Enville Golf Club is set on the edge of the Black Country, five miles to the northwest of Stourbridge. The location is bucolic and once formed part of Enville Hall Estate, the ancestral home of the Earls of Stamford and Warrington.
Enville Golf Club was established in 1935 by a group of golfers from Stourbrige and Churchill & Blakedown Golf Clubs who wanted a course of their own. Sir John Grey agreed to lease the land (known as Enville Common) on which the first course was laid out. Alf Padgham – 1936 Open Champion – was consulted on the design and the fledgling golf club was underway with its first 9-hole layout, which was built by construction foreman Arthur Wrigglesworth.
Although Wrigglesworth had never played golf, he became Enville’s first professional and over the next five years he laid out five new holes until his untimely death in 1940. Horace Lewis then took over as club professional and subsequently brought the hole total up to eighteen.
In 1972, Frank Pennink added another nine holes to the club’s portfolio, and by 1983 a further nine was added by Ron Hinton, Enville Golf Club's long-standing club professional since 1955.
In 1985, the club produced a booklet titled The First Fifty Years. “During the construction of the third nine holes in the woodland, three stones (erected to commemorate the replanting of trees to replace those hewn down to smelt iron-ore in the furnaces along the River Stour) were re-sited near the 16th tee of the present Highgate course.”
“The final nine holes, constructed in the Lodge Plantation, were brought into use on Captain’s day in 1983 and the 36 holes were reorganised into two courses of 18 holes each, identified as The Highgate Course and The Lodge Course respectively.”
The architectural provenance of both courses is rather complicated, as each of Enville’s courses comprise of some holes designed by Alf Padgham, Arthur Wrigglesworth, Horace Lewis and Frank Pennink.
Ron Hinton laid out 9 holes (4-12 on today’s Lodge course) within the Lodge Plantation on the other side of Enville Common Road, so the provenance of these holes is clear.
Muddled architectural origin aside, the Highgate course is generally considered to be a whisker better than the Lodge layout, but there is very little to choose between the two. Both courses have a split heathland and forest personality and both play across near perfect sandy golfing terrain.
A short par five starts proceedings on the Highgate, providing a genuine birdie opportunity. One of the Highgate’s best holes arrives at the heather-flanked short par four 4th which doglegs right to a punchbowl green.
The 5th is a pretty one-shotter and the stroke index one 6th is a brute which plays nearly 450 yards from the back tee. The short par four 7th presents another real birdie opportunity and it’s the last of this first loop of heathland holes, which wouldn’t look out of place on any of Surrey or Berkshire’s top-ranked heathland courses.
The 8th hole through to the 16th hole takes golfers on a journey through some magnificent woodland, which is slowly but surely being managed with a view to reinstating the ground’s heathland character. Special mention must be made to the wonderful double-doglegging 12th with its wild roller coastering fairway, and the long one-shot 16th where the only water feature on either course waits to catch out the hapless golfer.
The last two holes on the Highgate traverse the heathland on their way back to the charming clubhouse, which was originally the estate’s farmhouse. If anyone dare doubt the Highgate’s golfing pedigree, it staged Open Championship Regional Qualifying from 2007 to 2011.
We must thank England’s Diane Bailey (a top amateur golfer and winning Curtis Cup Captain) for helping us to unravel Enville’s historical background. Diane has been connected to Enville Golf Club for more than sixty years:
“When I started [at Enville], aged 12, I was made so
welcome, there were no restrictions for me as a junior, whatsoever. I could
play at any time and I could play in all the competitions. Mind you, when one
day I was wearing what we then called "pedal pushers", now known as
"crops", I was sent home and told to wear trousers or a skirt! Mr
Lewis was the Pro and Mrs Lewis the caterer. She always made fresh scones for
me for teatime, my favourite.”
What a joy, both courses are worthy of being ranked, the debate within our group was which was the better course. The Highgate scored marginally higher due to its length and stronger closing holes although the Lodge course has some great holes.
It is a very special venue with wonderful practice facilites. The 1st on the Highgate is a fantastic par 5 although not long it sets the tone for what lies ahead. The Heath Rolls out over the first 7 Holes it then has a much more woodland feel running through to the 16th before returning to heath on the magnificent 17th and 18th Holes. It is a delight to play, how it is not ranked it the top 100 is a surprise and would knock many of the esteemed Surrey Courses down the pecking order. Maybe its because its off the beaten track a little or because no architect has had much to do with its layouts, all I can judge it on is my golfing experience playing many of the top 100 in the UK and with that it is for sure a major contender.
The condition of the course was excellent with quality putting surfaces and fantastic tees. Negatives would be some of the bunker design/styles are not up to the likes of Parkstone, Ferndown or some of the Surrey Courses.
Overall it its an Excellent Venue and worth a visit.
The Highgate course is the pick of the two courses at Enville and provides a good test off the whites at 6703 yards (albeit a par 72 with four par 5's), especially as this September there was not a lot of run. The 1st is a nice gentle par 5 with the tee shot inviting you onto the course. The opening seven holes are very much heathland and for me the most enjoyable stretch of the course, with a couple of short par 4's and heather framing the fairways. The 8th is I guess the start of the woodland stretch (reminds me very much of Woburn), and holes 8 to 13 are a tough stretch including four longish par 4's and the 596 yard par 5 9th hole which requires three good strikes to reach the green; the 503 yard par 5 10th is one of my favourite holes on the course and provides a bit of relief in that (provided you avoid the ditch with your drive) you feel that a birdie is on. The 14th is a nice looking 156 yard par 3 and is followed by the last woodland hole, a par 4 which seems to have been lengthened in recent years. The long par 3 16th looks good but in reality the pond seems to be nearer the tee than the green and is not difficult to carry. After the woodland it is nice to drop back into heathland for the last two holes, the 17th being a really nice par 4 with good fairway bunkering and heather framing the tee shot. Course condition was excellent with the greens true and of good pace, some of the best I have played on this year; very good practice facilities as well. Overall Enville provides a fine 36 holes of golf that seems to slip a bit below the radar of many people, and I suggest that if it were in Surrey or Berkshire it would be much better known and also be a strong candidate to be a top 100 English ranked course. Although I give it a 4 ball rating the Highgate is very close to a 5 ball (just not sure of the woodland mixed into the heathland), but one thing is for sure more people should make the effort to play Enville.
Enville is an extremely intriguing 36 hole golf complex located in deepest Staffordshire countryside that is slowly but surely building a reputation as one of the country’s most respected venues.
The current Highgate and Lodge courses both possess nine holes of superb woodland and nine holes of inspiring heathland.
Prior to my first visit in August 2014 I had spoken to several people who had played here, including a handful of members, and I was yet to hear a bad word said about either course. I therefore arrived with high hopes… and did not leave disappointed. A subsequent visit a couple of years later confirmed what I already knew - Enville is well worth a visit.
It doesn’t take long to realise that you are at a special venue. The opening hole on the Highgate course has a distinct air of quality about it; a shortish par five that fits the land perfectly and has some excellent bunkering on the approach to the green.
In fact the first seven holes are a class act, played over beautiful heathland with lovely bunkering. After a strong par three at the second the third and fourth are both relatively short par fours but ask you to work the ball both ways. Once again the bunkering is exceptional, especially at the latter.
Whilst many of the fairways on this opening stretch are generous there is very little semi-rough which means that the heather starts almost immediately on both sides of the short stuff. I really liked this feature of the course on the Highgate and also, as it would transpire, on the holes towards the end of the round on the Lodge.
The lovely seventh, with a big dip in the fairway which allows you to hit a shorter club off the tee than you might think, is the last of the heathland golf until you return to this fantastic piece of land for the final two holes.
The remainder of the course is played through mature woodland and whilst this stretch doesn’t quite have the magic of the open heathland, and inevitably plays a little bit softer, there are some excellent holes.
The variety of holes is noticeable on both courses. All are individual in nature but work extremely well collectively. It’s also good to see that the Club are promoting heather regeneration on the heathland part of the courses.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.