The course at Hadley Wood Golf Club is routed across an old deer park (known as Enfield Chase), which was the hunting ground of Henry V in the Middle Ages. The golf club was founded in 1922 and the Alister MacKenzie-designed course opened for play the same year.
Hadley Wood is one of MacKenzie’s earliest south of England designs and was laid out at a time when the Dr was in partnership with Harry Colt. Here in leafy North London, under the watchful gaze of the Russell Mansion (the historic Georgian clubhouse, built in 1781), you will find one of the finest examples of an authentic Alister MacKenzie design. Raised plateux greens (several multi-tiered), bold, strategic bunkering and, most importantly, a design that is engaging as well as challenging.
Laid out in two distinct loops, with a selection of solid two-shot holes, each hole differing in character, requiring shots utilising every club in the bag, Hadley Wood was perhaps the blueprint for MacKenzie’s thirteen “essential features” of an ideal golf course. With par set classically at 72 and measuring a healthy 6,517 yards from the back tees, it is no surprise that Hadley Wood was used for Open Championship Regional Qualifying between 2000 and 2005.
There are numerous notable holes, but one in particular is considered the Hadley Wood “signature” hole. The 10th is certainly the most photographed, but, ironically, it’s not a MacKenzie original. Nevertheless, we think the Dr would approve of this cracking 185-yard one-shot hole which requires a forced carry of some 100 yards across a lake where a ring of three cleverly placed bunkers lurk to the front and left of the green to catch the “bail-out” tee shot. One of our favourite holes is the 17th, another par three, which is ringed with MacKenzie bunkering. It stretches out to 169 yards from the back tees and the greensite is set on rising ground on the opposing side of a ditch.
We heartily recommend Hadley Wood to every golfer that is interested in studying Golden Age golf course architecture. We think Hadley Wood is the jewel in the crown of North London’s parkland golf courses.
Tom Doak made a point of playing Hadley Wood in 2016 and awarded the course a rating of five out of ten. He commented as follows in his Christmas 2017 Confidential Guide update:
“North of London but just inside the M25 ring road, the parkland Hadley Wood plays down and back up a couple of steep hills, with the watery short 10th in the fold at the bottom. The club has been slowly restoring MacKenzie’s bunkering, but the course would be far more attractive if they would remove a bunch of trees for better views to and from the beautiful clubhouse, built in 1781.”
Hertfordshire is arguably the Home of Parkland Golf, but I have to admit, although I liked Moor Park; Centurion and The Grove are not my type of courses. Wide, expansive and although immaculately looked after, a little soulless. So when I arrived at Hadley Wood, I wasn't sure what to expect.
When you arrive you are met by an impressive grand clubhouse, built in 1781 and a patio that allows you to take in groups playing the 11th green and teeing off on the 12th right in front of you. You are immediately struck by how immaculate the course is. Carpet greens and striped fairways. It's definitely worth having a drink or two in the sun beforehand.
The course opens up with four nice, but a little uninspiring holes, but comes alive from the 5th. The rolling undulations of the course, fabulous and bold bunkering and excellent multi tiered greens come into play and last throughout the round, making Hadley Wood a very fun place to play golf.
Like it's Hertfordshire neighbours, the fairways are wide open off the tee, but unlike The Grove & Centurion you need to positions your ball well to have the best shot into the green. The course is subtly tough. There is nothing subtle about the greens though. To score well here you need to find the right part of the green and putt well. You’ll be very lucky to walk away with no 3 putts on the card. It’s a cleverly designed course that can lull you into a false sense of security and driver is not always the best option and it’s definitely a course you want to take your medicine on.
There are a great set of Par 3s here, with the 7th, 10th and 17th being some of the most picturesque parkland one shotters you’ll find on these shores. Other notable holes for me are the Par 4 5th, the Par 4 12th with a nervy tee shot in front of the patio onlookers, but also with one of the best approach shots on the course and the fantastic sweeping dogleg right Par 5 13th, with a downhill approach.
This is a very fun place to play golf and I cannot talk more highly of how well it was maintained. A great place for a summer twilight round and one that I look forward to returning to.
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I played Hadley Wood in January on a cold and wet day. The place is very nice with a lovely old fashioned clubhouse which overlooks the 11th and 18th holes. The place has a nice vibe about it and it’s clearly a lovely and friendly club to be a member of.
The course itself is a parkland course with lots of lovely tree lined holes. The condition for the time of year was pretty decent although the tees and fairways were quite boggy which was not a surprise considering the bucket loads of rain we’d had in the last couple days. However the greens were in good nick for the time of year and rolled fairly well. Some of their best holes included the par 3 7th which was a 140 yard elevated tee shot down to a narrow green guarded by many bunkers and water over the back. I also enjoyed 9, a risk and reward par 4 where longer hitters would be able to get close to the green (or at least the people I was playing with!) and a lovely view of the clubhouse from the green. 11 and 18 were both lovely par 4s which both played towards the clubhouse which makes it hard not to like! There were some blander holes including a few uninspiring par 3s and quite a lot of the par 4s do feel the same but all in all the course is quite nice and one of the better ones in hertfordshire in my opinion. I think the club is worthy of a trip in the summer when the weather is fairer and the leaves are on the trees, that’s the best way to play parkland golf! I would say it just about scrapes into a 4 ball rating, just. A good course and well respected.
"Follow the cut of the fairway." I experienced a Homer Simpson 'doh' moment as Hadley Wood's general manager David Jackson pointed out the glaringly obvious in response to my question of the line to follow off the tee. It is early in my pilgrimage of England's top 100 courses and the first time I had experienced a split fairway of dark and light green with the meeting point showing the ideal line of drives. Happily, they informed me well enough to enable some confident and rewarding hitting. However, there were no such easy answers for the McKenzie-designed multi-layered greens which left me utterly bamboozled until the final knockings of a chastening round.
Usually, when I play badly, it tends to reflect on my opinion of the course - not so in the case of Hadley Wood. I was rapt by its beauty from the moment I walked towards the first tee. Frankly, previous lukewarm reviews have left me baffled.
The fairways were in tip-top shape, the greens were immaculate albeit very tricky (I heartily recommend 20 minutes practising because I didn't!) and the environment is dazzling from every angle.
David told us of the many changes he has made since becoming the youngest club manager in the country seven years ago and demonstrated his eye for detail both on the majestic track and in its surrounds. The care he and his team have taken has resulted in a course which was a total pleasure to play on a June evening.
Didn't live up to the hype for me but well kept and nice location, for the money there is much better in the area.
Hadley Wood is a lovely parkland course with some great strategic holes that epitomise the best elements of parkland golf.
The stretch of holes 4-7 is where the course gets going. 4 is a good dogleg left with a heavily guarded green. 5 and 6 are great tree-lined holes And the short par 3 7th is brilliant. 9 is a great risk-reward short par 4 and 10 is a lovely par 3. There are also some solid holes on the back 9 but my favourites are the final two. 17 is a great par 3 (again, surrounded by bunkers) and 18 is a tough par 4 back up the hill to the magnificent clubhouse, dogleg to the right with bunkers left and trees blocking your view if you go right. Just hit it down the middle and you’ll be fine...
Despite being a lovely course, It pains me to say I was a little underwhelmed when I visited (In the height of Summer) as some of the fairways were In terrible condition. I know that happens occasionally but it is unfortunate when it happens to a course that is usually applauded for its condition at a time of year when other courses were in great shape. Despite this little blip (I was assured it was just a temporary issue), this is a great old fashioned course that is definitely worth visiting. A great day out on one of the country’s premier parkland courses.
Hertfordshire, the county with some great courses, oh and a lot of money!
Driving up to Hadley Wood you can definitely tell. The road the club is on boasts an impressive array of houses with big metal gates and posh cars. A great 'surrey style' start. Some of the houses view able on the course wouldn't be out of place in the nicest parts of Portugal.
The course itself was a bit of a let down to me. Playing in a soggy March, the fairways were actually incredible for the amount of rain they had recently had. However the layout of the course did disappoint me. It felt like a lot of the holes were lacking something. I would do well to remember most of the holes today. The par 3's were pretty good however and the greens also in good condition given the weather.
However weird it sounds, I judge a course on it's locker rooms and walking in it stunk! It's most peoples first impression on a golf course, and it's the first thing I could chalk down as a negative of the course. You expect to play London prices here and it's a lovely traditional clubhouse. But for me there are better courses in Hertfordshire that you would find lower down in the rankings which would easily contend to this for a top 100 spot. If you placed this course in the countryside somewhere, I genuinely think it would be overlooked as so many are.
Hadley wood, I don't really know how to rate this course.
I really enjoyed the round, the course condition is FANTASTIC, clubhouse is grand, history of the place is amazing, but I just felt like I should have expected more where it is ranked? Maybe I'm being harsh as I did genuinely like almost everything about it, but for some reason was a bit underwhelmed by the layout. Again, some fantastic holes, but was surprised at how high it's ranked maybe. I played Brocket hall the week before and I thought the layout at Brocket was far superior, although the condition of Hadley wood was better than brocket at the same time of the year.
CLUBHOUSE - 9 - very old and great heritage on the walls and boards
FACILITIES 8 -
TEE BOXES 9
GREEN CONDITION 9
GREEN SPEED fast!
BUNKERS - 9
LAYOUT - 7
VIEWS - 7
VALUE FOR MONEY - 7
OVERALL FEEL - 8.5
TIME OF THE YEAR PLAYED - SEPTEMBER
FAVOURITE HOLE - 5th hole
To introduce myself, my name is Rob Anderson and I am currently course chairman, so take a keen interest in reviews and feedback. Thank you for taking the time and trouble to compose such a thoughtful and detailed review.
I am delighted you enjoyed the general conditioning and presentation of the course, and particularly our greens, which are really the signature test of our golf course.
Interested in your thoughts on layout. HW is generally reckoned to be an excellent example of Alister MacKenzie design, and lovers of MacKenzie courses often travel some distance to play it. This said beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder concerning golf courses.
On layout (and also on views) we have extensive plans for the long term development of the course, and if you would be interested in hearing what we are planning I'd be more than happy to share with you next time you are passing.
Best wishes and happy golfing!
A well laid out, handsome course. Only one blind shot and a very fair test, at 70 off the yellows. However, I played in August after moderate rainfall the day before after a dry week. Unfortunately the course was very soft in places and the greens were slow (although true). There was standing water in several bunkers, at 3pm on a hot dry day. The course is well bunkered but they are hard and heavy and need digging out urgently. In short: Good, could be very good, but isn't, and not one to play in winter I fear.
No other county in England can boast such an impressive portfolio of high quality parkland golf courses than Hertfordshire.
Routed over gently rolling terrain – once a deer park and part of the Ancient Manor of Enfield - a round at Hadley Wood serves up a delicious treat of golf that fits well in this company.
There isn’t a great deal to write home about in the first four holes although the downhill par-three third is an attractive one-shotter to a green that falls away from you slightly.
Things start to get tasty at the fifth with a truly wonderful green site benched into the hillside whilst the short seventh is simply stunning. At just 141 downhill yards you play to a narrow reversed, three-tiered green which is heavily defended by sand and framed with a lovely backdrop of water and wildlife. The flag was located on the front tier on my visit and trying to land your ball on this tiny section into the wind felt like an impossible task; of course one could play sensibly for the fat of the green and face a testing putt.
The ninth is just too long to be driveable but is a nice short par-four measuring 338-yards to end the front side.
I’m not sure if the routing has been altered over the years but I’m almost certain that MacKenzie wouldn’t have made the golfer trek from the ninth green across the second fairway to the 10th tee. However, once we get there we are greeted with another fine par-three, this time over water, to an angled green with a bail-out area to the left. Once again there are several bunkers to dodge.
Presentation was first-class on my visit in mid-August although the greens must have been hollow-tined in the previous fortnight with dents still present and this did take a slight shine off putting. That said, the main defence of the course is the contoured and sloping greens. Even on my visit getting the wrong side, and leaving yourself above the hole, immediately placed you in three-putt territory.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Good review - shame you played in August just after course maintenance, as the greens really are the standout feature of the course! You are right about alterations to the routing: although many visitors remember the 10th as a signature hole, it is probably not a MacKenzie design. The original routing was 2 loops of 9 and saw players walk from the 9th green to today's 11th tee, which is shorter and doesn't involve any crossing of fairways.
Hadley Wood Golf Club is a gem of a golf club to the north of London near Barnet. The course was designed by the legendary golf architect Alister MacKenzie (he of Augusta National Golf Club fame), and for me really offers a pure test of one’s golf game. I have been fortunate enough to play here a couple of times in the PGA East Pro-Am event they hold each May, thanks to my Golf pro Adam Trett, and each time I have played I come away loving this course more.
It is not a ‘long’ golf course by any imagination, playing 6517 yards from the white tees, but I bet if you asked any golfer who had just finished a round how long it played, they would add at least another 500 yards. This is in part due to the contours and up and down nature of some of the course, but also because there are no ‘gimme’ holes on this course. Even the short par 4s (4th and 15th holes) which barely measure over 300 yards make you think strategically on the tee box about what shot to play. If you are not accurate off the tee box, then that makes your approach shot to the green that much more difficult, which ultimately leaves you with some ‘funky’ putts to try and get your pars ...
Everyone has different ways of defining what makes a course great: often it can be how well it scored; the picturesque nature of a course; the history and tradition; etc. My barometer has always be, what are the signature holes and will I still be able to remember them if I do not play the course again. This is where Hadley Wood scores very highly for me. The par 3s of the 7th and 10th holes are as pretty as can be. The 7th is a short downhill 130 yard par 3 which has plenty of danger: bunkers protecting anything short or left; green sloping front to back; tricky green contours; and if you really airmail your tee shot, you have a lake/pond behind it! The 10th is a longer test at 185 yards with a long carry over a lake and again well protected by not only bunkers short, left and right, but a subtly contoured green that requires your full attention.
The main thing I like about this course is that it rewards you for having hit good shots, and if you have not done so, you had better take your medicine or otherwise you will making double/triple/quadruple bogeys in a hurry! When you make par (or better if you are fortunate enough to do so) it is because you played an excellent golf hole. Seldom can you ‘get away’ with a slightly tee drive or approach shot.
I have a few of bits of advice for anyone looking to play this course. Firstly, make sure you practice on the putting green before you play. Whilst the putting green looks insane, it will give you a good representation of the speed and some of the slopes you will see when you play the course itself (please note: downhill putts are very, very quick; but those uphill putts need to be hit hard!). Secondly, do not default to driver every time you see a par 4 or par 5, often this is not the best play. Thirdly, if you are out of position off the tee, take your medicine and chip out or lay up, as it will give you the best chance of getting a score. Finally, enjoy the round - it’s a gorgeous looking course, that plays well all year round and what I love about the club is that it is steeped in tradition, but yet is brought up to the 21st century under the guidance of its GM David Jackson.
This is a great English course, and I would heartily recommend anyone to come and play here. A fantastic test of golf, designed by a legendary golf architect, and within a stone’s throw of London. I am already looking forward to the next time ...