2 great courses, PING Fitting Centre & European HQ, & the Capital of England.......
Two very different courses, both well maintained, now owned by PING in peaceful Lincolnshire, a little perched on the hills of Gainsborough, once the Capital of England & Denmark in 1013. The air is fresh & clean, the night sky dark with millions of stars at their shiniest.
1. THONOCK PARK, the oldest, some 120 years of age, so a well established parkland in this fairly rural northern county of England. Thonock Park is the more gentle of the 2, water comes into play on 5 holes only, the natural slopes & humps provide the challenge. The greens were excellent.
We played in the windiest conditions ever (21.10.2014), with 80mph gusts of wind, we must be mad !!!! but players were allowed on the course. Nature was taking control of the game, the sun was shining making the course very attractive but a pain to see the ball flight, so there were a few lost balls & a few curses, but apart from that very peaceful all around.
14th, short Par 3 over a large lake, a huge bunker on the left of a large tiered green that was sloping down toward the water.
18th, Par 5, was very interesting too: tee shot over a ditch with a very tight opening to a long & wide fairway, bunker in the driving distance, then comes a large & wide hollow before another bit of fairway before the green finishing by the Clubhouse. Both the 9th & 18th greens are in full view from the upstairs bar and the "Café 19" downstairs.
There is a halfway hut in the middle of the 2 courses's layout and when shut, a phone can be used to order refreshment & pick up at the Clubhouse.
Fairways ins excellent condition, bunkers a little compacted.
2. KARSTEN LAKES: the newest of the 2 courses, 20 years old & designed by Karsten Solheim, a descendant of the PING family. A jewel of a course where water comes into play on 15 holes, I think. Very cleverly designed with huge bunkers, 62 bunkers in all, twice the amount of Thonock Park, not very deep bunkers but of an XXXXL or super king size. The funny thing I did not visit any but had to test one or two to report. Sand was wet despite the heavy winds of yesterday, but playable with some flair & magic. Mr L. did find few and was quite vocal about it.....
The greens were a real treat, very subtle ondulations, curves & tiers but "true" & in excellent condition.
Although flattish, there are slopes and small hills with interesting contours around the lakes, ponds & rivers (or streams) that meander through the course, protrude a little here & there but not always obvious when you play the course for the 1st time.
Favourites on Karsten Lakes:
The 9th, a Par 4/5, named "Double Trouble", lake all along the left side of this double legged hole. a ditch all along the right side, a huge bunker on the side of the tiered green naturally sloping towards the water & one more bunker at the back.
The 16th, again a Par 4/5, "Roy's Creek", tee shot over the river that meanders in and out the length of the hole on the right hand side and of course more trouble on the left with 2 equally huge bunkers by the approach of the green that has a very lovely undulation. A real gem.
Both courses fairly easy to walk, even if distances between holes are far apart sometimes. The only negative comment is the lack of signage to the next tee boxes, it needs to be improved as visitors can easily go to the wrong Tee. Head Pro has been advised....
Just a few more lines about Gainsborough GC, PING fitting centre etc...
Spent 2 days, played the 2 courses, stayed locally in a super B & B (12 Morton Terrace for reference) which was recommended by PING.
PING fitting centre is situated by the modern flood lit driving range. It has all the latest equipment to measure, test, etc... all the newest models with any combination possible of heads, shafts, grips and uses proper golf balls, ie Srixon AD333 (with a PING logo of course).
The fitting centre is very modern in appearance, lots of natural light created by the glass construction and the large opening onto the driving range with the distance coloured flags. Steve Harrison (ex Pro), Product Specialist made me feel at ease with all equipment I tried. He was not trying to sell anything, just sorting out the best clubs for my bag with all the right increments.. The fitting came to a very happy conclusion for me with the help of Mike Lea, PING European Manager who gave me a 100 per cent service after my less than fruitful experience from a PING Demo day from a certain Surrey golf club at the beginning of the year. So a very happy outcome, well worth the long drive.
I enjoyed the 2 golf courses, the Clubhouse, the food & drinks from either the bar upstairs or the Café 19 downstairs both with wonderful views of the golf courses. Friendly staff and good prices.
Member were friendly too, had time to stop and speak to us visitors, telling some of the very interesting history of Gainsborough, worth mentioning Marshall Ironworks, Rose Packaging Machinery (where Cadbury sweet takes its name from and of course the Vikings !!!!!, the river Trent and lots more).
Proshop is large & full of PING items + some other makes. Friendly staff. Head Pro Stephen Cooper was friendly and very approachable.
Ladies changing room is well equipped with plenty of room, lockers, seating area but could do with some more modern furniture & sanitary ware.
There is a well designed covered area between the Proshop and Café 19, where one can keep golf bag & trolley whilst having refreshments. The golf shoes cleaner air hose is there too.
Large Car Park, nicely laid out with a big "overspill" for visitors. A special parking bay for people coming for a fitting.
Large & sleek practice green on the way to the driving range/fitting centre accessible via steps but golf trolleys can go on a ramp.
The PING European factory is a few minutes down the road, but I di not have time to visit. There is on site accommodation (apartments I think) for visitors coming from long distance mainly Germany, France, Scandinavian countries etc.
A very nice set up and 2 lovely courses, a fair distance from Twickenham but well worth it.
I am very grateful to Mike Lea, mentioned above for all the help/advice provided.