Berkhamsted Golf Club
Berkhamsted Golf Club ranks number 93 in the Golf World Top 100 golf courses in England listing.
Surrounded by outstanding beauty in Hertfordshire’s largest area of heathland, Berkhamsted’s bunker-free classic is golf as nature intended.
Looking at the image above with the gorse and heathland, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in Surrey or Berkshire. But on this occasion your eyes and mind have betrayed you. For the image above is the historic heathland of Berkhamsted GC in Hertfordshire.
Just a short hop north of London, Berkhamsted Golf Club lies in a 560-acre area of natural heathland on the edge of the Chilterns. Laid out on common land in Hertfordshire’s largest expanse of natural gorse and heather, more than five miles of bridleways and pathways run throughout the golf course in an area of truly outstanding natural beauty. Ranked inside Golf World’s 2019 edition of the Top 100 courses of England, few courses can rival Berkhamsted for natural beauty – nor for its rich history.
Opened in 1890, it is Hertfordshire’s joint-oldest golf course along with Chorleywood. In its early years, Berkhamsted saw the handiwork of three of golf’s greatest architects; Harry Colt, Willie Park Jnr and latterly James Braid, who revised and lengthened the course in 1926.
Braid’s clever reworking remains almost entirely intact to this day, merging majestically with the influences of Mother Nature and run through a glorious combination of gorse, heather and trees.
It may not be long by modern standards, weighing in at 6,605 yards off the white tees, but Berkhamsted’s defences don’t come from raw distance. Nor do they come from a single grain of sand. There are famously no bunkers here to catch your errant attempts, the result of the club’s policy of rejecting man-made hazards.
A lack of distance and sand bunkers doesn’t mean an easy ride, however, as more subtle defences ensure that danger lurks on every shot. “Heather, dykes, narrow fairways and a strong set of par 3s are ample defence for this very engaging heathland layout,” we noted in ranking the course among England’s very finest tests.
Each year since 1960 the club has hosted The Berkhamsted Trophy, the major season-opening tournament in the Men’s Amateur game. Past champions include Sandy Lyle, Luke Donald, Tom Lewis and Andy Sullivan, and winning scores usually reflect Berkhamsted’s ability to outfox the big-hitters.
Narrow fairways, small but exceptional greens and a Bronze Age ditch (Grim’s Dyke) that comes into play on seven holes combine to demand accuracy on every shot. A series of natural humps and hollows complicates your route from tee to green, so while you can leave your sand wedge at home, you’d better bring a sharp short game.
In an era in which length is the only defence so many courses can muster, Berkhamsted conjures up a more natural, cerebral examination of your game. But while tradition dictates so much here, the club is not slow to embrace the benefits of 21st Century technology. A complete irrigation upgrade in early 2019 saw 11 miles of underground water pipes installed to help produce world-class playing surfaces. The benefits are now evident on tees, fairways and, in particular, the superb greens.
The results are naturally spectacular – and justly reflected in Berkhamsted’s place inside Golf World’s Top 100 of England.