“The first thing you notice at most golf clubs is the clubhouse,” wrote Peter Alliss in The Good Golf Guide, “and Moor Park’s may just be the most magnificent in the land, a Grade I listed historic building. Historic it certainly is. In the thirteenth century the house was known as the Manor of the More and later Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon lived there. A peace treaty with France was signed within its walls in 1525.
In 1679 James, Duke of Monmouth, the bastard son of Charles II, bought the estate and had a new house built. He didn’t live long enough to enjoy it, however. In 1685 he headed a rebellion to seize the throne against his uncle James II, but was defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor and executed on Tower Hill. He was, of course, playing for high stakes against a golfer!”
The images you see today of a golf flag in the foreground and the mansion house in background have been taken from the fairways of the unsung West course, which you encounter as you travel along Moor Park's entrance driveway. England’s greatest gardener, Lancelot “Capability” Brown, laid out this glorious parkland more than one hundred and fifty years before Harry Colt fashioned three golf courses for a wealthy Viscount.
Rickmansworth is now a municipal facility and Moor Park’s West layout sits in the shadow of the club's High course, but the West really shouldn’t be overlooked. The West and the High course, taken as a 36-hole twosome, respectively represent a fun and challenging rounds of golf.
Routed on either side of the main entrance driveway, to the north and west of the clubhouse, the West is short but also sweet. It may appear to be a pushover at first glancing the scorecard, but there are two strong par fours that stretch out beyond 400 yards at the 7th and 15th, along with the testy par three 9th, which measures only fourteen yards less than the short (258-yard) par four 10th.
Moor Park has the best of both worlds with the High and the West courses in its portfolio. Nobody wants to be beaten up twice in a day. Enjoy the shorter but thoroughly entertaining 5,833-yard West in the morning before tackling its big (7,061-yard) brother after lunch.
Finally we should doff our cap to William Lever (aka Lord Leverhulme) the industrialist, philanthropist and politician who built Britain’s largest company out of soap. Lever bought the Moor Park Estate in 1919 and he had the foresight to commission Harry Colt. The rest is simply history.
I am fan of everything at Moor Park; the courses, the mansion, the tournament history and the obvious air of quality. The West course in places is as good as the High course here with around four holes that are superior.
My earliest memory of being at Moor Park and the West goes back to 1980, some of the holes were used to make up a composite 18 when hosting the Bob Hope Classic, which was such a star-studded event. There were eleven of these celebrity pro-ams (some under new names) and nine of them were hosted by Moor Park and what a list of players; Tour players, stars of stage and screen, world champions and even someone by the name of Mr. President – can’t see it happening now – different times!
The West is strong in its own right but is certainly not the full test that the High course gives – as a guide the West could be seen as the warm-up course but in places has holes that are stronger than some on the High.
The 5th hole is first of note for me – 394 yards, turning left and moving uphill is really strong; the collection of four bunkers 60 yards short of the green really should not be in play but do make you think on your approach. The par-3 6th at 162 yards is similar to the High course 3rd hole, not quite as downhill but plenty of dead ground between tee and green. The good run of holes continues at the next; the 7th is stroke index 1 and 449 yards. Drive over the brow of the hill and favour the left slightly – six bunkers protect the hole for the last 150 yards and for most players it is a big ask to hit the green in regulation. The front nine ends with a par-3 that from the back tee, stretches to 244 yards which really should only be used by elite golfers.
The next three holes play in a triangle shape and all three are very scoreable with par-4’s of 258 and 340 yards, followed by a good-looking par-5 at under 500 yards that plays downhill and uphill to a well-protected green.
The final third of the course is my favourite part – 150-yard par-3 at the 13th that plays along side the mansion house wall is great fun and tricky too as there is a big drop off on the left of the green, so missing either side is not great. The 14th is my favourite hole across both courses at Moor Park. From a low tee-site driving a little uphill for a good position on this 515-yard par-5 is pretty testing, best tip is to be slightly left of centre. The hole develops to the right and continues uphill to a raised green – great strategic hole. Holes 15 and 16, both par-4’s (covering 830 yards) run alongside each other giving perfect views of the back of the mansion and playing these two are the last big test, I think. The 17th is a shortish par-4 at 267 yards – tee shot out of a shoot of trees, you can get close to the green but with three bunkers protecting the front, the big drive is not the sensible play.
The final tee is a on high and gives a fantastic vista looking back to Moor Park mansion – the hole is another short par-4 at 316 yards but plays shorter from the elevated tee turning a touch to the left. There is temptation to take the drive on but be careful not to get the line too far up the left side – a wayward shot this way, could easily scatter players on the club tennis courts.
Moor Park has always been a classy affair on and off of the courses and always will be – and the West course is well worth a round or two.
Not up there with the High, but still good golf and a lovely club.