the grove - 16 POINTS
I will nail my colours to the mast now - I really enjoy playing at The Grove. There are some who knock the course as being unimaginative, too easy, all fur coat and nae knickers - too you I say boo. Because The Grove delivers on exactly what it promises - a very high quality resort golf experience on a course presented in stunning condition.
The Grove is a luxury hotel and conference facility near Watford. It styles itself as 'London's Country Estate' which may be just one marketing claim too far, you are not in a rambling country mansion but instead a high quality hotel with a great spa, good selection of restaurants, leisure facilities galore including the high quality course.
So, what is it about the experience which gives makes it such a joy? Firstly, the staff are fantastic. You will get a warm welcome and there are no airs and graces but from the bag drop to the clubs being cleaned and put away in the boot of your car at the end of the day you (and your clubs) will be really looked after.
Secondly, the condition of the course is fantastic. I have played it several times, at different points in the year, and it has never failed to look spectacular and play well. The greens are a particular high point. The always play true and can be really slick - they really are very close to true championship greens and kept at USGA standards all year round. The bunkering around the greens is very thoughtful and you will find yourself having to use your imagination to get it close to the pin, often with even the shortest of chips.
Now, the criticism is rarely about the condition of the course but more about the quality of the course for the price charged. OK, you're not getting a Lytham or Carnoustie when you play at The Grove but when you are getting hotel residents and corporate events through you really wouldn't want that.
The course can be stretched from 5,500 yards to 7,150. I try to play the tees closest to 6,500 yards (but no more) so The Grove tees at 6,332 yards are good for me. What I like is there is a great variety in length of hole across the par 3s, 4s and 5s. How boring is it when every par 3 is 170 yards and every par 4 410? It opens with a short par 4 at 312 yards but this is no opportunity to drive the green given the bunkering around it. Opening with a stroke 17 is nice though an eases in for the round. It's not long before the teeth hits you though with the 3rd hole being a great par 4 requiring a long second shot over water.
The par 3s range from the 127 yard 4th to the 184 yard 13th. I would argue though that the former is the harder hole as it is a really hard hole to club to clear the burn in front of the green, Two of the par 5s are reachable at under 500 yards with two which would test most to get to.
Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not saying this course is one of the very best in Britain. It may be a little too open from the tee to be a really stern test and you don't need to be a tactical genius to get around but it is one of the best and most enjoyable new courses I have played. It is good enough to have hosted a WGC event in 2006 and the British Masters is coming up in 2016 and it will be really interesting to see how the pros find it this time around. One thing is for sure, it will be in great condition!
Booking the course
Well, it's very easy to book this one as there are no members and it is entirely 'pay and play'. The only likely obstacle will be corporate days (of which there are many). You can book online here or call the club. Much of the criticism is around the cost. Green fees range from £99 midweek in the winter up to £190 in the summer. Now, that is a lot for sure but do keep your eye out for offers. There are regular twilight, early bird and 4 for 3 offers. Sign up the their email list and keep an eye on the website. Also, it's worth giving them a call to ask if they have any upcoming offers.
I'm afraid there's not a lot I can say to help on this one as I have never combined playing The Grove with other courses in the area. It is very accessible from Central London - you can be on the Tee an hour from leaving Euston station if you get the right train. The hotel itself is expensive but the rooms and service is excellent and the restaurant buffet is unlike any you will have experienced elsewhere.
I am not an advocate of taking carts and there is not need to here but if you do the GPS inside them is great with yardages to that day's pin positions. And if you fancy something different you can rent a golf board which you definitely can't do at Sunningdale!
Phone - 01923 294266
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Web - https://www.thegrove.co.uk/
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