The Grove is one of the newest and most enterprising golf course projects recently undertaken in England. Designed by Kyle Phillips (the man behind Kingsbarns), the course opened for play in September 2003 to rave reviews and it's already considered by some to be the best course inside the M25. This is not your typical golf club. In fact, it isn’t a golf club at all – it’s a pay-and-play golf course open to everyone.
More than a decade on, it's a venture that seems successful. It was hard to imagine a course (and the facilities) of this quality without a club and associated members attached. The Grove has certainly attracted many pay-and-play guests and, what's more, they all receive an exceptionally friendly welcome. All the staff are focused on customer service and they will do their level best to cater for your every whim.
We played here first in mid January 2004 and we were staggered. Despite all the rain, the overall condition of the course was outstanding. We’ll actually go as far as to say that the Grove’s overall mid-winter state is better than the condition that many top courses achieve in late spring.
When you drive up the private road towards the “resort”, your first impression might be that you’ve arrived at a new upmarket municipal. The land itself appears uninspiring, fairly open, a few undulations but nothing much else. However, when you get out on the course itself, you immediately appreciate the quality and you quickly begin to acknowledge the design. Phillips has done a neat job, using the natural contours of the land in an understated way to create a discerning golf course. No doubt the Levy brothers, owners of the Grove, were delighted to host the 2006 World Golf Championships... this was the first time that the American Express event visited Britain and a certain Tiger dominated the field to claim the 2006 title.
Here's what Ernie Els had to say about The Grove after the 2006 WGC: "I loved The Grove. Let me tell you, it is very, very impressive. I would say it's the best-conditioned golf course in Europe, certainly from my experience. Everything was perfect; the course is great, the tees, fairways and greens were incredibly manicured and the practice facilities were amazing. And the food we had at the club all week was magnificent. This was the benchmark for how a tournament should be. It was that good."
Four large teeing areas on each and every hole cater for all golfing standards. Measuring a hefty 7,150 yards from the back tees to a leisurely 5,500 yards from the front tees. The raised undulating greens are simply fantastic, very fast and very true. There are no excuses for three putting here. However, if you miss the green with your approach shot, you can be faced with some very tricky recovery chip shots. The fairways are thickly grassed and very lush; the ball seems to sit proudly on top, giving the handicap golfer loads of confidence and every chance to make clean contact with the ball.
The Grove is certainly a course for the cognoscenti and it was back in the spotlight in October 2016 for the Luke Donald-hosted British Masters, which Sweden's Alex Noren won by two shots from Austria's Bernd Wiesberger. Never happy to rest on laurels, The Grove’s greenkeeping team (in consultation with Kyle Phillips and his shaping specialist Theo Travis) completed a renovation of all 90 bunkers in June 2020.
The Grove has its market and they’re happy steering directly into it. There is a certain type of customer base in mind here. Within easy reaching distance of the cash rich folk in and around London, the accommodation is luxurious with spa facilities and an excellent set of restaurants. When you head to the course, one of the staff will greet you and make sure that you’re made to feel welcome. The starter at the tee comes with a smile and the complementary goodies, and naturally, the course is in superb condition. But strip all of that back and what do you have? The answer is a slightly better than average course on an average piece of land.
The land at The Grove is gently rolling and the design is solid, it’s well bunkered, it provides a good test of your game and has a variety of interesting greens. The course never really gets out of third gear though. I felt the designer played everything a little safe and likely kept rigidly to his brief; nothing too risky or quirky that’s going to upset the customer base. This is ultimately golf for the mass market whereas I personally want to seek out something a little more inspired or see something original. Despite playing here twice, I never found myself truly engaged with many of the holes blending into one another.
There are some good holes on the outward nine, and I particularly enjoyed the holes in and around the manor. I felt the tempo dropped a little on the back nine, and whilst the downhill par three 12th was the most eye-catching hole coming home, thereafter, the closing holes are slightly lacklustre to meet the high expectations I have for an England top 100 venue. Ultimately, I like to play a course that leaves me with some sort overriding emotion, but I found The Grove a little soulless. It’s a good day out and the course is plenty enjoyable, it’s all just a little too clean, corporate and safe for my tastes.
After such a long lockdown it really was a privilege to book a tee time at the Grove and get back on the fairways. Driving in on one of the first warm and sunny April days we have had and looking at the beautifully manicured holes awaiting us simply underlined how much we have all missed this sport.
After 5 months off golf my game has been pretty poor since Golf reopened so I needed the immaculate practice facilities before teeing off. As others have commented the staff are first rate from the welcoming reception, to the guy at the end who offered to clean our clubs. Very friendly, top class service throughout.
So to the course. It’s generally pretty generous off the tee, encouraging you to reach for the driver more often than not. On the other hand an errant approach shot is often harshly punished.
I was playing the course blind which early on was to my advantage (whilst my game held out) as I was hitting greens in regulation, often unaware of the literal pitfalls that could have befallen me until after I was standing on the green safely with putter in hand. I was glad not to be through the back of the beautiful par 3 4th hole for instance. This would have required a chip out of a hollow to a quick green sloping back to front, with a brook waiting for you on the other side.
Later on I started missing greens by fractions and was duly punished each time. I’ll make use of the pre match short game area next time too :-D
Memorable holes for me were:
The 4th, a 170 yard par 3 to a raised green with a brook below to catch anything short.
The 10th, a short dog leg left in which (unlike many other holes on the course) your accuracy is very much tested off the tee, as you need to thread the ball between two sentinel trees. I duly hit one and then had to play my approach over the top of the left hand tree to make the green.
The 17th. Not for any reason other than how badly I underestimated it. Having played a great drive, the hole looked very straight forward. I picked out my 3 wood with apparent impunity and had eagle putt thoughts flying through my head, only to pull the shot slightly short of the bunkers guarding the left of the green. Still, no bother, just chip on for birdie I thought. When I arrived at the ball however I found it on a slope, in the rough, with not only the bunker to negotiate but nothing short of a ravine in between myself and the pin at the front of the green. Seve himself would have struggled from there and that was one place in which I would have been better off if I had been aware of the trouble I think!
I’m a links golf fan, but this was a great parkland course only 15 minutes from my home. I think it deserves its place as the best course in Hertfordshire and if I was not so local I would say it is definitely worth a weekend away to play. So I’m going to score it in that bracket. I’ll definitely be back.
Not often in this life can you say “I’ve hit that like one of the greats of the game…” but here at The Grove you can…But we will come to that…
Currently The Grove Golf Club sits proudly as the No.1 golf course in Hertfordshire and no.78 in England in the Top 100 Courses list, yet the course divides opinions amongst the numerous playing partners that I have shared around this venue, but the facilities have not.
The grand driveway that meanders through the course leading up to the impressive hotel and immaculate grounds conjures images of a 19th Century manor house. You are met by attentive staff who ensure that you are well looked after for the duration of your stay (be resident or non-resident), with valet parking, club cleaning and shoe service as standard.
The stables bar is where most golfers convene prior their rounds, a very relaxed atmosphere with a great selection of food and drink to enjoy prior to teeing off.
The practice facilities are also of a very high standard and well maintained and a very well stocked pro shop also awaits.
To the main event, The Course, and this is where opinions are split…
The course opened in 2003 so in the overall scheme of things is just in its infancy, but managed to attract in some high ranking events early on to propel its status as a serious contender in the ‘London Elite’.
The first hole is a lovely opening to the course, for bigger hitters it really is a risk/reward hole that can set you well on your way to a good score.
The front 9 is a nice blend of holes and elevations with 3 main holes that stand out:
3rd Hole, S/I 1 named ‘Hoggery’. You need to take out the metal off the tee here and try to peel one off the bunkers on the left to leave an ideal shot is as ‘Hells Lake’ is situated just in front of a very well protected green and makes for a very tricky second shot.
4th Hole S/I 9 named ‘Boathouse’ and for me the signature hole of the course. A lovely little par 3 over a bubbling stream and the pin can be attacked wherever it is placed on the green.
9th Hole S/I 5 named ‘Ruined Tower’ and this is where you get to test yourself against probably the greatest player the game has ever seen. 3 Plaques are placed on the 9th fairway to commemorate the 3 eagles made by Tiger Woods in 4 rounds in the 2006 WGC event held at the Grove. The 9th Hole then was played as the 18th in that event and the plaques are located around 270 yards to the front edge of the green. A great opportunity to really see if you can ‘Hit it like Tiger’, My suggestion is Driver off the deck…
Unfortunately for The Grove, the back 9 then lets the course down…in no means the quality of maintenance as the standard has always been of a very high level, but from the 10th, the holes do seem to follow a similar pattern. The only real stand out hole on the back 9 is the Par 3 16th S/I 18 Mausoleum, a nice short Par 3 which offers up a great chance for birdies, but then follows the fairly predicable 17th and 18th which leave you wanting more from closing holes.
In my opinion the Back 9 is where The Grove moves from being a Top 50 contender to moving into the latter stages of the Top 100, mainly on design.
In the visits I have made to this course over time, be it in Winter, Spring, Summer or Autumn the maintenance has always been consistent with a course in the Top 50 and of a very high standard. The service and the golfing facilities match the 5* level of the hotel, so again cannot be faulted, but you cannot help but leave the course just thinking “If only the course was as impressive as the facilities”
All in all a very enjoyable golfing experience awaits at The Grove and I always recommend this as a great destination.
For all photos of reviews, please follow Chris’ Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/top.100.golf/
Perhaps we should ask Gareth Bale which is his number one course in Hertfordshire. In a framed photo at The Grove, he has written that it is his favourite anywhere and yet (probably false) rumour had it that his deal to return to Spurs was done at Hadley Wood.
As previous reviews show, The Grove doesn't have universal approval.
These views have mainly come from those who are commenting on the course rather than the experience.
Let's be clear - the price of playing at The Grove accounts from more than the time between the first tee and the final putt on the 18th.
This is a place to play good golf and be treated like someone who earns £600,000 a week, such as the aforementioned Welsh Wizard.
Whether you arrive in a Fiat or Ferrari, you are treated as if you are the most important person who has ever arrived there - even in the current Covid environment.
Ok, there is no valet parking at the moment (probably unnecessary anyway), but there are myriad neat touches from staff who are pleasant and knowledgable.
Yes, I did like the range with complimentary balls and the course marshall who provided us with towels during our round as rained rolled down the backs of our necks.
I reckon the after-match pie was the tastiest I have ever eaten - and, as my figure suggests, I am a man who likes his food,
Obviously, these are all add-ons to the main event - the course.
So, let me say, having played on 27 of England's top 100 since June, few greens have bettered The Grove's - and this was the last week in October.
There was a pitch and place rule on the fairways but there need not have been. They were in excellent shape.
However, you cannot get away from the fact that this is corporate golf - wide fairways and too many holes which don't stick in the memory.
That's not to say it's easy. It isn't. But on a rainy autumn day, it was too much a test of brute force rather than intricate golf for me.
The 3rd hole epitomises my point - a par 4, stroke index one with water guarding a green which would be impossible to reach in regulation for all but very low handicappers.I played it like a par five but even then couldn't hold the ball on the green with my third shot.
The par 3, 4th is arguably the prettiest hole, over water and with barges parked by its side.
I also liked the dogleg 10th, which requires a tee shot between chestnut trees and an approach over bunkers in front of the green.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and one of my playing partners said he enjoyed the wide fairways. I also know that some golfers think of quirky holes (which I love) as 'Mickey Mouse'.
But this site is all about comparisons, even they are subjective and even if Mr Bale doesn't agree, I preferred the Hadley Wood course.
However, I did very much enjoy being treated like a king. Who doesn't?
Thanks Neil, some great words and a decent account of the course. As you know The Grove and Hadley Wood although only 18 miles apart are very different beasts and will appeal for different reasons. The Grove probably the best pay and play in England and Hadley a well respected members club that has improved as course hugely in the last 15 years. For the record, Gareth was not at Hadley last month (I was there that day and can confirm it was 'fake news') but it did get the club some extra exposure, which is always nice.
The course opened for play in 2003 and its has grown in stature every year since. You will find no members here. A public course of the highest order. Customer is king here. Upon arrival your clubs are taken from you (with permission), cleaned, placed on a buggy and adorned with a personalised bag tag with your name and tee off date and time. At the end of your round, your clubs are then cleaned once more and placed in your car for you. You don’t expect this level of service from too many courses in England, but I do expect this when the price tag is what it is. £195 per person at peak times in summer (ooff!).
The range and practice green are faultless, and their condition matches perfectly to the outstanding course to come.
The course sits within the M25 and therefore could just about boast the finest golf course in such a location. It’s proximity to the capital is unique and has therefore been used by Ex-Prime Minister David Cameron when hosting President of the United States Barrack Obama. The England Football Team also use The Grove’s facilities as their rest and relaxation before games at Wembley Stadium.
I really enjoy playing at The Grove. There are some who slam the course as being unimaginative, too easy – Far from it. Because The Grove delivers on exactly what it promises – a very high quality resort golf experience on a course presented in stunning condition.
The condition of the course is fantastic. I have played it several times, at different points in the year, and it has never failed to look spectacular and play well. The greens are a particular high point. The always play true and can be really slick. USPGA standard – yes please!
In 2006, The Golf hosted the World Golf Championships. Tiger was in attendance. Tiger dominated. Tiger won. Tiger scored an Eagle on No. 18 three days in a row. To commemorate the feat, The Grove installed three separate plaques on the hole on the spots where Tiger hit his approach shots from. The course has also received continued recognition as host of the 2106 British Masters, hosted by Luke Donald, won by Alex Noren. I was in attendance on Sunday, and despite the torrential morning rain, it was a pleasure to be on ‘London’s Country Estate’ once more.
One of my favourite memories here is playing on Boxing Day with my Dad and brother. My Dad, told us we couldn’t get on the course, faking a telephone call in the car, and instead told us we were going to have to turn around and head home. Off the M25 we came, round and round the Watford roundabout we went until he finally turned off. Dizzy, we were unsure what direction we were headed but the sound of the indicator pinging in the direction of the main gate got us a little excited. We were the only ones on the course that day and the condition was just as good as any other English course I have played, even in Spring.
Ignoring the hospitality, this is a parkland course which is decent but nothing special. It’s not particularly strategic, the land is just one long hill, some holes feel similar.
I’m tempted to rate it lower but the greens did meet expectations. Not so much that they’re among the truest I’ve played on, but the false fronts, catchment areas and double breakers. They’re all clever and subtle enough that they don’t just fall away down the long hill I mentioned.
I may be being biased but for the money spent I was left a bit regretful I’d not gone to Surrey or Berkshire. I can’t really think of a favourite hole, I guess the downhill par 3 13th is a highlight. Interestingly the 9s are switched compared to when pros play it.
So fork out it if you like greeters, beverage carts, and signed football shirts in the clubhouse. From a pure golfing perspective I wouldn’t put this in England’s top 100.
The Grove is a fine golf course and the best conditioned that I have played in the UK. The opening 3 holes are very fair and give you a chance to make a positive start to the round. However, it quickly becomes a challenge after that. The green complexes in particular were excellent with good bunkering and run-off areas as well as some subtle (and not so subtle) contours.
One criticism I would have is that spare a few holes, the only decision to be made off the tee is the line of play - I was very comfortable taking driver on all but the 1st and 10th. That said, there was more than sufficient challenge executing accurate 2nd shots - a true 2nd shot golf course.
It's clear that the green fee here is contributing to your whole experience at the club, and not just the course itself. I really enjoyed the day, but won't be rushing back for that price.
I really struggle to tally the negative reviews of this place. As you’d expect from a 5 star resort, service is impeccable and the conditioning of the course was second to none - tees, greens and fairways were immaculate. This doesn’t seem to be contended by most reviewers. However, a number of people have bemoaned the design or called the land uninspiring, which just isn't fair at all. The ground is hilly (I can assure you that is the case having carried clubs up and down the hills!) and beautiful (certainly on a Summer's evening). In terms of land, it is not dissimilar to the land that Oakmont is built on (before people moan, I am not comparing the Grove to Oakmont but it cannot be denied that the piece of land is pretty similar) and rarely does Oakmont get criticised for being on an uninspiring piece of land. Secondly, the design here at the Grove is actually very good. There are some very good holes: 4 is a great risky par 3 played over a stream, 5 is a brilliantly bunkered, long par 4, 8 is a great dogleg par 4 played from an elevated tee which tempts you to try and take on the dogleg but with bunkers on the outside of the fairway as well as a sneaky bunker on the inside catching the overly greedy golfers, 10 is a great shorter par 4 that doglegs severely and gives you the option to take on the dogleg or to play safe and leave a fuller shot into a green surrounded by bunkers, 13 is a great par 3 played from an elevated tee down to a green that looks closer than it is, 14 is a shorter par 4 with well-placed bunkers ready to catch out the aggressive drive and 18 is strong finishing hole. The real highlight of the design though, is the fantastic green sites. The green undulations and run-off areas are fantastic (holes 5, 12 and 17 are my favourites) and mean you really have to be striking your irons well to score around here. Yes, this isn't a links course, it isn't one of the great heathland tracks but for what it is, it really is very good (and not too expensive if you can bag a Summer Twilight slot for £99).
totally over rated, super expensive for an average course. great facilities bt not worth the money. played several times but would recommend other local courses before you part with your money here.
I understand that golf course rankings are designed to encourage debate and controversy but how this course is ranked above Hadley Wood, Berkhamsted, Ashridge, Moor Park and a few others in Herts is a mystery to me. The greens are excellent (and it's nice to have a flunky carry your clubs from the car park to the first tee but that is a luxury I can well live without) but the layout, topography and scenery are very bland and a key part of the defence on many holes is thick juicy rough not far off the fairway.
The green fee in peak season is £195 or three to four times the cost of playing at any of the clubs named above. I won't be back - unless someone else is paying.