Hertfordshire is blessed with a number of fine parkland golf courses and Brickendon Grange Golf Club sits comfortably within this group. The club was established in the 1960s and fifteen holes – designed by C.K. Cotton – opened for play in May 1967. The remaining three were ready for play in June 1968. A gentleman’s annual membership fee in those early days was twenty guineas... how times have changed!
The golf club is located in the parish of Brickendon, which is set to the south of Hertford, a mere thirty miles north of London. Brickendon Grange Golf Club has enjoyed a thriving membership since the outset and this continues to this day. This is a testament to the quality of the course as many clubs have suffered due to the abundance of new courses opening in the southeast of England.
Brickendon Grange is set in 160 acres of undulating countryside, featuring a wide variety of trees and a number of hazards including no less than eight natural water hazards. At least five of these are well in play from either the tee or for approach shots to the greens. The first of the holes involving water is the hazardous 5th, measuring only 350 yards from the tee but doglegging right at 200 yards, with an approach over a recently extended pond 30 yards short of the green. With the course boundary just left of the green, a very precise shot is required.
The 12th hole is a firm favourite at Brickendon, named ‘Cottons Choice’ after the great man decided this was his pick of the holes. It’s a tight drive with strategically placed bunkers at the landing point, leaving another tough approach to a protected green where more bunkers and trees stand guard.
The signature hole is the 17th, named ‘Ace of Herts’, which is undisputedly one of the best holes in Hertfordshire. It’s a daunting hole, firstly off the tee where anything left or right is punished either by trees or fairway bunkers. Then the approach shot to the green is likely to be played from a downhill lie and over water to a raised green. In our opinion the stroke index of 7 does not do this hole justice in terms of degree of difficulty.
Visitors are more than welcome at Brickendon Grange Golf Club and are assured of a pleasurable time. Many remark on the quality of the course, especially the lightening-fast summer greens. The Brickendon setting is lush, wooded parkland and a favourite part of the experience for us is the walk from the 17th green to the 18th tee. It’s a beautiful wander through the woods where you may contemplate your round prior to your last tee shot to the uphill par three where the welcoming clubhouse waits behind the green.
Brickendon Grange hosted the English Girls U15 and U13 Championships in 2007. Suffolk’s Heidi Baek won the U15 event and Wiltshire’s Hannah Turland took the U13 title.
I became a statistic in the summer of 2020 by renewing club membership here after nine years away. The rush for UK club membership last year was huge and now many clubs are looking pretty good on numbers with little or no new joining opportunities right now.
Brickendon has improved since I left in 2011 with a lot of the drainage issues that used to be evident, now attended to. There is still work to do on this but after the horrendous wet winter, the course has been playable for longer than back in the day.
The start of a program of bunker upgrades is underway too, with the 8th , 9th and 18th holes now with the new style at the green and they do look pretty smart and enhance these holes. The 9th is actually the most improved hole in recent years; as well as the bunkering, the green has had a re-shape at the back-left and that works very well.
Playing the course regularly has been really enjoyable for me this time around and I can appreciate a number of things that not necessarily I missed in my first term but they may not have had my full attention then.
Like a lot courses is this part of the world there are a collection of good holes, some that need some work and a few that will split opinion but overall the course delivers on quality, being a test and gives plenty of enjoyment. Brickendon plays its very best in spring/summer and this is also the time that it can play its hardest with some of the quickest greens around.
The front nine is a little more positional than the back with half of the holes probably being less than a driver from the tee with my favourites coming at the 5th and the 8th – both requiring tee shots of around 200 yards and then approaching from somewhere between 120-160 yards; the 5th turns right and the 8th turns left. Two of the club’s ponds are in play on these holes, the 5th when playing to the green and the 8th from the tee – pars at both holes must be applauded.
The back nine opens up a fair bit and is favoured by the better players as having more chances to score well on. The 17th is well known locally as ‘The Ace of Herts’ – and is undoubtedly one of the county’s best holes; a very tough par-4 requiring a drive of a minimum of 230 yards to be able to see a green around 200 yards away. The fairway turns to the right, dips and rises and passes another substantial pond along the way and approach shots must hit the green; anything short will fall back leaving a tough recovery.
There are some early thoughts on making improvements to the par-3 11th hole – currently there are a number of things that are wrong (length, hazards, teeing ground…) and hopefully in time, there will be a re-think – there are certainly chances to change the member’s least favourite hole into something pretty special.
For me it is the tee shots at Brickendon that are the most important; you really cannot score well if you are not getting it off of the tee here – recovery shots are very difficult. Add in the extremely quick greens (3rd, 9th, 12th, 14th and 15th are the worst/best culprits!) add in some strong elevation changes on at least half of the holes, many with false fronts and it is clear that you need to know the course to get close to handicap – very, very rare that first timers will get those sort after 36 points – so visitors have to keep coming back to try and are most welcome to do so.
Brickendon Grange at the end of a wet May was very damp, perhaps even squelchy. Understandably winter rules on the fairway, and some plugged shots off fairway. Grass rather long on the fairways, but the reality is that you can’t mow a golf course with a hover mower. Greens good, very receptive, hence target golf. They weren’t quick, but were broadly true if a bit bobbly.
It’s a nice course, with I think a better back nine than front nine. On the latter the challenges seem to come a bit nearer the green, the risks, and so rewards are a bit more evenly balanced. So the 17th, which is a lovely hole does reward a well hit straight to faded drive and will punish anything left or right. But the reward for getting a driver right is a much better approach line and a lot of run so a much shorter shot. In contrast the front nine has three par 4s (5, 7, 8) where the trees force a dog-leg and, except for perhaps the very longest hitters force a lay-up. If it were me I’d remove the corner trees, but extend the rough. This would offer the line, but only reward it when played absolutely properly. In contrast the par 5 15th offers reward for a good drive, but punishes the attempt gone wrong by a nice little cross ditch. Lay up and it’s undoubtedly another two shots to get on; take the ditch on and the green is that much nearer.
The front nine is less exciting, not least because the stroke index two 4th hole feels just long; because it is. 452 uphill off the whites, but dead straight. A tough hole, but not an inspiring one.
This was my fourth time playing, so I do keep coming back. So it’s by no means a bad course, but it’s not full of inspiration. It’s not devoid, but I would hope for a bit more.
Very nice parkland course set in a large plot with many different species of mature trees which gives it a very nice setting. The holes offer a variety of challenges and it has 3 or 4 very good holes.
The clubhouse and bar facilities are good.
The course is at its best in summer but can get rather wet and soft in winter which can limit play. The greens are good and have been improved in recent years.
There are so many courses in and around the north London area that fall into the OK but not startling parkland category and Brickendon is one of them. The course has a number of good holes and also a number of very average ones. The hole that will remain etched in your memory is the 17th, which is a supremely challenging two-shotter and placing a 4 on anyone’s card is a major achievement. The greens are generally in great condition and faster than most, certainly in the summer. Bring your thinking game along and use the driver sparingly as position rather than sheer length is key to a decent score. An okay but rather uninspiring track.