Chelmsford Golf Club was founded in 1893 and in those days the club operated cheek by jowl with horse racing at Galleywood Common. Tom Dunn designed the original 9-hole course and it was set just a few hundred yards to the south of the present course. The only stipulation was that no golf was allowed on race days.
The club existed at Galleywood until 1910 when land became available at Widford, its present site. James Braid confirmed that the ground was suitable for golf and turf nurseryman James MacDonald from Harpenden laid out the parkland course in 1911, from where golfers still enjoy delightful views across the county estate of Hylands Park.
“That course, which was bisected by the London to Ipswich railway line, is not what you see today because various land deals down the years has led to changes culminating in the current compact layout,” wrote David Hamilton in The Golfers Guide to East Anglia. “Additional land in 1924 saw famous golf architect Harry Colt remodel the course and much of his handiwork exists today although a further land purchase in 1931 enabled much of the present layout to take shape with the four holes on the other side of the railway being sold.”
“The October 1987 hurricane that cut a swathe through so many clubs in the south and east of England also left its mark on Chelmsford,” continues David Hamilton. “Many trees were brought down but it was to prove a blessing in disguise. It opened everything up, provided greater air movement and consequently the course became drier. So much so that the quality has elevated Chelmsford among the best maintained courses in Essex.”
“In 1993 the club celebrated its centenary when Michael Williams, the much lamented golf correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, took over as captain for the second time, having also held office in 1968.”
“Today’s course is laid out across a valley, which comes into play on both nines, and don’t be fooled by the overall length of just under 6,000 yards or the par of 68. You won’t take it apart because it is well protected… Although there is only one par five, Chelmsford’s test comes with its many par fours, seven of which are 400 yards or more, and its five short holes, two being across the valley.”
There are a number of fine golf holes at Chelmsford, but the members consider the par three 4th as the club’s signature hole. It may only measure 128 yards from the medal tees but the greensite is set in a glade once known as Thrift Wood, and the surface slopes severely to the left. Aim for the right half of the dance floor and hope the golfing gods are with you.
The spire of St Mary’s Church is in full view from the 1st tee and 18th fairway, and some might suggest it is perfectly situated for those looking for ‘divine intervention’ at the start of a round, or for ‘forgiveness of their sins’ at the end.
I enjoyed an excellent afternoon of foursomes at Chelmsford. The course was in excellent condition, but a series of long par fours made scoring difficult. A very friendly welcome from the clubhouse staff and the course Marshall.