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Play Away: Castles Gone Chic

Contemporary chic in Britain, once the confine of urban boutique hotels, has escaped into the countryside. Where chintz and tradition often translated as shabby formal stuffiness, descriptions such as "cool," "luxurious" and "hip" now fit a new generation of British country-house hotels. For golfers in such places, prepare for the shock and the sheer comfort of the new.

1 THE GROVE Chandler's Cross, Hertfordshire, England; 011-44/ 1923-807-807, thegrove.co.uk. Rooms: $438-$1,642.
An unapologetic palace of modern chic, this large-scale hotel, spa and golf resort is but thirty minutes from London's Heathrow airport. A three-hundred-acre estate (once belonging to the Earls of Clarendon), it oozes style. Its 211 rooms and sixteen suites are splendid, none more so than the "mansion king room," with a working fireplace in the bathroom.

2 BRAID HOUSE, GLENEAGLES HOTEL Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland; 866-463-8734, gleneagles.com. Rooms: $483-$848.
Since 1924, the tartan and timeless Gleneagles has been the gold standard for British golf destinations. But now with the new ultra-modern wing of Braid House, guests have what they've been demanding for decades: balconies. Braid's fifty-nine sleek, crisp rooms are also life-enhancing, with keypads that control air-conditioning, audio-visuals, even curtains. When the Ryder Cup comes to Gleneagles in 2014, where will the players be?Dead right: here.

3 WHATLEY MANOR Easton Grey, Wiltshire, England; 011-44/1666-822-888, whatleymanor.com. Rooms: $502-$1,550.
On the refined wing of Britain's contemporary-chic explosion, Whatley Manor is a fifteen-room, eight-suite gem of a retreat with beautiful gardens and a classy spa. It also lies within twenty minutes of two fine local links: the Bowood Golf and Country Club and the Manor House Golf Club. Opened last July by a wealthy Swiss family, Whatley has rooms that boast the attention to detail you'd expect from the Swiss: immaculate bathrooms, Bang & Olufsen TVs, and DVD players in the bedrooms.

4 BOVEY CASTLE North Bovey, Devon, England; 011-44/1647-445-016, boveycastle.com. Rooms: $264-$2,734.
Last year, developer Peter de Savary bought the Manor House Hotel in Devon and invested $50 million to re-create it as Bovey Castle. The name amused locals who've known the house as a former baronial home; a castle it never was. But de Savary is not easily deterred. He restored the Jacobean-looking mansion with a modern twist on 1920s deco grandeur, a conceit that weaves through Bovey's sixty-five individually designed bedrooms and bathrooms, holistic spa and pool.

5 HURST HOUSE East Marsh, Carmarthenshire, Wales; 011-44/1994-427-417, hurst-house.co.uk. Rooms: $228-$319.
An antidote to the corporate sprawl of Ryder Cup venue Celtic Manor, Hurst House is a boutique hotel set in converted farm buildings. But inside there isn't a hint of Hicksville: The interiors blend minimalist modernism into rooms all about stylish comfort. Hurst House is so inviting, you might want to stay inside and toss another log on the fire—or go for a stroll on the nearby beach. If it's golf you need, the links of Royal Porthcawl and Tenby are just down the road.


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