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Norfolk hotel and golf venue Dunston Hall offers a welcome alternative to the Broads

By Bob Bounds

It seems there are other reasons for visiting Norfolk other than the Broads and and bright lights of Great Yarmouth. The fabulous beaches of the north East Anglian coast like Wells and Brancaster are worth a visit and Norwich is a city that should rank much higher in the list of destinations for a weekend break alongside the likes of Oxford, Bath and York.

But now there's another to add to the list and you'd better leave some room in your boot...for your golf clubs. Seasoned players will have known for some time (probably whispering it quietly among themselves) that the area hosts some of England's finest venues, many of them links courses aided by the sandy soil around the coastal parts.

Even inland, however, the gently rolling terrain makes it an ideal landscape for the game. It's as if East Anglia is one huge golf course with bumps, sand, little woodlands and natural water hazards. So the secret is out. You don't need to schlep up to Scotland, across to Ireland or shell out for an expensive break in Portugal - just ahead up the A14.

The luxurious pool area
The superb rooms provide comfort at the end of the day

To Dunston Hall, for instance. That's if you like a bit of luxury with your 19th hole. A breeze to find, which minus sat nav is a result, just off the A140 to Ipswich, but when you get there you are a world away from the hustle and bustle of daily life which of course is the main reason for being there.

The Elizabethan-style mock mansion within 150 acres of wooded parkland was built in 1859 has been restored thanks to a £2m refurbishment. The entrance is stunning, like something out of Downton Abbey - you almost expect Mr Carson to greet you on the steps.

It's a multi-function venue, catering from everyone from the business conference guests, to wedding parties, romantic getaways and of course golfers. Oh, yes, that's why we're here, but can't we just spend a little time in that lovely pool and finish the afternoon with tea on the charming terrace? After all, in the words of Mark Twain, golf is a good walk spoiled.

The marvellous course at Dunston Hall
The course at Dunston is delightful yet challenging

But then without burning up 1,000 calories out on the hotel's PGA-standard course how would you make room for the sumptuous and now guilt-free meal served up in the brasserie that evening where the sea bass is an absolute must (I was told the steak was par excellence, too)?

Anyway back to the course. For the extremely casual, irregular player (me) it probably doesn't matter if it's difficult or easy as just striking the ball vaguely in the right direction is a bonus. But for the competent player it would present a decent challenge and for everyone it's an extremely picturesque course with interestingly an old Roman road running right through it.

It's not fiendishly difficult, which was useful for people like me, with generous fairways and the greens were not too unforgiving, either. But as said, enough hazards and tricky shots to offer a decent enough test. And it seemed long. Our round took nearly five hours (but probably mainly due to the talents, or lack of them, of our threeball).

Then it's back to Dunston Hall and to one of its superb rooms. While there is luxury that even a royal or president on a state visit wouldn't turn their noses up at in one of the suites, all the rooms are in fact of supremely high standard. I've had better breakfasts to be honest - a meal that the manager told us "you can't really get wrong". Well you can. Other than that this is a venue that you should definitely mark on your card.

Bob Bounds was a guest of Dunston Hall see here for full details.

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