In these times of austerity where golf clubs across the globe are having to close due to financial struggles, it’s comforting when one receives a cash injection and a makeover. That’s exactly what’s happened at Essendon Country Club in Hertfordshire.
The estate has been taken over by Kieran and Liam Griffin – the entrepreneurs behind the Addison Lee minicab company – and their partners Elaine and Clare. And the Griffin family have been working hard on its latest project, with renovations of both courses and the clubhouse an attempt to attract new members and green fee visitors.
“It’s an ambitious project,” says Kieran, “but one which we believe will be a huge success. With our business expertise, we are confident we can build on the foundation that is here and create and inclusive and integrated club that appeals to all the family.”
Kieran can also call on the expertise of wife Elaine, a former Curtis Cup star and Ladies European Tour Rookie of the Year. “It will take some time but we are determined to create a facility which makes our members proud,” she adds. “We are locals as well. We live in the grounds of the estate so we care.”
Formerly known as Hatfield London Country Club, Essendon is a short drive from the M25, M1 and A1, nestled in a picturesque 400-acre estate once owned by brewer Samuel Whitbread, boasting two 18-hole Championship courses, a nine-hole pitch-and-putt, extensive practice facilities and a stunning clubhouse built around a 16th century barn.
Designed by Fred Hawtree, of the famous Hawtree dynasty, the Old Course opened in 1976 and meanders through spectacular mature parkland with an abundance of tree species. At 6,808 yards, the Old provides a stern test for golfers of all abilities and offers tricky par-3s, tight par-4s and open-your-shoulders par-5s.
The 507-yard par-5 sixth not only provides spectacular views from the tee but a chance of a birdie with two well struck shots – but a poor second can leave you in trouble, with water lurking some 40-yards short of the putting surface.
The 479-yard par-5 tenth is also a treat, with the ground falling away quite significantly to the right of the landing area and water and OB also in play, while the long par-3 18th from the elevated tees ensures a dramatic end to an enjoyable round.
The New Course, at 6,938 yards, lined with mature trees and water on no fewer than nine holes, provided a tough examination of my game. Commissioned by previous owners Tokyo Leisure and created by Landscape Design Company, the New opened for business in 1992.
The fourth, a monster par-5, threatens water in not only in the tee shot, but the second and third too, as a stream protects the front of the green and a small lake gobbles up anything pushed right.
The eighth, a glorious 150-yard par-3, plays to a small green protected on three sides by water (second picture) and kick starts a thoroughly enjoyable back-nine which ends with the stunning par-4 17th where water and well-placed bunkers (pictured above) demand accuracy from the tee before the brutal uphill 18th.
“The New Course is already very popular with both members and visitors,” says Liam, “and should be even more once it receives an upgrade in the months ahead.
“We are in the process of commissioning an architect to recommend changes and genuinely believe it has the potential to stand comparison to anything else in the area. Our plans to upgrade the New Course form just part of our overall strategy to put Essendon Country Club on the map.”
And who could argue with him? Both courses provide a good test without being too demanding or exhausting. Essendon Country Club has an awful lot going for it and it is only a matter of time when this hidden gem becomes a well-known gem.
Scroll down for more images. For more information on membership and visitors, call the club on 01707 260360 or visit www.essendoncc.co.uk.