It is very rare to find a bunkerless course these days, let alone one that still offers a great test to all golfers, but Luton Hoo does just that.
Luton Hoo mixes a blend of parkland and links, making it particularly unique. It has hosted the Challenge Tour's Bridgestone Challenge event for two consecutive years now, with England's Tom Lewis dominating the field to claim the win this year, just two weeks prior to picking up his second European Tour title at the Portugal Masters.
During the event, two par 5’s on the back nine are shortened to par 4’s making it a par-71 and a tricky test to reach in two, not so much for the professionals though.
Golf has been part of Luton Hoo’s history since the turn of the century, with the estate’s original Victorian 9-hole. It then designed an 18-hole golf course, but that came with its own restrictions due to the grounds being Grade 1 listed. Moving earth was only granted for tee boxes and greens, and bunkers were not allowed close to the estate, and so the decision was made to make the course fully bunkerless for consistency.
You might think a course without bunkers makes things a little easier, but the course makes up for that with its fair share of water, dense rough and trees. Water features on a third of the holes so you best bring your A-game here. Interestingly, no trees were removed during the design of the course and 1,500 new oak and beech trees were planted, which are starting to mature nicely now.
The front nine comprises a unique inland links feel to it, whilst the backland has a much more traditional parkland feel that you would expect from an historic venue.
Although playing on a miserable wet September’s day, the course was in stunning condition and the greens were running brilliantly. The first is a challenging par-4, where left is just no option. The second is a relatively short par-5, set on much more open ground, and a good tee shot needs to be sent down the left flank of the fairway to give you the best chance to reach the dancefloor in two blows. The third is also great par-4 where you have to navigate two lakes either side of the small fairway.
The fourth is a very tough par-4. Hitting the green here is essential due to water hazards and hollows around the green - normally the wind is in your face, forcing you to hit a long iron. The fifth and sixth are pretty straightforward holes, but if you want to hit the green then splitting the fairway is essential as the rough is pretty juicy. The seventh is a beautiful little par-3, filled with water, so again, there is a real premium on laser-like iron play.
The eighth is a beast of a par-5. It makes you think, like the majority of holes here, with water in front of the tee boxes. The hole plays slightly uphill and mounds guard both sides of the fairways. The par-4 ninth is another testing hole to conclude the front nine, featuring a dogleg that brings you back to the Country Club.
Onto the par-4 10th, where you head back out into the stunning 1,000 acre grounds, before moving to the 11th, which is probably the best par-5 here with water in front of the green. The smart play is to lay-up with your second shot leaving yourself a little flick in and birdie opportunity. Incredibly, on championship days this is shortened to a par 4 and you quickly realise why these guys are Tour pros and you are not.
The par-4 12th is a fantastic hole, but no simple task playing at 441 yards. It overlooks the 11th, features plenty of water and the green is undulating so you will be lucky to have a straight putt here. A par is an awesome score here.
But if you thought was tough, you've seen nothing yet as you stand on the par-3 13th, measuring a whopping 271 yards off the tips (one of the longest in the UK). This is certainly the longest par-3 hole we have ever played, and not surprisingly this is stroke index 1 here. A metal wood is the only option, but with a tight green protected on both sides, a par here very much feels like a birdie. It's not often you think about playing a par-3 as a lay-up but is potentially a prudent play for most amateurs here, rather than sending a drive or fairway wood into trouble.
The 14th and 15th are two great parkland holes that require precise driving and solid iron shots, while 16 is the second of the par-5’s on the back nine and the second par 5 to be shortened to a par 4 on championship days - just like in the Bridgestone Challenge. Reaching this one in two shots can be done, but it’s all about hitting a bomb down the middle off the tee.
The penultimate hole at 17 our favourite hole on the course and is a typically great parkland hole. The big Cedar tree in the middle of the fairway is your line, but be careful not to block yourself out behind it! The par-4 18th is a dogleg where accuracy is the name of the game - nothing more than an iron is required off the tee but it will need two solid strikes to hold the green.
Overall the course at Luton Hoo is a brilliant hybrid of parkland and links golf that offers spectaular scenary in the country grounds and a fantastic challenge to all golfers.
The Country Club itself is built within the historic stable courtyard and is home to the 19th bar, fitness suite, spa and Adam’s Brasserie. A great place to relax after the round and if you are staying over, you'll definitely want to take advantage of the pool and spa. All of the facilities and amenities are five-star luxury!
Luton Hoo doesn’t just cater for golf, in fact they offer a wide array of sporting activities including Clay Pigeon shooting, which would make this an attractive place to stay for an adventure weekend or even just a relaxing Spa weekend.
With special offers, such as the Brigestone Challenge offer, which entitles you to 18 holes, complimentary range balls, a welcome gift and a Luton Hoo Burger in the 19th from only £59. Luton Hoo is well worth a visit.