Ashridge enjoys the benefits of a luxury that (other Hertforshire) courses such as The Grove lack: time to bed in and mature. This is greatly enhanced by the mature woodland around the course adding to the tranquillity of its rural setting. The result is a course with a strong identity and cohesive feel although on the front nine I was struck by similarities with Hindhead’s welcoming valley fairways and the delightful aesthetics of Worplesdon. The course layout offers a variety of starting points around the clubhouse so the friendly starter allowed me to commence play from the 10th to save time. The course has a good mix of flatter and undulating holes with greens that are good to putt on even in October: no doubt helped by the heat wave of late summer 2011. The green settings are also well considered with the 14th a standout for me with its multi-tiered putting surface tricking the eye from a distance, with a left side pin placement – hard by a greenside bunker, and a steep run-off – likely to reduce the likelihood of par. Ashridge is enjoyable because tee shots do not require a do or die approach so driving ability will not necessarily determine one’s final score, so players of all levels can tailor their approach to maximise their score. The fairways are generous so losing a ball should be infrequent, but approaching from the correct side is important. Approach shots require a mixture of precision and good strategy. If starting from the 1st, the 17th and 18th holes will provide a tough finish for the first-timer, due to the need to pick the correct combination of line and distance. I can see why Ashridge has commanded a higher ranking in the past.
Date: October 14, 2011