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The last time I played golf at Stoke Park, I was only able to play four of the middle nine holes dues to a visiting party following behind us. On a recent visit I was therefore able to rectify this and played the full 1 to 18 holes. Stoke Park has 27 holes made up of three interlinked 9-hole courses – the Colt, the Alison and the Lane Jackson. It is recognised as one of the Top 100 courses of England.
The bunkers on holes 10 to 18 have now been fully restored and refurbished and I can vouch for their difficulty by the fact that by the end of my round I felt as though I should be carrying a bucket and spade as well as a full complement of clubs. They really are the most vicious of traps surrounding, as they do, every large green.
Junior golf is thriving at Stoke Park. Whilst I was there I saw the Junior Golf Summer Camp in operation – what a happy, enthusiastic bunch of under 14s.
Bringing golf to Juniors is great to watch and is the life blood of the future of the sport. This strategy at Stoke Park is already paying off as they number Conor Gough aged 16 amongst their members. He has been selected for the Walker Club, won the England Golf Awards prestigious “Performance of the Year” and played at the British Masters by invitation from Tommy Fleetwood who had previously won the same award. This was all achieved whilst he was studying for his GCSEs. I heard that he plays the first hole – par 5, 545 yards – with a 3 iron, wedge and putter to achieve a birdie on most of his outings on the course.
New practice areas have been developed and are a significant addition to the golfing facilities. These include a large putting green, a wedge range allowing the opportunity to work on shots from 100 yards and extensive improvements on the driving range. The swing studio has been upgraded but the most interesting new facility is the simulators providing golfers the ability to practice on all of the 27 holes at Stoke Park whatever the weather. Movable tee plates also simulate all the different lies that can be experienced on the course.
Food at Stoke was as delicious and imaginative as ever using the finest locally sourced ingredients. Chris Wheeler has lost none of his flair and inventiveness – in fact to my mind – he goes from strength to strength. I was fortunate to dine both at The Orangery and at Humphrey’s where Chris is Executive Chef The home smoked scallops with rose tempura, pea purée and pickled radish was delicious particularly as the roe was also used – very unusual unfortunately these days.
Desserts were divine. Chocolate brownie with banana ice cream and raspberry soufflé with lavender shortbread and ice cream.
Chris Wheeler is amazing – whether he is catering for 2 or 250 people his food is always innovative but never over the top pandering to the fickle fate of fanciful foodies. Food is respected allowing the high quality sustainable ingredients to zing through in the dishes he creates tickling the taste buds but not forgetting the presentation which is so important.