Formerly known as Hatfield London Golf & Country Club, the Old course at the re-branded Essendon Country Club dates back to 1976. Fred W. Hawtree originally laid it out in Bedwell Park, which is set near the little village of Essendon in delightful, rural Hertfordshire countryside.
Part of the imposing red-bricked Bedwell House (once owned by the London brewer, Samual Whitbread) was the grand clubhouse that served the Old course, but following the sale of the manor house in 2002, both the Old and New courses now operate from a restored 16th century barn located to the north of the property.
Although the Old course routing remains the same, the move to the new clubhouse required a change to the hole numbering – for example the old 1st is now the 4th.
Measuring 6,808 yards from the back tees, Essendon Old course can throw down a challenging gauntlet, but with four tees on each hole this undulating parkland layout is very enjoyable for most handicap levels.
The five one-shot holes are particularly strong on the Old course, with no fewer than four of these measuring more than 200 yards from the tips. The pick of the par threes is perhaps the 15th, where a pond must be negotiated en route to a sloping, heart-shaped green.
From the regular tees, each of the five par fives offer up genuine birdie opportunities but you will need to keep it on the straight and narrow, avoiding the many mature trees that line the fairways. Talking of mature trees, you’ll need a precise tee shot on the challenging par four 16th which doglegs to the right. Trees do not only flank this hole, but there’s a huge, sentry oak in the middle of the fairway at around 250 yards. Our advice is not to hit and hope on this hole or you are sure to card a bogey or worse.Essendon’s Old course is certainly one of Hertfordshire’s most attractive parkland courses. Its rolling topography and quiet yet accessible location combine to make Essendon Country Club a very popular golfing venue that is well worth playing more than once.
I have many happy memories of playing the Old course at Essendon during the summer months after knocking off work early. Rushing from the office to the first tee that was adjacent to the manor house was always a thrilling experience. The Old was considered the poor pay-and-play relation to the private New course and it took me quite a few years before I eventually managed to play the New and, if I’m honest, I like the Old course best. The reason I prefer the Old is that it is an interesting and fun parkland course which is none too arduous and basically plays the same way (weather permitting) each day. The New is more complicated due to its dual greens which only served to muddy the focal point for me on approach shots. The New could be better than the Old, but not in my eyes until the club reconsiders the architectural merits of the dual greens.