This Hertfordshire gem has its varied and challenging greens to thank for the high interest levels that it creates. Working back from green-to-tee it is the putting surfaces that often dictate the strategy of each hole and in particular the pin location for that day.
Originally open heathland the 18 holes now feature many tree-lined fairways that make the wind direction less predictable. The yardage is 6,451 yards with a par of 71 although it should be noted that the SSS is 72. I imagine that the tricky greens are the reason for this because although the course doesn’t play that long it is essential that you keep your ball under the hole with your approaches.
A couple of modest two-shotters introduce us to Old Fold Manor; two of eight sub-400 yard par fours. The opener is largely forgettable but the second is an excellent hole and the green is our first indication that we’re going to have some fun during the round.
Indeed, there are some truly outstanding green complexes on the course, which held Regional Qualifying for The Open Championship from 2005-2010, but the real beauty is not just the quality but the variety of them too.
I’m a big fan of greens that fall away from the line of play, when used wisely, and there are a number of these on this Harry Colt design. The first comes at the third hole with others to be found at the eighth and 11th. Judging both your ball flight and landing zone is crucial to getting a favourable result… as is a healthy dose of luck on the bounce.
Many of the shorter holes feature narrow entrances whilst others have some serious tilt and undulations on them. The fifth and sixth are exceptional whilst the ninth is arguably the pick of the bunch with a lower level to the left which is guarded by a couple of sand traps. Not dissimilar to the third at Alwoodley where Colt served as Secretary. The sole one-shotter on the front nine fits its surrounds superbly too.
Onto the back nine and the smallest green on the course is found at the shortest hole on the layout; the delicate 127-yard 10th. Holes ten and eleven are essentially sleeper holes although the threat of water at the former and the uphill nature of the latter add some bite to the course.
Then you have three greens of the highest quality and if you come through unscathed, without a three-putt, you have done exceptionally well. The 13th slopes from front-to-back and from right-to-left (you could argue it’s perhaps a bit too severe but I’ll give it a pass). Meanwhile the 14th also slants wickedly but this time from left-to-right with a flatter back tier. And then you have the wonderful 15th which features some magnificent contouring and is virtually indescribable.
The 16th is the lull before the storm which arrives in the form of the final two holes where the 17th and 18th provide a real and unexpected sting in the tail. Until this point placement over distance has been your prime concern from the tee but a glance at the scorecard shows two par fours that stretch to over 900 yards between them! Both are fairly generous off the tee but the final hole (previously a short par five from a tee in the woods) is now a 438-yarder with a green surrounded by a moat on three sides!
Even the flatter greens, which have not been mentioned, are far from that and have subtle breaks that again just add to the eclectic mix of the surfaces. The greens themselves were in acceptable condition on my visit and reasonably paced although I fear for the members if the greens-staff ever decide to get them running quickly because of the bold contouring. If ever there was a case for having moderately paced greens it is here at Old Fold Manor.
As for the rest of the course it was well presented. There was some good run on the velvety fairways and there was a nice manicured feel to the property.
Historians may be interested in the fact that the Battle of Barnet (a decisive conflict in the Wars of The Roses) is thought to have been fought on part of the course in 1471. The member I played with advised that there used to be a plaque on the fourth hole to indicate this.
In summary, if you prefer your greens on the flat side and don’t enjoy the test or have the imagination that is required on more contoured greens then Old Fold Manor is not for you. But for me this is what brings the course alive and elevates it above many other venues in the neighbourhood.
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.