Golf course reviews
Oakmere Park Golf Club, Nottinghamshire
Two free draining heathland courses - the 18-tee, 9-green Commanders course and the 18-hole Admirals course.
Given the time of the year (April) and the poor weather of the last few months, both courses were remarkably dry - although that isn't such a surprise when you experience some of the drops and inclines to be negotiated. Never mind buggies and trolleys; Sherpas should be up for hire.
Overall, worth a visit for an intriguing 27 holes with some novel fairways and challenging greens, plus a good clubhouse, friendly welcome and decent food - but there are just a couple of gripes.
Given the occasionally mountainous terrain, usually involving blind shots, it is incredibly frustrating for the first-time visitor when no strokesavers are available and there are no clues out on the course as to what you're facing next.
Secondly, if the appalling bunkers are actually being worked on, then a simple GUR sign in each would be preferable to the A4 notice stuck on the pro shop window that is only in your eye line when you walk back in from the course.
Market Harborough Golf Club, Leicestershire (www.mhgolf.co.uk)
A fine, challenging course offering excellent views over the surrounding countryside.
The closing four holes are probably the best set I've played in a long time. A short, downhill par three, is followed by a devilish par four to a green beset by water; then another par three over a pond to a two-tier green and finally a par four dogleg with a risk/reward tee shot over a well-positioned lake. Great fun.
A very friendly golf club, from the genial pro and his friendly black labrador through to the chef who delivered a buggy to us on the 14th after ours had decided enough was enough, then went back to his day job and prepared an excellent meal for our society's return.
Five minutes off J2 of the A14 and well worth a visit.
Belton Park Golf Club, Lincolnshire (www.beltonpark.co.uk)
Visited with a golf society in mid-April and played the three loops of nine with a major horse riding event going on in the impressive grounds of Belton Hall next door.
Rather strange to hit a long putt on an undulating green, accompanied by the sound of galloping hooves and a tannoy announcing "And here he goes, down into the valley and up the slope on the other side" - which was an uncanny description of my ball's line.
Course was in good nick and the greens will improve as the season moves on. Great views and some interesting, challenging holes. The wandering deer on the course proved to be a novel distraction as well as a moveable hazard. Fortunately the sheep and cattle were removed back in 1975.
Clubhouse is great, staff are welcoming and the food was fine. Be warned: the middle of Grantham can be a bit slow at morning rush hour.
Lingdale Golf Club, Leicestershire (www.lingdalegolfclub.co.uk)
My home club, so I may be a bit biased. However, Peter Aliss described the course as "a hidden gem" and Tony Jacklin reckons it has "probably the toughest opening three holes in the Midlands". Both are right. It's a challenging but beautiful track and the superb greens can bamboozle the best.
With spectacular views, fantastic scenery and wonderful wildlife, it's an excellent golfing experience and one not to be missed. Recent on-course improvements mean poor shots are still punished, but not excessively so - improving everyone's enjoyment of the game.
Modern clubhouse, excellent food and drink and only 10 minutes from junctions 22 and 23 of the M1.
Oakridge Golf Club, Warwickshire (www.oakridgegolfclub.co.uk)
Well-maintained parkland course that makes good use of its undulating terrain to create a good challenge for golfers of all levels. The greens have more subtle borrows than a secret gambling addict and the water on the last three holes creates a memorable finale.
Set in beautiful countryside, the tranquility is only marred by the occasional hoots from passing trains on the hidden line that bisects the course. Be warned. They always seem to hoot on your downswing.
Kingsthorpe Golf Club, Northampton (www.kingsthorpe-golf.co.uk)
If you belong to or run a golf society, this marvellous course should be on your itinerary. Breakfast, lunch and two rounds of golf, all for around £30, make it an absolute bargain.
The par-69 parkland course with its small, undulating greens and tight, tree-lined fairways represents an excellent challenge, with a couple of quirky holes (including a driveable but well-protected third hole and a short but tricky par-three ninth) adding intrigue to the round.
Great drainage means it's playable virtually all year round. A warm welcome and the excellent clubhouse simply add to the enjoyment. Highly recommended.