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  • Neil White

Bearwood Lakes

If the kite which blessed the skies over Bearwood Lakes was whistling in appreciation at my tee-shot on the 8th, it was crying in dismay at my second which thudded into the top of the tree which was its home.

I feared that my rather ungraceful golf jarred with the beauty of nature in this Berkshire oasis - the first members-and-guests-only course of my top 100 quest.

It surprised me because every other venue I have played within 50 miles of London has been thick with heather.

The relief from the purple haze was tempered by the perils of the water which gives the course its name.

Indeed, I empathised with tour golfer Charley Hull whose recent seven on the 13th took her out of contention in the Rose Ladies' Series event at Bearwood Lakes.

This is one of the course's picture holes - demanding a long carry over a pond before being faced by what seems to be a benign short chip into the green. Unfortunately, appearances are deceptive and I discovered a lake which sucks in shots falling short in front or to the right of the putting surface.

My disappointment followed a previous blob on the 12th - a downhill 191-yard par three which is surrounded by bunkers at its front and a wood behind it to trap the over-eager.

That said, there are possibilities to score. Indeed, I snaffled two early three-pointers, thanks to the welcoming first and second.

The gentle introduction is temporary. Work is currently being undertaken to build large ponds in front of the first tee and 18th green.

My playing partner, who had kindly invited me to his course, is not keen on this development but I politely disagreed.

Anyone playing a venue with 'lakes' in the title should expect water from the outset but currently doesn't encounter it until the fifth. I also reckon the additions will provide an even more splendid outlook for those munching on the clubhouse lunches.

Incidentally, I can vouch for their quality, having gorged on a succulent sea bass, served by very friendly staff, ahead of our match

Back on the course, I found that the first nine - which is largely woodland-based - offered more opportunities to score than the second where water is much more to the fore.

The exception is the 7th - a long par four - with a handsome avenue of trees which open out into a view of the clubhouse.

I liked the short eighth which requires plotting around water and the par-three ninth which demands an accurate shot over it.

Meanwhile, I am still trying to make up my mind about the controversial 16th with its strange railway-sleeper fence which seems to be trying to mimic the cross-fairway walls of St Endodoc and North Berwick.

I enjoyed Bearwood Lakes but, in truth, expected something a tad tougher or maybe more exotic to match the mystery of being one of the few UK courses where the public cannot play without invitation.

But it does have many nice touches - including the idea of renting out rake heads.

I was very happy to smooth out the surface having played my shots from where the ball landed as opposed to moving it to accommodate the rakeless traps of the Covid-affected period.

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