Bovey Castle Golf Course

Rare chance to play one of the Golden Age's best.

Bovey Castle Golf Course

Devon, TQ13 8RE, England


The JF Abercromby design is one of England's best-kept secrets. The front nine has the potential to be one of England golf's finest inland nines. The 4th hole, with river and O.O.B, could be the golden age answer to Coore & Crenshaw's 2nd hole at Talking Stick. Charm is the descriptor here and if you have that - the rest is easy...

Course Review
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Golf Course Review

Bovey Castle Golf Course is situated on the edge of the Dartmoor National Park and was once known as Manor House. The Manor House was built by British architect Detmar Jellings Blow for the son of the stationary magnate W.H. Smith, Frederick Smith in 1907. The golf course is interlaced by the Rivers Bovery and Bowden.

Bovey Castle Golf Course & The GWR

The Great Western Railway purchased the property in 1929 and converted the mansion to a hotel to compete with the likes of Turnberry and Gleneagles. It was reported that the nearest golf course was 2 miles away but the land of the estate would lend itself to the laying our of the golf course. (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette – 09 April 1929) Three weeks later it was reported that the planning application included a provision for a golf course.

On April 16, 1930, the newspaper reported that the golf course had been designed by JF Abercromby and built by Franks Harris Bros Ltd. The course opened for play on the 8th of June, 1930. It measured 5,600 yards upon opening and had 6 one-shot holes. During the Second World War, the golf course lay dormant for 5 years. It was reopened for play on August 1, 1946.

Ownership was transferred to the British Transport Commission in 1948. In the early 1950s, the 4th hole was made into a Par 5. The previous tee would have been in an area not covered in trees to the left of the present green site.

JF Abercromby at Bovey Castle

A review of Bovey Castle Golf Course was written in 1931 by Anthony Spalding for Golf Illustrated. He reported a course of about 5500 yards with 7 one-shot holes and 6 holes over 400 yards. Written a year after opening, it would appear that a two-shot hole had become a one-shot hole. This was meant to be enjoyable holiday golf but a test for the greedy and over-enthusiastic Tiger.

In what has become an JF Abercromby hallmark, the opening par 3 measured just over 200 yards from an elevated tee. Such an opener can also be seen at Knole Park and The Addington.

Bovey Castle Golf Course is naturally divided into two halves. The lower opening holes where the two trout rivers provided the interest and the high holes akin to moorland golf of the Surrey & Berkshire variety.

Cotton and Steel at Bovey Castle

In the 1960s, Henry Cotton made alterations to Bovey Castle Golf Course. The following changes were made at that time:

  • The original 1st was lengthened with an additional tee.
  • The 2nd green was moved to the left of the stream from the promontory adjacent.
  • The 3rd and 4th holes were combined with the 3rd tee playing to the 4th green.
  • The 5th to 8th remained unchanged.
  • The par 3 9th was replaced by a par 4 and a par 3 10th was added.
  • The 11th to 13th remained unchanged.
  • The 14th was lengthened by adding a new green site.
  • The 15th to 17th remained unchanged.
  • The 18th was lengthened with a new green.

Bovey Castle Manor House JF Abercromby

In 2003, the property was purchased by Peter de Savary, who at one time, also owned Skibo Castle. It was during this time that Donald Steel was brought in to make changes, in particular the island third green. The resort has since changed hands in 2006 and again in 2014.

At present, the majority of the investment seems to be in the hotel and estate rather than the golf course but the potential at Bovey Castle Golf Course, much like The Addington, is palpable.

Changes to Bovey Castle Golf Course by Donald Steel

3 – Tees added and new island green built.
4 – Tees and fairway bunker added.
8 – Green moved to the left. Original green sat on current 9 Hole tees.
9 –  Aber’s original par 3 9th returned by Steel.
10 – Steel combined the 9th and 10th into the current 10th.
11 – Pond added.
12 – Tees added. Left greenside bunker added.
13 – Left fairway bunker added.
14 – Made from Par 3 to Par 4.
16 – Two fairway bunkers moved and one was added. Greenside bunker added.
17 – Front greenside bunker moved.
18 – Two fairway bunkers added. Greenside bunker added.

JF Abercromby’s original holes include 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 15 & 17. Unsurprisingly, the original JF Abercromby holes on the front nine are the cream of the crop with the stream on the first 8 holes wreaking havoc and adding strategic value.

Bovey Castle Golf Course Tour

Take the Tour of Bovey Castle Golf Course.

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Bovey Castle Golf Course - Videos

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Featured Architect: MacKenzie, Alister

As taken from his book, Golf Architecture, Alister MacKenzie felt the following were essential: The course, where possible, should be arranged in two loops of nine holes. There should be a large proportion of good two-shot holes and at least four one-shot holes. There should be little walking between...

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Devon, TQ13 8RE, England
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