Affectionately known as “The West”, West Essex Golf Club was founded in 1900. The engaging 6,289-yard parkland course is a James Braid design that is routed through the glorious Epping Forest at Chingford.
With far reaching views across the City of London to the landmarks of Canary Wharf, the London Eye and Wembley Stadium, those that think Essex is a flat county should play Chingford’s West and dispel the myth.
With three one-shot holes on the outward half and just one reachable par five that measures less than 500 yards from the tips, the 2,732-yard front half is there for the taking... just as long as your tee shots are pin-point accurate. You will have to contend with uneven uphill and downhill lies with many fairways canting this way and that and also you’ll have to negotiate trees, hedges and one of the smallest greens in England.
The par three 5th is affectionately called “The Frying Pan” by the West’s members and the putting surface measures around half the square yardage of the Postage Stamp at Royal Troon. If you hit the green and two putt this devilish 159-yard par three, you can legitimately pat yourself on the back.
The contrasting homeward nine measures 3,556 yards and starts with the longest hole on the course. With only one par three and three par fours that measure in excess of 400 yards, you can open your shoulders on this flatter and more open closing nine.Key to carding a good score at West Essex is accuracy. The greens are small, sloping and will test everyone’s short game. It’s no wonder that the club’s junior squad were the Champions of England and the Home Nations Champions in 2011.
Many of the Herts/Essex/North London border courses are a pretty good although some are quite similar to each other but West Essex has got plenty about it to stand a little way out from the crowd. First thing to mention is this a friendly members club with a decent welcome to the visitors.
Some will talk about the front and back nines being very different and they are – I’ll go through my thoughts of the course now.. 1st hole is under three hundred yards but uphill with a tricky tee shot – the smart play is not a driver from the tee. 2nd hole is a very strong par-4 with another tough tee shot, this time a driver is the club of choice. The par-3 3rd is a good looking hole with trees all around and at about mid-iron length is more than manageable. The 4th is one of the best on the course, a 400 yard par-4 from an elevated tee to a sloping fairway makes this a tough par. The short downhill par-3 5th gets a lot of coverage because it has a very small green but I am not sure that it is a great hole to be honest. I like the look of the 6th – a short uphill par-4 to another sloping fairway, this one is left to right. We have reached the 7th tee and this is where I had my biggest head scratching moment! The 4th and 7th tees are next to each other and in recent times the tees have switched, a huge improvement to the 4th hole, no doubt about that but the 7th tee (used to be the old 4th tee) is just in the wrong position. Only 60% of the green can be seen from the tee, the left bunker cannot be seen at all and the tee points 20 yards right of the green. I understand that there are plans to correct some of these points but the simplest option is to swap the 4th and 7th tees back to the original configuration and that would probably do it I think. Love the par-5 8th hole even though it is probably the hardest drive but if do nail one that favours the left-side, the green is in reach even with an uphill shot.
The front nine ends with an ok par-4 but whatever you do, a stop at the halfway hut by the 10th tee is a must. The back nine holes are on much more open land and are certainly a less dramatic set but still a few worth mentioning. I liked the 11th – a long par-4 with a nice sloping green… The last three holes create a very strong finish, the 16th turns to the right and the green is in a high elevated position by the clubhouse, the 17th gives the most inviting drive on the course, way above the fairway which should help with some distance as this is the third very tough par-4 on the back nine. The finale is a par-5 going back up the hill that you have just played on the 17th, a blind approach may catch you out here and after the walk up the hill, the clubhouse bar is not too far away.
Overall West Essex has a collection of holes that are very good, good and a couple that need a little thought …. Club atmosphere is really good and I would recommend the course to anyone.
Chingford and its near neighbour West Essex are two of my favourite North London clubs, but for me, West Essex is the better course. Both have mature parkland similarities but West Essex, especially the front nine, has dramatic topography which makes for more exciting golf. The small greens are devilishly hard to find and just as difficult to read when you do eventually reach them. I’ve played here many times and always enjoy the challenge.