Foxhills: a mecca for golfers and a quiet English countryside retreat

Once heath and woodland, then a 19th century English manor house, Foxhills Club & Resort is a now a secluded resort offering a choice of three golf courses, four restaurants, tennis courts, swimming pools and a spa, all spread across 400 acres of pristine Surrey countryside, within an easy drive of London.

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It even has its own intriguing history – in the form of colorful member of parliament, James Fox, a passionate orator and high-flying gambler who lived on the estate in the 1780s with his mistress and former courtesan, Elizabeth Armistead, and survived a pistol duel in the center of Hyde Park.

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Built in gothic revival style with elaborate chimneys and decorative stone urns of colourful begonias, entry to the resort is along a narrow country road lined with trees. As befitting Old World English ambience, a large room just beyond the reception desk, a ‘drawing room’ in a bygone era, is furnished with soft comfortable stretch-sofas and armchairs, gilt-framed 19th century oil paintings, delicate porcelain Chinese vases and charming table lamps. A cosy fireplace means guests can enjoy drinks or a traditional afternoon tea and quiet leisurely moments here while admiring the thick forest of beech, oak and fir just outside the large bay window, or catching up on the latest news through a collection of complimentary newspapers. In warm weather, alfresco dining is a preferred option on the outdoor patio.

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Along an adjoining corridor is the resort’s main Manor Restaurant, where breakfast, lunch and dinner are presented by waist-coated waiters and waitresses. With a high-vaulted ceiling and carved wooden cornices, meals are served here on crisp white table-clothes with gleaming silver cutlery. Interestingly, in contrast to this sedate ambience, funky paintings adorning the walls feature black jazz singers and female fiddle-players.

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An impressive menu awaits: with starters such as duck liver parfait with gooseberries, ginger bread, salted granola and Pimm’s and pressing of middle white pork with blackcurrant meringue, burnt apple puree and Kohlrabi. Main courses are equally attractive: including cod from Peterhead, Scotland, served with split sauce, cucumber, oysters Rocafella and caviar, and pork belly from Huntsham Farm in Herefordshire with apple caramel, loin, onion ash and celeriac.

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Guests wishing a more relaxed dining experience can enjoy the informal ambience of ‘Nineteen, a casual brasserie directly across from the main manor house. Here a contemporary atmosphere presents itself, with soft armchairs in a mix of green, blue and beige with throw pillows and an impressive menu ranging from ribeye steaks and barbecue ribs to grilled salmon and squid.

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The bar, at the farthest end from the entrance door, is well stocked, with at least seven beers and ales on tap. A big-screen TV keeps clients abreast of the triumphs and disasters in the latest world golf tournaments while floor-to-ceiling windows offers them clear views over the shared 18th greens of Foxhill’s two championship courses, Longcross and Bernard Hunt. Photos lining the walls depict various visiting international celebrities, including English comic duo, Dudley Moore and Peter Cook. Serving staff comprise a mix of nationalities including Romanian, English, Bulgarian and Iranian, lending a refreshing air of internationalism. The ‘Summerhouse, located behind near the tennis courts, also offers indoor and outdoor dining experiences.

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Of the resort’s 70 rooms and suites, we stayed in Room 34, in a nearby building beside a small outdoor swimming pool. Overlooking tennis courts and a forest, it reflected a contemporary classic design with ash-gray stretch sofa and a chaise longue of leather and velvet. Black and white photographs of athletes in different sports adorned the walls and the bathroom featured a separate shower and bath with toiletries from The White Company.

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Using Elemis La Sultane de Saba products, the Foxhills spa menu includes signature face and body treatments including massage and physiotherapy sessions, as well as a hydropool, steam-room, swimming pools, outdoor hot tub and two Finnish saunas.

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Golfers at all levels are well catered for at Foxhills. The club’s two 18-hole championship courses, combining parkland and heathland, are ranked among the best in England while the 9-hole manor course suits players wishing to improve their short game or those discovering golf for the first time. Well-qualified coaches offer lessons and clinics. The club, which also features a putting green and driving range, has staged a number of prestigious tournaments since it opened in 1975, including the European Tour’s Tournament Players Championship.

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Interestingly, Foxhills is not a destination exclusively for golfers. Indicating its popularity as a corporate venue, while we were there, a group of lively ladies from a major company enjoyed dinner with clients at one table in the Manor Restaurant while a quartet of young male and female entrepreneurs talked enthusiastically at another.

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For a quiet English countryside experience with a wide choice of activities and discreet accommodation surrounded by woodland, Foxhills is a strong choice.

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