Last year I had the pleasure of assessing the Enville Highgate championship course, shortlisted for NGC’s English Top 100, among which it was rightly confirmed. However, while I was there, I found that more than one member claimed to prefer the “second”, shorter, Lodge course. Not having had time to test it last year, and this June, having business in the Midlands, I took the opportunity to rectify the omission. Buried deep in the Staffordshire countryside, just off the A458 between Stourbridge and Bridgenorth. Somewhat off the beaten track then – a genuine hidden gem.
Driving up to Enville, you can expect two magnificent sand-based courses, half heathland, half wooded, and a world away from the pressures of so-called “civilisation”.
While the Highgate course is a recognised championship venue, most recently hosting the 2017 Girls’ British Open, the Lodge, some 200 yards shorter than the longer course, lies somewhat in its shadow.
Whether such a comparison is justified, I set out on a glorious June day with playing partner Pam Jones, from nearby South Staffs Golf Club, to put it to the test.
The fact that it is the shorter course, principally by dint of its having only two par 5 holes, does not make it one jot easier. Indeed, Pam advised that when the ladies from South Staffs visit Enville, they find the Lodge, with its tighter and more undulating fairways, the more intimidating of the two courses.
Be that as it may, we both putted on the 18th green with the same balls we had played on the 1st tee, and Pam had played so well that I had the humiliation of conceding the match on the 14th green. (I blamed the borrowed clubs.)
Whatever, the only matter really worth reporting is that by the 3rd hole, where the second shot is over a line of Redan-like traps only to lead you into one of the two further hidden pot bunkers protecting the green, I was already utterly hooked by this lovely course.
And this was before we crossed the road, leaving behind the more open heathland and starting the run of nine wonderful switchback forested holes, the equal of any of the Surrey belt.
I have to report that I have not been so much in awe of a run of holes on an inland course than since I last played Sunningdale – they are that good. Every hole is unique, setting a different challenge. Every hole is superbly bunkered, both in the quality of design and strategic placing. Every fairway is manicured and the greens are like carpets, subtly contoured and absolutely true. Above all, every hole, with its undulating fairway framed by richly diverse trees, is stunningly beautiful.
Well all good things must come to an end and, back over the road, the last six heathland holes, whilst still of the highest quality, perhaps suffer in comparison with the very strong finish to the Highgrove course. But I’m splitting hairs, there are few clubs or resorts that can offer two courses so close in aspect and quality, and Enville should not on any account be missed.
I have already referred to the gem-like heathland 3rd, but my favourite has to be one of the woodland holes – just don’t ask me which one. They are all so good.
Make sure, before you tackle the courses, that you make use of the extensive practice facilities, and after the round that you enjoy the impressive oak-framed spike bar. Also, the flora and fauna on the course are well worth keeping your eyes peeled for.
Enjoy the surroundings, not just the golf.