Toot Hill lies within the Epping Forest district in Essex, with the golf club situated to the south of the village. Construction on the layout commenced in 1989 and in September 1991 the course opened its tees to the golfing public.
Designed by local architect Martin Gillett, this parkland track extends to 6,254 yards from the back tees, with holes routed in an out-and-back fashion across a rolling landscape that features a number of water hazards, most notably at the par three 12th which incorporates an island green.
Other holes to look out for include the 511-yard 7th (the only par five on the outward half), the 453-yard 14th (rated stroke index 1), and the short par four 18th, where three fairway cross bunkers hamper progress toward the home green.
Toot looks like a typical 90s build but has lots of better things going for it. The greens are what most impressed me, they don’t just flow with the lie of the lie of the land and lots of them have various sections, ridges and double-breakers. The bunkers also looks like thought and time went into them, making sure certain fairways have better angles. Its relatively short yardage and mix of par 4 length makes it playable for all levels, there is a forced carry on the island hole but it’s only a wedge from the yellows.
The par 4 7th can be considered a par 3.5, which is nice in essence but caused long delays on my visit. Some people even walked off. So I’d move that tee back so only the biggest hitters wait for the green to clear. It does pretty much go up and down the same two slopes as well, which isn’t exactly a criticism, it means they’ve made good of an average piece of land. Oddly the golf club has closed and the clubhouse is being converted to houses, which is a shame. The courses deserves some members and competitions rather than being pay-and-play only.
So for something cheap and cheerful, this is one of the better places I’ve played.
I wasn’t expecting much as I do tend to prefer the old-style course design but this course really exceeded expectations. Yes, you have the exciting holes around the lake (including the Sawgrass-style island green par 3) but I was impressed with the rest of the course. There are some great holes on the front 9 (holes 7-10 were my favourite) with some interesting undulations and tricky green complexes.
Worth a visit and for a decent green fee.
I hadn’t played Toot Hill in nearly 15 years and I enjoyed my return visit in February 2020, time has improved the layout which now blends better into the countryside and looks less manufactured. I don’t normally like to review a course in the winter because few are at their best especially with the monsoon conditions the UK had seen in February 20. However the course was in remarkably good condition, especially considering how many other courses were closed due to flooding, there were only a few really wet areas and bunker puddles, the greens had plenty of speed, remarkable for the time of year. The course is routed over a shallow valley so there is decent amount of elevation change to enjoy, the site is fairly small so some compromises have been made in hole routing, the front 9 has too many side by side up and down holes which are pretty dull. The opening hole is a longish downhill par 4, on a cold windy day a real challenge to hit it long enough to ensue you have a short iron in your hand for the approach, it would be more fun in the summer I imagine. The course then goes uphill to a par 4 and 3 and then a tedious up and down block of holes. Thankfully after that stretch the course becomes much more interesting; from 9 onwards a great downhill dog leg right par defended by a lake which depending on the pin placement tests your nerves. Then follows a good sequence of holes including the island green par 3 at 12 and SI 1 par 4 at 14. I like the way the final 3 holes are set up finishing par 5, 3 and 4, the final hole being short but well defended with bunkers and pond to punish any loose approaches. I’m not sure whether the rough is allowed to grow up in the warmer months because the course is very generous from the tee with the exception of a few out of bounds around the perimeter of the course, it’s the generous bunkering and green complexes providing the challenge. I found the bunkers more often than I’d have liked; some being very deep but the quality of sand in them meant escape wasn’t a problem but given their strategic location your scrambling and bunker game gets a full work out. Finished the round off with one of the best bacon rolls I’d eaten in ages, overall one of better courses in Essex and I’d argue its inside the top 10 in the county, may be not for the architecture but certainly for its condition and the back 9’s quality.
Have played Toot Hill a couple of times this year. It has always been an enjoyable round, whether I have played good or bad.
The signature Par 3 is a joy and test to play, and love the finishing 18th in front of the clubhouse, with a pond to the left.
Sad to hear that this may be sold off for it to be a housing development. Hope it’s just rumours, as I always make time for a couple of trips a year here.
How is this so low in the Essex ratings? Beautiful course. Very well maintained. Welcoming staff. I’ve not yet played Thorndon but understand why that may be number one but some of the others in this list do not compare to Toot Hill. Played it with the hope of finding a good local course to join and this is going to be the one for me. Good range of holes, short and long. Every area of the game tested. This should definitely be in the Essex top 5.