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.
The Grove is by far and away the best modern inland golf course I have had the pleasure to play.
That doesn’t necessarily make it one of my personal favourites – give me a quirky links or a firm and fast heathland any day – but there is a lot to admire about this Kyle Philips designed layout which opened for play in 2003.
What separates The Grove from other newer courses is primarily the contouring around the greens.
There is great interest added by the many slopes, run-offs and raised putting surfaces that merge nicely into the rolling landscape. Some of the best green complexes can be found at the fifth, seventh, 12th and 17th. You could drop a dozen balls and spend several hours just chipping and putting to these holes and never get bored.
The green contouring effects play on your approach shots unlike I have seen on other similar courses and should you miss the green your imagination and creativity will be called upon in spades. You are usually left with a number of options as to how to play your pitch or chip and this is something I find particularly appealing on any type of golf course.
The pronounced fairway contours are also a welcome change from many other courses of this genre. It is bold and free-flowing as Philips has tried to imitate the undulating linksland that he has done so well at the manufactured Kingsbarns Links in Scotland. It works well at The Grove, however, no matter how well this attempted reproduction is done it’s impossible to create the natural humps and bumps that Mother Nature has harvested at seaside courses.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
The architect has done an excellent job on land which is not the best golfing terrain, although there is a proliferation of dog leg left holes on the back 9, which gives a feeling of sameness. I was lucky enough to turn up without notice and get paired with a pro and it was fascinating to see first hand what a different challenge courses are when someone is consistently 290 off the tee (not much of a challenge at all really !). Gentle start which is good design feature. 2nd is strong par 4 with an interesting green complex. Not keen on the large pond at 3. Excellent par 3, , 4th with stream guarding the front. 5th strong par 4 moving to the right. Par 5, 6th is a lovely hole which also moves to the right. 7 is a wedge par 3 which gives good variation on what is a long course. The 8th and 9th holes are my least favourite and feel too “open” and immature (harsh maybe as it is a new course). 10 is an excellent short par 4, abrupt dog leg left. 11 is another dog leg left but a good hole. 12 is just a brute of a par 4. 13 is a downhill par 3 which is very scenic and allows some run onto the green. 14 and 15 are both dogleg left par 4s which are “ok” holes. 16 is a decent par 3. The 17th is an outstanding par 5 with a great approach to the green - classic Kyle Phillips, just a beautiful hole. 18 is a mega tough par 4 finish, very much a tournament finish. Tough ! Overall, a good solid golf course, which is designed for tournament play.