The following edited extract is from the John F. Moreton and Iain Cumming book James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses:
“The club was formed in 1897 and professional advice suggested that Nightingale Valley would be an ideal spot for a golf course. Permission was obtained from the Corporation in January 1898, with the proviso that ‘the contours of the land were not to be altered in any way.’
Braid was only a few miles away at Romford and was invited to lay out a nine hole course through the open spaces in the valley. Under Braid’s supervision, work was completed by 4th March that year, using seventeen labourers and the roller from Theydon Bois Cricket Club, hired for 5s.
Many of the greens were simply areas of grass flattened by the roller. Braid’s fee to design the course and supervise its construction was £3; his final payment was £4.13s.6d. Although the course was not lengthened to eighteen holes until 1971, when Fred Hawtree added the second nine, most of Braid’s holes are virtually intact.
Braid’s 1st hole measured 284 yards. Today the hole measures 282 yards. Four yards have been trimmed from the 2nd at 401 yards. Number 3 was initially a bogey 4 at 272 yards but is now the par thee 12th, still unbunkered with trees narrowing the fairway.
The remainder of Braid’s holes form the closing six holes of the modern course. Some are longer than his originals, but the basic playing qualities are unspoiled. The fairways are elegantly shaped; the greens meet Braid’s requirements in providing a variety of putting situations.”
Really enjoyed this tight and challenge albeit short course. Great for practicing your course management and approach shots. The greens and tee boxes do need some work but still played reasonable well and still worth checking out of you are local as decent value. If you are just starting golf maybe not one to start on as requires accuracy off the tee to enjoy the course.
This is a real course of Two halves. The first 2 holes and the last 6 or 7 holes have real character. They are mostly short and very tight tree-lined holes (16 and 17 being particular favourites) that make you realise you are in the middle of the ancient Epping Forest. Whilst the modern day golfer would not be challenged by the length, I really enjoy these old fashioned places that hark back to a different era.
The rest of the course is still tree-lined but feels a bit more open and parkland (less middle of the Forest feel) and whilst good - don’t quite have the character of the rest of the course.
Overall, this is a great little gem that I’m glad to have come across. It’s no championship layout and I’m sure many people will bemoan the lack of length and the density of trees in places but you cannot deny that this course is beautiful, great fun and well worth a visit if you enjoy playing different courses.