The Jacobean-style manor house was built in 1890 for the Hanbury family, and in 1923 it was converted into a girls’ boarding school. It remained a school until 1986, when it was ambitiously transformed into a luxury hotel and the prestigious Hanbury Manor Golf & Country Club.
Harry Vardon originally laid out a nine-hole course in the majestic parkland grounds in the early 1900s, but it was Jack Nicklaus’s eldest son who brought the Hanbury Manor golf course back to life. Behind the manor house was an undulating piece of farmland and this was used for the addition of nine new holes. Jack Jr. also completely revised the original Vardon parkland layout. The official opening took place in 1991 with an exhibition match between Tony Jacklin and Dave Stockton. Jack Nicklaus II was there too.
Nicklaus II has done a decent job with an unremarkable property. He employed many of his father’s tricks of the trade and created an exciting golf course with double fairways and plenty of threatening water. Hanbury Manor is PGA championship standard and it plays its length, measuring over 6,660 yards from the regular medal tees.
The two nines are distinctly contrasting, each having a completely different look and feel. The newer front nine is much more exposed, laid out in a modern American style, while the back nine feels traditionally park-like with fairways flanked by stately trees.
Hanbury Manor’s tournament potential was quickly recognised and, in 1996, Trish Johnson won the Women’s European Open by five clear shots. The following year, the Men’s PGA European Tour arrived in the shape of the English Open and the tournament remained at Hanbury Manor until 1999.
Scoring well on this demanding course is easier said than done. The 8th hole is the toughest on the course, measuring 425 yards with out-of-bounds all the way along the right hand side. The approach shot to the green is tricky, even from the middle of the fairway. The green is elevated and protected by a lake on the left and a grassy hollow to the right, the ground and the green slope cruelly towards the lake. The back nine features some memorable holes, playing through majestic oaks and across numerous lakes.
Hanbury Manor stands on its own in an area absent of notable resort courses and there’s certainly a lovely ambience around the property at this English rural version of an American Country Club.