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Big-time golf comes to Essex

PUBLISHED: 09:28 07 July 2012

Stoke by Nayland will be hosting a Challenge Tour event later this month

Stoke by Nayland will be hosting a Challenge Tour event later this month

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Challenge Tour event at Stoke by Nayland

Local golf lovers have the chance to see some high-class action this month as the Challenge Tour comes to Essex.

The Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf & Spa in Colchester is playing host to the English Challenge for the third year running from July 26-29, with 160 professionals battling it out for 160,000 euros in prize money.

Chelmsford’s Lloyd Kennedy finished in a share of third place last summer, as Frenchman Benjamin Hebert won on 12 under par.

And the likes of former Langdon Hills youngster Daniel Brooks, currently ninth in the tour rankings, are sure to be chasing honours in three weeks time.

Nestled in the heart of beautiful Constable country, it is certainly a stunning setting to watch, and play, the sport.

The European Seniors Tour has also been held here, while Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United’s Premier League footballers have used the hotel as a base.

The complex, just 45 minutes from junction 28 of the M25, certainly appears to have everything one could need to enjoy a short break.

A contemporary 80-room hotel, state-of-the-art spa and fitness facilities and new stylish lodges all look enticing.

But for golf alone, it left a big enough impression.

The Constable course stretches out for 6,544 yards, while the Gainsborough measures 7,134 yards off the blue tees — but 1,000 yards shorter off yellows! — and includes some excellent holes to test players of all abilities.

Accuracy is paramount, although head professional Roly Hitchcock promised the rough would be cut back before the tournament!

I managed three pars on the front nine but their combined yardage, 635, was 13 fewer than the championship distance of the par five 16th!

One of the signature holes is the 10th, which is not too dissimilar from no.10 on the Brabazon at The Belfry.

I managed to hit a decent drive and wedge on to the green, but lost two balls inbetween and walked off with a quadruple bogey eight. It can do that to you.

The rest of the back nine was a flurry of further dropped shots before I reached the 184-yard par three 18th and contemplated which iron to take to carry the lake.

I wasn’t far wrong with my club selection, but a fluffed chip and two putts later and I was putting another bogey on the card.

A total of 28 stableford points was not too disheartening, given the fact I failed to score on five holes and can count on one hand the number of rounds I’ve played in 2012.

My playing partners finished with 29 and 35 and besides, it left me wanting more. I will be intrigued to see how the European Tour hopefuls manage when they arrive to battle for honours.

Stoke by Nayland has already left an impression on those who know better, with PGA chief executive Sandy Jones noting: “All the competitors were full of praise for an excellent golf course and it was a unanimous opion that the greens were the best they had putted on throughout the Seniors Tour.”

A round of golf and a well-earned drink on the terrace, overlooking the lake, barely scratched the surface. But they certainly whetted the apetite.

n Entry to the English Challenge is free to spectators and the club will offer complimentary golf clinics at their custom-built driving range during the four days of competition, with a hospitality package also available.

Contact mary.saward@stokebynayland.com or call 01206 265827.

The club also holds a weekly Thursday evening event for juniors, who can play nine holes for just £2, and summer camps during the school holidays. Call 01206 265812 or visit www.stokebynayland.com for more information.

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