Berkhamsted Golf Club Course Review

Berkhamsted Golf Club in Hertfordshire provides a slightly different challenge in that there are no bunkers on the course

Berkhamsted Golf Club Hertfordshire
(Image credit: Andy Hiseman)

Berkhamsted Golf Club Course Review

GF £60-£75wd; £85we after 11.30am
Par 71, 6,587 yards
Slope 128
GM Verdict – There are no bunkers but the distinctive humps and hollows around the greens form a worthy alternative defence.
Favourite Hole – The shortish par-4 18th back up the hill, which can defend itself much better than its modest yardage might suggest.

Berkhamsted Golf Club - 18th hole

A two-tier green tucked away around a corner awaits on the shortish par-4 18th

(Image credit: Andy Hiseman)

Bunkers may now have their own Rule in the book, but that is of little consequence at Berkhamsted, one of the best golf courses in Hertfordshire, for the beautiful heathland layout here is one of a select few bunkerless courses within these shores. The club started out on a nine-holer created by two-time Open champion, Willie Park Junior, in 1890 before growing to 18 and going from strength to strength in the 20th century. 

Berkhamsted Golf Club - 6th hole

Grass mounds and hollows form much of the greenside challenge at Berkhamsted instead of bunkers

(Image credit: Andy Hiseman)

Related: 45 of the best heathland courses in the UK

What it lacks in bunkers, it makes up for with abundant gorse, heather (a major regeneration project has been taking place in recent years), mature trees and a string of intriguing greenside grass mounds that, in many instances, present just as confounding a challenge as the more traditional sand traps. Add in the unique challenge of Grim’s Dyke – a Bronze Age earthwork that makes its presence felt on six holes – and it's little wonder that competitors in the prestigious Berkhamsted Trophy rarely bring the course to its knees, despite its modest length.

Berkhamsted Golf Club - 10th hole

The club has been working hard on heather regeneration in recent years

(Image credit: Andy Hiseman)

The par 3s are all strong right from the off as the course now starts on a daunting, long one-shotter over a pond and large bank of gorse following a switching of the two nines in recent years. Perhaps the best stretch of all now comes right at the end starting with the 16th a long par 5 where you must safely negotiate Grim’s Dyke and a large hollow short of the green.

Berkhamsted Golf Club - 16th hole

A long par 5 kicks off the strong closing trio at Berkhamsted

(Image credit: Andy Hiseman)

The mid-length par-4 17th is a dogleg to the right featuring a downhill approach to a green encircled by several of those grassy greenside mounds. The 18th is then a modest par 4 played over a road back towards the clubhouse, which doglegs left late up to a two-tiered green. It’s tempting to want to attack this hole, but if you get out of position, you may well pay the price for over-ambition right at the end.

Berkhamsted Golf Club - 17th hole

Looking across the 17th green with the 18th fairway in the background

(Image credit: Andy Hiseman)

The Berkhamsted Trophy was the brainchild of Berkhamsted member, and proficient amateur golfer, Harold Rance, who was keen to raise the club’s status. It now serves as the domestic curtain-raiser to England Golf’s Men’s Order of Merit and is a World Amateur Golf Rankings qualifying event. The illustrious roll call of champions includes double Major winner Sandy Lyle and former World No.1 Luke Donald. Other notable past champions are Peter McEvoy, Gary Wolstenholme, Andy Sullivan, Tom Lewis and Graeme Storm, several of whom have talked about the test Berkhamsted still poses, despite hardly changing for 100 years.

This is testament to the design expertise of Harry Colt, who masterminded the extension of Park’s course to 18 holes, and James Braid who was brought in to redesign seven holes in the mid-1920s.

Jeremy Ellwood
Jeremy Ellwood

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...