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.
The course at Romford is decent and well worthy of county Top 10 position. The club like many is predominantly for the members but visitors are normally pretty happy with a visit too. I have played a few times over the years and most recently during the early September 2021 heatwave.
The location is much more on the London end of the county of Essex and the busyness of the area around the course says just that. Golf at Romford GC is now into its 128th year and is a very popular club and course.
Very much a parkland layout without too much elevation change but getting to close on 6400 yards it is no pushover. The opening two holes ease you into the round nicely; at 351 and 309 yards they give chance for a decent scorecard early. The toughest hole on the front nine is certainly the 4th – 477 yards and the percentage of shots reaching in two will always be low especially as wind will often be against you. My favourite part of the course are holes around the 6th to 9th – a little more of an open feel and holes that play similar to some at nearby Thorndon Park GC, which is a compliment as Thorndon is the current Essex #1.
Overall with the front nine being around 300 yards shorter than the back, you really need to be ahead of your score at halfway really – most scores will be closer to handicap on the front than the back at Romford.
Par-3 (2 on each half) distances are nice and varied, 138 yards at the shortest and 219 yards the longest with a couple of mid-lengths in the middle. These did mean four different clubs for me when I played and that is a positive.
The course is condensed into a pretty small piece of land (around 90 acres) and flanked by houses on three sides and the main A12 road on the other. This does mean on the plus-side, walks between greens and tees takes no time at all but on the negative side, there is an area on the course where it is very congested with four tees and three greens very close together. This is all manageable with the exception of the position of the 18th tee (tucked too tight to the boundary) – this last hole is a short par-5 but the tee position means that you have to aim further left than is ideal (putting those approaching the 11th in range) and try to fade back – a straight shot or a draw is simply not an option. I am not sure of the exact answer but I would favour making this a tough par-4 with a new tee around 80 yards in front of where it is now. To get back the par-5, then maybe the 477 yard 4th could be lengthened a touch to create a new hole. As space is a such a premium here any solution will need plenty of discussion and bringing in a course architect is a must.
Always enjoy golf at Romford and would recommend the course and it would be great to see if the last hole debate gets to a point of change.
Before I start, I should add that I am an 'officer' for Romford Golf Club, so I will avoid posting anything that could be construed as biased reporting.
I wanted to ensure that any viewers knew a few recent changes for the better that have taken place at the club.
This May, work was concluded on the installation of fairway irrigation. This is seen as a fantastic investment for us to ensure the maintenance of consistent playing conditions through the year and help manage the increasing frequency of drier summers.
In addition to this, the club have also invested in the provision of Buggies for members, visitors and societies. This really helps provide golfers with the opportunity to continue playing as they become older and less able to walk 18 holes. Whilst not a hilly course, this facility has been warmly embraced by members and guests alike.
The course continues to provide a fair but challenging test of golf for all abilities, the greens are extremely good and it is a club that has always had a reputation for great quality putting surfaces. We hosted the England Champion Club competition last year – congratulations to the winning team from the City of Newcastle Golf Club.
The irrigation work has, as one would expect, left some 'scars', but these will heal within 6-12 months and we expect the course to rapidly exceed the expectations of visitors.
I played this course on a beautiful, sunny afternoon and the course was in perfect condition. As such, I may be biased in my view but I absolutely loved playing here. Real old fashioned parkland where the holes are close together, a couple of crossing fairways and a good old fashioned clubhouse. Whilst nothing spectacular, I always think fondly of this course and would recommend a visit.
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.
Sunningdale, Swinley Forest, St George's Hill, Walton Heath, West Sussex, The Berkshire, Hankley Common, Woking, Worplesdon, West Hill to name just a selection of west London’s heathland courses. Essex cannot compete with any of the aforementioned. Sir, I believe the “someone in the know” to be correct. Suggest you play a few on the other side of town and see what really is quality.