Having a ball a Tylney Hall
Deep in the Hampshire countryside, this grand hotel and neighbouring golf course offer a piece of quiet. Robert Green reports
Unlike many golf-related locations in the home counties that I could mention, the Tylney Hall Hotel is very well signposted, which is just as well. Less than a mile off the M3 and already the motorway has given way to rural lanes and village greens. London doesn’t seem to be so much an hour or so’s drive away; rather, if only temporarily, a distant memory.
The entrance to the hotel is distinctly on the grand side, the driveway to the Grade II listed building being lined by magnificent redwood trees which offer a glimpse of Tylney Park golf course to your right. This place has been a hotel for 26 years, previously being a school. The property is around 120 years old, although records indicate that a mansion house has been on the site since 1561. It’s a bit like the story with those old documents concerning the heritage of the most venerable golf courses in Scotland. Such establishments are often older than it says on the tin.
In the building’s previously educational incarnation, some of the land was parcelled off and the golf course built on that. The course is not owned by the hotel but they have a close association, physically and commercially, and the opening five holes of the course are effectively laid out in the hotel’s grounds, beginning with a dogleg par-five that falls away to the left approaching the green, thereby helpfully encouraging your ball in the direction of a pond.
Apart from on the par-three 13th (pictured opposite), that’s the only water hazard on the course, which is laid out in 200 acres of appealing parkland landscape. (It’s protected by English Heritage.) The course was opened in 1973 but extensively remodelled ten years ago, with pretty much every hole undergoing some element of redesign. As one would expect of a parkland course, the mature trees are as much obstacles as attractive adornments, while the greens are frequently large and often undulating.
There are five sets of tees, from red (ladies’, of course) to black, respectively making the course measure 5424 and 7019 yards with a par of 72. Two especially strong holes are the 5th and 10th. The former is a formidable par-three (222 yards from the tips and over 200 from both whites and yellows) with the green set at an angle to the line of the tee shot and an area of ‘dead’ ground between what appears to be a greenside bunker and the green itself. The 10th is a sturdy par-four with a pair of bunkers protecting the corner of the dogleg as a threat to those who might try to cut the corner.
The course is maintained in fine condition, even though it was October when I was there and – as we all know – 2012 did not experience the most benign weather that England has ever had. To state the obvious, the course is busier at weekends than during the week. The hotel has 112 rooms, three of these being master suites. The rooms are either in the mansion house or in the orangery, which itself is situated within a walled garden. Indeed, gardens are a speciality. There are several, including an enchanting water garden, set in the 66 acres of land. The grounds are open for non-guests to view and enjoy three times a year.
Golf is not the only sporting, health-inducing, option catered for. The spa offers more treatments than a Woody Allen screenplay and there are also a jacuzzi, gym and an indoor as well as outdoor pool – the latter (heated) is open from Easter to the end of September. Archery, clay pigeon shooting and tennis courts are available, too.
The hotel’s Oak Room restaurant is perhaps best described as sumptuous and there are some gorgeous country pubs in the area. One that we went to, the Gamekeepers at Mapledurwell, just north of Basingstoke, is perhaps best found with the help of a satnav system (I don’t have one) but it was definitely worth the effort to discover it.