Contributing Editor Rob Smith makes a return visit to the intriguing Harry Vardon/Jack Nicklaus II hybrid at Hanbury Manor in Hertfordshire

Hanbury Manor Course Review

Variety is the spice of life, and one of the appealing features at Hanbury Manor is that the course has two quite diverse loops of nine played over contrasting terrain. One is traditionally British, and the other was designed by an American almost ninety years later.

Having first played the course fifteen years ago, I was looking forward to seeing how well the two nines have blended together now that the Jack Nicklaus Junior holes have matured. Happily, the answer is very well indeed and the course sits in the 2015/16 Golf Monthly UK & Ireland Next 100.

The closing green with the Jacobean hotel beyond

The closing green with the Jacobean hotel beyond

Amazingly, it is now a quarter of a century since Nicklaus added what is now the front nine, a few years after what was originally the home of the Hanbury brewing family was developed into a luxury hotel. Changes were made at the same time to Harry Vardon’s nine-holer, itself now more than a hundred years old, including the introduction of USGA greens which are a strong feature throughout.

The Nicklaus holes are on undulating and more open ground that runs down to the River Rib. There is a very good variety of style with attractive water to be avoided at two and six. It is particularly intrusive at the eighth, an excellent and challenging two-shotter which plays as stroke index one.

The snaking par-5 ninth takes you back up to level ground

The snaking par-5 ninth takes you back up to level ground

The well-bunkered ninth takes you back up the hill and to easy-walking ground where magnificent oaks are a regular feature throughout the back nine. Water again comes into play, particularly at the lovely thirteenth and seventeenth holes, and on a bright Summer’s day when the trees are in leaf, it is a fine place to enjoy your golf.

The seventeenth is a cracking par 5

The seventeenth is a cracking par 5

The English Open was staged here for a while in the late nineties, and its champions include both Lee Westwood and this year’s Ryder Cup skipper Darren Clarke. The accompanying 161-suite Marriott Hotel is based in a 19th-century manor house surrounded by historic buildings. It boasts a spa, fitness centre and pool, and fine dining in a choice of restaurants.

On a Summer's Day - a lovely place to play

On a Summer’s Day – a lovely place to play

With its hybrid course offering real variety and fun, Hanbury Manor is an excellent venue for societies, corporates, and those seeking enjoyable golf with all the trimmings.