Having been to the glorious Hanbury Manor Marriott Hotel & Country Club for a friend’s wedding, I was very eager to get back and sample the golf.
When you live and work in the centre of London, it’s difficult to remember how quickly you can be in the tranquillity of the glorious countryside. And it’s amazing how just 45 minutes on a train can make you feel like you’re in a different world.
As you meander down the snaking driveway, you feel like you’re driving into a postcard. The stunning Jacobean hotel nestles neatly in the rows of picturesque ancient trees, while the weaving corridors, rickety elevators and winding staircases make you wonder if you have, in fact, stepped into a murder mystery tour.
Mr Golf Harry Vardon laid out the original nine holes in the early 20th century before Jack Nicklaus’s son, also called Jack, developed the undulating farmland behind the Manor to form the 18 holes that you can play today.
The first tee is a few minutes walk from the pro-shop, but it’s worth it. The opening hole is a quirky par-4; the front of the green protected by bunkers and rough and a split fairway demanding an immediate decision of where to drive. (For the record, I went straight down the middle into the sand.)
Hanbury Manor has a very American feel to it. Open, sprawling meadowland allows room for driving errors while plenty of greenside hazards will snaffle anything wayward.
The par-5 second was a particular delight. Be sure to find the fairway from the tee, because water laps the front of the green and anything short will see you reaching into your bag for a dry ball.
After finishing the double-dogleg ninth, a short walk takes you back across the hotel and onto a completely different course.
After the turn ‘Jack’s nine’ presents a true parkland experience. The antique trees which surround the drive to the hotel now dominate the fairways.
Are you warmed up? You need to be, because there’s little room for manoeuvre out here as Nicklaus Junior takes inspiration from his father with split fairways and vast amounts of threatening hazards.
A challenging and contrasting course packed with character and one of the most beautiful clubhouses in the country.
If you’re in town for the Games, be sure that Hanbury Manor is on your to-golf list.
Address: Ware, Hertfordshire, SG12 0SD
Contact: 01920 885000
Green fees: £50 - £75 (weekdays); £90 (weekends)
Course: Par 72; 6,678 yards (yellow), 7,016 yards (white)
Public transport: Liverpool Street to Ware is roughly 40 minutes on the train, and from there it is less than five minutes in a taxi
So where else have we tried out in our quest to find you the best courses to play during the Olympic Games? Click here for our handy index. And remember to share your favourite London golf clubs in the forum, via @Golfmagic or on our Facebook page.