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Bishop's Stortford

Bishop's Stortford, England
Bishop's Stortford, England
Rankings
  • AddressDunmow Rd, Bishop's Stortford CM23 5HP, UK

Bishop’s Stortford Golf Club dates back to 1910 but the exact origins of the course are a little sketchy because a contemporaneous article in Golf Illustrated makes reference to a golf course which existed three years before that date, one that was laid out by professional Douglas Rolland, who was twice a runner-up in the Open.

We know that reseeding of greens and tees took place before the course was brought into play and James Braid, who was a cousin of Rolland, paid a visit to check on the course a full year before its grand opening on 11th June 1910. What (if any) changes were recommended by Braid is anybody’s guess.

The 18-hole layout and the clubhouse were reputed to have cost around £20,000 to build, which was an enormous sum of money in those days but such a huge price would not have been a problem for the Gilbey family who owned the property and produced the well-known brand of gin.

Another Open Champion, Frenchman Arnaud Massy, joined the Great Triumvirate of Vardon, Braid and Taylor in an exhibition match to mark the official opening of the course on 11th June 1910. A prize of £100 was at stake (more than Open champion Braid would receive a month later) but we don’t know who won this purse.

A report in Nisbet at the time stated: “the course is situated on high, open ground to the east of the town on a clay soil, which has been thoroughly drained… the course was laid out by Braid and Mr. HS Colt has made some valuable alterations.” What’s really interesting here is the recorded involvement of Harry Colt in the course design.

A corroborating account in Golf Illustrated also mentions: “evidence of the work of Mr. HS Colt in bunker and hazard designing is seen at several of the holes.” So – even though there’s no current reference to Colt working on the Bishop’s Stortford course in the Colt Association website – it certainly looks like the master architect had a hand in its formation.

Less than six months after the course opened, a station named Hockerill Halt was opened on the railway line that ran through the layout, dividing it into two nines, and this local train stop was used by both golfers and members of the public until it closed in the early 1950s.

Another transportation link to have an effect on the club was the M11 motorway, which opened in the late 1970s. The impact of this road construction could have been a lot worse but its routing merely skirted the south east corner of the property, with the loss of only one tee and one green.

Set within an expansive, gently undulating 140-acre estate, the course at Bishop’s Stortford has matured over the last hundred years into one of the county’s underrated parkland gems, where fairways are lined with a rich variety of specimen trees and flowering shrubs.

Feature holes include a couple of very strong par fours: the 425-yard 5th plays to a green that slopes from front to back with a lone pine tree protecting the right side of the putting surface and the tight 459-yard 16th leads to a well-bunkered green which tilts front right to back left.

All of the par threes are fine short holes but the best of these is the 167-yard 8th, played from an elevated tee position to a green that sits behind an attractive little pond – golfers are advised not to over-hit their tee shot to avoid the water as they’ll end up with a very slippery downhill putt towards the hole.

Bishop’s Stortford Golf Club dates back to 1910 but the exact origins of the course are a little sketchy because a contemporaneous article in Golf Illustrated makes reference to a golf course which existed three years before that date, one that was laid out by professional Douglas Rolland, who was twice a runner-up in the Open.

We know that reseeding of greens and tees took place before the course was brought into play and James Braid, who was a cousin of Rolland, paid a visit to check on the course a full year before its grand opening on 11th June 1910. What (if any) changes were recommended by Braid is anybody’s guess.

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Course Architect

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Harry Colt

Harry Colt studied law at Clare College, Cambridge. Twelve months after his 1887 enrolment, he joined the committee of the Cambridge University Golf Club and in 1889 became the club's first captain.

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