There’s no overstating the wow factor on arrival at Moor Park. With the grandest of 17th century Palladian mansions serving as the clubhouse, and the ambiance of a country estate, this is certainly a golf club out of the ordinary. Add to that the venerable name of H.S. Colt and a history of hosting numerous professional and amateur events, and you know you’re in for a treat.
The Hertfordshire club on the outskirts of London is one of few quality venues inside the M25. As such, it will always appeal to city golfers and proves a glorious venue for corporate golf days, impressing from the moment you approach along the driveway that meanders through the 300 acre estate. Drawing into view, the imposing mansion dominates your first impressions and, if your schedule allows, is worth a good nose around. The stateliness of the Main Hall, Thornhill Room, and Grand Staircase are worth taking in, in particular.
The club boasts two very good courses. For this review, we played the High Course, a 1923 layout that is a classic parkland style with heathland touches at times, too – those flashes of heather and bracken so redolent of those Surrey cousins. And that variety adds much to the playing experience, as do the changes in elevation that, while subtle at times, provide views that reach the landmarks of central London. Despite those urban reminders, there’s still a tranquillity to the course that will come as a pleasure to any city-weary folk.
The High Course has played host to umpteen tournaments over the years that have included such prestigious events as the Ladies British Open and English Seniors Open in the professional ranks, and the Carris Trophy and Hertfordshire Stag at amateur level. From a fairly gentle opening section, the course gets better and better, and finishes with a stylish par three played out overlooking the iconic clubhouse.
Holes No.8 – No.10
The triumvirate of holes through the middle section of the High Course are a real highlight. It’s a particularly attractive corner of the course, with the surrounding woodland, heather, and the bunkering all catching the eye.
The long par four 8th hole is a difficult start to the run, descending gently downhill and to the right. It’s a demanding tee shot, requiring a strong drive down the left half of the fairway to leave a shot at the green set in front of the halfway house.
Despite being shorter in length than the preceding par four, the 9th is a par five (perhaps owing to the uphill drive), but threading through the tall trees and getting home in two is particularly rewarding and achievable for most players.
Completing the set, nothing more than a short iron is required on the par three 10th, where the green complexities and closely guarding bunkers are hidden from view at the tee, courtesy of the heather and bracken that peek up between the two.
Perhaps the signature hole of the course, and it’s very easy to see why. Hitting into a theatrical backdrop of azaleas and rhododendrons, the long 12th hole is a spectacular and classically designed par three. With a severe back-to-fronttwo tier green, and deceptively uphill change in elevation, a par here is extremely well earned. There’s very little room for error missing on any side of the green – it’s undoubtedly one of the best par threes in the county.
Arguably the hardest hole on the course, in an ideal world the par four 14th requires the player to hit the ball right to left off the tee, and then left to right into the green. The fairway plays with a gentle right to left camber, ahead of a green that has two distinct levels. A ditch comes into play with the second shot, but perhaps the biggest challenge is getting the ball close on the putting surface, which although very wide, is particularly shallow.
As gloriously grand as the clubhouse is at Moor Park, the club wouldn’t merit the reputation it enjoys if it didn’t have the quality of golf course to match. The hallmark of Harry Colt, however, tells you all you need to know. He was the master of understated design and his craftsmanship in combination with that 17th century splendour makes Moor Park one of the most distinguished golfing venues around the capital. There are other clubs that may be better known, but in an age when many famous reputations are built on very little and are therefore apt to disappoint, perhaps it’s no bad thing to arrive without expectation and to enjoy the surprise.