Clubs have been investing in short-game areas

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick May 30, 2024 11:28

Some clubs have been either upgrading, or creating new, short-game areas in recent months, in moves that can help members spend more time at them, and even provide facilities to golfers that aren’t available on the main courses.

More golf clubs are building short-game practice areas at their venues in a bid to offer more to their members and visitors.

Effingham Golf Club in Surrey, for example, is opening one of the UK’s largest and most extensive short-game practice areas this month.

Positioned between the clubhouse and first tee, the area – featuring a 1,250m2 short game academy green with 12 distinct zones for a greater variety of practice, and a 450m2 putting green – will be unveiled after more than a year’s ‘growing in’ period.

As well as endless opportunities to experiment with putting, pitching, chipping and bunker play, the area will include two new practice net bays and a state-of-the-art cleaning station for shoes and trolleys.

Richard Anderson, chair of the board at Effingham Golf Club, said: “We’re very excited to open our new area, bringing the calibre of our practice facilities in line with Harry Colt’s incredible course.

“The area was conceptualised in response to feedback from our members, and we really envision this being a place where they can spend hours honing their skills and enjoying themselves.”

Berkhamsted Golf Club in Hertfordshire opened its short-game facility last year, in secluded woodlands beside its 18th hole.

The area includes a large, curved double-green surrounded by fescue-topped mounds and a variety of chipping and pitching areas.

There are also two bunkers – the first at Berkhamsted for over 100 years.

Club manager Howard Craft explains: “We asked our members what they most wanted, and overwhelmingly they requested an upgrade to our practice facilities. We are very happy with the result!

“We did wrestle with the bunkers’ decision, given that we are known as one of the UK’s few great bunker-free golf courses, but our members aren’t hermits! They travel all over the world to play golf, so the new bunkers give them a very welcome chance to work on their sand play.”

Unusually, there are no cups on the double-green: the pins are on spikes.

Howard Craft again: “We have three pins, and golfers can easily move them to create virtually limitless practice options. Whether you’re playing bunker shots, hitting chip and runs, or playing from the very Berkhamsted-like swales and hollows, out here you’ll find more or less every short game challenge from the main course – apart from the bunkers, naturally!“

The short-game area’s greens are seeded with pure bent grass, with dwarf rye fescue on the outfields to replicate the tight lies on Berkhamsted’s green approaches. Heather was taken from non-golfing areas of the main golf course, and replanted in between the bunkers: the results are a visual feast for golfers.

Designer James Edwards said: “Three iconic golf architects – Willie Park Jnr, Harry Colt and James Braid – each contributed to the design of the main golf course here, so with our first heathland academy we wanted to recreate some of the natural atmosphere and unique shots which make Berkhamsted so memorable.

“Gerald Bruce and his greenkeeping team have taken the setup to another level with their excellent vision for its aesthetics and playability, and the end result has surpassed our expectations.”
Berkhamsted’s head professional Joe Biggs said: “It’s a phenomenal addition to the golf club, and an amazing place not only to enjoy practice but also as a place to teach the short game. There are so many shots to hit there!

“We want to be the very best we can be here at Berkhamsted, and I believe that the new short game area has elevated the club’s reputation still further. With its arrival, Berkhamsted now has everything that serious golfers need as regards authentic, traditional grass practice.”

“Our motto here is always ‘golf as nature intended’,” said Howard Craft. “In fact it is amazing to see how quickly Mother Nature has worked her magic on the area, with self-seeded gorse appearing quite naturally on the mounds – just like elsewhere at Berkhamsted.

“I feel sure that James Braid, Harry Colt and Willie Park Jnr would have enjoyed whiling away the hours here with a bag of balls and a short iron – and our members feel exactly the same about this wonderful new part of the golf club.”


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick May 30, 2024 11:28
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  1. Nicola June 13, 10:59

    Lovely wild flowers!

    Reply to this comment
  2. JAMESDWARDS June 4, 11:21

    Thank you for the piece TGB.
    And for covering our work at Berkhamsted and Effingham. Vitally important amenity for member journey/facilities/engagement/improvement and most importantly, fun.
    Berkhamsted Golf Club
    Effingham Golf Club

    Reply to this comment
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