Two fabulous golf courses and an £11m spa, Ramside Hall Hotel is a perfect weekend getaway. Chris Stratford reports.
There are occasions when golfers feel they want a change of scenery away from their home club or local courses, but do not have time available for a prolonged stay away.
In such a situation he or she – or more likely a group of players – will look for somewhere that is far enough away to be considered a break yet close enough that as few as a couple of days need be set aside for a visit. The criteria they will want met are: a good course or courses, comfortable accommodation, a selection of dining choices – and, of course, alternative activities to occupy any non-golfing partners.
In many cases the alternative activity of choice will involve being indulged and pampered, which is why golf and spa have become enmeshed in the travel and leisure industry in recent years.
Ramside Hall Hotel & Golf Club, near Durham, has recently opened an £11m luxury spa, which certainly adds lustre to its appeal as a destination for Yorkshire golfers.
It is the second enhancement in a year, following on from the opening of the Cathedral Course, a championship track that provides a testing and disparate alternative to its older brother, the Prince Bishops course.
Positioned just a quarter of a mile from junction 62 off the A1(M), Ramside Hall is around an hour and a quarter’s drive from central Yorkshire and is close enough to fit in three rounds of golf in a two-night stay by playing on both the day of arrival and day of departure.
This would give the visitor the opportunity to play each of the courses once before deciding which to play for a second time, although it may prove a difficult decision as each holds its own charms.
The Prince Bishops is the more enclosed of the two, wending its way through an estimated 50,000 trees – that is Ramside Hall’s estimate, not one based on the number I may or may not have hit into during my round.
For the longer hitter there are par-5s reachable in two and driveable par-4s, while for the mid-handicap golfer the fairways are generous but the challenge lies on the greens. Built to United States Golf Association specification, they are multi-tiered with slick, undulating surfaces.
The Cathedral Course has been built on higher, more exposed ground and time should be taken occasionally to disengage from the tests it poses to admire the views. Durham Cathedral can be seen on the closing holes on the front nine while the 15th tee affords a view of the Angel of the North.
Designer Jonathan Gaunt wanted to pay homage to Augusta National’s world-famous mid-round stretch of holes known as Amen Corner and the downhill par-3 12th certainly carries echoes of its famous counterpart in Georgia.
For Rae’s Creek read Sherburn Beck, which guards the front of the green, and there is an immense deal of satisfaction to be gained from correct club selection and shot execution at this hole.
The course closes with a 236-yard par-3 with three hazardous lakes guarding a massive green with slopes that will test your putting. An excellent conclusion to a championship standard course that is certain to grow in status as it matures.
So which of the courses did I play twice? Neither. Instead I opted to enjoy the Golfer’s Tonic massage at the new spa, a 60-minute treatment that began with a foot soak and scrub and then a therapeutic leg and foot massage. These alone had restorative powers almost beyond comprehension after the five-mile walk around the course, and muscle relaxation followed via exfoliation and massaging of the back, which included the use of hot stones.
My partner Shirley, meanwhile, made twice as much use of the spa – among whose other facilities are 14 treatment rooms, a 25m swimming pool, gym and exercise studios, a herbal sauna and a Himalayan salt steam room – by having a two-hour treatment. The Back in Balance began with a mini-facial, followed by a massage using oils and warmed volcanic stones before concluding with a head massage.
Since there is no scale for measuring relaxation, I cannot say for sure Shirley was twice as relaxed as I, but certainly it was a contented couple who dined on the Asian-style cuisine at Fusion. This is Ramside’s newest dining option for guests, which complements the Rib Room Steakhouse & Grill, offering a French brasserie style menu, and Pembertons Carvery, where breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea are available. Excellent food can also be enjoyed in the clubhouse.
Ramside Hall has all the essential ingredients needed to place it high on a list of places Yorkshire golfers – or non-golfers for that matter – should consider when planning a short break.