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The Mag: HOLIDAYS: Clubbing together; THE WIFE'S TALE: CAN GOLF AND MARRIAGE MIX?

Byline: SHARON McLAUGHLAN

Nowhere does the battle of the sexes take on such significance as on the golf break.

While he's playing the course, she's often left in her hotel room watching daytime telly. Or, heaven forfend, even doing his caddying for him.

Can a couple really take a golfing holiday and keep their marriage intact? Today Sunday Mercury sports writer Lee McLaughlan and his golf widow wife Sharon report on a weekend swing.

THEY are the words that every golfing widow dreads - golf break.

I must admit my heart sank when I heard them. Never having swung a club in anger, I was contemplating an even longer spell of thumb-twiddling.

I certainly wasn't going to caddy for him, which had been my husband's helpful suggestion.

But sitting in a hotel room watching endless TV, or sitting in a bar listening to golfers analysing every shot they'd played that day hardly appealed either.

I was placated, however, by the prospect of four-star luxury on the edge of the Peak District - with Sunday lunch to boot.

I was shouting 'Fore!' quicker than my husband after anothermis-cued shot in my rush to find this haven of bliss. We decided to stay fairly close to home and opted for Breadsall Priory from the exhaustive list of hotel and golf venues on offer across the country.

Breadsall Priory is situated just off the the A38 and only a few miles outside of Derby, but it is a world away from city life.

Driving through the picturesque village of Breadsall, I knew I was on to a winner. And pulling into the grounds, the 13th century priory caught my eye.

It was built by Austin canons and remained in their hands until the dissolution of the monasteries.

But rather than fall into a ruin, the grounds and priory passed through a variety of hands before becoming part of the Marriott hotel and country-club chain.

The ancestors may have gone but the hotel retains their essence with many links to its former heritage, including exquisitely manicured gardens complete with ornamental fish ponds and even a pet cemetery!

The hotel hasnotbeen spoilt by the addition of the bedrooms or the adjoining golf courses and leisure complex.

Rooms are not to be sniffed at, either. Our bedroom was clean and spacious and came with views overlooking the 18th hole.

Having checked in, Mr Mac was immediately off to the first tee and hours of frustration, leaving me to the more relaxing pleasures of the health spa.

This is what had proved the deciding factor. I could be pampered to the hilt or be a little more energetic if I preferred.

For the energetic there were two gym areas. One boasted every conceivable weight machine and free weights while the other was well-stocked with the usual mix of treadmills, bikes and cross-training equipment.

For those seeking to wind down like me, there was an ample-sized pool, sauna and Jacuzzi.

There were also regular classes such as yoga, pilates and water aerobics which guests can join in - if there's space. If there isn't, then you go on a reserve list.

I took full advantage and put my name down for a Monday morning class, when Mr Mac would be playing his second round of golf.

If you fancy pampering there are various 'Spa Experiences' including a full body massage, facial and all the usual treatments - but you'll find that these cost extra.

I just relaxed before sprucing myself up for the three-course evening meal that came as part of the packageand the hole-by-hole account of Mr Mac's round.

Being vegetarian, I was wary of what would be on offer but I had little need to be concerned. The hotel had its own awardwinning restaurant situated in the old wine cellar.

The food was, without question, perfect in every sense and the selection not overly grandiose.

This 19th hole was certainly top of the leaderboard.

I'm just waiting for my next golf break - minus the clubs, of course.

CAPTION(S):

PAR-FECT: Breadsall Priory Hotel in Derbyshire; SPOILT FOR CHOICE: the health spa offers relaxation or exercise for the more energetic
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Aug 22, 2004
Words:689
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