Opened in 1993 the course has a maturity that belies its relatively young age and whilst this isn’t a course for everyone I certainly enjoyed my round here on a dewy September morning. Par is 72 and it can play to over 7,000 yards from the ‘oak’ tees.
During 2017 the course has undergone some major course refurbishments. The striking bunkering in particular has essentially been redone and looks very smart. Most of the sizeable sand traps are back in play now and they undoubtedly help give Chart Hills a unique character.
Admittedly, the condition of the fairways wasn’t great but I suspect this is more to do with them being neglected whilst man hours are spent on the mammoth task of returning all of the bunkers into play. The greens, however, were excellent and ran nicely. The course was more than playable on my visit and I expect everything will be back to top spec for the 2018 season.
We are immediately drawn to the impressive scale and style of bunkering at the opening hole; a grand par five that dog-legs to the right and allows you to decide how much of the desert you wish to chew off. All of the par fives feature a lot of sand and although it is obviously preferably to avoid the fairway bunkers there is still a good chance of playing out of them with a long enough club to advance the ball a fair distance. The 16th in particular is a sandy feast with traps to avoid at every step of the way.
I also enjoyed most of the par fours where a diverse mix of mature oak trees, water hazards and of course more bunkers help defend the holes. I can’t think of a poor two-shotter and although I didn’t really like the blind nature of the drive at the last it has a fine approach where one must try and shape the ball in from the left to a green that runs away from you. I was also undecided on the driveable sixth and would need a few more plays to get my head round it but this is probably a sign that it’s a good hole!
The second and fourth are a couple of strong holes early on where par is a good score and the run of holes from the eighth to the tenth is a fine stretch too; the false fronted green at the eighth is difficult to judge, the bunkering and raised green site at the ninth makes it stand out from the crowd whilst the approach into the 10th is almost links-like in nature where you must feed your ball around a central bunker from the high right side.
Water comes into play on several holes but I mostly found it on the periphery and pleasingly not so much in your face as too many other modern courses tend to rely on. That is with the exception of the 13th where a drive turning left at this most demanding of holes will likely find a watery grave. The water hazard is used really well here though because you must hug the left-side for a shorter approach into this demanding two-shotter.
In my opinion, the weakest aspect of the course is the set of short holes. Not that they are poor but I simply didn’t connect with any of them. The third, seventh and 11th just didn’t grab my attention like the other holes did whilst the island green at the 17th is undeniably charming it’s slightly out of character with the rest of the course.
The routing of the layout that Faldo has created, along with the help of architect Steve Smyers, is very good. Although it returns to the clubhouse after nine holes the two loops intermingle when a lovely triangle of holes at the 13th, 14th and 15th bring us back to a part of the property that we encountered early on in the round.
Overall Chart Hills is a solid, at times spectacular, golf course with some very strong and entertaining holes. It met my expectations and I wouldn’t hesitate to return for another round in the future. Located part way between the Kentish links and the glut of Surrey courses it would make an ideal course to slot into an itinerary of any golf trip to South-East England.
There is something about Elie that puts you under a spell. It is a truly magical links that, after just one round, has won a place in my heart and mind forever.
There’s very little that hasn’t been written about the golfing mecca that is St. Andrews.