History of Harpenden Common

Golf has been played on the Common since 1895. The Golf Club itself was founded in 1931 and benefits from a wonderful mixture of mature trees and gorse set in well-manicured common parkland. A major revision to the established course was undertaken in 1996 under the guidance of Honorary Member and former Ryder Cup player, Ken Brown. This included the addition of six holes, in an area formerly known as the Jockey Field, which are now maturing into tree-lined fairways with a mix of silver birches, water and superb, well-kept greens.

The Opening of Harpenden Common Golf Club

Picture of the Inaugural Match between W.A. Peters and Abe Mitchell. Abe Mitchell was famously the golf coach of Samuel Ryder (of Ryder Cup fame) and the figure on the Ryder Cup itself is Abe Mitchell.

Development of the Clubhouse

The image shows two club handbooks showing similar views of the 18th green and the clubhouse. On the left, a photograph of the clubhouse in 1932. It's not a substantial building! The right hand photo is of our last clubhouse which we demolished in 2012 in order to build our brand new clubhouse opened in May 2013. Our members, guests and visitors have always had a good time at the Common, no matter which clubhouse they visited. Nonetheless, we are very proud of our new facilities!

Harpenden Common Golf Club by Tom Scott

As you travel north along the A6, thankful to be clear at last of the tangle of St.Albans but daunted by the thought of Luton’s teeming bicycles only a few miles on, you come over a rise and there before you is the pleasant little town of Harpenden, spread at the foot of the hill. It is a pleasant piece of land you are passing through, too – a natural oasis, with old, close-knit grass tussocks and hummocks, chance-planted trees, tangled gorse and briar and bracken – this is common land, the sort of ground, like heathland and the unused links along the shore where golf took root in the old days, before they turned to parks and agricultural land and mansions as Club Houses. And fittingly, down on your right, to the east of the road, there is a golf course in the old tradition.

This is Harpenden Common, and golf has been played there since about 1895. There were nine holes at first, as was so often the case, and they have been changed around over the years and now there are eighteen, but the course retains the real old natural flavour. So does the Club itself. The present organisation came into being in 1931, when the previous members moved away to other parts. The Club House, beset by and smothered in trees and hedges, is quite small, and homely. Daffodils glow and blow in its enclosed garden, and parked close to an appropriate back doorway is a comforting reserve of crated beer. An air of friendliness hangs over the place. This pervades not only the members – who have it so developed that their officials find the greatest difficulty in organising singles competitions, the members greatly preferring the sociability of the four – but immediately engulfs any stranger, who will be rescued instantly, on the moment of his appearance, from that chilling isolation that can befall the visitor to more ornate Clubs. And inevitably somewhere in this welcome you will find R.F.Peters, who combines the offices of professional and secretary with easy skill and who has been with the Club for 28 years – and his father was there before him. This is a record that is probably unequalled, and it is a perfectly fitting commentary on the spirit of the Club.

The course itself is not long. Nine of the holes are one-shotters though four of these are long enough to make the matter highly problematical for the ordinary player; there are few bunkers, it being difficult to cut up common land as one might wish. But the greens are small, and cunning advantage has been taken of the bumps and hollows and the fiendishness of vegetation. The shot has to go where it should – and stay there.

There is continual variety and considerable character about the holes. The third, at 505 yards, the longest on the course, is a test of the strongest back as well as accuracy. Not so much dog-legged as bending continually to the left, it is bounded on that side by a ditch, a road, and beyond that an out-of-bounds hedge; the green lies tight in a corner, with the ditch and road at the left and fearsome vegetation at the back. And to niggle at the nervous as they face up to their second shots, the green of the seventh is edging into the fairway on the right. And then immediately there arrive upon you three short holes strung together. At the first you weave your way through scattered gorse and broom and treelets, to an attractive green banked up at the back and surrounded by trees; the second has a narrow neck that opens out smilingly and is just the thing to invite shots sprayed all over the place – and at the left of the green there are trappy little bumps and hollows and at the back a shallow but narrow little ditch and a road behind it. The eighth is really and rewardingly clear, with a pleasant setting and one of those attractive greens sunk in a hollow.

The tenth is a very good hole – two good shots, dog-legged and uphill to the right at the finish. At the eleventh, dog legged again, the second shot has classic qualities, downhill and hard to judge, to a plain, un-bunkered green sloping away and backed by a road, with out-of-bounds beyond that. At the twelfth, 246 yards, you face the smallest green of the lot – and tight behind it there is a fearsome ditch, backed for most of its length by a hedge of grisly old holly, dark and impenetrable as the spears of Flodden, which leans over you and makes any shot out of the ditch a scraped scuffle with prayer.

The fifteenth is a hole that drew cries of anguish from Dai Rees in a Herts. Alliance competition. It is in fact a perfectly fascinating hole. The good player should be on the green in two, but the second shot is indeed a difficult one. The green is wide, but small from front to back; and there in front of it is nothing more or less than a cross-roads, a junction of two quiet little country roads. Close behind the green is a high brick garden wall, and at the nearer edge of the cross-roads, right in your line, a ditch. Your shotmustreach the green and stop – or else! And a final touch – at the crossing, to the right of the green, is another street lamp. This one even has a post-box on which is useful for those who play sans watch; at 4 p.m. a little red van calls unfailingly for the letters.

There remains another good hole, the seventeenth, 327 yards. Here two thin trees and trouble on the left force the tee-shot out to the right, and from there you have to play an extremely accurate shot back to the left, to a green guarded by bunkers in front, with a hedge on the right marking the old paddock for a one-day race meeting that used to be here held years ago, which is out-of-bounds.

And even if your score has been a lot higher than you expected from the length – and it will be – you will have been solaced by the setting of the place. Pleasant houses peep through the screens of trees here and there. You wend your way among secluded woodlands and spinneys and thickets, where they may make a riotous show at the season, and there is a mighty choir of birds. It is a pleasant place indeed.

Mr.R.F.Peters, as I have said, combines the duties of Secretary with those of Professional, and members and visitors alike can be sure of every advice and help from him. He is an excellent teacher of the game, and appointments may be made with him for lessons. His telephone number is – Harpenden 2856.

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Course Status
Currently open
30.07.2018 14:44
The course is OPEN. We are playing main greens. Trolleys and Buggies are both permitted... Thank You