Teasingly routed through mature woodland

Coombe Hill

Coombe Hill Golf Club

Date Reviewed
May 18, 2017
Reviewed by Ed Battye
Coombe Hill is a thrilling JF Abercromby design that compares well with many, if not most, of the famed nearby Surrey and Berkshire courses that occupy the various top 100 golf course lists. In fact to the untrained eye you would be forgiven for thinking you are playing one of the great heathlands at this flamboyant woodland venue.

The routing of the course is particularly appealing as you make your way through hundreds of English Oak trees, vibrant rhododendrons (at least at this time of year), small patches of heather and various other natural species that adorn this beautiful piece of land. Indeed, apart from the hum of the A3 whilst playing a few holes towards the low end of the estate it is a sea of tranquillity. Considering it is locked in by residential housing (multi-million pound pads to be more precise) you are more likely to be disturbed by a squirrel clambering up a tree or a bird tweeting on your backswing than by anything else.

After a lovely introduction, with a couple of descending yet tricky two-shotters, you play your way up, round and down this golfing playground and teasingly see glimpses of future holes. It’s a fine and plush place to golf with an air of nobility.

Located at Kingston upon Thames close to Central London I visited in mid-May and the course was presented and conditioned to an exceptionally high standard, “just to our members expectations really” the head-greenkeeper nonchalantly told me. The double criss-cross cutting of the fairways and aprons was particularly noticeable whilst the greens were exceedingly true and everything really well defined. Considering the previous day had seen heavy rainfall it was remarkable how well the course played although inevitably some of the sting had been taken out of it.

Length is an advantage but not a necessity at the semi-exclusive, member-orientated Coombe Hill. Essentially the course is a plotters paradise where avoiding the strategically placed bunkers from the tee, which hungrily eat into the fairways, is job one. Job two is then to make sure you leave your ball under the hole with your approach. Job three is simply a case of bringing your putting touch in a futile attempt to master the engrossing greens.

The brilliant putting surfaces are the main defence of this 6,401 yard, par 71 course. There are a number of tantalising green sites too; the third, eighth, 11th and 14th are four that I will pick out as my favourites. But it is the internal contours of the large greens that really impressed me with the many slopes and borrows to consider when putting. At times you must be conscious of where you place the flagstick after removing it from the hole… just in case!

There are so many good holes at Coombe Hill and the eighth is one of those that simply screams of excellence. Not that difficulty is a factor in determining quality but I knew this would be stroke one without even looking at the scorecard. It’s a rising par four of 421-yards that plays to a sloping fairway with two bunkers and a stream to avoid down the right from the tee. Further bunkering must be avoided with what is almost certainly going to be a long, uphill approach played to arguably the best green on the course with an endless number of skews and sways. This hole looks great and plays even better.

The set of short holes is simply wonderful too and just goes to show how this can be accomplished without too much length. The longest is just 188 yards from the stones, two others are within half a dozen paces of that and the shortest a tad under 150, but three of the four play to different points on the compass so there is plenty of variety in actual playing length if there is any sort of a breeze.

However, it is the setting of the holes which make them so very good – pretty as a picture. The first three are not dissimilar in that they are played over dramatic valleys to colourful green settings decorated with handsome bunkering and floral backdrops; the sixth is perhaps the pick of the bunch thanks to its two-tiered, angled green but the ninth can’t be far of being its match. Meanwhile, the short 17th is played to a green on a heathery knob and is a real visual treat.

There are three par fives on the scorecard and all of them are “gettable” with the longest (the fourth) measuring just 512 downhill yards. Two of them are played from elevated tees whilst the fifth has a maximum yardage of just 460 but due to the steep rise up to the green it will play as a three-shotter for most golfers.

There is a little bit more of a heathland feel to some of the holes on the back-nine but essentially this is a mature parkland course that exudes dashing, daring and debonair. It is arguably top of its class.

I really enjoyed the undulating property which uses its changes in elevation really well for the most part and is manicured to perfection. However, there are a few steep inclines which are perhaps just a little too severe which must be tackled head on; 5, 16 and 18 are three that spring to mind. For me these were the weaker holes, including the awkward last, but in the grand scheme of things they are far from poor.

Off the course there is a well-appointed, luxury clubhouse and whilst The Club may lack decent practice facilities the course itself is worthy of much higher praise than it probably receives.

In truth, there is very little to be negative about at Coombe Hill. The heavier soil, compared to the sandy heathlands, will inevitably take some of the firmness out of the course at certain times of the year and make the aerial game more dominant as opposed to presenting different ground options but I suspect for the majority of the season this will not be the case. Ultimately and undoubtedly, if the course was on better terrain (and it isn’t bad as it is), then I am sure Coombe Hill would be spoken about with much more vigour and be more widely recognised. Regardless, it should be anyway.

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