There are few counties where you will find a more varied topography than Dorset. The combination of low-lying heathland and woodland, magnificent open countryside and established seaside resorts such as Bournemouth make this a popular destination for holidaymakers.
In the grand scheme of Britains lengthy colonisation, Bournemouth is a relative infant. Until Lewis Tregonwell built a house in the region in 1810, the area where Bournemouth now stands was used for livestock grazing.
By 1840 it had turned into a small village but during the second half of the 19th century it underwent a massive expansion.
The arrival of the railway in 1870 helped it to become a seaside resort, prompting the building of hotels, the Winter Gardens and the Bournemouth Arcade.
The 20th century saw Bournemouth establish itself as a retirement town and centre for financial services. JPMorgan Chase, the Portman Building Society and Standard Life all have a presence there. The population has grown to 164,000 and the town stretches to Poole in the west and Christchurch in the east.
As a regular visitor to the South Coast, I knew I would find difficulty selecting which courses to play on my visit. The heathland courses in and around Bournemouth are not as well known as those in Surrey and Berkshire, but you still are spoilt for choice.
Just to the north of Poole, Broadstone Golf Club was founded in 1898. Set in beautiful rolling countryside, it has superb views of Poole Harbour and the Purbeck Hills. In his 1910 book The Golf Courses of the British Isles, Bernard Darwin commented of Broadstone: It is, I think, rather an easy course to remember. Sure enough, the holes are extremely distinctive and stick in the mind long after youve left the club.
Broadstone is not particularly long, but clever design combined with heather and gorse make it challenging nonetheless. The course is kept in perfect condition, with greens that are fast and true. First-time visitors will find club selection difficult, but where the thickest of gorse is concerned, getting the ball in play should be the main priority.
Fans of golf on the BBC will know Ferndown as the course where Peter Alliss was brought up with game. His father Percy was head professional and any airtime which is given to the course by the legendary commentator is thoroughly deserved. Golf has been played at Ferndown since 1912 and the Old Course, as it is today, opened in 1921.
Featuring heather and pine forest, Ferndown offers beautiful scenery with a golf course to match. It isnt the most challenging but provides a test that offers the opportunity to hit all manor of shots. Well-placed bunkers require players to shape the ball both ways if they are to score low. And visitors will be given the warmest of welcomes by members and staff alike.
With Parkstone and Isle of Purbeck to add to the impressive list, you wont be disappointed when it comes to choosing heathland golf in Dorset. But if you talk to local players, there is a serious buzz about a different type of golf course in the heart of the county.
Remedy Oak is the brainchild of Bill Riddle, who employed a team led by the legendary John Jacobs to create a course in his 256 acres of woodland in Wimborne. I had looked forward to my trip to Remedy Oak for weeks, and it more than lived up my expectations.
Open for just over a year, the course has one of the finest tree-lined layouts you are ever likely to see. This is the ultimate in risk-reward golf, where well-placed water hazards and manicured greens make it a pleasure to play for any standard of golfer.
After playing it when it first opened, Ewan Murray said, Truly magnificent. When it matures it will be Englands finest inland course. With a strict limit on both visitors and members, Remedy Oak has created a special golfing experience.
While Dorset stands out as a golf destination, a trip through the New Forest to neighbouring Hampshire provides an enjoyable experience.
Macdonald Botley Park Hotel Golf & Country Club provides a great setting just outside Southamptons city centre and excellent service to match. A trip to nearby Hampshire County Cricket Clubs impressive Rose Bowl proves an ideal way to pass away a summers day.
But my golfing heart remained in Dorset. With bustling Bournemouth offset by quaint villages, this is a county where you can plan a trip to suit your every need.
Where to play
t: 01202 692835
stats: par 70, SSS 70, 6,315 yards
t: 01202 873825
stats: par 71, SSS 71, 6,501 yards
t: 01202 812070
stats: par 72, SSS 73, 7,004 yards
Where to stay
Langtry Manor Hotel
t: 01202 290550
The former home of Edward VII and Lily Langtry. This hotel has an award-winning restaurant and hi-tech rooms.
Macdonald Botley Park Hotel G & CC
t: 0870 194 2132
A luxurious hotel with leisure and spa facilities and a superb restaurant. Located just off the M3, it offers a parkland golf course just 30 minutes drive from Broadstone and Ferndown.
The Bournemouth Eye
Tethered balloon flight giving panoramic views. Visit www.bournemouthballoon.com for more information.
Much of this fascinating house near Dorchester has stood for over 500 years. Open Sunday to Thursday from 10.30am-5pm. Visit www.athelhampton.co.uk for more information.
Russell-Cotes Art Gallery
Formerly the home of Sir Merton and Lady Annie Russell-Cotes, this museum in East Cliff, Bournemouth, houses collections from their world travels. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am-5pm. Admission is free.