Three of the best golf clubs just a stone’s throw away from Central London
Words by Robin Cumming
Every golfer in London knows that horrible feeling of dragging your clubs on to a train or tube and venturing off to some far-flung corner of the city or even further afield only to find a vastly overpriced, poor quality and unwelcoming club.
Frustrated with this process, I set out to find my favourite three golf clubs within the M25.
Royal Blackheath Golf Club
My journey started – just nine miles from the City of London – at Royal Blackheath Golf Club in south-east London, which, is thought to be the oldest golf club in the world. Once you have passed through the impressive gates and driveway you will be greeted by the stunning club house, known as Eltham Lodge which provides a fantastic venue for sustenance before your round. One might be forgiven for assuming that a club this old would harbour a stuffy and pretentious atmosphere, however the staff and members greet visitors with open arms and are happy to share stories of the club’s proud history.
The 1892 Tom Dunn design, which also features later additions made by the great James Braid, is an absolute pleasure to play. The course rewards accuracy over power and, whilst set out over flat parkland, provides a really interesting challenge. For me, the highlight was the 18th – an unconventional and potentially driveable par 4. With the 19th hole in sight, you are faced with the option of laying up off the tee or attempting to pass over a small hedge protecting the green with a wood. Your second shot will be watched by on looking golfers enjoying a drink in the club house which adds some excitement, and also pressure, to the end of your round!
The hidden treasure of this club however comes with a visit to the club’s golf museum featuring over 400 years of golfing memorabilia which is worth a visit in its own right.
A: Royal Blackheath Golf Club, Court Road, Eltham, London SE9 5AF
Royal Mid Surrey
The next club I explored was Royal Mid Surrey in Richmond, where I was fortunate enough to be invited to play with a friend in a charity match against some members on the Outer Course, one of Royal Mid Surrey’s two Championship courses.
To the untrained eye, the par 69 track measuring just 6402 yards might appear to be a fairly straightforward challenge however long par 4s, tricky par 3s and monstrous bunkers make this a real test. That said, the scenery is absolutely stunning and the clubhouse welcomes all, providing plenty of hearty fare to fill you up after a round.
The most central of the courses documented here, Royal Mid Surrey is a real treat and highly recommended for anyone looking for some quality golf in South West London.
A: Royal Mid Surrey, Old Deer Park, Twickenham Road, Richmond, Surrey TW9 2SB
The last leg of my whistle-stop tour of London golf clubs took me further afield to Walton Heath in Surrey but, boy, was it worth the trip.
Walton Heath is the only club in England that can claim a reigning monarch as a past-captain (King Edward VII in 1935), not to mention hosting the legendary multiple Open winner James Braid as pro from 1903-1946. As if that wasn’t enough golfing history for one club, Walton Heath played host to the Ryder Cup in 1981 which featured what is generally considered to be the greatest USA team of all time – Nicholson, Watson, Trevino, to name but a few…
My round is preceded by a delicious steak sandwich in the impressive clubhouse overlooking the sun-baked putting green. My meal however does not last long as I am itching to get out onto the golf course.
Unusually, the first hole is a long par 3 which, once successfully negotiated, leads you into a challenging front nine. On a baking hot August afternoon, the heather is in full blossom meaning that anything wayward of the light rough will be swallowed up, and only returned if lucky. The opening 6 holes of this course are a significant challenge which can make or break your score. However make it through unscathed and you are rewarded with the fantastic par 4 sixth hole which the great Ernie Els claims to be his favourite hole on the course, and, frankly, who am I to disagree with the Big Easy.
The back nine provides more of an opportunity to score, with three par 5s which provide welcome respite from the tough front nine. Again, heather, deep bunkers and a track which feels more links-like than heathland, combined with stunning views of the Surrey countryside, provide for one of the finest closing stretches I have been fortunate enough to enjoy.
The Old Course at Walton Heath regularly appears in the top 10 golf courses in England and its stock is rising fast. It now plays host to US Open Qualification events and hosted the European Amateur Championship in 2017. A welcoming atmosphere, fantastic hospitality, but most of all, an incredible golf course makes this a real bucket-list visit for all golfers.
A: Deans Lane, Walton-on-the-Hill, Tadworth KT20 7TP