Golfshake Exclusive The Grove Golf Course
One can marvel at this beauty. For me it was hard not to. Looking spectacular on a bright sunny morning I was really looking forward to playing this 'Gem' that not much is written about or heard of.
I have to wonder why though, in my opinion it is one of the best courses I have played in England. Not only the course itself but the condition of it as well. Everything was immaculate from the precisely cut tee boxes to the carpet fairways up to the wonderful manicured greens, I could not fault it.
But don't just take my word for it, Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie visited The Grove last month on a corporate day and said that it was the 'best conditioned course he had played in Europe this year'. If you don't believe me then maybe you'll believe him.
I was lucky enough to experience everything the course and the resort had to offer. The 'Golf Valet' was something I had not experienced before. You pull up outside the clubhouse and there are members of staff waiting for you to take your bag out of your car and place onto the awaiting buggy and then park your car for you.
As you walk through to the locker rooms, you see pictures of the World Golf Championships the course hosted back in 2006. Some great shot of players just hanging out in the locker rooms and around reception and a lot of them playing. Also look out for a few plaques around the course. A special one on the 9th fairway where Tiger Woods it a spectacular shot on way to an eagle and his victory that year.
From the moment you enter the grounds you can see why it is held in such high esteem by everyone who attends. The grounds were in pristine condition and the view of the main entrance was second to none.
After a short ride to the practice ground which was unsurprisingly immaculate, the range balls are waiting for you in a pyramid shape like you see on tour. A member of staff was on hand to take any club that you had practiced with and return it to you fully cleaned. You could also help yourself to a bottle of water and some tees before heading over to the short game area.
Three bunkers and beautiful run off areas that you find on the course await your short game practice onto a green cut to measure the ones you would soon be playing.
Everything is in such a short distance of each other. Another short ride takes you to the putting green which is by the first tee and also the fantastic clubhouse and Stables restaurant.
You always wonder if the putting green is going to be the same as the greens on the course. Well this one was. A sign beside the first tee read the greens were running at 10.5 on the stimp meter, pin position C and enjoy your day. And that I did.
Before you tee off you're handed a scorecard, strokesaver and told to help ourselves to tees, pitch mark repairers, ball markers and bottles of water by the starter.
With the buggy fully loaded and the brand new GPS system up and running the next four hours would be ones to remember.
The overall experience was phenomenal. The fairways were cut to a standard I have never seen on a course before, it was like walking on carpets and I personally felt guilty of taking divots.
The holes were well thought out as the undulations on the fairways meant you couldn’t just hit a driver on every hole, you had to place your tee shot in the correct position to be able to attack the well placed pins and then we come to the greens.
What more can be said of those other than absolutely magnificent, running true from wherever you were. The design of them were very interesting with some slopes that seemed impossible to get the ball close and if you had a slightly wayward approach shot then the numerous run off areas collected you ball with ease leaving you with some a tough up and down to get close to the pin.
You get a gentle start to tease you in. A short dog-leg par 4 followed by another short par-4 going downhill. A good start is a must to get the confidence up and to also get a couple of decent scores down as it only gets tougher.
The 3rd and 4th holes are where you see water for the first time. The 3rd is a long par-4 with the hazard directly in-front of the green. Playing from the white tees I felt I hit a good drive missing the three fairway bunkers in play but still had over 190 yards to go. An intimidating approach follows over the hazard. A couple of balls in our group just managed to get over, including mine.
The 4th is a lovely par-3 with a stream that runs right in front of the green. A big ridge in the middle of a narrow green certainly plays a part in what putt you have left should you hit the green.
International architect Kyle Phillips designed the course around the Hertfordshire countryside. You certainly wouldn't believe you are 12 miles from the centre of London when you're standing anywhere on the course.
I would describe the course as very American with all the undulations in the fairways and greens and add that to the way cart paths are integrated into the course.
Going back to the course, the 6th is the first par-5 and with more water lurking on the left of the green with everything running down towards it, you must be accurate.
That is followed by a short uphill par-3. Take note - Take enough club because the huge bunker in front of the green is big and deep, trust me I've had firsthand experience.
The front-nine ends in a par-5 which saw Tiger Woods eagle three days out of four back in 06'. Good luck at trying that. A couple of carefully placed bunkers front right of the green makes this a genuine three shot hole.
The 10th and 11th holes both dog-leg left. The first is a short par four with an inviting downhill second shot, but you must get past the big tree on the left side of the fairway to have a look in to the green. The second, a short par-5 which is reachable if you get a good drive away.
I wouldn't say the 13th is the signature hole on the course. In fact you can't really pick one such hole out here as they are all equally as good. But I would say it is probably the best looking. A long downhill par-3 surrounded by five greenside bunkers. If you're brave enough you can carry your long iron all the way but the safe shot is too the right and let the contours help you get close. To the left of the green you see the big bridge you have to cross to reach the 14th tee. A really beautiful view from the tee.
Two short par-4's follow before you reach the par-3 16th. Be accurate as everything is telling you your ball will go right and into trouble. Use the land and the contours to help you. Aim left which is away from the trouble.
It's a shame when you hit the 17th tee because you know that in about 25 minutes you will be finished. It's a sad feeling because you just don't want it to end. The 17th is a par-5 which for the bigger hitters is certainly reachable. Wind against for us meant laying up. However don't go left with your approach. You will either catch the huge gully next to the green or even further left than that there is deep rough. The green is huge with big ridge towards the back centre. Expect a tough two putt if the pin is back left.
So onto the 18th tee. A superb back drop of the clubhouse and hotel and 436 yards of golf left. A good finishing hole with a dangerous bunker in range off the tee. Another bunker that sits around 60 yards from the green blocks off the bottom of the pin if you get a good one away. One more green to handle. The resort guide sums up the hole by saying a perfect combination of bravado, finesse, fascinating trickery and honesty. I couldn't have summed it up more myself.
Along with that I could add many, many more superlatives in trying to describe this course. It certainly is one course you have to experience for yourself in order to take in the beauty and elegance of it all.
A true golfing paradise in the middle of the U. K that is certainly not to be missed out on.
I also cannot express how much the course, its staff, and the whole place in general has impressed me, a definite place I would recommend anyone who plays this wonderful game to go to just to experience it for themselves.
To find out more information about the resort or the course visit www.thegrove.co.uk
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