Saffron Walden Golf Club was established in September 1919 and its Windmill Hill address conjures up an evocative image. The club is physically located in north Essex, within a short walk of the market town that changed its name in the 17th century from Chipping Walden to Saffron Walden after it discovered wealth by extracting saffron from the humble crocus. Although the golf club is located within Essex, it is affiliated to the Cambridgeshire Area Golf Union and hence appears in our Cambridgeshire Best In County rankings.
Nine rudimentary holes were originally laid out in Audley End Park, but the club moved to its present site in 1929 when Harry Vardon and Reg Cox (Saffron Walden’s professional) designed a new layout. The following year, Vardon and Cox officially marked the opening of the new course with an exhibition match.
The present course was extended to 18 holes in 1975 and the largest church in Essex, St Mary’s, is never far from view. Panoramic vistas over the ancient market town and across to Audley End House (take a moment to enjoy the view from the 5th tee) culminate in a country feeling that is quintessentially English.
Best described as a picturesque, mature, parkland course, you may be lulled into thinking that Saffron Walden might be a pushover. Measuring more than 6,600 yards from the back tees this is a challenging layout but also one that offers good scoring opportunities. The design is nicely balanced with four par threes (unusually the course closes with a one-shot hole), four par fives (three appear on the outward nine) and, of the remaining ten par fours, only four measure in excess of 400 yards. However, as with most good golf courses, the more challenging holes are left until the round enters the closing third.
The stoke indexes of holes 13, 15 and 17 (4, 2 and 6 respectively) suggest that you have your work cut out to score well on these three long par fours. In fact the homeward nine is 200 yards shorter than the opening nine, but with a lowly par of 35 you’ll be advised to make your score going out rather than coming back.
Originally laid out in 1919 on land by Capability Brown you find a not overly long, by modern standards, a challenging yet fair course. Add in fantastic scenery, well maintained and fast tricky greens Saffron Walden is a genuine test. The signature 5th hole with views of Audley End House is just one hole that looks simple enough but is anything but. A warm welcome, super clubhouse and great practice facilities......A must visit for any Golfer.
Hugh makes a fair point above i.e. that maybe I got carried away when I rated SWGC with 6 stars. The reason I did was that I could not fault it on the day, so giving it less that 6 stars seemed wrong. Is the course better than Sunningdale, St Georges Hill etc ?.... of course not, but the welcome was (and that is also what moved me, as a one time reviewer, to post a review). I suppose it all comes down to what you give stars for.