THE MANOR OR GROVES GOLF CLUB – THE EARLY YEARS

In the 1980s the Manor of Groves was owned by the Scott family who bred the Grove Herd of pedigree South Devon Cattle on the estate, the family and the herd moved to Gloucestershire in 1988.

Grove Hadrian in front of what would become the 12th green.
Cattle grazing on the field that would become holes 1 to 3 and 13 to 18.
The entrance road, hole 9 is now on the left hand side.

The main house, surrounding fields and other properties where put up for auction, the pictures below were taken from the original sales brochure.

Front of the main house in 1988
The Colonnade and garden
Areas for sale

Lots 1 and 2 where purchased by the Sharer family, trading as Longmont Leisure, and in 1988 a planning application was submitted to convert the main house into a 30 bedroom hotel.

Below are the extracts from the planning section of the East Herts Council website.

C/U FROM DWELLING TO 30 BEDROOM HOTEL REINSTATEMENT OF ENTRANCE PORTICO CONSERVATORY NEW EXTENSIONS AND CHANGE OF USE FROM PARKLAND TO 9 HOLE GOLF COURSE.

The Manor of Groves High Wych Sawbridgeworth

Ref. No: 3/88/0721/LB | Received: Thu 21 Apr 1988 | Validated: Thu 21 Apr 1988 | Status: Decided

A further application was submitted in 1989 for the additional 9 holes and the erection of the clubhouse.

USE OF LAND FOR PROVISION OF ADDITIONAL 9-HOLES TO GOLF COURSE LAYOUT OF HOLES AND LANDSCAPING THERETO ERECTION OF CLUBHOUSE AND LAYOUT OF CARPARKING – AMENDED SCHEME.

Land West of Rucketts Hall Lane The Manor of Groves

Ref. No: 3/89/0120/ZA | Received: Fri 21 Jul 1989 | Validated: Fri 21 Jul 1989 | Status: Decided

The hotel opened as an upmarket establishment and the restaurant was in high demand.

Work started on the golf course in 1988/89.

Construction of the 8th green
13th Green
2nd Green

The golf course formally opened on the 1st April 1991 with a simple subscription membership, those interested paid £250 joining fee and from memory £7 every time they played; pay and play was also available.

Part of a large green wooden hut adjacent to the hotel, situated where the hotel extension is now, was converted into changing rooms the pro shop and a small bar, many of our older members will remember that thanks to a calculation error by one of the owner’s sons strong lager was remarkably cheap.

Initially hole 3 was the 18th (18 was the 3rd).

A fancy brochure was produced to promote the opening of the club ( The Manor of Groves Golf and Country Club ) but the original subscription proposals, £6,000 joining fee and £1,200 annual subscription met with a poor demand and this was revised to £1,200 joining fee and £700 annual subscription (plus VAT). This was a basic rate and other options were available but only single, joint, or family memberships were offered. Some executive memberships were also available where the joining fee was £6,000 but annual fees were reduced by 50%.

Only members and their guests were allowed to play, no societies, no visitors and no 5 day memberships.

Golf Club Brochure Cover
Original golf course layout
Original golf course information
The clubhouse design from the brochure that was never built
Inside the dream
Inside the dream 2

Although the promised clubhouse was never built, what was built was a very special place and everything was provided for you, you just turned up to play, eat, drink, play snooker if you wished and go home.

The drinks were reasonably priced and the food good and inexpensive, there was both a chef and a cook and all the bar staff were smartly attired.

The entrance to the golf club was through what is now the entrance to the Exchange, the pro shop with a traditional shop front was on the right, and offices to the left.

Old golf club entrance, the pro shop is on the left of the picture

This led through double doors to the bar area, there was a reception desk to the right and a central bar surrounded by bar stools.

The central bar – we loved it!
The central bar again.
New Years Eve fancy dress party, our round bar again.

Two wings led off from the bar area, to the left was the main function room and to the right a cocktail bar with a 70 seater grill restaurant.

A ladies lunch in the old function room
An evening meal in the function room after a Texas Scramble
Trophy presentation evening in the function room

At the rear of the club house there was an open patio area where the conservatory is now.

The patio with built-in barbeque
Another view of the rear of the club house before the conservatory was built

What is now the ladies changing room was a snooker room with two snooker tables.

Unfortunately, because of water ingress to the snooker room the tables were moved to the grill room and the snooker room was abandoned.

The grill room was cut in half and became a breakfast bar. We lost the cocktail bar and grill restaurant.

One small room in the club house contained basic gym equipment and there were two saunas, one in the men’s changing room and one in the ladies’ changing room, but they were not connected to the electricity supply so they were never used and ended up being used as storage cupboards.

In the grounds, apart from the golf course there was a tennis court and an outdoor swimming pool (now filled in), both situated in the gardens between the 12th and 13th holes.

The swimming pool in the gardens between the 12th and 13th hole.

The golf course was very much as it is today although there were some differences.

The parkland holes (the 4th to the 12th) had many of the mature trees that you can see today, in addition there were many that were newly planted. Trees to the right of the 4th and the left of the 7th were very small and made these two holes a lot easier to play, any pulled shot on the 7th cleared the trees easily if airborne.

One major change was the 10th which originally played at right angles to the current hole, the tee is now buried under the hotel carpark.

Because of problems with the green the hole was reconfigured and rebuilt in its current location.

The old 10th hole

On the 12th hole the white tee and the ladies tee (par 5 for ladies I seem to recall) were behind the current men’s tee, the drive was almost impossible for most players.

Holes 1 to 3 and 13 to 18 were in an area nicknamed the field by visitors, and the holes lacked definition as can be seen from the picture below.

A view of the “field”

A few changes have been made to these holes over the years, holes 3 and 18 were swapped to the configuration we have today.

The 1st was shortened, the original hole was a blind shot (you couldn’t see the green) to a long par three with a ditch in front of the green, the ditch has been filled in.

The image below has the 18th green on the left, note how small the trees were, and the old 1st tee on the right, the putting green is there now.

The 18th green on the left the original 1st tee on the right

The 16th hole was originally a tough par 4, but it was decided to make it a par 5 as it plays into the prevailing wind.

Over the years the course has matured, and some holes modified with some fairways being realigned, particularly the 17th.

These reminiscences don’t tell the whole story, although it was great while it lasted the idea of an upmarket golf and country club was not viable, not helped by the collapse in the pound on 16th September 1992.

The Manor of Groves, Hotel, Golf and Country Club went bust.

There was a brief period of fun when for a few months the golf club was run by the steward and his wife and a couple of members but eventually the receiver’s representative put in a series of managers, some good some not, and the dream evaporated.

A small group of members ensured that the Manor of Groves was not only a place to play golf but remained a golf club, by continuing with competitions and social events and made sure golfers had handicaps plus all the usual trappings that made the golf club what it is today.

The current owners, who bought the Manor of Groves from the bank, put in all the changes to the hotel and golf club that we now have in order to make it a profitable enterprise.

Most of this is written from personal experience, memory and photographs with some information taken from original documents.

I hope you enjoyed reading it.