Saffron Walden - Cambridgeshire - England

Saffron Walden Golf Club,
Windmill Hill,
Saffron Walden,
Essex,
CB10 1BX


  • +44 (0) 1799 522786

  • Jonathan Dove

  • Harry Vardon and Reg Cox

  • Rob McNicholas


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.

There are a number of strong holes, but our pick is the long par four 15th which requires an accurate tee shot to reach the corner of the tree lined, right to left dogleg, where the fairway slopes trickily from left to right. This will leave a tough approach to a left to right sloping green that is protected on both flanks by a bunker. If you mark a par on the card here, give yourself a pat on the back.

Saffron Walden is a traditional members’ golf club and one of the most highly respected in the region. It’s also an exceedingly pleasant place to play golf.
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Reviews for Saffron Walden

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Description: Laid out within the surrounds of Audley End House, the course at Saffron Walden Golf Club was expanded to a full 18-hole layout in 1975 and its fairways are routed close to the 193-foot spire of St Mary’s Parish Church. Rating: 5.3 out of 6 Reviews: 3

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.

6 / 6
Saffron Walden
April 30, 2016


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Hugh
May 04, 2016
I'm genuinely surprised by this review and by the earlier review. The comments don't surprise me but the ratings do. Both these 6-ball reviews have been posted by one-time reviewers and they have either not played many courses or are simply seeing Saffron Walden differently to me. Don't get me wrong, SW is a good course but it's not world-class and won't make the World Top 100 or even the GBI Top 100. So why rate it 6 balls when there are so many courses that are so much better. For example what would you rate Sunningdale or St George's Hill? Both of which are stratospherically better than Saffron.
Played there recently in a society day. We were made to feel very welcome. I played there a few years ago and it is obvious that they are spending lots of money on both clubhouse and course. I really like what they have done with the 13th hole and the new bunkers around the 11th have changed the hole from mediocre to a good test of golf for a short par 3. If I lived closer I would definitely join this club although I did hear a rumour that they are closing the membership list.
6 / 6
Saffron Walden
April 03, 2016


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Jason
August 09, 2016

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.

This is a very good club and a full membership underlines the popularity in some tough financial times for many clubs. As for the course, I would say that this is rightly towards the top of the Cambridgeshire rankings and without getting blown away this is a decent place to play. Some of the holes that stick out for me are as follows; The par-4 4th is a great 90 degree dog-leg to the right around 360 yards, the choice of tee-shot is important, a 200 yard lay-up and then a mid-iron is the sensible option but aiming at the corner with a little fade could just set-up a decent birdie chance. The par-4 12th hole needs a long straight drive to avoid bunkers left and right at landing point, then favour the left-side of the green to avoid the dreaded downhill putt. The 14th is a short par-4 (all courses should have one) at around 310 yards; my observations for this hole are that the green is too big and the bunker protection is nowhere near severe enough – happy for the hole to be drivable for the big hitters but it needs toughing up, a birdie should need to be worked for, here it is too common. The very next hole is my choice as best on the course; a strong par-4 at 420 yards turning slightly left at about 240 yards and many will struggle to hit the green in two shots – four is an exceptional score. Another tough par-4 comes at the 17th and a stroke index of six is a little misplaced, it is much harder than this. It is not unlike the 15th but with a slow uphill climb for the entire hole, this is even tougher to make four on. The last hole is worth a mention too; a mid-length par-3 sitting right in front of the clubhouse with great views back over the town – I call this a fun hole because that is just what it is – but my message to the club is have a bunker plan for this hole – of the seven that are protecting, three are not in-play anywhere near enough and a re-design of their positions is a must with the main reason being, poorly hit tee shots can roll and roll straight on to the green – if a closing par-3 is the choice then bunkering is so key so making it a stand-out hole. In summary, Saffron Walden is a good course with plenty going for it but with a few course plans (especially bunkering), this could be the number one course of the county.
4 / 6
Saffron Walden
July 10, 2014


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Billy
July 14, 2014
This is a good and fair review and I’m mainly in agreement. I looked at joining Saffron Walden when I moved to Cambridge. The three clubs that ended up on my shortlist were Saffron, John O’Gaunt and Gog Magog. I ended up joining the latter as the others involved longer travel time. Saffron Walden may well be the best golf club from the three I mention but I’m not sure their golf course is quite as good as either of the two courses at The Gogs. Having said that I think SW is a “proper” members’ club and the course is an honest test in lovely surroundings. Cambridgeshire is not the hottest golfing county in England in terms of golf course quality but SW is rightly up there in the rankings.