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Play Away: Heaven in Devon

After maverick entrepreneur Peter de Savary severed his links with Scotland's ultra-luxurious Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle, it was expected that he would find another British venture to make his mark. The Old Course at Bovey Castle, which opens this June in Devon, England, is that grandiose mark.

De Savary bought the Manor House Hotel last year and restored and rebranded it as Bovey Castle. But the Manor House's best-kept secret was always the golf course laid out by J.F. Abercromby in 1926. It was Aber's quiet masterpiece—a test of strategy rather than of length that wound its way along the scenic valley of the Bovey and Bowden Rivers.

Last year, Donald Steel and Tom Mackenzie, who've worked with de Savary to create six other courses worldwide, were asked to rejuvenate the old design. They've mainly left well enough alone on the 6,600-yard layout. On some holes, however, their remodeling is extensive. The short through-the-trees par-three third, for example, has been stretched from 151 to 195 yards, and here Steel and Mackenzie have chosen to create the property's signature hole with a newly built island green with little room for error. It will be floodlit at night and visible from the castle. The longish par-five fifth has swollen from 517 yards to 580, which suggests that Abercromby's "quiet" strategy has been given much needed defenses for the modern game.

"With this established masterpiece, radical change was unnecessary," Steel says. "The emphasis was on improvement." One senses that Aber would have approved that Steel hasn't flown in gimmicks to tart up this old aristocrat. Indeed, the tranquility and elegance of Bovey Castle suggest one thing: They will come, again.

Greens Fees: $90-$136 (resort guests only). Tee Times: 011-44/1647-445-000 or visit boveycastle.com.


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