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Enville

Yardage
6695
Par
72
SSS
73
Built
1935 / 1983
Architect(s)
various
Nature:
An emerging fine club, buried in the West Midlands. Two superb half-heathland, half-woodland courses.
Location/Address:
Off the A458 between bridgnorth & Stourbridge
http://www.envillegolfclub.com
Secretary
John Bishop
Telephone
01384 872074
Professional
Sean Power
Green Keeper
Jonathan Wood
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Access Policy:
Visitors are welcome
Dog Policy:
Dogs welcome under control
Open Meetings:
various, check club website
Fees in 1960s
50p
Fees today
£45

Review

The Midlands is not populated with many ‘fine’ golf courses and the predominantly clay-based West Midlands has few. Beau Desert is an obvious exception on Cannock Chase, as is Whittington Heath, and Blackwell and Little Aston have their adherents, though it is the fineness of their Clubs and reputed wine cellars(!) etc rather than relying fully on the ‘joy to be alive’ aspects of their parkland tracks that highlights their entry in Fine Golf.

Nevertheless one club that has been overlooked by myself until recently is Enville. On the edge of the Black Country, it was founded in 1935 with nine holes and extended to 18 in 1940, an unusual year to do so! A third nine opened in 1970 and finally a full thirty-six were finished in 1983. The R&A has recognised Enville’s coming of age and it has been awarded being a regional Open qualifier.

Jonathan Wood, 4th enville golf club, finest courses

Jonathan Wood on the 4th

What attracted me to investigate was the reputation of their Course Manager who not only combines being a ‘master’ greenkeeper with being a low handicapper but has the type of personality and modern management skills to help a club and its members down the sustainable greenkeeping path with the creation of the Fine Golf running game.

The Club has given him the support to develop fine grasses across these half-heathland, half-wooded courses and provide superb practice facilities. It is not since I was at Rye GC that I have seen such a suitable ‘bump and run’ practice area.

Jonathan Wood has not only developed the fast running grasses on fairways and greens, he is creating natural-looking fescue mounds around many of the bunkers to enhance that heritage heathland feel. Moreover, there is plenty of beautiful heather to give testing but not unfair carries on five of the first seven tee shots.

Highgate's 1st drive, enville golf club, finest courses

Highgate's 1st drive

The fescue used on the mounding has been stripped from areas were heather will be encouraged to develop. Heathland is a diminishing resource both nationally and regionally and Enville has gained grants from and is working with Natural England to increase the desired heathland environment around the course.

The Club suggests the two courses are of almost equal standing and they both possess heath and wooded areas without many weak holes. The Highgate is 6695 yards, par 72, SSS 73 and the Lodge is 6417 yards, par 71, SSS 71.

The enthusiastic Chairman of Green, Ephraim Davies, took me in a buggy around the Lodge while Jonathan suggested we play Highgate, perhaps knowing my preference for heathland over woods. The Highgate enjoys a higher proportion of heathland holes and these are found at the beginning and end of the round.

The first is a short par five but it is not the usual easy introduction before you are warmed up. A long carry across an angled valley tries to kick your ball left into sand, so one needs to carefully negotiate up the right but with out running-out into the heather. There will not be many going for the newly sculptured green in two since some new bunkering has to be carried 30 yards shy of the green.

The short 16th, enville golf club, finest courses

The short 16th

There are two par threes of 215 yards with the second of these, the sixteenth, being the pick of the short holes, across an attractive small lake to a sloping green. The fourteenth and fifth are both about 160 yards and all four are placed at different angles to the compass though perhaps this is a less important requirement in this relatively low wind area.

The Berkshire sandbelt feel 6th,enville golf club, finest courses

The Berkshire sandbelt feel 6th

The third and fourth are short left and right hand dog legs respectively and it is not until the sixth (450 yards) that one needs to open one’s shoulders. This plays through fir trees that start for the first time to encroach and this a very fine hole, with a blind second and newly sculptured bunkers around the green, gives the feel of being on the high quality Berkshire sandbelt around Ascot.

Another long par four with a dip in its middle, to a green shaded by firs in the opposite direction brings us to the first of eight holes through the forest of fir and silver birch.

This area is not as visually attractive as the open heathland though much of the undergrowth below the trees has been opened up and some trees thinned out. To my mind more air needs to be permitted to circulate so as to improve the dryness of the course, which is its finest characteristic.

The long Par five 9th, enville golf club, finest courses

The long Par five 9th

The ninth, must be highlighted as four yards short of 600 yards, formed in a long parabola with an uphill approach to the green. It is the trees on the corner that elevate the hole to a strategic one from a slog.

The twelfth (407 yards) certainly has character with a double twist in the fairway through a tight avenue of trees and an approach shot over a deep gully to a flat plateaued green. Although surrounded by trees, the green here is firm and one’s shot requires backspin to check, though many first putts will still be played from the back of the green, rather than stopping near their pitchmark(!) in target-style method.

The 13th within the woods, enville golf club, finest courses

The 13th within the woods

The humpbacked fairway of the thirteenth and the severely sloping fairway of the fifteenth, both between tight lines of mature trees, demand an accuracy when the ground is running and are testing.

The two finishing holes are in open country again out on the heath with some good strategic bunkers and are both classic slight doglegs with the scratch player’s line taken as close to the corner bunker as possible to set up the easier approach while perhaps the one on the seventeenth can be flown.

This Club may not have used any famous designers but its two courses make the most of pleasant draining ground and, now that it is under the maintenance of a very fine greenkeeper, who continues to implement appropriate changes with a wonderfully motivated and committed team behind him, it really is a ‘joy to be alive’ to find in this hidden part of the West Midlands,

Reviewed by Lorne Smith 2011.

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