Bovey Castle - Devon - England

Bovey Castle,
North Bovey,
Dartmoor National Park,
Devon,
TQ13 8RE,
England


  • 44 (0)1647 445000

  • Greg Fehler

  • J.F. Abercromby, Donald Steel and Tom Mackenzie

  • Richard Lewis


Visit Golfbreaks.com for a golf holiday at Bovey Castle

"We stand on a high place, and there, far below us, something over two hundred yards away, is that blessed Bovey guarding the first green", wrote Bernard Darwin.

"How the Bovey contrives to be so ubiquitous I cannot pretend to say; I merely state bald facts. We carry it again with our second shot at the second hole – if we can. When we get to the third it is there also, bang in front of the green. We may hook into it or one of its tributaries at the fourth and at the seventh we try to carry it twice in one fell swoop from the tee."

The Dartmoor National Park is the largest, wildest and most beautiful area of open countryside in southern England. With its ancient moorland, granite tors, wild ponies, cream teas, chocolate box villages and even Sherlock Holmes. There is no doubt that Devon is quintessential England. If you’ve never sampled the magic, we recommend an immediate jaunt to Devonshire.

Bovey Castle is located within the Dartmoor National Park and the magnificent house was built in 1906 for Lord Hambledon. “The Great Western Railway Company bought it and turned it into an hotel,” wrote Bernard Darwin in an article for Country Life which was later reprinted in his 1934 book, Playing the Like, “and then, with Mr Abercromby to show them how, made this most charming of golf courses at its garden gate. I had never before seen the hem of Dartmoor’s garment of red and brown bracken. My knowledge of it was confined to that immortal work, ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles.’ So when I first saw it, after a steady climb out of Exeter through narrow, winding Devonshire lanes, a delicious shiver ran down my spine, and I felt like Sir Henry Baskerville coming for the first time to the home of his ancestors.”

John F. ‘Aber’ Abercromby, the master English architect who fashioned the brilliant Worplesdon and Addington laid out the course at the Manor House Hotel and it opened for play in the Roaring Twenties. The hotel enjoyed prosperity for many decades however, slowly but surely it fell into disrepair. The course was also in need of a serious tonic, with inadequate drainage and irrigation and putting surfaces that had been reduced to a fraction of their former selves. Know anyone with a couple of million pounds to spend?

Step in millionaire Peter de Savary or “PDS” to his friends. The British entrepreneur, founder and former owner of the Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle, was in the market for buying another castle, but this time in the land of his birth. With vision and drive from PDS and a little help from Donald Steel and Tom Mackenzie, the new Bovey Castle course was re-born and the revamped beauty opened for play in the summer of 2004. Look out for the the stepping stones on the 3rd

From the exhibition tips, the newly fashioned Bovey Castle course can stretch out to an impressive 6,600 yards and the course record of 65, which was held by local Bovey Castle pro Stuart Wells, was beaten by Christopher Hanson during the 2006 PGA Euro-Pro Tournament which was hosted here at Bovey Castle. Hanson recorded an impressive 2nd round 64 which helped him on his way to tournament victory.

We could mention all of the many modifications to the course layout, but one of the most significant and impressive changes must be the excavation of a section of a huge hill, which once belonged to the 18th fairway. The hole is now much improved. The drive landing area on this par four has been softened and the blindness of the approach shot (if your drive is long enough) has been removed, bringing the stunning Abercromby green site into view.

“In short,” wrote Darwin, “this is the ideal course to have at the end of the garden. There never was one better suited to a cheerful foursome, for there is plenty of scope for strategy in deciding who is to drive against who, and at which of the river holes.”

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Reviews for Bovey Castle

Av. Reviewers Score:
Description: Bovey Castle golf course is set magically in the beautiful Dartmoor National Park. It's an English treasure originally laid out by J.F. Abercromby. Rating: 4.2857142857143 out of 6 Reviews: 10

I played Bovey Castle in early July 2018, much of the course is set in a remote picturesque valley below the hotel with the back 9 climbing back up the hill onto more exposed moorland type surroundings. The whole area had seen hardly any rain for a month or so (very rare for Dartmoor!) which meant conditions were firm and fast with the fairways full of bounce and tight lies. It’s not a long a long course but with trees Bovey Castle Golf Course - Photo by reviewer lining many of the holes it’s all about position to attack the small greens, all too easy to boom what appears to be a great drive only to find a shot that needs to shaped around or flown over the trees. To my mind the front 9 is the best of the part of the course, the brook which meanders through the valley touches most of the holes somewhere adds some fun to approach shots. It reminded me a lot of St Mellion albeit the conditioning wasn’t quite as good, the greens had a decent amount of pace in them but disappointed to find them being aerated and sanded which mean gave random bobbles, no warning of this fact in the pro shop or when booking. Reasonable value for money at £59 as a visitor, worth having lunch in the hotel Brasserie after, great location on the balcony to contemplate the birdies made and putts missed. IRC

4 / 6
Bovey Castle
July 12, 2018


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Stood on the fourth tee at Bovey Castle I’m already three golf balls down, having not found any of my tee-shots, and am hobbling like an old man thanks to a pain in my foot. I should be ready for quitting this godforsaken game and heading to the luxuries on offer at the accompanying 5-star country house hotel… yet I’m fascinated by these opening holes and am keen to see the rest.

The layout has a very intimate feel for the majority of the front nine before gradually climbing on to higher ground with just a hint of moorland flavour to it. The first eight holes are truly lovely and whilst from this point on the course undoubtedly fizzles out there are still plenty of good holes during the remainder of the round. In fact only the short ninth is an uncharacteristic blip during the first two-thirds of the course and bar a few awkward shots towards the end of the round there is very little to dislike.

Errant approach shots at the first three holes could easily lead to a watery grave as a brook wanders through the valley which the holes are played through, as it does on most of the holes on the superior front nine. The greens tie into their surrounds nicely and everything is set out clearly in front of you. There are some interesting recovery shots too should you miss the modestly sized greens.

Whilst the experience on the course doesn’t quite match the 5-star one off it, this is still one of the best courses in the area, benefits from a magical location, and I imagine would make for an excellent golf break where you can mix the good life away from the course with some pretty darn stuff on it.

Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.

4 / 6
Bovey Castle
April 07, 2017


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Read a few of the reviews here and had high expectations of Bovey Castle Having played it today, I wonder if I was even on the same course! Stayed for the weekend at the hotel which was stunning and well worth a stay. Enjoy the hotel but if you expect the same high standards on the course you may be seriously disappointed. In brief I’d describe the course as tired, scruffy, mostly bland and in poor condition. The front half is in a stunning location in the valley below the hotel which is beautiful with the river running through many of the holes but that was the only outstanding part of the course but even on the front 9 the location is beautiful but the course mundane. Most holes on the front 9 are straight and uneventful, apart from the river coming into play occasionally (but not overly) and not particularly difficult or challenging. 10 and 11 suddenly feel like a different course and my hopes went up that things were about to change. Unfortunately it all went downhill from there. After 2 interesting holes in 10 and 11 it then turns VERY mundane. I’m not a long hitter but any means but 13 to 17 of driver-SW, hybrid-PW, driver-8I, Driver-PW, Driver-SW is a very dull run of par 4’s. If you are a long hitter leave half of your longer clubs at home. 18 is OK but far too little far too late. Back home 4 hours after walking off the course and none of the holes are overly memorable. What stood out the most was the condition of the course. Tee’s were in a terrible state, paths scruffy and not looked after, some of the temporary tees were wobbly and misaligned, but most of all the greens were dreadful. To me the greens will make or break any course and these were some of the worst I’ve played on for a very long time. Full of black moss so unbelievably slow and erratic. If I was a member there I’d have serious concerns where my money was going! OK, so this was early March but my home course is in great condition at the moment and looked after constantly – Bovey looks like most of it has been abandoned for the winter, didn’t see a single member of the ground staff doing anything to the course for 3 days. If you play it go in the summer, I expect the valley will be even more beautiful with the trees in full leaf and maybe the ground staff all come back when it warms up and work their socks off to make it a nice course. But for me, I certainly wouldn’t go back.
2 / 6
Bovey Castle
March 03, 2013


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What a great place to play golf. It is a shame the course is a bit worn as otherwise this would be right up there for me. Sometimes you just like a course and this was it for me. The front nine are extremely picturesque and the holes remain good right through to 12. 13 and 14 are the let down here with 15 and 16 okay and a return to form on 17 and 18, which is a great finishing hole. I would also recommend the pizzas once you are in the bistro with a bit of chilli oil.
5 / 6
Bovey Castle
March 26, 2012


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I’ve played many of the best courses in the south west, from the great links on the north coast to the new beasts of the south (St Mellion and Dartmouth). Bovey is like no other course in the south west, it’s unique and if you can find a sunny day to play it's totally engaging. The last poster suggests it’s not in his/her Top 100 but that depends on which Top 100. It would narrowly miss my personal GB&I Top 100 but it definitely makes my English list. I’d rather play Bovey twice than either of the two courses at St Mellion. Let’s be honest St Mellion and Bovey don’t compare. The former is a golfing hotel and the latter is the best place to stay in the south west. Bovey is the place where you take your lover, St Mellion is where you take your mates for a cheap weekend.

Most people quite rightly say that the front nine at Bovey is the best. However, there are some great holes on the back nine, let’s take a look at the 11th. This is one of the best par fours in the region, it measures 451 yards from the back tees and you’ll need your best drive and some serious bottle to take the green on in two. The second (or third for most) needs to carry across a deep chasm where there’s a pond below. The green is set almost island like, surrounded by deep fall offs to the front and left and out of bounds lies to the back. It’s a great hole. The 12th is the gate house hole and it’s a cracking par three that measures more than 200 yards from the back tees. The greensite is expertly bunkered and a par here is one to savour.

The next two holes are the weakest on the course, two short par fours that run up and down the main driveway and these are where you can pick up a birdie or two before you tee it up on the dogleg left 15th where you need to be accurate off the tee or you’ll have to shape your approach around the trees. The next hole is a straightforward moorland hole but the 17th has a cracking approach to a sunken green. The 18th is a hard hole as the approach is invariably blind, which is a shame as the green is set in the most magical position in the trees. For my money this is the hardest hole on the course.

I honestly can’t see how anyone could be disappointed by Bovey Castle, it’s simply a beautiful place to stay and play. I recommend it. Nigel.
5 / 6
Bovey Castle
July 23, 2011


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Played Bovey Castle and St Mellion on recent trip and i'm afraid found Bovey Castle very average front Nine poor back Nine, some nice views but course very short! not in my top 100
3 / 6
Bovey Castle
July 17, 2011


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Response
John
July 18, 2011
This is a weird review. I can't imagine anybody finding the front nine here average. Short by St Mellion's standards perhaps but off the back tees it's around 6,700 yards. Are you Bubba Watrson?
I’ve not played Bovey Castle for a few years (despite being a member here) and returned yesterday to enjoy a round on one of the prettiest courses in Devon. The course is improving without doubt with subtle changes being made here and there around the course. The second hole was tough enough as it was, a tight driving P4 that turns left with the river on the left and trees on the right but this hole is all about the approach shot to a green that sits angled with the river in front of the green and flowing down the right side. The approach shot at the 2nd was always to be long rather than short as there was a path and bank behind the angled green that fed the ball back onto the green. Bunkers have now been cut into the bank and they are deep. If you find yourself in one of these traps you’ll need a delicate bunker shot to stay on the green or you’ll end up in the river. The most dramatic change is at the P3 9th which was a fairly ordinary hole with little definition other than the trees and the ground climbing sharply to the left. An array of bunkers have now been cut across the front of the green and to the right of the green. Aesthetically from the tee this now looks like a serious P3. The final change noticed was that the green on 18, which was always an absolute nightmare to hold has been flattened out at the front, so you now have a fighting chance of finding your ball after hitting the blind approach shot. Keep it up Bovey. It’s great to see one the finest courses in the South West continuing to improve.
5 / 6
Bovey Castle
May 14, 2011


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Bovey is one of the prettiest courses with an interesting front nine with the river in play for a good number of holes. The back nine isn’t as good but the 10th is a fantastic par five across a valley to a green benched in the hillside. It’s not recommended to wayward golfers as there’s lots of trouble if you’re offline. The P3 12th is tough and the 18th even more so. I recommended it.

5 / 6
Bovey Castle
August 21, 2008


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Played here recently, as others have said the front nine outshine the back nine, which are none the poorer for that. A good test of golf, enough water to make you think about your game and not just blast it down the fairway. A fantastic setting and not too expensive if you stay at the hotel. We virtually had the whole course to ourselves, all in all a great days golf, will definitely try to visit again.
5 / 6
Bovey Castle
June 18, 2008


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Moretonhampstead GC, or even The Manor House Hotel GC as it has been known for lot longer than some new owner decided to rename it, is, and always has been a delightful and very playable course. Sadly, it is now known as Bovey Castle GC and has been transformed into one of these super dooper over expensive 5 star venues...if thats what you want, then so be it ! The course is fine, always has been and always will be, but it is not going to set the world alight and sadly, not being in Ireland or Scotland, I fear is not going to be the success that the blurge shows. It is a good traditional undulating track, and if you are daft enough to pay the outlandish green fees, then please go ahead. However, there are so many much better West Country courses available and even the best, a la Saunton, Burnham etc etc, are always going to offer superb course at sensible rates. Anyone who pays the outlandish fees for this course must have more money than golfing sense.
4 / 6
Bovey Castle
July 02, 2007


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