If suburban London is a clockface, the Middlesex is the quadrant between 9 and 12. It is well worth taking the time to visit its challenging selection of courses
Running over easy walking land with the River Brent coming into play at frequent intervals, the course at Ealing was originally laid out by James Braid before a major redesign by Harry Colt in the mid-1920s.
The river is a key element of Ealing’s character, and it makes its first appearance at the 4th, where your tee shot must stay right before a pitch to a green that is almost completely surrounded by water. Never close enough to the putting surfaces to be unfair, the approach to several greens means crossing the river again at 6, 10 and 13, and finally at the par-3 closing hole.
There are five short holes, albeit three of them over 200 yards from the tips, and three shortish par 5s. The 6th – a long par 4 where most will need to lay up short of the river and rely on a pitch and putt for par – is extremely tough.
There is an element of crossover in one or two places, but this is more than compensated for by the consistently excellent greens. These are under the supervision of Greg Evans, who, six years ago, became only the 52nd Master Greenkeeper.
Stats: par 70, 6,201 yards
GF: £40-45wd per round
JH Taylor designed both men’s and ladies’ 18-hole courses at Fulwell in 1904, five years before the opening of nearby Twickenham Stadium. Following World War II, JH Morrison took eight holes from the outer course and ten from the inner to create today’s testing, tree-lined challenge. There are several long, tough par 4s, doglegs that call for careful placement of the drive and a ditch which comes into play on the opening and closing holes, as well as the par-5 5th. The same waterway opens out into an attractive pond that sits between tee and green on the pretty par-3 9th.
Stats: par 71, 6,465 yards
GF: £55wd per round, £75wd per day
After a back-and-forth opening three holes, this gently undulating parkland course really takes off from the 4th, where a fairway bunker prompts you to play right. The next is a strong par 3 played from a slightly elevated tee, and the 6th is a characterful par 5 played down into a valley where a hedge and a ditch await. On the back nine, the long 11th sweeps down into the valley before climbing the other side, and the 12th is a picturesque par 3 where a burn and stately trees provide all the protection required. To round things out, the closing four holes are all strong two-shotters.
Stats: par 71, 6,416 yards
GF: £30wd per round, £49we per round (from 13:30)
This Harry Colt creation is an extremely enjoyable and fair test of golf, with the bright and welcoming clubhouse looking down over the entire layout. Bordered to the south by the Grand Union Canal, there is fine variety throughout. The course opens with three strong par 4s, where most people would happily take three bogeys. The most exciting holes are probably those on the back nine, like the 11th, played down to a wonderful green site on an old Roman burial mound. The club prides itself on its friendly membership and staff, and celebrates its centenary in four years.
Stats: par 69, 6,284 yards
GF: £32wd per round
The Fox & Goose, Ealing
While traffic can be an issue in Middlesex, it is a relatively small county and all of its golf can be reached quite easily from this centrally located hotel. A part of the popular Fuller’s chain, one of the capital’s best and oldest brewers, it is just a ten-minute drive from Wembley Stadium. The smart accommodation is in a modern block behind the vibrant pub, where there are daily menu specials on offer, and packages can be tailored to individual requirements.
The Belvedere, Ealing
This stylish Italian restaurant is recommended by the members at Sudbury, and is ironically located right by one of the most famous spaghetti junctions in London, Hangar Lane Gyratory. Family run, it has an extensive menu, with signature dishes such as strips of chicken ﬁllet fried with peppers, onions and ﬁnished in a creamy brandy sauce.
The Spaniards, Hampstead Heath
Close to the golf at Hampstead, Hendon, Highgate and Muswell Hill, this historic 16th-century inn is said to have been frequented by Dick Turpin and the poets Byron and Keats. An extensive ale collection includes offerings from small, local micro-brewers, and there is a large garden with barbecues in the summer.
Middlesex is not particularly famed for its golf, which contains strength in depth rather than wow factor or rural idyll. Nonetheless, there are some fine courses among its 35 clubs offering golf at very reasonable prices. Braid’s tree-lined Finchley, with its Victorian mansion clubhouse, is among the best, as is Northwood, with its converted USGA greens. Crews Hill has great variety and space, with an excellent run from 10 to 13, while Enfield is another Braid design with a particularly enjoyable and different closing six holes. And, for something less in keeping, there is the Trent Jones Junior Stockley Park near Heathrow. The charming nine-hole layout at Hampstead is also well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Photography: Kevin Murray