When my little boy Hogan turned six months old my husband Dan and I decided that a weekend break was well-deserved. As anyone who has had a baby recently knows the sleepless nights, endless feeds and dreaded continuous nappy changes can be quite monotonous. So for one wonderful weekend in May we escaped to the prestigious Brocket Hall resort, which is hidden in Hertfordshire, yet only a stone's throw away from central London.
Arriving at Brocket Hall you instantly feel like royalty as you wind your way up the long drive through the estate, which is a lush green haven of tranquillity. The entry road leads you through the stables courtyard before crossing a cute bridge over the river Lea and onto the very impressive house. Nowadays the Hall is simply the centrepiece of a grand golf resort, with two marvellous courses winding around it, a golf academy to rival the best in the country and accommodation and fine dining that are first-class. Our stay was in the Melbourne Lodge, an elegantly converted Georgian coach house, previously the stable block, hence each of the 16 rooms being named after one of the great racehorses of the day! The tastefully restored rooms are very stately with great big high ceilings and pretty cornices, the centrepiece being a marvellous big bed.
There are two golf courses at Brocket Hall and both are named after former owners of the Hall, the Melbourne is named after the original owner Lord Melbourne who was the son of Sir Mathew Lamb who commissioned the renowned architect James Paine to build the Hall in 1760. The Palmerston course is named after the later owner Lord Palmerston. The Hall passed into his hands on the death of the second Lord Melbourne in 1848. Both men were Prime Minister in their era at the Hall and to this day the home has been frequented by royalty and those in power, most recently Baroness Thatcher is known for writing her memoirs here.
The par 72 Melbourne Course opened in 1992 and was designed by two former Ryder Cup golfers-turned famous commentators Peter Alliss and Clive Clark. It is a clever course in that you really have to think your way around, driver isn't always the best option and accuracy definitely prevails. Right from the start you are faced with the challenge of accuracy both off the tee and into the green at the par 4 first hole, which uses the natural contours of the land to cleverly kick any ball pitching just right of centre in the fairway down towards the Broadwater Lake, which runs all the way down the right of the hole. In fact the water comes into play on several more occasions throughout your round and you even have to cross it on a quirky little foot passenger ferry with the clubs and trolley before walking up to the 18 th green, which sits directly beneath the Hall.
The Palmerston course, in contrast, doesn't challenge your golf ball to a watery grave, instead the challenge is the hike around hilly holes, some with narrow winding fairways, which are heavily tree-lined. The opening 9 holes reminded me very much of the setting of Woburn with its tall pines, and undulating fairways that rise and fall like the runway of a rollercoaster, while the back 9 open out more enjoying elevated views of the surrounding countryside. I love the fact that you pass the halfway house, not once, not twice but three times during your round - it's almost as though whoever put it in its place knew that the passing golfer would be weary after a long walk up to the previous green!
I won't bore you with the ins and outs of every hole as that is part and parcel of going to play a new course and the fun of discovering what the layout looks like for yourself, but what I will say it that I was extremely impressed with the conditioning of both courses, in particular the very lush green fairways which were like carpets and so perfect that you almost found your ball teed up for every shot - ideal for sweeping those woods away. The greens were also very true, although not particularly speedy on my visit, but in fine condition.
I've never been a golfer who needs to warm up for hours on the range before I tee off but at Brocket Hall you can't help but want to spend time practising before you play as the facilities at The Palmerston Academy are so impressive. Along with a lovely wide driving range there are several large short game practice greens to challenge your chipping, pitching, bunker play and putting. There is also a fantastic par 3 course, which is perfect for beginners and juniors to learn the key skills.
After you've finished your round or spot of practice you'll enjoy sipping a drink on the terrace outside the Clubhouse with its relaxing views out over the Broadwater Lake. If you come away with kids they will have fun playing 'giant chess' on the outdoors board or a game or boules.
No stay at Brocket Hall would be complete without treating yourself to a meal in the fine-dining restaurant Auberge du Lac. You have to hop on the little foot passenger ferry over the water again to get to the restaurant and what a wonderful reception and meal awaits. This truly is five-star dining in a five-star setting. There aren't many tables so booking is a must but the cosy atmosphere with big comfy seats and round tables, or if it's a lovely evening outdoor dining at the water's edge, make the perfect setting for a special occasion. On my visit there was the choice of a mouth-watering six course tasting menu partnered by wines, which I always think is the perfect antidote for those who just don't know what they fancy to eat, as well as a very sumptuous fine-dining menu. The wine cellar is also very comprehensive, although my only word of warning is to arrive with deep pockets as the cheapest bottle of wine on the menu is £50, and many bottles are priced at hundreds!
I arrived at Brocket Hall with big bags under my eyes and a much underused set of golf clubs and I left with a big smile on my face. A smile for the enjoyment had playing two very fun and user-friendly golf courses, for a wonderful restful night's sleep in a grand hotel room and for the meal and relaxation enjoyed overlooking the most serene setting beneath the Hall at the water's edge. It's easy to see why so many former Lords and Ladies made this their home, it really is a very special place, and one if you are lucky enough to be able to escape to for a short break, will not disappoint.
Unlimited warm up at the Palmerston Golf Academy
£150 per person weekends
Tee times available on allocated visitor's course anytime midweek and from 12pm weekends / Bank Holidays.
Tee times from 4pm, Monday to Sunday.
Maximum of 8 golfers.