WHEN I last stayed at The Belfry in 2012, there was one niggling thought in the back of my mind when I
bombed it drove responsibly (just in case the rentals are reading this) back down the M40: If only the hotel and facilities lived up to The Brabazon and PGA National Academy.
Actually there were two. Those really were some tee shots from Seve and Sam at the iconic par-4 10th back in 1985!
Two years later and £1.5 million shy of what Manchester United lumped out on Marouane Fellaini thrown in its direction, the new team at The Belfry, led by Managing Director Lynn Hood, Commercial Director Rachel Hamilton-Shaw and Director of Golf Ian Knox, kindly invited me back to see the radical changes that have taken place at the Midland's premier luxury destination.
Surrounded by more than 500 acres of rolling countryside and steeped in Ryder Cup and European Tour history on the Brabazon course - the more famous brother of PGA National and The Derby - I can safely say the new £26 million refurbishment has taken this resort to a new level. One that now matches its internationally and revered championship course.
If only the money splashed out on Mr Fellaini had made such a difference.
Teaming down with rain as I pulled up outside the new Belfry hotel entrance, I was greeted at my door by a brolly and a man in a bowler hat. I thought it was particularly kind of him. So I told him: "That's particularly kind of you."
Within several strides of entering the Belfry's doors, I was met by Rachel and Ian. After a quick kiss with Rachel but not with Ian, I said to them, gazing at PING golf clubs forming a chandelier above me: "Sorry, could you tell me where The Belfry is please?"
The new Belfry occupies a refurbished Sam's Clubhouse, luxurious meeting and event rooms, guest bedrooms and suites, public lounges and reception areas, and perhaps the best of the lot, a brand new Ryder Grill restaurant and Brabazon Bar.
The Ryder Grill now provides a refreshing take on modern dining, all headed up by award winning chef director Glen Watson and with spectacular views looking back out to the quintessential 18th hole. Signature dishes that I sampled now include 28-day dry aged steaks sourced locally from 19Gales Farm and classic Chateaubriand from the Buccleuch Estate. It really is something to behold.
If you're after something a little more laidback and relaxed in front of widescreen TVs to catch up on your favourite sports, you can opt for the more casual dining experience with high seating in Sam's clubhouse. It's a great touch in my book as you're not penned into one area and can do what you want.
The Brabazon Bar, however, is arguably the biggest change, located in the heart of the hotel. This used to be the Atrium Restaurant where I remember having breakfast last time. As of 2014, guests can sit back and relax with a range of classic cocktails - I'm now a specialist at making an Old Fashioned - fine wines, champagne and afternoon tea prepared by renowned pastry chef Dean Cole.
On top of all that, accommodation has vastly improved, again with views, fortunately for myself, overlooking the Brabazon's 18th. The primary inspiration for the refurbishment of the 319 bedrooms started with the diamond patterned wallpaper, a subtle nod to the famous Pringle golf jumpers and complemented by neutral and modern tones. The new rooms also include walk-in showers, HD widescreen TVs, incredibly comfortable beds and high speed internet.
There was a great atmosphere inside the new Belfry, one I didn't really feel last time around. There were also plenty of meetings going on. All 21 conference and event suites and six boardrooms have been fully updated to ensure they offer the highest standard of style, comfort and elegance.
And much to my surprise there's an on-site Starbucks!
I also got to check out the new pro shop that is just weeks away from completion and the PGA National Academy again which now sees custom fitting with TaylorMade, Callaway and Titleist bays.
And complementing the new look are the superb leisure and spa facilities. I opted for a cheeky half hour massage but there's also an option to swim, workout in the gym or enjoy the unique experience of 'Fire & Ice' featuring 12 bio-thermal rooms. Just what you need after a round of golf.
It's an exciting time for The Belfry. The radical changes to the resort were much needed and there's no question the likes of The Ryder Grill, Brabazon Bar, Sam's Clubhouse and fresh approach to luxury accommodation will help establish the new Belfry as a world class resort destination once again.