A mere 20 miles north of London lies the delightful Brocket Hall Golf Club, set in 500 acres of seclusion. Brocket Hall hit the headlines a decade or so ago when Lord Brocket was sent to prison after being found guilty of a £4.5m insurance fraud. Wild rumours abounded that he’d buried his classic Ferraris beneath the undulating greens of the Melbourne course, or perhaps even ditched them in the Broadwater of the River Lea. The reality was that he’d dismantled them and shipped them into a North London lock-up.
Brocket Hall was built in 1760 and it’s now rented out by the trustees on a long-term lease. Once home to two British Prime Ministers and a favourite country retreat for royalty, Brocket Hall is now a five star golf resort and both courses are named after the Prime Ministers who used to live here: William Lamb (2nd Viscount Melbourne) and Henry John Temple (3rd Viscount Palmerston).
The Melbourne course was the first course to be laid out in the grounds of Brocket Hall. Designed by Peter Alliss and Clive Clark, it opened for play in 1992. Many people believe that this is one of the finest designs from BBC television's voice of golf. The layout follows the natural contours of the undulating 18th century parkland and the course belies its tender age.
Measuring 6,616 yards from the back tees, with par set at 72, the Melbourne course is not a slog. It represents an enjoyable but thoroughly challenging test. The holes are varied and interesting, with the River Lea providing a beautiful but daunting hazard. The river is in play right from the off, waiting to catch anything struck too far to the right. The par three 2nd requires a full 170-yard carry directly across the river to a green which is protected by trees on both sides.
As we plot our way round the Melbourne course, each hole continues to entertain and ask questions, but the most telling question is left until the last hole. The 18th is one of the finest closing holes in golf. This teasing downhill par five appears straightforward enough from the tee. A solid drive down the left and over the brow of the hill will leave a dilemma for all but the very best golfers. The question is; lay up or go for it? Whatever the answer is, there will be time enough to spare for reflection when you are carried across the River Lea by a ferry to complete the hole.
Finally, a word about the practice facilities. Brocket Hall is home to The Faldo Golf Institute. This state-of-the-art golf instruction centre includes an indoor teaching school, a long game zone, a short game zone, a chipping and bunker zone, a putting zone and a par three, six-hole approach zone. If practice is your thing, then you cannot fail to be impressed.
Brocket Hall is one of the best golf clubs in Hertfordshire and if you are given the opportunity to play here, we thoroughly recommend it.
A great collection of varied and memorable holes, Brocket Hall is worth playing if you can get a game. The Melbourne has a touch of The Wisley, a hint of Hanbury Manor and a bit of the Buckinghamshire all rolled into one. Some lethal water carries will intimidate the feint hearted and the greens will find out all but the best putters. The whole Brocket experience is classy but never over the top. This has to be one of Alliss's better designs.