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.
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 ...
I have played Hadley Wood many times over the years. It is a parkland course set in a rural location. Although it is close to the town it feels like the course is in the countryside. The clubhouse and practice facilities are good.
The course has been improved over the years and the greens are now better so they are both quicker and truer.
The main drawbacks are that the course sits on ground which gets very hard in summer and boggy in winter and this continues to be an issue.
The above comments on drawbacks are puzzling for me as a member of Hadley Wood. We have fairway watering and the fairways are amongst the lushest in the county in the summer (this is frequently commented on by visitors) and definitely not 'very hard'. Because of the London clay base it can get wet in Jan-March when there is a lot of rain, but the course drains fairly well after a lot of work in recent years, and course closures are extremely rare outside monsoon winters - so far this year (a dryer winter) conditions have been excellent.
Hadley Wood is a very enjoyable and easy going course. I was very impressed by the quality of the greens and how nicely they rolled. I would say my favourite holes were the 5th, a 440 yard par 4 which requires a very well placed second shot to reach the green, and the 10th which is a 180 yard par 3 over water.
If your looking for a course which is relaxed and is not very penal, I would definitely give Hadley Wood a try.
After an hour or so in the majestic club-house, I moved to the first hole and if honest, the opener is what it should be … longish, not too difficult and a hole that gets you away quickly. The front nine has plenty of variety with the stretch from the 3rd to 5th being the best for me. The 3rd is a tough par-3 just pushing 200 yards with great bunkering, the 4th a dog-legging par-4 under 350 yards and then the 5th which is SI-1; a 450 yard par-4 and yet again, the bunkering especially at the green is fantastic. The front nine ends with a little rest-bite, a short par-4 and although more clever bunkering – this is a ‘gimmie’ in terms of par.
The back-nine starts with a par-3 over water but it is from the 13th that the course moves to another level – The 13th and 14th are both par-5’s; back to back par-5’s in my mind is normally poor design but not here .. a 1000 yards or so that go up, then right, then down, then up again and once more down to the 14th green – I really enjoyed this part of the course. Next hole, the 15th is like the 9th as it is a very short par-4 and likely just to be a short pitch as the approach. Tough drive at the 16th as the fairway slopes right to left – we then arrive on the 17th tee (I often say that all golf courses have a ‘right’ to deliver a great 17th hole – Hadley Wood has a fantastic 17th) and this is my favourite hole, a par-3 around 170 yards protected by bunkers on all sides and a stream running in front and on the left-side of the hole – a very nice design.
I really enjoyed my time here recently and looking at the Hertfordshire county rankings, 10th is good but knowing the courses of the county very well, I would like to see this improve…. The Top 5 of the county for me would look like;- Ashridge, Moor Park (High), Hadley Wood, Berkhamsted and Brocket Hall (Palmerston).