The spectacular par three 12th, with its iconic island green, is the pick of the holes on Toot Hill Golf Club’s modern parkland course, which was fashioned by Essex-based architect Martin Gillett.
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.