If you’re looking to test your game at the highest level this summer during London 2012, why not do in style by following in the footsteps of Tiger Woods at The Grove?
Widely regarded as one of the finest European courses after showcasing its Hertfordshire beauty to the world during the WGC-American Express in 2006 – won by the 14-time major champion - you’ll be hard pressed to find a course in better condition all-year round.
Ernie Els certainly agrees: “Let me tell you, The Grove is very, very impressive. I would say it’s the best conditioned golf course in Europe, certainly from my experience.”
And the impressive facilities, which include pro shop, driving range, practice green, short game area, trolley hire, buggy hire and restaurant, have made Ernie’s superior Gary Player rather excited.
“The Grove is without doubt one of the finest facilities I have seen anywhere in the world.”
Okay, teeing up here will set you back more than £100, but surely that’s worth it to say you’ve competed on the same turf as the leading lights of world golf? And the England football team for that matter.
The Grove isn’t a members club but is open to everyone, and furthermore, it’s in tip-top condition despite the deluge of rain we’ve seen in recent months.
After enduring one of the wettest British summers in recent memory, the overall condition of The Grove was truly outstanding when Golfmagic rolled up at the Kyle Phillips-designed track recently. It was nice to forget about dropping out of bunkers or putting through puddles, for once.
Located just 35 minutes from central London, when you arrive at The Grove you will instantly notice how Phillips has combined the modern game with the traditions of British course architecture.
Phillips designed the Rickmansworth course, which opened in 2003, in a minimalist fashion that blends the strategy of modern golf with the time-honoured traditions of British course architecture. The result is a chic, nouveaux track that oozes quality and is fun to play. That was his goal from the offset.
“What I am doing is looking back at the architecture and landforms of the classic British course and recognising we haven’t been moving forward in the past decades,” said Phillips, who also laid his hands on Kingsbarns.
While The Grove showcases some special indefinable qualities, some of its features are definitely quantifiable, namely the course itself.
“Building this course was like peeling an onion,” he added. “There were layers of detail and it is that subtle detail that separates the great courses from the others. I hope my work at The Grove will broaden the vision of developers and designers.”
The Grove mansion serves as an elegant backdrop to the opening holes, before you move down into a forested corner to the 351-yard first, described in the yardage book as a ‘gentle warmer.’
Of the holes on the front nine, we particularly enjoyed the par-4 fifth, measuring 436 yards, which rumbles away from you like a crumpled blanket, as well as the tranquil 150-yard par-3 seventh, which gives you a furtive glimpse of a sliver of green from the tee box.
Perhaps the toughest hole on the course is three from home at the 184-yard 16th, described as ‘Hoodwinkingly great’ because your eyes are deceived by a trap that sits deliberately and dishonestly shy of the green.
The Grove will test your course management skills and provide you with subtle bunkering, undulating greens, thickly grassed and very lush fairways, beautiful lakes, streams and mature woods along the way.
Everything about the place oozes class, from the guys at the bag drop who get your bag out of the car and clean your clubs, to the beautiful ring-bound yardage books.
And on top of all that, short game and putting legend Dave Pelz has pitched one of his 11 Scoring Game Schools here, with one-day clinics running at The Grove from August 18-19.
“We are trying to help golfers and to grow the game. The Grove is a beautiful facility and the perfect place for us to do that,” said Pelz. “We love it here. The greens are great, I mean just look at this place.
“My whole purpose in life is not to become a better player, not to make money, but to help golfers shoot lower schools. That’s where the enjoyment is.
“I think the game will grow, prosper, it’s the greatest game on earth. We can all play it.”
Address: Chandlers Cross, Hertfordshire, WD3 4TG
Contact: 01923 294266 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Green Fees: £165 (Mon-Wed); £195 (Thu-Sun); £120 Pre-Twilight from 1pm daily; £99 from 3pm daily
Length: Par-72; 6766-yards (white); 6332-yards (yellow); 5507-yards (blue)
Designer: Kyle Phillips
Facilities: Pro shop, practice green, range, trolley hire, bar, buggy hire, club hire, restaurant
Official website: www.thegrove.co.uk
Public transport: The Grove is a five minute taxi journey from Watford, which is served by National Rail trains from Euston (15 minutes), London Underground Metropolitan Line (40 minutes from King’s Cross) and London Overground (45 minutes from central London)