Around the time of the Domesday Book, Berkhamsted was one of the most important settlements in rural southeast England and Henry II once kept court in the town's Norman castle. So it's quite fitting that Berkhamsted Golf Club has a fair amount of history attached.
Berkhamsted Golf Club is set 600 feet up in the Chilterns, within one of the largest expanses of heathland in Hertfordshire and golf on this common land dates back to 1874. In the 1880s, a young schoolteacher called George Gowring, aided by Willie Park Jr., laid out a basic 9-hole golf course. A couple of years later, in 1890, the golf club was officially inaugurated, making it Hertfordshire's oldest golf club alongside Chorleywood, which was also founded in 1890.
As golf grew in popularity around the turn of the 20th century, the club commissioned Harry Colt in 1910 to extend the course to 18 holes. In 1926, the Great Revisionist, James Braid, was called in to redesign and extend the course. “Braid returned in 1931 to offer further advice,” commented authors John F. Moreton and Iain Cumming in James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses, including revising of the 16th [now the 7th] to prevent balls from being sliced into houses which were now bordering the course. His other instructions called for grass bunkers, more humps in the fairways and alterations to some of the greens.”
If you like golf as nature intended, or if sand bunker play is not a strong part of your game, you'll love it here. In the same vein as Royal Ashdown Forest, there is not one single sand trap at Berkhamsted. But don't be lulled into a false sense of security and assume that the golf here is easy. Nature's challenges are in abundance, waiting to test the most able golfer – heather, gorse, bracken and trees.
There's also one Iron Age obstacle that causes an unusual challenge – Grim's Dyke. We're not sure how to classify this Saxon ditch and embankment, which is six to eight feet high in places and comes into play at seven holes, sometimes as an obstacle from the tee and other times for the approach shot. One thing is for sure, it's a unique hazard.
Off the back tees, Berkhamsted measures a healthy 6,683 yards against a par of 71. In order to score well, you'll need to strike the ball well and straight off the tee – there are some lengthy carries across heather – and then, you'll need your best approach play to find the small but fine greens. It's certainly a tough test.
We think Berkhamsted is a course of great charm. It's also a course for all seasons and worthy of its lofty position in our Hertfordshire Best In County rankings.