The light is fading over Broadwater Lake; the only sounds are the rustle of weeping willows, the flap of a swan’s wings near the reeds and, right on cue, the crisp plop of a golf ball coming up a yard or two short of the 18th green at The Melbourne Course at Brocket Hall.
The errant ball disappears beneath the surface and sends a series of gentle ripples in the direction of the majestic Paine Bridge. As settings go, it’s as serene and tranquil as you could wish to find anywhere in England and, for us, it’s a breathtaking backdrop as we walk down towards The Melbourne Club for dinner at the end of a late summer’s day of golf in Hertfordshire.
The four-ball playing the 18th eventually all find the green before boarding the ferry (yes ferry) which takes them across The River Lea from fairway to green. It’s the last of four occasions when you cross the water during a round on The Melbourne at Brocket Hall. It is a picture-postcard kind of place with a neo-classical stately home the centrepiece. As we walk down towards the clubhouse, the deck chairs on the lawn reverberate with the sound of golfers enjoying a leisurely drink or two after their round. The ratio of personalised number plates in the members car park hint at the kind of place this is but these days membership, although not cheap, is as in demand as it has been for many years.
Brocket Hall is not a golf ‘resort’ in the traditional sense. This is a quintessentially English experience, in the same way that Royal Ascot is, the Last Night of The Proms at the Royal Albert Hall or strawberries and cream on Centre Court, Wimbledon. This is, after all, one of England’s great country estates and, luckily for us golfers, it just happens to boast two terrific golf courses.
And although we have never been here before, it all feels quite familiar. That may well be because Brocket Hall has become a go-to destination for the film industry over the years, with the likes of The Crown, Pride & Prejudice, The Queen and Johnny English just some of the big-name projects to have featured this backdrop.
For centuries, Brocket Hall was synonymous not with golf, but with the English aristocracy. It was home to two Prime Ministers – Lord Melbourne and Lord Palmerston, after whom the courses here are named – numerous knights of the realm while Queen Victoria herself, was a regular visitor to Brocket Hall. Times change, though and while that essence, unquestionably remains, these days the estate serves a very different master. The only world leaders that walk the grounds these days are world leading golfers. Tiger Woods has visited, but more recently it has been the best young women golfers in the UK who have played here, as part of the Rose Series, set up, of course, by Kate and Justin Rose. It’s easy to see why.
That sense of Englishness even extends to the design of the Brocket Hall golf courses. The Melbourne, laid out by Peter Alliss and Clive Clark, opened in 1992 and, as we have already described weaves its way across the River Lea in a charming, natural way. The land is beautifully landscaped in the style ofCapability Brown, with sweeping lawns, towering trees and that meandering river. The golf course makes the most of those natural contours from first to last and is just great fun to play. In contrast, The Palmerston Course moves away from the water and up into the ancient woodland which envelops this estate. This excellent and challenging course cuts through mature woodland with a blend of Scots pine, Corsican Pine and towering 500-year-old Oak trees giving the place a feel of Woburn or Wentworth, in places. Donald Steel and Martin Ebert have succeeded in designing a really strategic and, in places, spectacular test of golf. We loved it.
The Brocket Hall golf practice area is extensive, and we spend an hour or two at the academy, which must be one of the finest facilities you’ll find in this part of England. There are two vast short-game areas, with bunkers and the greens of the same quality you will find out on the Brocket Hall golf courses. There is also a turf driving range, an indoor swing studio and a 7-hole par 3 course too. We’re staying for the night so there is time for a late-night putting competition on the green close to the 1st tee of The Palmerston, which is just a stone’s throw from our accommodation.
While Brocket Hall itself may be the centrepiece of the estate, you can only stay here if you hire out the entire building – butlers and all. While that would been very nice, tonight we are laying our heads down at Melbourne Lodge, a Grade I listed Georgian building which was once the stable block for the estate. These days it is home to 16 en-suite bedrooms, each named after a famous racehorse. There are no staff at Melbourne Lodge, it is not a hotel, but it’s close to everything and just enough of a walk from dinner to ensure our sirloin steaks have been digested ready for our early morning round. As you might have guessed by now, the decor screams English country estate and the rooms feature furniture from Brocket Hall itself. Don’t expect modern, sleek interior design, that’s just not what Melbourne Lodge is all about.
There is a just a hint of autumn in the air as we begin our round the next morning. The overwhelming feeling as we get going, is that the Brocket Hall estate would be a wonderful walk whether you had golf clubs on your back or not. It’s just a stunning piece of land and every single thing about it encapsulates something wonderfully, and unapologetically, English. It simply couldn’t be anywhere else in the world. Nor would you want it to be.
*For more information or to book stay-and-play packages, visit Brocket-Hall.co.uk
*Benjamin Smith was a guest of Brocket Hall
Brocket Hall scorecards
The Melbourne Course
The Palmerston Course
Golf at Brocket Hall: Frequently asked questions
Who owns Brocket Hall?
It is thought Brocket Hall is now owned by Yu Songbo, who at one time, was thought to be one of China’s richest people. It is overseen by a company called Brocket Hall (Holding) Limited, which is controlled by Chinese director Meng Xu.
What is the Brocket Hall membership cost?
The Brocket Hall membership cost has been a subject of much debate over the years and while it certainly not the cheapest you will find, some of the figures printed are also a little over the top. So rather than add to that speculation we would suggest that if you are interested in Brocket Hall membership, then email [email protected]and the team will take it from there.
What about the Brocket Hall history?
The estate has a pretty fascinating history, dating back to 1239. Aside from Queens, Prime Ministers, Lords and Ladies, the more recent history of Brocket Hall has also been eventful. In 1967, Charles Nall-Cain, then a 15-year-old Eton school boy, inherited Brocket Hall. He built the Brocket Hall golf courses and was famously a collector of vintage cars. It was said he had as many as 42 classic Ferraris and sports cars. Charles, however, was accused of fraud after claiming three of his cars had been stolen, when in fact they had been buried in the grounds of the estate. Having served a short prison sentence, he appeared on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! in 2014.
What is the address for Brocket Hall?
The address for the Brocket Hall golf club and courses is as follows:
And the Brocket Hall postcode?
The best post code for the Brocket Hall golf courses is AL8 7XG.
Where is the best place to get Brocket Hall golf deals?
Brocket Hall golf deals are very much on the rise and in 2023 Brocket Hall launched a selection of ‘stay & play’ golf deals, with the option for one or two rounds of golf and the opportunity to stay overnight in Melbourne Lodge. For the latest prices on Brocket Hall golf deals visit Brocket-Hall.co.uk
What about the Brocket Hall restaurant?
Auberge du Lac is a stunning restaurant and former hunting lodge set in estate, just across the Broadwater Lake from the clubhouse. Meaning Inn on the Lake, Auberge du Lac puts a focus on locally sourced sustainable ingredients, with many grown in the estate by Brocket Hall’s own kitchen gardener. The food is unapologetically high-end, the menu is seasonal, and the cuisine is, of course, wonderfully English.