This north London course is laid out over what was once Hornsey Park, the hunting preserve of the Bishop of London. The Bishop's Hunting Lodge was located on the site of the 12th green.
The holes at Highgate Golf Club in North London have a pleasing variety to them.
As the closest 18-hole course to central London, Highgate has a large catchment area. It appears a vibrant club, and one which can still afford to charge joining fees (opens in new tab).
The course is not long, especially as the white tees are only used for club competitions.
Off the yellows the layout runs to only 5,735 yards; off the whites it stretches to 6,105 yards. Either way round the par is 69, with one par 5, the 7th, at 512 or 492 yards.
The course was built on farmland owned by the Church Commissioners. The first layout was designed by Billy Winton, professional at the now disbanded Acton Golf Club.
Cuthbert Butchart then redesigned the course, and became the club’s first pro in 1904, the year Highgate Golf Club opened. Butchart went on to design West Hill (opens in new tab) six years later.
Then in 1928 the Metropolitan Water Board compulsorily purchased 40% of the land to install a reservoir. This meant that the course had to be redesigned once more. Today's layout ranks amongst the best golf courses in London.
The parkland course has plenty of natural elevation changes. One unnatural one is on the 9th, which plays up and over the hidden reservoir. This requires a hefty tee shot - get it too short and it rolls back to you.
Too short is under 200 yards on a steeply uphill drive. There is a ridge to impede the ball’s retreat but it seemed to have taken the day off when I played. My ball travelled a long way, one way or another, to end up 132 yards from the tee.
The 9th can be a tough par 4 though, at 454 yards.
Peter Alliss apparently took against this hole, describing it, depending on who at the club you speak to, as either the ugliest or the worst hole in London.
Actually when you surmount the reservoir, the vista is a decent one. The proliferation of trees make for some attractive surroundings. Although hemmed in by houses around the perimeter of the course, they rarely intrude.
Highgate Golf Club does have a few blind shots, and I was glad to be playing with two members who could help me with the line to take. A group of strangers may struggle on the odd occasion working their way round.
The reservoir is again encountered on the 10th hole, where the shot into the green, well below most of the fairway, is blind for all but the longest hitters.
The greens are often quite small, and bunkers abound, so accurate approach play is required. The putting surfaces were excellent - slick and true - when I played.
So, too, is accuracy off the tee required at various times on what can be a tight layout.
An attractive feature of the club is that play is brisk (opens in new tab), due to careful organisation of when and where two balls, and when and where three- and fourballs can play.
I joined in a club competition and we were back in the bar having changed and showered three and three-quarter hours after we had teed off.
Contributing Writer Golf courses and travel are Roderick’s particular interests and he was contributing editor for the first few years of the Golf Monthly Travel Supplement. He writes travel articles and general features for the magazine, travel supplement and website. He also compiles the magazine's crossword. He is a member of Trevose Golf & Country Club and has played golf in around two dozen countries. Cricket is his other main sporting love. He is the author of five books, four of which are still in print: The Novel Life of PG Wodehouse; The Don: Beyond Boundaries; Wally Hammond: Gentleman & Player and England’s Greatest Post-War All Rounder.
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