Ahead of the 2016 British Masters supported by Sky Sports, europeantour.com breaks down this week’s course at The Grove with the help of tournament host Luke Donald.
Situated near Watford just north of London, The Grove is a luxurious, expertly-manicured championship layout set amidst rolling acres of beautiful English countryside.
Opened in 2003, the course was designed by renowned international golf architect Kyle Philips, who also built the links at Kingsbarns – seen in all its splendour during last week’s Dunhill Links – and Dundonald, which will host the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open next year.
You can see hints of Philips’ love affair with links golf in the wispy grass surrounding the bunker complexes at The Grove and in some of the closely-mown run-off areas around some of the putting surfaces but that is where the similarities end.
The course is undulating and often tree-lined while water comes into play on no fewer than five holes. Indeed, the famous Grand Union canal runs alongside the 12th and 13th holes.
Playing at 7,121 yards and to a par of 71 this week, The Grove’s front and back nine have been flipped for the British Masters – just as they were ten years ago when Tiger Woods won the WGC-American Express Championship here.
In addition to the golf, the complex features an incredible hotel – a former manor house – and hosted the 2009 G20 Summit.
Taking on hosting duties after Ian Poulter spearheaded the British Masters’ return to The European Tour International Schedule at Woburn 12 months ago following an absence of six seasons, England’s Luke Donald says The Grove is the ideal spot for this year’s showpiece.
“The Grove is very close to where I grew up and has a track record of already successfully hosting a World Golf Championships event,” said Donald, who was born and raised in nearby High Wycombe.
“It also has a world class hotel attached to it so it makes perfect sense to hold this year’s British Masters here.
“Like the WGC in 2006, the nines are switched from how the course is usually played. The first hole that the pros play this week offers lots of strategy options. Quite a few guys will risk hitting it over the trees and going for the green. It could create many birdies and the possible eagle, but a few big numbers, too. There are a lot of interesting options on this course.”
THE BEST FAN ANGLE?
“For the best spot to view the action, head to the top of the hill that sits between the fourth and seventh holes. From there you’ll be able to watch all of the golf on holes four, six and seven – a good vantage point to see what’s happening on three holes.
“I played a few holes here in May of this year, just before the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and the course hasn’t changed a lot since 2006. Maybe the odd new tee has been created for a little more length.
“I really think conditions are going to determine the winning score. If we get nice weather then scoring should be reasonably low, but in mid-October you just never know what you are going to get. Either way, it’s going to be a great success and everyone is going to love it.”
FIVE KEY HOLES
The 537-yard par five second
“Only when you reach the first trap on the right the sweeping fairway does the green come into view – then it’s decision time. Do you go for it in two or lay up? The bail-out area is short right of the bunker, from where you have the length of the green to work with if the pin is not cut at the front. Reachable for most of these guys so expect some low numbers early on in a round here.”
The 408-yard par four sixth
“Crack one away exactly between the edge of the trap jutting in from the left and the cedar tree which stands on the hillside by the next tee box. Then remember to pick enough club to fly your approach to the green as a sinister sunken ‘arena’ lies in wait on the front right.”
The 462-yard par four 12th
“A long tough par four. Try to find the haven down the right hand side before taking a shot over ‘Hell’s Lake’. If you miss the green, shaven swales gather your ball and thoughts and you’ll need skill and touch to recover. Tough but memorable.”
The 175-yard par three 13th
“A great little hole. Take a deep breath and be brave – go for it. Short means wet in the bubbling stream, while going over the shallow green means relative safety among the deep dells, but there are few up and downs from in there. Precise, and unnerving for the faint-hearted.”
The 567-yard par five 18th
“Let yourself off your tether and give it a ride off the tee. Don’t fear what is beyond an outcrop of grass which breaks the view to the green – only in gnarly humps on the left is there any trouble. Bunkers short right shouldn’t come into play. Tiger made three eagles here on his way to winning in 2008!”