“It would scarcely be possible, in point of sheer beauty, to beat Cassiobury Park, near Watford in Hertfordshire,” wrote Bernard Darwin in The Golf Courses of Great Britain. “Neither by laying too much emphasis on its beauty do I mean to cast an oblique slur upon the golf itself, a great deal of which is very good. Of course you will not think it good if you hate trees, because there are a great many trees; and you will probably be at least once or twice hopelessly stymied by them in the course of the round. Even the most confirmed tree-hater, however, might find his heart softening, because the particular trees are so very lovely. There are the most glorious avenues, elms and limes and chestnuts and beeches, that stretch across the park, and a fine day at Cassiobury comes within measurable distance of heaven.”
Established in 1890, West Herts Golf Club is one of Hertfordshire’s oldest clubs, which was originally sited at Bushey Hall. In 1897, the club moved to Cassiobury Park, the ancestral seat of the Earls of Essex, having commissioned Old Tom Morris to design a new course for the members. Harry Vardon made modifications to the layout in 1910 before the course was completely refashioned by Alister MacKenzie in 1922.
According to Frank Pennink’s Choice of Golf Courses, West Herts is “certainly one of London’s finest, driest courses, on its gravel base, and one of the most beautiful wooded ones also. It is laid out on a rolling plateau above the Grand Union Canal and the River Gade, which run along its eastern boundary to provide a pleasant addition to the beauty of the finishing holes.”
Hertfordshire must be the home of English golf’s parkland type of course. I have played a few golf courses in this county now, and in the summer time with the sun shining on a tranquil day, this is surely like what it is playing ‘golf in heaven’!
West Herts is so tucked away behind a housing estate at Croxley Green, near to Rickmansworth, you almost wouldn’t know it was there. But once you have entered up the heavily-wooded steep drive, and feel the lovely laid-back traditional charm of the place, I am certain you will be smitten. Yes, understated, but perhaps the members like it that way!
My ideal golf course would start with a straightforward par 4 to ‘play yourself in’, and finish with a challenging but not too long par 5, so you can hopefully walk off the course after an enjoyable day feeling good about yourself. West Herts has both! But the holes in between are full of differing challenges, that helps keep the player on his toes throughout. There are 4 par 3s, but it is the only one on the back nine at 16, which stands out. Here you play a blind tee shot into what seems to be a large bomb crater, the hole is appropriately named ‘Cockpit’. Two wonderful holes at 7 and 8 set the tone early on, and it was at the 8th where we were held up sheltering in the woods for 45 minutes. The weather which started for us in incredibly hot humid conditions, gave way to a violent thunderstorm, horizontal rain, hail stones, lightning and gale-force winds.
But by the 11th normality had resumed, and this hole called ‘Essex Ride’ was my best before I made an awful mess of the following 2 holes which are relatively short par 5s. We found the finishing holes testing, fun but not too arduous.
The freakish summer weather probably contributed to the course being very quiet on the day we played. But millionaires’ golf in such beautiful surroundings on a well-maintained course was no hardship. We had a real treat and thoroughly enjoyed our visit.
West Herts gives a fun, sporting game of traditional golf making the most of the nice terrain in pretty Cassiobury park. A marked contrast to The Grove, its nearest neighbour, highly recommended if in the area.
Really enjoyed playing this course last year, really friendly pro shop and welcome by other members on arrival. Course was in great condition with some memorable holes.
A lovely course with immaculate greens and aprons. Large and undulating greens must be great fun in Summer. (We played 30th October and they were still great) Fairways quite muddy. Seems that the worms stay clear of the greens but attack the fairways at this time of year. I would definitely go back. Great value on county card scheme but I wouldn’t have complained paying the £48 normal green fee.