the belfry hotel & resort, warwickshire
While The Belfry’s iconic Brabazon Course – scene of four historic Ryder Cups – is without doubt the jewel in the Warwickshire-based resort’s crown, there is an abundance of world-class facilities on and off the three golf courses that make it the ultimate luxury leisure break venue
Set against the backdrop of 550 acres of North Warwickshire countryside, The Belfry has developed into one of Europe’s leading golf destinations, having been voted England’s Leading Resort, England’s Best Golf Hotel, and England’s Best Golf Course at the recent World Golf Travel Awards. In addition to 319 luxury bedrooms and suites in the hotel, there’s something for everyone, with a wide range of quality bars, restaurants, spa facilities, and – of course – three brilliant golf courses.
And getting there couldn’t be easier, whether by road or – as we did – by rail. I took the train with my wife and kids from London Euston to Birmingham International, a journey of just 70 minutes, followed by a 15-minute taxi ride to the world-famous resort. However, if you’re travelling with more luggage, you may prefer to drive, which you can do in under three hours from virtually all corners of England.
As our taxi drove through the Belfry’s entrance, we could almost sense the history. On entering the main hotel lobby, it was clear why the resort has won so many awards, and recently became one of just nine in Europe to be given the Gold Flag status for customer service by industry benchmarker, 59club. The welcome from the staff was warm and welcoming, while the vibrant atmosphere was instantly noticeable as we walked past the classy Brabazon Bar and surrounding areas.
After checking into our spacious family room, I took a spin around the Belfry’s well-kept Derby course, which sits alongside the world-famous Brabazon layout and the inland links that is the PGA National, the Derby is a stunning parkland course with far-reaching views across the Warwickshire countryside.
But don’t be fooled in thinking this is a course that lives in the shadows of the other two. Strategically-placed bunkers, water hazards, and challenging risk-and-reward holes make the Derby a decent test for players of all levels. Designed by Peter Alliss and Dave Thomas, the course demands accuracy right from the first tee – not to mention good club selection and intelligent course management.
Following an afternoon on the course, we spent the evening enjoying an amazing meal at the Belfry’s Ryder Grill. This is a treat for all taste buds, with an impressive a-la-carte menu providing a refreshing take on modern dining. From the comfort of your table, you can enjoy stunning views across the Brabazon course and, in the summer, savour a drink on the outdoor terrace. And – as we found out the next day – The Belfry also plays host to Rocca’s Pizza Pasta restaurant, which is suitable for all the family. Both were fantastic and highly recommended.
After a hearty full English breakfast the next morning, I hit a few balls at the PGA National Golf Academy. This is no ordinary driving range. Fully equipped with five custom-fitting suites, housing the latest brands and Trackman technology, the academy is the perfect venue to fine-tune your game. There are 34 driving bays, while the beautifully kept short game and putting areas offer a great chance to get your game into shape before hitting the course.
Shortly after a thorough warm up, I took to the renowned Brabazon course. The green staff are challenged to provide Ryder Cup-standard course conditions every day – and that’s noticeable as soon as you set foot on the course. When I spoke with the greenkeeping team after the round, it became clear that they have embraced that challenge, ensuring the course could host any major golf event at drop of a hat.
The conditioning of the Brabazon is certainly impressive – the tees and fairways are beautifully manicured, every bunker pristinely presented, and all 18 greens run around 11 on the stimpmeter – just as they did during the last Ryder Cup held on the course in 2002. Added to that are the iconic memories ordinary golfers can embrace when they tee it up on the Brabazon. It all combines for a magical experience.
The ‘Brab’ – as it is affectionately known – allows golfers to follow in the footsteps of legends like Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, who have all graced the par-72 course. Of course, you remember the famous 10th and 18th holes, but I was also impressed with a host of other holes, including the par-four 6th around water, and the challenging 16th, another excellent par four, and the scene of Philip Price’s shock Ryder Cup singles victory over Phil Mickelson in 2002.
Step off the course, or the driving range, and you’re greeted by a wide choice of dining and drinking options, including the aptly-named Sam’s Club House – celebrating Ryder Cup legend Sam Torrance – which boasts a superb range of traditional golfing fare, while large TV screens beam in sport from across the world. After dinner, the party can move to the Brabazon Bar and, if you’re really in a celebratory mood, the on-site Bel Air nightclub, which always has a lively atmosphere.
For those looking for a touch of pampering, the resort boasts a luxury spa, with treatment rooms, finishing studio and ESPA products, providing ample choice for relaxation. After my round, my partner and I sampled a Fire & Ice treatment – a 90-minute journey through 12 different hot and cold rooms. This invigorating blend of steam rooms, saunas and aroma caves is designed to ‘help clear the mind and purify the body’, before easing those tense muscles in the soothing hydrotherapy pool.
We followed this with a 55-minute full-body Swedish massage. Offered with a choice of two different aromatic oils, this deep tissue massage works on all the major muscle groups, stimulates circulation, and restores range of motion – making it an ideal post-golf therapy. Once we had every knot worked out of our bodies, we moved onto the relaxation room, where guests are invited to unwind on comfortable sofas, sipping chilled lemon water, and flick, through magazines or simply close their eyes and listen to calming music.
For more family-friendly activities, in addition to Rocca’s Pizza Pasta restaurant, kids can enjoy an interactive woodland walk, an outdoor playground, and, for aspiring young golfers, the Ryder Legends’ mini golf course. The latter is modelled on famous Ryder Cup holes from across the world, and is a must for any family visiting the resort.
Our brief trip to the Belfry certainly opened our eyes to what the resort has grown into over the last 40 years. While you never lose sight of the venue’s unrivalled Ryder Cup history – images and memorabilia from contests gone by are prominent in certain areas, and meeting rooms used by the respective teams are shown off with golden plaques – it’s very easy to forget you’re in a golf resort.
Yes, there is much for us golf geeks to get excited about – attempting that famous shot by Seve on the tenth tee, Christie O’Connor’s two-iron over the water at the 18th, or Paul McGinley’s match-winning putt at the same hole – but there is as much excitement off the course for the non-golfers. It all adds up to the perfect weekend away – whether that’s for a group of golfers, couples, or for family breaks with kids of all ages.
BOOK YOUR BELFRY BREAK
1 night, 1 round – Includes an overnight stay, 18 holes of golf, and a full English breakfast. From £79 per person.
1 night, 2 rounds – Includes an overnight stay, two rounds of golf and a full English breakfast. From £109 per person.
2 nights, 2 rounds – Includes a two-night stay, two rounds of golf and a full English breakfast. From £159 per person.
For more information on The Belfry Hotel & Resort, visit www.thebelfry.co.uk or call the hotel direct on 01675 238600.