Brocket Hall (Melbourne)
It is usually the much acclaimed Palmerston course that receives most of the plaudits but as I found out on my recent visit to the Brocket Hall complex there isn't much between the two and I'd happily return to play either.
I'll start by saying that as a lover of links golf I always find it hard to truly appreciate parkland/woodland golf, even on the best courses. I much prefer the 'ground game' to one where the aerial route is usually to be favoured. I did however enjoy my two rounds at Brocket Hall and can see why people are so complimentary about it.
Aside from the two golf courses (plus superb practice facilities and par 3 course) the entire Estate is fabulous. It has an award winning restaurant, luxury accommodation and extensive corporate/conference facilities. It is also a perfect venue for wedding celebrations and the like. From the moment you drive through the gates the place oozes quality and class.
Located in beautiful Hertfordshire countryside its proximity to London is beneficial for many seeking refuge from the city and once out on the course you could be a million miles from anywhere.
My rounds were towards the end of March and beginning of April. The trees were bare, there had been little growth and there was still snow on the ground yet I could imagine in the height of summer that this is a wonderful place to play golf. That said, it was in terrific condition for the time of year.
The Melbourne course sprung a real surprise and complements its sister nicely. However, the opening hole is an unusual start and not really one I found to my liking. It plays in front of the magnificent hall alongside the River Lea but the severity of the slope on the fairway pushes this hole close to being gimmicky.
However, once that is out of the way you are in for a treat. The River Lea comes into play at the second and fourth and is strategically placed whilst the third is a wonderful rising par five. You won't see the water again until the final few holes but the middle part of the course is very solid with no really weak holes.
The 16th is played back over the river and the 18th hole requires one final carry over the water and with it being a par five bigger hitters will no doubt be tempted to go for it in two. I'm told a ferry will normally take you across the water to the green but it was out of order so a long walk round was required!
The greens on both courses are very well designed and provide just the right level of conundrums to keep you on your toes. There are some holes where you must be below the pin to have a chance of two-putting but otherwise they are fair, although you may have to work hard for your par.
The cost of a normal green-fee will put some golfers off sampling the delights at Brocket Hall and I couldn't disagree that at the full rate card (circa £130) there are better value options but if you can pick up a round during one of their promotion periods where you can get golf and food at a competitive price I would certainly recommend a visit.
Read the review of Brocket Hall (Palmerston) here.