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Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Bunkerless BERKHAMSTED GC: 2011/2012 Winter Tour New
« on: December 08, 2011, 05:02:10 AM »
The rather modest town of Berkhamsted is most famous for its ruined castle (the club's logo) and the place where after taking the surrender of the heir to the throne, William, Duke of Normandy, became William the Conqueror. For film buffs, one of the largest tv and film archives in the world, British Film Institute National Archive, is a mere few miles away from the course.  What exists today is in large part due to the generous £15 million donation made by Paul Getty Jr. This is a fascinating organization worthy of a few moments for viewing their site:  www.bfi.org.uk

In addition to his film and well publicized book obsession, P Getty Jr was also passionate about cricket. So much so that he built what he believed was the ideal cricket ground on his 2500 acre Wormley estate in Buckinghamshire/Oxfordshire. After becoming a British citizen and among the many philanthropic acts of kindness, a £50 million donation to the National Gallery earned Paul Jr a knighthood in 1998.

One of the oldest clubs in Hertfordshire, Berkhamsted is tucked away in the north Chilterns and was originally designed by founding members of the club with the advice of Willie Park Jr.  Colt followed up to complete an 18 hole design.  The course was then significantly altered by James Braid around 1926. In Golfer's Companion, Frank Pennink writes holes 4-9 are Braid's. While lacking in bunkers, the course does on several holes utilize Grim's Ditch (Grim being a generic Anglo-Saxon term for the unexplained) to great effect.  The origins of the ditch(es) are thought to be about 2300 years old, but it isn't known why they were built.  In addition to the ditch, mounding and shallow hollows are skilfully placed, sometimes at the wings and sometimes in the middle of the fairways.  With the exception of a handful of two-tier greens, the putting surfaces are in the main flatish and rely more on broad contours to create interest.  I can imagine summer green speeds would greatly perk the interest of many greens which seem rather dull in December.  One final thing to note is the several roads which partition the course.  #s 1, 2, 3, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17 & 18 are one section; 4-8 with the drive of #9 making up another section, perhaps the best three holes, 11-13 make up a third section and only the approach to #9 making up the final section. 

Despite having to cross the road (a repeating theme throughout the round), the shortish par 4 first holds great promise as the Grim's Ditch makes an immediate short, sharp appearance.  Driver is a dangerous play, but as is the case every time the ditch is encountered, the hazard is angled to tempt the player.


One of the best aspects of the ditch is the variable lies which can be drawn. This fact may lead golfers to be overly greedy.


Despite the promising opener, much of the following six holes are not terribly impressive.  The drives are interesting enough, but the lack of trouble around the greens is certainly noticeable.  Included among the highlights is the 4th drive turning left with the wind coming off the left.  Same thing for the 6th.


The hollow short of the three shot 7th and the green are of interest.

It is almost as if the architect decided it was time to create some holes with a bit of ooomppphh for the entire hole.  For starting with #8 Berkhamsted is full of interesting shots.  #8 turns hard right between sentinel mounds to a green a bit below the fairway and running away.  #9 curiously finishes in front of the house whereas the 18th is stranded across the road.  Still, this is a good short two-shotter bending left around large earthworks.  First, however, one must drive over a sunken road!  Looking back at the tee!


The approach from a tight line down the left.


We now cross the road again for the back nine.  Unfortunately, the par 3s are a bit wanting and to be honest, this is an unforgivable aspect of the design.  So, onto the better things and the outstanding three-shot 11th. 


Mounds dot the fairway left and right while the Ditch cuts off the direct line - forcing the golfer to make a decision...


#12 turns back on the 11th and is a cracking par 4 with a hollow/humps complex angling in to the left side of the green.  The thirteenth too is very good and finishes this triangle of holes isolated by a road.


#14 takes us back to the main part of the course, but first we must once again drive (from the back tee) over a road.  This has to be one of the craziest shots I have come across as its incredibly dangerous.


The approach conceals a large drop-off on the left and how the green runs severely right for the front portion.


#15 is a decent par 3 of a considerable length, but not terribly memorable.  The 16th is a shortish par 5 which features a very clever drive. There is tons of space left, but it is easy to get caught out too far left. Playing from the forward tees on the final two holes is actually harder than from the back tees.  Neither are long par 4s, but both run out of space at driver distance. 




#18 is even more severe as the fairway is cut-off by harsh rough in a blind spot off the tee down the right. It is a shame to finish away from the house and it is a wonder as to why the nines aren't switched. Perhaps it is because the powers that be agree with me in thinking the back nine is much stronger than the front. 

Its difficult to sum up Berkhamsted as a course.  I think the course is best viewed as a whole rather than as individual holes because I couldn't point to any All England candidates.   First the positives.  Berkhamsted is a very easy walk.  There are routing difficulties caused by the roads, but many of the holes are actually not far from the house thus creating a ton of options for short loops.  The course is constantly changing direction making what wind that can penetrate the trees difficult to assess.  The course was in very good nick and played dry - this is such an important element for all-year golf that it shouldn't be dismissed lightly.  Finally, Berkhamsted has an undeniable charm which adds to the pleasure of the day.  Now for the drawbacks. A huge disappointment for me are the lackluster short holes.  Its perplexing as to why the club doesn't roll up its sleeves and get to work on this issue. Second and not to disagree too much with the Canary, but I do think bunkers would be a tremendous boon for the course. There are too many green complexes lacking in sufficient interest.  The verdict: I would like to see the course in the summer.   2011

Previous stops on the Tour.

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,46538.0.html  Coxmoor

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,37725.0.html  Temple

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,38973.0.html  Little Aston

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,30965.0.html  Beau Desert

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,33988.0.html  Notts

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,50088.0.html  The Old Course

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,50086.0.html  The New Course

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,50078.0.html  The Castle Course

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,30926.0.html  Kington

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,37526.0.html   Harborne

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,49998.0.html   Worcester G&CC

Next scheduled stop: Little Aston

Ciao
« Last Edit: October 13, 2021, 05:21:18 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Mark_Rowlinson

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkerless BERKHAMSTED GC: 2011/2012 Winter Tour
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2011, 05:59:53 AM »
Sean,

I'm pleased that you've made it to Berkhamsted and that you found quite a lot to be positive about. I rather suspect that if you were to return in summer you'd find more to catch your attention. That said, I remember Berkhamsted being particularly good in winter.

Thanks for the photos, as always.

Mark.

James Boon

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkerless BERKHAMSTED GC: 2011/2012 Winter Tour
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2011, 06:34:43 AM »
Sean,

I've had an interest in seeing Berkhamstead for a while, so its nice to see some photos. I like what I see and certainly seems to be enough of interest to make it worthwhile.

Two things, firstly the bunkerless nature of the course?

You mention you think some bunkers would be of benefit, but I suspect you are talking just a few along the lines of Huntercombe rather than plastering them all over the place? However, do you think the fact that it is currently totally bunkerless gives it a charm, as with Royal Ashdown Forest and a few others, that it would lose if it popped a handful of bunkers in, even though the course might be improved? Also, what is the reason for the lack of bunkers? Is the course on common land or something similar?

Secondly, the road crossings. Crossing a road between holes is reasonably common with some of the older courses in this country, I'm thinking Lindrick, Liphook etc But most have been adjusted to avoid actually hitting shots over the roads, but not at Berkhamstead. I had a look on Google Streetview...

Here is the view from the road on the 9th, with the tee shot coming from the right, and as far as I can tell the golfer on the tee and the driver on the road will never really see each other


Here on the 14th, a golfer on the back tee is a little more visible on the road and passing cars can hopefully be avoided?


With the paranoia of litigation, that is usually termed H&S by those with no real experience of H&S, I would love to see if the club has done a risk assessment on this?

Cheers,

James
2022 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Reay

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkerless BERKHAMSTED GC: 2011/2012 Winter Tour
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2011, 06:51:33 AM »
Boony

No, I mean some bunkers rather like Huntercombe has done.  I think if done right they could be very attractive in the landscape and serve real strategic purpose.  I don't know why there are no bunkers, I bet its some sort of common land rule. 

These are two of the over the road shots which I think are highly dangerous.  On #14 cars come whipping down that road - sure too fast, but what can one expect of Audi drivers?  If one doesn't know what the story is it could well  lead to flank attack.  We had to stop a chap in his back swing!!!  On #9 is foozle could well see a car whacked.  Mind you, on both accounts a forward tee is on offer so I wouldn't be surprised if the golfer uses the wrong side tees it is entirely at his own risk.

Ciao 
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Mark Pearce

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkerless BERKHAMSTED GC: 2011/2012 Winter Tour
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2011, 07:23:13 AM »
Sean,

When Conrad and I played there in September, the greens were notably hard and reasoanbly fast (certainly faster than West Hill or Hankley Common were the next two days).  I can see that in winter conditions they may not offer as much interest.  I suspect, also, that the firmness and speed of the greens would make playing from the greenside humps and hollows more interesting.

On reflection you're right about the par 3s, none of them are memorable and it must be possible to create a more interesting set.  We started on the 10th, so did end up on the 9th (which I managed to birdie).  However, as you say, the weakest part of the course is 2 to 6 and that may well be why the 9s are as they are.

If you were to place bunkers at Berkhamsted, where would you put them?  I suspect you are right, by the way, that the reason for their absence is that the course is on common land.  I used to be a member at another Hertfordshire club, Chorleywood, which had a bunkerless 9 hole course on Chorleywood Common.
In July 2022 I will be riding 3 stages of the Tour de France,  in the Alps, to raise money for the William Wates Memorial Trust which is dedicated to providing opportunities for under privileged young adults.  To support the Trust, please visit https://fundraising.wwmt.org/fundraisers/MarkPearce/rid

Paul_Turner

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkerless BERKHAMSTED GC: 2011/2012 Winter Tour
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2011, 07:30:43 AM »
I remember the 2nd being a pretty fine par 3.

 Some great earthworks on that hole and course in general.
can't get to heaven with a three chord song

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkerless BERKHAMSTED GC: 2011/2012 Winter Tour
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2011, 07:47:09 AM »
Mark

All the par 3s could probably do with some help - so I will just skip those. 

Off the top of my head, I would stick a bunker short of the 5th green where the mounding is. 

Just in the crux of the left side of the green on #7 - a a natural area where balls would run. 

Perhaps the right side of the 9th green to catch out the folks who short sided themselves off the tee.  Maybe even a bunker right centre in the fairway to make folks think a bit off the tee.

#11, maybe create a mix of bunkers and hollows/humps down the fairway.

#12: Sand short left of the green.

#13: Maybe a sandy waste area short of the green where there is rough.

Definitely sand just short of the green on the left for #14. Probably a bunker where there is some earthworks on the right in the drive zone.

#16 - just short of the green favouring the left side a bit.


Ciao



New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Mark_Rowlinson

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkerless BERKHAMSTED GC: 2011/2012 Winter Tour
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2011, 09:00:53 AM »
Watch what you say about Audi drivers, Sean!

Mark Pearce

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkerless BERKHAMSTED GC: 2011/2012 Winter Tour
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2011, 09:23:00 AM »
The tee shot on 14 is potentially dangerous from the back tee.  The one on 9 isn't.  I cannot imagine a shape of shot which would hit the road.  A top won't reach through all that wood, a thinned shot, if it clears the crap short of the road will fly into the crap on the other side, over the road.  Only a double decker bus might be endangered and I don't think you see those on that road!
In July 2022 I will be riding 3 stages of the Tour de France,  in the Alps, to raise money for the William Wates Memorial Trust which is dedicated to providing opportunities for under privileged young adults.  To support the Trust, please visit https://fundraising.wwmt.org/fundraisers/MarkPearce/rid

James Boon

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkerless BERKHAMSTED GC: 2011/2012 Winter Tour
« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2011, 10:29:41 AM »
Mark R,

I suspect Sean was making a cheeky reference to my current mode of transport? However, I'd say its the Ford drivers you need to look out for...  ;)

Mark P,

From what I can see, I think I'd agree that it would be difficult to mishit one onto the road? I suspect the club is not the sort where a couple of the more ferrel junior members would be hitting high lob shots down to see if they can hit the narrow strip of road or get a metallic clunk followed by the screech of breaks?  ::)

Cheers,

James
2022 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Reay

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

Mike Hendren

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkerless BERKHAMSTED GC: 2011/2012 Winter Tour
« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2011, 11:54:08 AM »
Sean, I recently noted that berms were the most under-utilized features in golf course architecture.  Ditto a good ditch (or baranca for The Captain).  I see no reason why an architect couldn't create an interesting one from scratch.    Also, I always appreciate you photo essays - in a world where the term "hidden gem" is over-utilized, you are the master.  Keep it up. 

Paul Turner, nice to see you posting.  I like your term "earthworks." 

The ditch at Berkhamsted reminds me of the sunken roads that are so prevalent on Civil War battlefields. 

Bogey

Two Corinthians walk into a bar ....

mike_malone

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkerless BERKHAMSTED GC: 2011/2012 Winter Tour
« Reply #11 on: December 08, 2011, 04:02:28 PM »
Sean,

   Aren't modern maintained bunkers easier than these bunkerless hazards?
AKA Mayday

Tony_Muldoon

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkerless BERKHAMSTED GC: 2011/2012 Winter Tour
« Reply #12 on: December 08, 2011, 05:26:27 PM »
Thanks Sean, another track I’ve yet  to see.  I did make it to RAF this summer though.  One thing the two bunkerless course have in common is features which are truly scary. I’d much rather play over a bunker than this.

 


You ball could just as easily be sitting up proud as lost. 

Berkhamstead looks “interesting”, RAF however was truly Great.
on 29th May I am riding 100 Miles to help raise funds for Dementia Research. All donations are welcome.
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ridelondon-tonymuldoon

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkerless BERKHAMSTED GC: 2011/2012 Winter Tour
« Reply #13 on: December 08, 2011, 06:06:57 PM »
Mark R - sorry, Boony was right - you were collateral damage.

Canary and Boony - I disagree, the ladies tee on #9 is shy of the road and I can also easily see low duck hooks etc getting caught up in the road. I did play the hole wondering how it be as a long par 3 from a tee closer to the earthworks (of course some trees would need to come out, but many have been cut down over there anyway - for some reason).  

Bogey - I agree, earthworks are a great form of hazard and I think they can look attractive as well.

Mayday - as I (and later Spangles) mentioned, its pot luck in the ditch/earthworks and that is one of the best aspects of them.  They should seen as something to challenge rather than totally avoid at all costs.  I challenged them on the first and the eleventh and failed to execute, but I still made par from both.  I bet this will lead me to be more reckless in the future and more than likely lead to a very high score at some point.  I would never advocate posh bunkers anywhere let alone on a site like Berkhamsted.  The soil is good and very deep/nasty bunkers could be built as  result - as all bunkers should be imo.  The trick is to be far more judicious in their placement than practically any living archie on the planet 95% of the time chooses to be.

Spangles - I think Canary is right in that summer conditions would see this design shine much brighter.  So many holes dogleg with limited room. Still, I don't think for a second that this bunkerless design is a patch on Kington.  Kington is far more exacting in its approach demands and even moreso when the wind blows (always!), but at no time should one think he can't make a good score if he plays sensibly.  Regardless of all that, I want to see Berkhamsted in the summer.  We should plan to get our county cards out and have a go.

BTW - post some pix of RAF!

Ciao



 
« Last Edit: December 08, 2011, 06:32:19 PM by Sean Arble »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Mark Pearce

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkerless BERKHAMSTED GC: 2011/2012 Winter Tour
« Reply #14 on: December 09, 2011, 04:06:29 AM »
I completely agree that it's not in the same league as Kington.  But Kington is a course that every British golfer should see.  Berkhamsted is a course that every Hertfordshire golfer should see and one well worth a visit if you're in the area.
In July 2022 I will be riding 3 stages of the Tour de France,  in the Alps, to raise money for the William Wates Memorial Trust which is dedicated to providing opportunities for under privileged young adults.  To support the Trust, please visit https://fundraising.wwmt.org/fundraisers/MarkPearce/rid

Paul_Turner

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkerless BERKHAMSTED GC: 2011/2012 Winter Tour
« Reply #15 on: December 09, 2011, 04:20:43 PM »
Back in the day "Berko" was pure open heath; hardly a tree to be seen.  I bet pretty windy too up on that hill.
can't get to heaven with a three chord song

John Mayhugh

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkerless BERKHAMSTED GC: 2011/2012 Winter Tour
« Reply #16 on: December 10, 2011, 08:45:59 PM »
One of the best aspects of the ditch is the variable lies which can be drawn. This fact may lead golfers to be overly greedy.


Works on me even when I know better.

Nice tour. Thanks.

Mark_Rowlinson

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkerless BERKHAMSTED GC: 2011/2012 Winter Tour
« Reply #17 on: December 12, 2011, 05:24:08 AM »
Brian, B'sted and RAF are totally different. RAF is undulating, B'sted pretty flat. Some of RAF's greens have more character, too.

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