Appeared in July/August 2003 LINKS
Presenting a schizophrenic blend of 21st-century luxury and chivalric hauteur, this first-of-its-kind English golf resort has a deceptively modest name of The Grove.
Jacuzzis, plasma-screen TVs and Broadband conferencing are concealed within The Grove’s courtly buildings—one of which dates to 1400 and all of which provided hearth and home to several Earls of Clarendon. Just a half-hour’s drive from London proper, the resort’s grandeur is painted across a 300-acre demesne whose fresh-air pleasures include an aristocratic-looking golf course laid out by the Kingsbarns Kid himself, Kyle Phillips.
Phillips, who’s as hot as a blacksmith’s forge these days, extended the new-meets-old theme of The Grove when he conceived his 7,170-yard parkland design. Today’s technology is all there in the irrigation, drainage and soil mixes, but the course’s visual style and shot characteristics have an artisan feel that will suggest the possibility of Harry Vardon (or maybe Harry Colt) appearing from the mist along its fairways. Phillips strives for the impression that nothing diesel-powered was used to shape his fairways and greens. “I’m looking back at classic British course architecture and trying to create great courses whose artificial landforms are indistinguishable from natural ones,” he explains.
From its Saxon burial ground to its acres of walled gardens, the property surrounding Phillips’ layout fits seamlessly with the streams, boundary hedges and roundabouts of Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, the modest crossroads where this whole fable is set.
But if the scenery is unspoiled, the people who stay here won’t be. And a fair number of them can be put up in the 211 guest rooms and 16 luxury suites. A staff of 350 will unobtrusively guide Grove guests among the resort’s three restaurants and dozen-plus spa treatment rooms, as well as tidy up the croquet lawn and the two 75-foot swimming pools when a day’s play is over.