Tried & Tested

Hotel check: Wentworth

26 Jan 2011 by Tom Otley

BACKGROUND Wentworth certainly comes with pedigree. Known worldwide for its golf courses, it is the birthplace of the Ryder Cup and the home of the BMW PGA Championship. It was bought in 2004 by Richard Caring, who also owns Caprice Holdings, of the Ivy, Scott’s and Annabel’s fame – he is working with hotel group Jumeirah to expand these brands internationally – and Soho House, the private club with outposts in London, New York and Los Angeles. Caring’s aim is to create one of the world’s finest golf and country clubs, and the prices he is charging for membership mean he will be measured against that aim.

WHAT’S IT LIKE? The famous castellated clubhouse will be familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of golf. The approach is through sweeping countryside with fairways appearing between the trees, and minimal signposting.

WHERE IS IT? In Virginia Water, Surrey, less than an hour from central London and about 20 minutes from Heathrow airport, traffic permitting.

LEISURE FACILITIES Extensive – there are three championship 18-hole courses and a nine-hole executive one. Best known is the West course, opened in 1926 and designed by Harry Colt (and modernised in 2005 and 2010 by Ernie Els). The East course, opened in 1924, is where the inaugural Curtis Cup took place in 1932, and the Edinburgh course launched in 1990. None of this means much if you are not a golfer – if you are, it is heaven, and included in the price of membership (otherwise it ranges from £95 per person in winter and £160 in summer on the East and Edinburgh courses, and up to £360 on the West in summer).

As well as a driving range, there is a new Taylor Made Performance Lab facility for custom-fitting of clubs, “including a loft and lie machine, putter loft and lie machine, and a unique gripping station”, as well as Motion Analysis Technology that creates real-time animations of your golf swing.

The tennis and health club has 13 outdoor courts (including six that are floodlit), a 25-metre indoor pool, a gym and aerobics studio, alongside a sauna, steam rooms and a spa.

ROOM FACILITIES A weak point. For those with the money for membership, probably the best bet is to stay at the recently opened five-star Coworth Park (coworthpark.com), a five-minute drive away and a member of the Dorchester Collection. Wentworth has nine rooms, which are of a four-star standard and are on the top floor of the clubhouse. They have the feel of former servants’ quarters, with narrow corridors, several staircases to negotiate, and no lift. That said, they aren’t expensive, costing from £95 per night and including use of the leisure facilities (except the golf).

RESTAURANTS AND BARS The Wentworth Grill, “inspired by the Ivy and Le Caprice” and under head chef Leigh Diggins, has an emphasis on British classics. Both the service and cuisine are superb, and menus are updated regularly. Breakfast costs from £4 and lunch and dinner from £17 for two courses.

BUSINESS MEETINGS AND FACILITIES This is a big part of the offering, both for corporate and charity functions and the club’s own social membership. The historic Ryder Cup and Curtis Cup rooms and ballroom can cater for up to 320 people in total, while there are a selection of smaller rooms for everything from meetings to drinks after a round of golf.

RATES Full membership with access to all facilities seven days a week costs from £6,780 per year, plus a joining fee of £15,000 and a levy of £1,000 per person. A seven-day husband and wife membership is £11,568, plus a joining fee of £22,500 and a £1,000 levy per person. Overseas membership is £2,424 per year, with a joining fee of £5,000 and levy of £150 per person (you have to reside permanently outside the UK and you are then entitled to use the club 25 times per year).

The fees are less if you want golf membership only, or just tennis and health club membership. Benefits include the new “Life” service, offering outstanding fast-track booking across top restaurants in London and abroad, discounted Soho House hotel rates, and exclusive offers from a range of luxury retail and leisure brands.

VERDICT An excellent country club with superb facilities and service. If you have the money then the question isn’t whether it justifies the fee, but rather whether the competition is more your style – to compare, Stoke Park club has a membership fee of £5,805 per year and a joining fee of £7,400 (levy £350).

FACT FILE

  • FACILITIES Four golf courses (three championship 18-holes and one executive nine-hole), 13 tennis courts, a health club with three pools, gym, spa and an aerobics studio, plus a restaurant, a café, two bars and seven meeting spaces.
  • HOW MANY ROOMS? There are nine four-star rooms.
  • HIGHLIGHTS The facilities are admirable, but it’s the golf that makes this a special place, right down to the Taylor Made facility at the driving range.
  • CONTACT Wentworth Drive, Virginia Water; tel +44 (0)1344 842 201; wentworthclub.com

Tom Otley

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