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 Palmerston course has a quick getaway hole which is generous off the tee but requires respect when playing into the green. The next half a dozen or so holes meander through fantastic woodland (including rare Hornbeam, Scots and Corsican Pine and 300 year old Oak trees) with the fourth hole being the pick of the bunch where you are teased into going for an aggressive drive down the left when really a fairway wood or long iron will work the sweeping contours of the hole just as well to leave a perfect approach into a long raised green with nothing for right.
The course suffers a bit of a lull mid-round when after the tee-shot on the 7th you play more exposed and blander holes before returning to more tree-lined part for the closing stretch where the 15th and 16th rival any on the course.
Despite the recent snow the course was in good condition and I can imagine when at its best you'll struggle to find a better venue of similar ilk.
The Melbourne course meanwhile 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.
Copt Heath is a very fine parkland golf course that requires precision, plotting and a deft touch around the slick greens.
The Blue is a mix of American-style design and traditional English parkland. It's an unusual combination which makes the most of the terrain available. It was designed by Simon Gidman and opened in 1994.