HEYTHROP PARK is a country estate situated in 440 acres of idyllic Oxfordshire countryside. Dating back to 1710, the property boasts two hotels in the form of DeVere Venues Heythrop Park Hotel and my accommodation, the Crown Plaza Hotel.
The estate was bought by former Oxford United owner Firoz Kassam and the transformation into what we see today has been nothing short of remarkable.
Situated on the edge of the Cotswolds and on the doorstep of Oxford, Heythrop Park is easily accessible by road and rail. The train out of Paddington took me just over an hour although arriving at Charlbury I couldn’t have felt further away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The arrival sets the tone. A long drive meandering through the beautiful grounds brings you to the front of the hotel and as I gazed up at the beautiful building the first thing that came to mind was Downton Abbey which I’m sure has been mentioned a few times by other guests.
The rooms are huge and the bathrooms are even bigger, with everything you could ever want in a hotel room. The whole place has a grand, regal atmosphere which will appeal to those who like to be pampered once in a while (who doesn't).
There is a peaceful nature about the place which struck a chord as I wanted to get a break from London. The horizon is littered with green fields and all I could hear as I lay on the grassy bank outside my room was the appealing sound of golf balls being struck and birdsong.
While the estate may be old, you will be reminded that it's 2014 when sampling the fantastic food on offer. Whether you fancy pub grub or something a bit more fancy, there is a dish to satisfy every palate.
Throughout the stay, I was constantly impressed by the staff. Attentive, friendly and efficient, they were always around with smiles on their faces and ready to bend over backwards to help.
One of my bugbears it turning up to play a round of golf and having to jump on the first tee immediately. I like to hit 50 balls on the range, hit a couple putts and chips and then waltz over to the first tee in a casual fashion.
Heythop Park satisfied this craving as it provides a fantastic grass driving range, which I much prefer to a mat, and a large putting and chipping green in close proximity to the first hole.
Mind you, you need to be warmed up as the first few holes are as straight as Roman roads and if you come off the fairway you’ll be up against it to salvage par, particularly on the very narrow opening hole.
The round was a truly enjoyable experience and not only because I managed at last to play some good golf but because of the course and surroundings.
The 6th hole is a special layout as the golfer is faced with a 314 yard sever dogleg to the left which is similar to the 18th at the Belfry. This par 4 is a risk and reward hole as the left side of the hole has an abundance of water but if you leave it too far right you will have a long shot into the green. The backdrop to the green is dominated by the historic Archer Bridge and the elevated tee provides stunning views across the estate.
The 18th is another signature hole. All the golfer has to do is hit it straight for 596 yards and if you can do that and put the ball in the hole in five blows you will walk away with par…easier said than done. Sitting majestically behind the green is the Manor House and you feel as if you are coming home as you finish your round.
I almost felt as though a butler would be at 18, a silver tray perched on his hand with a wet towel to mop my brow, such is the grandeur presented by the finish.
The course was in fantastic condition when I visited early May and it will only improve throughout the summer. Unfortunately, when I visited all 18 greens were spiked so I am not able to vouch for the quality of the greens but if they are similar to the rest of the course then they will be superb.
While playing I looked around and admired some of the most exhilarating views I have ever witnessed on a golf course. Like the Manor House, the golf club has a peaceful atmosphere and as I squinted (due to the blistering sun) at my surroundings I could see enough golfers that I didn’t feel lonely but not so many that I couldn’t relax and go at my own pace.
The walks between holes are also an asset as they offer spectacular views and you will undoubtedly bump into a number of wild animals. If you’re not a big walker then I would suggest getting a buggy as the hike is a fair distance on undulating ground.
It is a course which manages to cater to all handicaps. With eight holes featuring water, you may need to take a few sleeves of golf balls with you if you are struggling to hit the ball straight but if you can put the ball in position, a low score is on the cards.
When you’re done with your round, you can head into the friendly clubhouse and enjoy some fantastic food infront of Sky Sports with a brew in hand. If you’re a bit stiff then head upstairs to the Spa for a massage or loosen up in the pool.
A gem of a golf course that is currently flying under the radar. It offers a good test to golfers of all handicaps and it is set among some unforgettable scenery. I would urge anyone in the area to give it a go.
Visit the Heythrop Park website for more details