The enchanting Ashridge Golf Club is set amongst thousands of acres of National Trust-owned woodland. The scene is set as you drive to the clubhouse. The long approach road takes you through parts of the ancient Ashridge estate, giving you a fleeting glimpse of the 8th and 9th holes between the beautiful mature trees (more about the 9th later).
Founded in 1932, Ashridge was originally designed by Sir Guy Campbell, Major C K Hutchison and Woodhall Spa’s Colonel Hotchkin. Around 1939, Tom Simpson made a few minor but significant changes. These architects made perfect use of Ashridge’s gently undulating land and inherent natural beauty. The great Sir Henry Cotton was club pro in the late thirties and during his time at Ashridge, he won the 1937 Open at Carnoustie. Alex Hay was also another famous Ashridge pro, staying here for twelve years from 1964.
The par threes are very strong at Ashridge, with prominent bunkering providing clear definition from the tees. There is a noticeable split between the front and back nine (par 35 & par 37) and the inward nine plays significantly harder than the shorter par 35 outward nine. Accuracy, rather than length from the tee, especially at the turn, will be rewarded and mistakes will invariably be punished. At first glance, the greens at Ashridge appear fairly flat, but do not be fooled as there are many subtle borrows, leaving you questioning your eyesight. These greens are very tough cookies to read. The only minor criticism is that there is currently only one genuine three shot hole (15th) and that, too, is relatively short. On the plus side, there are birdies on offer.
Ashridge was one of the very first private clubs to pioneer “society days” by welcoming groups of visiting golfers; the club continues this approach to the present day. Societies are treated as day members and many groups return year after year because a warm welcome is guaranteed. The club does not insist on visitors using the red and yellow tees. The whites can be used if desired, leaving the choice to the player and not the club. There are three starting points (1st, 10th and 13th) all within 50 yards of each other, close to the new clubhouse. These loops of holes make up the “clover leaf” shaped layout of the course and provide a number of options for players not wanting to play a full round.
Probably the most memorable hole is the par four 9th (stroke index 7). It’s not a long hole, measuring 337 yards from the yellow tee but the drive is to a blind landing area and the approach shot must carry across a valley to a kidney-shaped plateau green below – four is a great score here. This hole is affectionately named ‘Cottons’ after the great man.
The freshness of spring and the autumn colours at Ashridge are breathtaking. Oh, and keep an eye out for the deer. They have life membership and a habit of grazing to the right of the 17th hole.
We will let Bernard Darwin bring Ashridge to a close: “The romantic and traditional names have not been lost. Witchcraft Bottom and Nob’s Crook, Thunderdell – a wood of splendid beeches where blasted trunks bear witness to its evil reputation; Princes Riding – a long avenue with a stately monument at the end of it; were there ever more thrilling names? Today they have been transferred to appropriate holes upon the course, and the holes are worthy of the names.”
In July 2018 the R&A announced that Ashridge
Golf Club will stage the 2020 Ladies Senior British Open
Variety and ambience abounds at Ashridge and tranquillity is very much the order of the day.
Each of the 18 holes has its own personality but significantly there is only one time in the round when the following hole has the same par as its predecessor. The par of the holes is as follows; 453453434434545354. This helps produce a varied sequence of shots with five par threes, five par fives and just eight par fours in the total par tally of 72.
The mature course, officially opened in 1932, is laid out in three distinct loops emanating from the centrally located modern clubhouse at the low point of the estate in an almost goldfish bowl setting. More golf can be viewed from the attractive balcony at Ashridge than at any other course I can think off with the first, 10th and 13th tees easily visible as well as the superb ninth and 18th green complexes. However, even with the putting green in close proximity, it doesn’t feel cluttered or cramped.
The trio of returning loops consist of nine, three and six holes, if starting at the first, and throughout each one you have some lovely changes in gradient where the holes blend seamlessly together. Each one takes you through areas of outstanding natural beauty close to the edge of the Chiltern Hills.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
I played Ashridge midweek as part of a large society and had a cracking time. The clubhouse and changing rooms are smart and spacious and although the first few holes were marred by some early morning fog, the course really came into its own as the weather cleared. It's a fine parkland course, that provided some challenging rough and the greens were slick and true. I did think the par 3's were quite uninspiring but the par 4's and 5 were much more interesting with some dog-legs and blind tee shots which put some premium on placement, even with the fairways being generous off the tee. It was a fun round and the course was in great condition, I would happily play the course again and the staff were attentive and very pleasant. I'm only giving it 4 balls as I am going to be a harsh critic, but in my eyes a good is still high praise for a solid and interesting course.