Traversing common land - watch out for the many dog walkers - the course played superbly on a mild February afternoon and there’s no doubt that members get to enjoy 12 months of good quality ground conditions at this Hertfordshire haven, the joint oldest in the County.
You’ll struggle to find a more consistent course too in so much that each hole, on this relatively flat property, is of a very similar style and appearance. That makes it hard to pick out individual holes because they are all consistently solid but there is enough variety to make each one memorable.
I must admit I thought the 333-yard opener was a particularly fine way to start the round with an angled heathery ditch immediately introducing you to the strategy that is clearly going to be involved throughout the round. And so it proves with many holes best approached from one side or the other and grassy knobbles to negotiate if you find yourself on the wrong side.
There’s no need for sand bunkers on the course because these mounds, mostly situated close to the putting surfaces, do the job well in terms of making recovery shots more difficult, as well as more interesting, should you miss a green. Saving par is not too much of a burden though because there are hardly any steep drop-offs around the greens.
The 156-yard second is the pick of the short holes whilst the tempting 11th is the best of the par fives and is where we are reacquainted with the large dry ditch that slices through the heart of the property.
There’s more movement in the land as we approach the eighth, as well as at the ninth, and this gives both of these holes a touch more character. The latter has a scary drive over a partially hidden country road set well below the tee whilst a one-ball isn’t even permitted to tee off from the back markers at the 14th due to another road dissecting the hole. You must also walk across a road to reach the first tee from the clubhouse and the 10th tee from the ninth green as well as another one to get to the fourth tee from the third green! It sounds a bit convoluted but it actually all adds to the charisma of this unique course.
Despite being on a large heathland all the holes are relatively tight and tree-lined nowadays and accuracy from the tee is vital, however, quite often you will have a chance of escape if you run into the woodland but equally so you may end up having to take a drop from a gorse bush or hack out of the heather! Some holes leg to the left and others to the right whilst some drives are restricted by heather and others funnel the further you hit. All in all there is a good mix of holes at Berkhamsted and they are all undoubtedly cut from the same consistent piece of cloth.
As mentioned earlier one of the main things that stood out for me at Berkhamsted was the greens which provide interest, variety and a constant challenge. Some of the putting surfaces run from front-to-back, others are angled one way or the other whilst some have small steps in them. The beauty of them all is that whilst the borrows are done in moderation they present a continual challenge until your ball is in the bottom of the cup and whereby in summer being above the hole is dangerous territory. To sum up the greens, they are ‘just right’ for this type of course.
Played from the daily 6,193-yard yellow tees I suspect this is very much a plotters course but stretched to 6,701-yards from the black tees you don’t really have this luxury. It’s certainly no surprise that CSS is 73 to the par of 71 from the tips.
The Club, founded in 1890, hold a number of open events during the year with the Berkhamsted Trophy, a 72-hole Men's Amateur Scratch Medal competition, the flagship event of the season. It’s a lovely place to play and I would advise anybody to visit.
Following a 4:00am alarm call we’d already driven for more than six hours and covered over 350 road miles before boarding a ferry at Oban sailing to Lochboisdale.
The Halifax Golf Club, often better known as Ogden, is a course that divides opinion.