In 1899, when Muswell Hill Golf Club was under threat of closure, some members of the club decided to break away and form their own club, engaging Willie Park Junior – “the pioneer of parkland courses” – to set out a course at Totteridge for their newly established South Herts Golf Club.
Over time, additional land was acquired, bringing the total to 147 acres, and this has allowed the club to lengthen and improve the layout down the years. Today, the main 18-hole Vardon course extends to 6,435 yards, complemented by the 9-hole Rees course, which originally opened in 1934.
There’s also an excellent practice facility at South Herts, comprising a floodlit, 4-bay covered driving range, two putting greens, plus a new short game warm-up and chipping area that includes bunkers to allow players to improve their sand hazard skills.
The course was used for Open qualifying in years gone by and it was also a favourite warm up venue for visiting American Ryder Cup teams, starting as far back as 1937 when the 6th series of matches were played at Southport & Ainsdale.
The great Harry Vardon – six-time Open champion – became the club professional in 1902, a position he held until his death in 1937. Dai Rees was then appointed the professional at South Herts in 1946 and the 5-time Ryder Cup Captain remained in his post until he too died in 1983.
Ken Moodie conducted a bunker redevelopment project at the club over a 3-year period, starting in 2007, which improved the playing strategy of individual holes. More recently, Tom Mackenzie has been involved in further upgrading work on the course.
Today, the Vardon layout extends to 6,415 yards from the back markers, playing to a par of 72 and if your game of choice is pleasantly undulating parkland golf in attractive surroundings then South Herts is probably just the very place for you to play.
A short par four at the 1st hole eases golfers into their round before a couple of par fives at the next four holes then present a chance of a birdie. The first par three hole at the 6th is the longest of the short holes, played uphill to an upturned saucer-shaped green, so a “3” on the scorecard is good here.
Cross bunkers positioned fifty yards short of the back-to-front sloping green at the right doglegged 9th hole are to be avoided but it’s a short par five that offers another opportunity to get a stroke back on the course.
Into the back nine and both the par threes at the downhill 12th and heavily-bunkered 14th catch the eye, played either side of a short par four that rises steadily from the tee, with bunkers protecting the putting surface in front of and on either side of the green.
The “signature hole” 363-yard 16th is ranked stroke index 4 and for good reason as the hole rises off the tee slightly before veering sharply left and down to the green, with the Dollis Brook marking out of bounds as it meanders along the left of the fairway then round the back of the hole.
A nice course in reliable condition, with enough elevation change and good bunkering to make it interesting. It has a good collection of par 3s and good variety in the par 4s.
A nice course but nothing special
As someone who'll likely never get around to playing a random parkland course in England, I'd love to hear more about why you think that way since that's the only way I'll ever learn about courses like this. A six-word review doesn't really do much justice to the course, good or bad.
I don’t like your defeatist attitude Jeff!
England - a country smaller than New York State - offers arguably the best golf in the world (in terms of quality, diversity, & accessibility per square metre).
Parklands play a lesser role in this (perhaps you do this style of golf much better in the US), but as the golfing grass is always greener and variety is the slice of life, I think you’d really enjoy some of the better English parklands on your visit.
Even South Herts - a club ranked outside the top 10 in the small county of Herts - is a Willie Park design (Sunningdale, Maidstone). Surely a track that would be interesting to see. Ironically, this concise review has brought it to my attention.
Started planning your trip yet?
Thanks for the questions guys. I am writing a more in detail one. Understand I didn't give much insight!
BB - I'm sure I would! I did not intend at all to disparage the parkland courses of England. My comment was more along the lines of if I am traveling all the way to the UK (haven't yet), I'm gonna spend my time playing links or heathland since that's not something we have as much of over in the US. :)
No worries Jeff, didn’t think you had disparaged anything - I was just trying to shine a little light on a shady corner of English golf!
I'm a member here and had another great round the other day, it's in great condition. The greens are running really well at this time of year when others may have temporaries out. The 7th hole is a particularly challenging beast, about 440 yards uphill and always seemingly into a strong wind.