on the front 9 holes. Although not particularly long by modern standards it should still provide a challenge to all abilities while still remaining enjoyable.
After a number of years in the doldrums, the property was bought by Peter De Savary and the course tweaked by Donald Steel and Tom McKenzie and re-opened in 2004.
It’s fair to say I’m a bit of a sucker for mature parkland courses and Bovey Castle Golf Club didn’t disappoint.
The two nines are split with the opening 9 running around the front of the hotel and hopping to and fro across the River Bovey. The back 9 moves on to a higher piece of ground side and rear of the hotel and unfortunately doesn’t feature any water!
Your ball-striking needs to be on right from the start as most of the holes in the front 9 require a carry over water either off the tee or on your approach.
Warning if you’re planning on using the Skycaddie phone app for your yardages. I couldn’t get a signal at any point so was unable to use it. Fortunately, there are 150-yard markers in the center of the fairways.
It’s a relatively gentle opening to the round. A short par-4 plays downhill to a green protected by bunkers and water. If you’re feeling sufficiently brave you might want to have a pop at clearing the water with your tee shot.
The 2nd bends gently left through the trees before forcing you to carry the River Bovey to make the green.
My first visit to the aqua was on the long par-3 3rd where water awaits all down the right and in front of the green. This is probably the best spot to view the hotel from the golf course.
The 6th hole offers a little respite as you play from a high tee only around 150 yards although a bad strike can still end up wet!
The 9th hole was another shortish par-3 although all the bunkers were out of play on this one!
There’s a bit of a lung-busting climb up to the 10th tee which is an undulating par-5. If your tee shot pitches on the upslope then its unlikely you’ll be able to try the green in two. Longer hitters might be able to get on as they will be pitching on the flatter area.
If you’ve not played the course before I would advise you to check out the lay of the land before playing your second. There’s a massive dip short of the green so you’re likely to have to fly the ball as far as possible since you won’t get much run. It might make more sense to lay back and leave yourself a longer shot from a flatter lie if you can’t make the carry.
Similar advice for the next hole as there is a pond just short of the green and the green is set up on a hill so you’ll need to carry the ball all the way with your second. Shorter hitters will probably have to take their medicine and play it as a three-shotter.
The next few holes are a little less claustrophobic as the trees are a little sparser although the 14th requires an accurate tee shot to give you a line through the tall mature trees that block most of the access to the green. You might be able to recover your score a little bit as well!
16 and 17 are both blind tee shots. Try to follow the marker post on 16 and keep your ball to the right as anything left will run away into trouble.
The marker post on 17 suggests a really tight line to the left but you will need to hit the ball well as there is a hedge on that line that may catch you out. It may be more prudent to hit a fairway wood or hybrid further to the right and avoid the trouble. The steep downhill slope should still carry you a good way to the green.
The home hole requires a good drive to get a sight of the green. Try to hug the left side with your approach as anything slightly right will run away and leave you struggling to find your ball.
Overall I found the condition of the course to be very good although given the regular green fee I would expect no less.
While not super slick the greens were fast enough for most amateur players and putted pretty smoothly with a good covering of grass. Unfortunately, there was the odd unrepaired pitch mark but it’s almost impossible to get people to repair them!
The bunker sand was better than several other courses I’ve played this year although there were a few bunkers looking a bit worse for wear that were marked GUR.
On the whole, they look very good and were a pleasure to hit shots from. Maybe a few more unrepaired divots than you would hope for and possibly a candidate for introducing divot bags so players can repair their own damage.
There were one or two worn areas, presumably leftovers from the winter that haven’t recovered yet.
Probably the weakest area, some of the tees looked a bit battered in places and some were a little uneven.
Bovey Castle Golf Club is surprisingly flat for a course in Devon! Certainly, the front 9 is unlikely to throw you too many awkward stances and the main problem will be club selection and ball striking to make sure you avoid a watery grave.
There are also plenty of mature trees for you to avoid although the back 9 is perhaps a fraction more open.
There was one significant climb from the 9th green up to the 10th tee but that apart there weren’t too many other significant climbs for you to deal with.
If you can hit the ball long and straight off the tee then you might find it a little easy (especially the back-9). However, what percentage of golfers hit it long and straight!
Off The Course
I think the course is primarily aimed at the hotel guests since there is only a basic locker room and a tiny car park for visiting golfers.
There is a small professional shop, a short game practice area and also a driving range where you can warm up.
Obviously, the hotel has several options for après golf whatever your culinary tastes.
Considering the quality and condition of the course membership prices seem very reasonable at £845.
My only concern would be whether the front 9 gets wet in the winter months.
Bovey Castle Golf Club: Summary
While a round of golf at Bovey Castle is certainly not cheap during the summer (£70) I think it is probably about par for the course given its location and quality.
If you’re a member at many UK clubs then you should be able to get a significant discount off the green fee with your county card and I’ve also noticed that the course has started appearing on GolfNow at some much more tempting rates!
Certainly, this is a course that most people would enjoy and I would definitely like to have another crack at it!
Yes, the front 9 is the more memorable of the two but do most golfers want 450-yard par-4s all the time!
In addition to Bovey Castle Golf Club, J.F.Abercromby is also responsible for Worplesdon, The Addington and Coombe Hill.