- Neil White
Updated: May 3, 2021
Perhaps we should ask Gareth Bale which is his number one course in Hertfordshire.
In a framed photo at The Grove, he has written that it is his favourite anywhere and yet (probably false) rumour has it that his deal to return to Spurs was done at nearby Hadley Wood.
Whatever his opinion, it is clear from other reviews The Grove doesn't have universal approval.
The negative slants tend to come from golfing purists - those who believe that the course is more important than the overall experience.
The management of The Grove put the latter first - therefore, the cost of playing at The Grove accounts for much more than the time between the first tee and the final putt on the 18th.
This is a place to play good golf and be treated like someone who earns £600,000 a week, such as the aforementioned Welsh Wizard.
Whether you arrive in a Fiat or Ferrari, you are treated as if you are the most important person who has ever arrived there - even in the current Covid environment.
Ok, there is no valet parking at the moment (probably unnecessary anyway), but there are myriad neat touches from staff who are pleasant and knowledgable.
So, I did like the range with complimentary balls and the course marshal who provided us with towels during our round as rained rolled down the backs of our necks.
I also reckon the after-match pie was the tastiest I have ever eaten - and, as my figure suggests, I am a man who likes his food,
That is not to say the course is bad - it isn't.
Having played on 27 of England's top 100 since June, I can testify that few greens have bettered The Grove's - and this was the last week in October.
There was a pitch and place rule on the fairways but there need not have been. They were in excellent shape.
However, you cannot get away from the fact that this is corporate golf - wide fairways and too many holes which don't stick in the memory.
That's not to say it's easy. It isn't. But on a rainy autumn day, it was too much a test of brute force rather than intricate golf for me.
The 3rd hole epitomises my point - a par 4, stroke index one with water guarding a green which would be impossible to reach in regulation for all but very low handicappers. I played it like a par five but even then couldn't hold the ball on the green with my third shot.
The par 3, 4th is arguably the prettiest hole, over water and with barges parked by its side.
I also liked the dogleg 10th, which requires a tee shot between chestnut trees and an approach over bunkers in front of the green.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and one of my playing partners said he enjoyed the wide fairways. I also know that some golfers think of quirky holes (which I love) as 'Mickey Mouse'.
But this site is all about comparisons, even they are subjective and even if Mr Bale doesn't agree, I preferred the Hadley Wood course.
However, I did very much enjoy being treated like a king. Who doesn't?