One thing I’ve learned over the years about golf clubs is that they are objects not easily hidden.
They aren’t, for example, capable of being stuffed into an overnight bag or squeezed under a car seat. They usually also come adorned with a headcover of some sort and are accompanied by other pieces of golfing kit, adding to the difficulty of making them less noticeable.
I’m sharing this as my husband has a tendency to always pop a few clubs into the car when we go on a trip. They tend to magically make their way into the boot sometime between me zipping up the cases in the house and him whisking them out and slamming the lid shut.
When we get to our destination, the conversation usually goes like this. Me: “What did you bring the clubs for?” Him: “Just in case...”. I always like to assume he has golf in mind.
On a recent visit to the Hilton Templepatrick Golf and Country Club, I would have been quite taken aback not to find clubs in the boot as this is one of Northern Ireland’s very few hotels to offer an 18-hole golf course on the same site.
With a par-72, 18-hole parkland course designed by David Feherty and David Jones, there’s also a 16-bay floodlit driving range, short game practice area and two practice putting greens - so more than enough to keep the most discerning of golfers happy.
However, I’m keen to find out what the hotel can also offer non-golfers. Located in beautiful parkland on the Castle Upton Estate in the Co Antrim village of Templepatrick - just a short drive from the M2 - it is perfect for anyone looking for a family break with the minimum of bother.
After a quick and pleasant check-in experience, we find our suite has stunning viewes of the golf course. Well-appointed and nicely decorated with large flatscreen TVs in both the living and bedroom areas and all the amenities you’d expect from a four-star hotel, it proved a great retreat to relax in and to enjoy some well-earned peace.
Our table for dinner in Treffner’s Restaurant was right by the window, offering panoramic views of the golf course, where we could watch golfers perfecting their putting skills while we enjoyed first rate service from the attentive staff.
Treffner’s is just one of the dining option at the Hilton. Guests can also choose from a wide range of dishes in the lounge bar or, at certain times, in the atmospheric Kinahan’s Bar-Brasserie.
The lounge bar - situated just off the main hotel lobby area - is a mix of sophistication and relaxation and during our stay we found everyone from golfers having a meal, couples enjoying a drink, friends catching up on the gossip over a coffee or an afternoon tea to families tucking into snacks.
The lounge has a great buzz about it and has an airy feel with large windows overlooking the golf course.
Kinahan’s Bar, meanwhile, is situated on the first floor and has a patio area overlooking the golf course which is ideal for group get-togethers. It is the perfect place to enjoy a drink or relaxed dining.
Treffner’s is the setting for breakfast and dinner dining and the a la carte menue offers international fare to suit all palates.
My choice of starter - Mixed Leaf and Feta Salad, with quinoa, steamed broccoli and mixed seeds - was delicious and I made a mental note that it could make a fine lunch dish. My husband was equally pleased with his Classic Caeser Salad.
For mains, I chose Jacob’s Ladder daube - which was deliciously tender and served with potato gratin, roast carrots and parsnips and red wine jus. The Beef and Bacon Bourguignon with creamed potato and buttered seasonal vegetables was declared a great choice too.
It was hard to make a final selection from the array of delightful desserts but we both settled on pavlova and were not disappointed.
After a restful night, we were all set for a day sampling what else the Hilton could offer. It began with a hearty breakfast in Treffner’s, where we found other guests ranged from a group of pipe band enthusiasts and a women’s football team to families with children and grandpare nts in tow.
That sums up where the Hilton Templepatrick definitely comes into its own. It really does offer something for everyone, whether it is a romantic getaway, a family break, a spa weekend, or of course, a golfer’s retreat.
The LivingWell health club and spa, for instance, has a 18-metre pool, steam room, sauna and jacuzzi along with a state-of-the-art gym.
There are large and well fitted-out changing facilities in this area and it’s obvious that the health club is quite a social hub, with members greeting hotel guests as if they are regulars.
We made the best of the facilities, taking a dip in the pool and enjoying relaxing in the thermal area.
We had pre-booked a his-and her’s treatment of a facial and back, neck and shoulder massage and found the spa check-in experience simple and fuss-free.
After enjoying the opportunity to wind down in the relaxation area, we were shown into one of the luxurious treatment rooms specially designed for couples.
Our therapists were friendly yet professional and the treatments could only be described as sheer bliss!
The room itself was a real cocoon from the outside world and we were suitably pampered with quality products from the exclusive [comfort zone] range.
When we were eventually ready to emerge from this little oasis of calm we were invited to spend as long as we wished in the relaxation room overlooking the swimming pool area.
By this stage there were quite a few families having a splashing time in the pool and the giggles of the little ones was quite delightful.
We decided a brisk walk round the well-kept grounds was more our thing after all that pampering, so got changed and headed for the fresh air.
The Hilton is a real countryside retreat although just 20 minutes from Belfast city centre, so it would be a shame to miss the chance to explore this lovely parkland.
Its surroundings have a rich history too. Castle Upton - until lately the family home of former South Antrim UUP MP Danny Kinahan - provides a glimpse of the past to those passing through Templepatrick village.
The best way to finish off a walk in the fresh air - for me anyway - is to sit down and enjoy a coffee or even better, an afternoon tea.
The Hilton lounge bar is the perfect spot to relax with a favourite beverage - and to watch everyone who popped those golf clubs into their car boot “just in case”.
More details at www.Hilton.com/Templepatrick or call 028 9443 5500.
Current offers include family DBB rates during half-term week from £139 based on two adults and one child under 12 plus £25.00 per additional child for one night and £238 for two nights.