Romford Golf Club is sited on land that was part of the Gidea Hall Estate, which dates back to the 13th century. Golf arrived much later when the old hall and its grounds came into the hands of the proprietors of the Whitehall Golfers’ Club. According to club history; “It seems that the initiative to lay out the golf course was that of Mr D. Hill and Mr W. Paterson… The decision was taken on March 16th, 1894, by the 13 man committee.” And so, Romford Golf Club (or Gidea Links as it was also known back then) was born.
George McIntosh, former professional at Headingley
Golf Club, originally laid out the course for the founding members and became
Romford’s first club professional. In 1896, James Braid replaced McIntosh and
during his six-year tenure at Romford Golf Club he refashioned the course (his inagural design) and won his first Open Championship at Muirfield. Of course, Braid went
on to win the Claret Jug four more times while attached to Walton Heath Golf Club.
“Romford was, and I have no doubt is, a decidedly good
course,” wrote Bernard Darwin in the biography of
James Braid. “It had
not the beauties of sand and heather but in those days
Woking was, I think, the
only London course that had.”
“When James was there it was certainly one of the best of the London golf courses. I have always had agreeable memories of it from several close and pleasant matches there and in particular because it was there that I first met James.”
Darwin described this six-time Open Championship Regional Qualifying course as “neither short nor easy” and today’s layout is still testing, measuring 6,383 yards from the tips with par set at 71.
The 477-yard par four 4th, which is normally played into the prevailing wind, is where Romford starts to show its teeth. The Pro’s tip here is to “carry the middle bunker for the second shot, card a five and move on”. #14 is the hardest hole on the card, it’s another brutal par four that measures 455 yards where a pond lies in wait short right of the green, eager to gather as many balls as possible.
Romford Golf Club celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2019.
Someone in the know recently told me that 'Essex' lacked the quality courses the you would find to the west of London, a trip to Romford Golf Club proves them wrong. A very good course just inside the M25 makes access really easy. This course is extremely well designed and is a test for all levels of golfer.
Don't get lulled into false sense of security on the first two holes, they warm you up nicely for what is to come. Take an iron off the tee on the first as there is no room for wayward balls, this should leave you a short iron into the green and it is the greens where Romford comes into its own. Every single one of them immaculate, not an imperfection in sight. They roll true and have enough pace to present an ongoing challenge for 18 holes.
The par three 3rd is an awesome hole, relatively long at around 160m, but only a straight shot will do, with trees left and and right to catch anything off line. Then the course starts to come into its own, the first extremely long par four, on a lot of courses this would be a par five, at 435m this hole will challenge all levels of golfer, well placed bunkers to suck up the balls of big hitters add to the excitement, walking off with a bogey is a good result.
As you walk round this course you forget that London is only a few miles away and one of the main arterial roads leading to it is right next door, it is designed in way that continually brings the eye to the countryside setting that makes full use of the small piece of land it occupies.
A quick pit stop after the 10th hole and you are off again, every hole has it particular challenge whether it is length like the 200m par three 12th hole or protection like the shorter but equally difficult par three 17th, which is well defended with plenty of bunkers. Hidden ditches, disguised ponds, well placed hedgerows that seem to appear out of nowhere make simple looking holes a pleasure and a challenge to play.
Romford is the kind of course where playing to or better than you handicap is a real achievement and will make the post round beer even more satisfying. When in Essex or East London this is the course to seek out.