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6 miles NW of Stourbridge
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Alf Padgham, Arthur Wrigglesworth, Horace Lewis, Frank Pennink, Ron Hinton
Simon Isaac & Richard Copsey
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 slightly shorter Lodge course is generally considered to be the Highgate’s understudy, but frankly 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.
The Lodge starts rather unusually with a short but pretty heather-clad par three and it’s followed by two short heathland par fours. You then cross Enville Common Road and you’re transported into Ron Hinton’s ethereal forest.
After a gentle start the long two-shot 4th immediately grabs attention, where the approach must carry a vast ravine en route to a greensite that falls away sharply at the front and left side. The short par four 5th is followed by a brutal par four where the ease of the tee shot belies the difficulty of the switchback fairway ahead and the raised green complex.
A run of solid holes follow, where the ground movement makes for thrilling golf, before you cross back over the road and return to the heath to play the long par four 14th. Heading for home, playing one lovely heathery hole after another, many golfers will wonder why Enville isn’t better known and more highly regarded.
Only a few English clubs have thirty-six holes, fewer still might reasonably contemplate the idea that both their courses are candidates for inclusion in the national Top 100. With future vision and some dusting off, The Lodge and The Highgate courses are genuine England Top 100 contenders.
Two quality courses at Enville and both provide a similar mix of heathland and woodland, invarably in good condition. Although I have a slight preference for the Highgate the Lodge is well worth a visit.
A fairly average par 3 to start is followed by two excellent short par 4's where driving accuracy is at a premium. Crossing the road you move from the heathland to the woodland section which commences on the 4th with with a very straight stroke index 1 which has a big ravine in the middle of the fairway. A good mixture of undulating treelined holes follow, including a short par 4 at 5 with fiendish green, some longer par 4's, a couple of nice par 5's at 7 and 10 and a dog-leg par 4 at 9 which reminds me very much of a hole at Woburn. The par 4 at 11 has been totally reconfigured in recent years and will become a challenging hole when the new green beds down a bit. After the 12th you cross back over the road and return to the more open heathland section and you finish the round with a series of heather framed par 4's, other than the short 17th. Infact there are only three par 3's on The Lodge course which means that after the first hole you only have two par 3's and two par 5's and it is perhaps this slight lack of variety which leads me to prefer the Highgate course (if I was rating the Highgate on the new definitions I would give it 4.5).
Played The lodge course a few years ago in an away match. I was pleasantly suprised at the quality of the course (especially with it being considered the inferior course). Lovely par three over heather/gorse to get the round going that eventually leads you to venture into the tree lined holes. Admittley I have a bit of a soft spot for tree lined courses and really enjoyed the wooded section of the course. I recall enjoying the 9th par 4 dog leg right and par 4 11th, a nice set of steady par 4. There's also plenty of holes that allow you to open up with the driver.
It would be great to revist this club and try out the The Highgate for comparisons sake, though I would happily return and play The Lodge course if I was in the area again.
The Lodge course is regarded by some as slightly inferior to the Highgate but preferred by others, so I was intrigued as to what would lie ahead.
As it turned out it was almost a repeat of the morning round. Start on the heathland, play through some woodland then finish back on the heath.
This time you only play three holes before venturing into the tree-lined part of the course, this time across a road. This opening trio of holes are not too taxing but the second is a fantastic hole where you must decide where you want to approach the hole from; either at green level from a long way back or from a blinder position in a large hollow but much closer to the green.
The wooded stretch of the Lodge course is fantastic. This much is clear from the first hole you play where you must decide if you wish to try and reach a second part of the fairway; closer to the green but at the bottom of a deep depression.
This part of the course has a similar feel to Woburn with many of the holes featuring towering pines that frame them magnificently. The green at the driveable fifth is perfect for this length of hole, large in size but with a pronounced slope. Six and seven are also fine holes on this part of the course but the climax comes at the 11th when you play from a high fairway to a narrow and angled green set in a valley below.
The 13th makes an impressive return to the vibrant purple heathland with a demanding drive before the final five ease you home. All of these are good holes, three of them (14, 15 and 16) excellent shortish par fours in their own right but as a trio they don’t quite ask the same questions that the Highgate course does over the closing stretch. The shining light of the homeward run is perhaps the 17th, a short par three that merges into its surrounds effortlessly.
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.
So which is the best? Ultimately I found very little between both courses in terms of quality, and also as a golfing experience, with the Highgate just getting the nod thanks to a slightly stronger finish. I preferred the woodland part of the Lodge course more so than Highgate but it was the other way round for the heathland holes. It could also be argued that the Lodge has more of the top holes across both courses.
The only slight niggle I had about Enville was that with equal parts of heathland and woodland it might have been better to create two contrasting courses rather than both being a hybrid as such. I think I would have preferred it that way but I suppose if you only have the opportunity to play one course then you get the best of both worlds.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.