Located conveniently near to London, but sufficiently protected by mature trees to shield us from suburbia, Moor Park Golf Club's elegant High course layout will provide a challenging test of golf in pleasant park surroundings.
The clubhouse at Moor Park is an elegant 17th century mansion, the most photographed clubhouse in golf, perhaps with the exception of the R&A clubhouse at St Andrews. It has been used for many purposes throughout its illustrious history: home to the gentry, religious hierarchy and requisitioned as the HQ for the Parachute Regiment during the 2nd World War. It was here that the doomed battle of Arnhem was planned.
Moor Park also made it into the Guinness Book of Golf Facts and Feats as the club with highest membership in England (1,600).
“It is park golf with a dash of something else, wrote Bernard Darwin in his 1925 book, The Golf Courses of Great Britain, “for in the middle of the round, close to a fine clump of beeches, there is a strip of bracken country. It is here that the best and most amusing holes are to be found, and Mr. Colt has used every available inch of it.”
The Bob Hope Classic was held here during the 1980s, along with many other professional tournaments. The club has also staged a number of blue-ribbon junior events, including the Boys Amateur Championship and the English Boys’ Stroke Play Championship, formerly the Carris Trophy.
“They do say you remember a golf course with special affection if you’ve played it well,” wrote Peter Alliss in The Good Golf Guide, “and that’s certainly one of the reasons for my liking Moor Park. In the 1964 Esso Golden Tournament I played the best golf of my life. I hit the ball well throughout, hardly missed a short putt and holed not a few long ones as well. It was a round robin matchplay event with a selected field. You played everybody. I won all my matches except for a half with Ken Nagle and a loss to Christy O’Connor, who both finished with birdie 2s.”
There are some very good holes on the 6,700-yard layout, opening with a friendly par four. The 2nd is a good driving hole, requiring a solid tee shot across a valley to a fairway that doglegs to the right. The 4th is a long downhill par four, two accurate shots are required to reach this green in two. The 8th, 440 yards, is one of our favourites, sweeping downhill and then back uphill to a sloping green protected by a lurking pond with the half-way house sitting welcomingly behind the green.
The homeward nine is really more of the same, some strong and long par fours with a couple of short and reachable par fives. If anything, the back nine is more memorable and certainly a much tougher proposition than the outward nine. Two troublesome holes are the par three 12th (one of the best inland par threes in the country) requiring a bold tee shot over a valley and the 14th, a fantastic long par four where the approach shot must carry a hidden gully dissecting the fairway.
Moor Park oozes quality. The High is a classy golf course and a warm welcome awaits in the clubhouse mansion, but don't overlook the club's Harry Colt-designed West course. It may be rather short, but it's lots of fun and it's not as easy as it appears on the scorecard.
The H.S. Colt designed High course at Moor Park is an underrated parkland golf course. But perhaps the difficulty of the course results in less favorable impressions. Whenever I think of the most difficult courses I have played in England, the High course comes to mind. Obviously, a seaside links course on a windy day will be very difficult, but the High course will tests one’s even in calm, beautiful weather. In looking at the course rating, it surprises me that it is not two strokes higher from both the members and the championship tees.
But before I get to the golf course, one comment about the “clubhouse.” England is blessed with some really fine golf courses located on either former estates (Moor Park, Stoke Park) or current estates (Woburn or Bowood) or near former estates (Ashridge). It certainly would be quite the competition to determine which is the best house/manor/castle with a nearby golf course.
One will not likely find a course more heavily treed. Also, if one gets into the trees just off the tee, they will likely have a lost ball due to tall grass. If you are not striking your tee shot straight, it will be a long day with bogies-to-triple bogies if you try to “rescue” a drive too much from those trees.
The High course is proof that one can like a golf course no matter how terribly one plays on the day. The golf course offers nearly everything – changes in terrain, tight difficult driving holes due to the trees that line the fairways, a good routing, good bunkering, interesting large and well sloped greens, and a lovely walk despite one’s score. There is a good mixture of doglegs on the course along with the straighter holes. The shorter par 4’s are well defended with a combination of extra bunkers and trickier greens. While there are no long par 5’s, they are not pushovers due to the doglegs and bunkers. The par 3’s vary in length and are also well defended.
It is a course that does not suit me but one where I wonder if I could learn how to play it whether I might become a better player. Or could it be a course that could destroy my confidence forever? I would think that if a member is good enough to secure a low index here, then there should be able to play just about anywhere assuming their short game stays intact. I actually do not believe it is possible very often for even a very good amateur to have consecutive rounds here without at least one blow-up hole.
It begins with a mid-length par 4 where the tee box is set back with the eighteenth green to your right. I admit to waiting to tee off until the eighteenth green had cleared. The hole feels narrow for the first tee shot of the day, but is wider than that suggests. It is well bunkered off the left and then with three good bunkers at the green. The hole plays uphill and because there are no trees behind the green, it feels like an infinity green that confuses one on the distance of the shot. The green has a false front and a drop off at the back right. This is a nice starting hole.
A dogleg right par 4 that again is well bunkered on the left at the turn with three bunkers fronting the green. The fairway slopes left to right and front to back. The green sits at an angle to the fairway and is sloped left to right. A run off area is to the left of the green. It is another good hole.
A mid-length par 3 is next. It is again well bunkered with five surrounding the green. It is the third large green and goes back left to front right.
A mid-length par 4 dogleg slightly left follows with a downhill fairway sloping left to right. The green has three bunkers fronting the green which slopes left to right.
A short par 4 follows but it has a ditch running left to right with four fairway bunkers on a tight fairway offers a narrow landing area. The bunkers have a slight rise to them. A fairway bunker fronts the entire green but is set in front about ten-fifteen yards. It has a small but deep green, with a significant run-off to the left. The green slopes back to front. This is my favorite hole on the course.
The sixth is a short par 5 playing as a slight dogleg right. It is another narrow fairway. Three bunkers are scattered down the right side and on left. The trees are relentless on this hole. The green has a bunker either side at the front. It is a smaller green with a narrow opening with a green sloping back left to front right but is more gentle than previous holes.
Seven is another short par 4 dogleg left with fairway bunkers left and right with two more scattered down the right. Two bunkers are left of the green and another front right. There is a tree on that overhangs the line into the right side of the green. The green has a nice wide opening to it and is sloped front to back.
Eight is a long dogleg par 4 to the right. It is rated the most difficult and I would agree with that. The fairway feels very narrow. There is a pond off to the left short of the green with trees pinching in from the right with another pond hidden inside those trees, making it feel even narrower as you approach the green. There are two bunkers left and one right at the green. There is an opening to the green but the green is quite tilted front to back and a ridge diagonally left to right. Making a par here feels like a birdie.
A short par 5 ends the front nine. It “feels” like an easy hole after the brutality of the previous hole. There are two bunkers on the right and one on the left that is 250 yards off the tee. Trees unnecessarily come into the fairway opposite that bunker on the left. Out of bounds is down the right side. The green has three large bunkers with two left. There is a big falloff at the back and right side. A ridge runs through the center of the green. While there is a lot going on at this green this hole should present a good chance at birdie for the longer hitters and par for the average hitter.
A nice mid-length par 3 kicks off the back nine to a skinnier green with three bunkers. The tee shot takes you through a chute of trees. The green has some nice mounding to it. If one is still thinking about the eighth hole and did not do as well as one wanted on nine, this is another chance for redemption.
Eleven is a mid-length par 4 with a roller coaster of a fairway with a significant falloff about two-thirds down the hole. The land slopes left to right as well causing tee shots to bound right towards a ditch and the trees where one can get blocked to the green. There are three cross bunkers about 30 yards short of the green and two at the green which is tilted left to right. It is another difficult golf hole.
Twelve has another daunting tee shot from a raised tee over a ditch to a raised green 215 yards away. There are three bunkers at the green. A ball hit high and short will not make it onto the green. If you top the tee shot, a ditch will swallow the ball. Trees come in hard from the right. Par is a very good score here.
Thirteen’s fairway has a thick forest and ferns to the left. The ditch should not come into play for the tee shot. The right side also has trees but not as thick on this mid-length par 5 that sits at the crest of a hill. Three bunkers guard the green which is tilted left to right. A ball landing to the right of the green can end up pretty far away.
Fourteen is a longer par 4 and begins a string of four challenging holes. The ditch crosses the fairway again but should not be in play. A single bunker guards the front left with bushes guarding the back and left of the green. This hole presents itself as a slight double dogleg. You simply cannot miss the green.
Fifteen is another long par 4 dogleg right with a pond left of the green and a bunker at the front on either side. A collection of trees pinches in a bit from the right side. Balls hit left of the green could end up in the pond.
A short par 5 follows but it is uphill. The tee shot has to carry a pond with trees on either side making the fairway narrow. There is a bunker down the right side with the green on the side of a hill tilting to the right. Four bunkers are nearer the green with grass mounding on the left.
The final par 4 is a slight dogleg right playing slightly uphill. Trees are thick down the left with the right side having some breaks in them. However, a final tree on the right blocks a bit of the green. Two bunkers guard the green which is sloped back to front.
The finisher is a mid-length par 3 surrounded by four bunkers with a thin green. One feels relieved to play it after having played the previous four holes. There is a bit of a walk back to the clubhouse which is appreciated as it gives one time to exhale and collect one’s thoughts.
I have a bias towards links and links-like golf. I prefer a golf course where I can see across the course at most of the holes. By all accounts I should not like the High course, but I do. It is perhaps the most heavily treed golf course one will play. It is a very punitive golf course if one is having a day hitting it offline. But even if you are hitting it relatively straight, the green complexes are very well bunkered. The greens have a nice tilt and slope to them. This is a course I always recommend to my American friends if they are looking for a golf course in this direction from London.
For me Moor Park has been one of the best surprises of the season. The place is awesome and the high course is nothing short of fantastic. When you enter, you are greeted by their beautiful clubhouse which is hard to miss to be perfectly honest. The vibe at Moor Park is great and all the staff and members were extremely friendly and welcoming.
The course is a parkland course with some spectacular holes and overall is maintained very well. The tee boxes are manicured nicely and the greens roll true although they aren’t overly quick. The bunkers were good, with plenty of sand in them however there were an awful lot of bunkers scattered around the front nine, making it particularly challenging! Some of my favourite holes would be the par 4 5th, a lovely short hole with many bunkers up the fairway and going slightly up the hill. The par 4 8th is also a great hole measuring 465 yards off the whites with water on the right and left, it is definitely not an easy hole. My favourite hole would have to be the par 3 18th, a lovely downhill finishing hole measuring about 150 yards with the clubhouse in the background.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time at Moor Park and would definitely love to return there again, for me it is better than the grove and I would argue although it is very similar to Stoke Park, Moor park is better!
In a county with several top-end parkland courses Moor Park is certainly very close to the summit when it comes to discussing the best of them. Played over some lovely rolling and firm terrain the routing is particularly pleasing as it leads us around the mature property but it is the set of short holes and the excellent contouring of the greens which endeared me most to this well respected venue that has hosted professional tournaments in the past and continues to stage the annual amateur Hertfordshire Stag.
The first three holes really grab our attention early doors; a gentle but tricky par-four to a narrow green opens the proceedings before a fantastic sliding tee-shot at the next followed by a wonderful par-three; the first of four good ones.
Admittedly, there’s not a great deal to report on the fourth, fifth and sixth but things start to get going again from the seventh as we embark on an excellent run of holes. The falling green at the seventh makes judging your approach shot difficult whilst the eighth is arguably the best hole on the course with a descending and turning drive before playing slightly uphill to a fantastically contoured green under the gaze of the (almost) halfway house.
The little triangle of holes between 10 and 12 is a particularly fun and challenging section of the course too and where the land is at its most undulating. There are two short holes amongst this trio with the delicate 10th well protected by bunkers and the epic 12th across a deep wooded valley to a two-tiered green also guarded by sand. The meat in the sandwich is the ‘down and up’ 393-yard 11th which if not a great hole can cause no end of problems in terms of lie and stance.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
A truly lovely place to be, with a superb club house, grass tennis courts and the beautiful grounds giving you the expectation of Jay Gatsby or one of PG Wodehouse's characters hoving into view in a cricket sweater and a pencil bag slung over the shoulder.
Very challenging course with friendly members leaving very pleasant members - can't wait to go back !
As others have noted, the star of the area rather than The Grove.
To hijack this slightly (sorry Ed), if in the area (my own birthplace) I would also strongly recommend playing West Herts outside Watford ("Cassiobury Park") which is a traditional sporty heathland style course, great fun. Since it isn't open for comments I will quote Bernard Darwin "Of all the race of park courses, it would scarcely be possible in point of sheer beauty to beat Cassiobury Park".
This course and club gets better each time I visit. The set up and conditioning are fabulous and there is a great old world feel - whilst at the same time a clear focus on keeping the course updated and pristine. The High is a real test and you need to be straight and long particularly on the par 4's to help break the back of the subtle and very pacy greens.
If you have not played and are in the Herts area you are missing a trick. Its stands out relative to overly stated neighbours like the Grove etc