The Forest of Arden is a set amidst the trout lakes of Lord Aylesford’s vast 10,000-acre estate at Packington Park. Founded in 1970 and designed by Donald Steel, the Arden course was a regular European Tour venue and has hosted the British Masters and the English Open.
Despite the fact that the Arden is a modern course, Steel has blended the layout nicely into the natural landscape. The majestic oaks, especially prevalent on the back nine, make the layout seem much more mature than it really is. The Arden’s challenge is significant, especially from the back tees – 7,134 yards. But even from the regular yellow tees, the course measures a healthy 6,500 yards.
This is a quality course, set in very pleasant surroundings. It can sometimes feel a lot longer than its advertised yardage because the ground, especially in the winter, becomes soft. The rough can be extremely trying; it’s invariably lush and thick, making recovery shots very tough indeed. In terms of conditioning, the Arden is usually maintained immaculately from tee to green. If you are fortunate enough to play the course prior to, or just after, a European Tour event, you are in for an absolute treat.
Opening gently with two short par fours, it’s not long before the Arden’s real test begins. The sequence of holes from the 6th through to the 9th is superb. The 8th is a wonderful short par three, where the green is guarded by water on two sides. The back nine is the most memorable, not only for the ancient oak trees, but also for the closing two holes, which are technically excellent and very exciting. The 17th is a par five where a bunker to the left and a lake to the right jealously guard the green. Only the crispest of approach shots will find the putting surface. Beware of the closing hole. It’s an intimidating par three, requiring a long, forced carry across a lake.
It’s always delightful to play a championship course of the pedigree of the Forest of Arden, but it’s especially pleasing when the service and the facilities are this good.