I have very fond memories of Stoke Park from when I went to review it for Lady Golfer several years ago, so when we were looking for a suitable venue that was conveniently accessible for all diverse members of our family to convene at to celebrate my parents’ diamond wedding anniversary, it suddenly sprang to the forefront as a good choice.

As I was the only member who had previously stayed there, the onus of expectation to deliver a memorable trip for both young and old lay firmly on my shoulders. I needn’t have worried.

Initially we had split various branches of the family into both buildings – the Mansion and Pavilion – with the former being full of more old worldly charm, and the latter providing more spacious and modern rooms.

However, as we were a large party, free room upgrades became available and were taken advantage of by many, so we ended up taking over almost an entire floor in the Pavilion, which was quite an experience.

Fortunately, my nephew has progressed beyond the stage where he memorably once vowed he had got washed before he came down to dinner, only to put that into serious doubt a few moments later when he asked if he was supposed to take the paper off the soap!
The weather was horrendous as we arrived, which may have been a blessing in disguise as it prevented us from playing golf.

Yet again – as is always the case when the family comes together – my non-golfing niece trotted out the story of her hole-in-one during the first round she ever played, which happened to be with me on a hotel course during a previous holiday, and how she was clearly better than me!

To this day, I have never lived it down and can still recall my perfectly struck wedge to two feet for a guaranteed birdie, only for the golfing gods to spurn my efforts by rewarding a shot which never left the ground other than somehow to clear a bunker and a stream by defying the laws of physics, and hitting the flag so hard I was expecting the ball to ricochet 50 yards away, but which instead inexplicably dropped into the hole!

I felt that the ensuing victory dance was a little cruel, as is the fact that I still have to relive it every time we come together.

Fortunately, the more civilised members of my family are genuine golfers, so we could share tales of other holes-in-one between us. (In case you are wondering, I have had two – and on both occasions, they left the ground!)

I may have felt hard done by when I lost that hole with a birdie, but it turns out that my brother-in-law had a genuine case for grievance when he recalled a match from last summer.

He holed his second shot for an eagle two, only to discover that his opponent, who he thought had gone through the green, had also holed his second shot, but for a two nett one, so he actually lost the hole!

How many times would you lose a hole with an eagle, or expect your opponent to have a nett one at a par 4?

I have to say, at Stoke Park the level of service and helpfulness was exemplary to every one of our party, which, with no ulterior motive, I can only assume is standard. This time I was a regular guest at the hotel, as opposed to someone writing a review whom they may have been trying to impress.

Sometimes I wonder on my official trips if I am afforded extra levels of service – as was proved when I once took a friend with me somewhere.

We were in neighbouring suites, and I rang her to say how nice the handmade chocolates were, whereupon she declared she hadn’t been given any and came steaming round to eat mine.

As the beds were turned down later, I took full advantage of the handmade cakes which were left by my bedside, and again rang my friend to ask if she had tried hers yet since they were delicious. Once again, her indignant response led to her rushing immediately round to my room to partake of mine. My future note to self was only to take golfing friends away with me who were on a diet!

I have to say, at Stoke Park the level of service and helpfulness was exemplary to every one of our party, which, with no ulterior motive, I can only assume is standard.

There is a shuttle service between the two buildings – which are little more than a full wedge apart – but one of our group found the step up into the shuttle bus a little high for her arthritic knees. All it took was for my niece to mention this at the desk on behalf of her granny, and a golf buggy, complete with driver, was immediately brought round to serve the purpose instead.

All in all, it was a delightful two days away, and I suspect it will be a long time before the entire Winnett clan descend en masse to a hotel again.

At least that will spare me the ignominy of having to play golf with my incredibly jammy niece again – and, despite her requests, she’s not coming with me on one of my ‘work’ trips. Then all my chocolates would definitely disappear!


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