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Walton Heath Golf Club Feature Review

By: Matt Holbrook | Wed 21 Jul 2021 | Comments


Review by Golfshake Ambassador Matt Holbrook


Brimming with history, Walton Heath Golf Club boasts two exceptional, world renowned championship heathland courses.

As recently as 2018, a composite of the Old and New Course was showcased in the best way possible as Justin Rose hosted the British Masters at Walton Heath to add to the ever-growing list of high-profile events to be held at this venue.

This list also includes the popular US Open Qualifying where participants battle it out over 36 holes to earn a spot in the field. The 2005 US Open Champion Michael Campbell famously won the event after qualifying from Walton Heath.

Between the 70s and 90s, Walton Heath also hosted five European Opens, the Ryder Cup in 1981, and more recently the English Women's Amateur Championship in 2000 and the Senior Open in 2011.

Created by Herbert Fowler, the Old Course was opened for play in 1904 with renowned course designer and five-time Champion Golfer of the Year, James Braid serving as the club's first professional, a position he held until 1950.

The New Course followed in 1907, originally as a 9-hole layout, before it was extended to 18 in 1917 to complement the Old Course.

Located in Walton on the Hill - just a short drive from the M25, Walton Heath offers great transport links to those that are either driving or using public transport and sits on the popular 'Surrey Golf Belt' and is most definitely the jewel in the crown of the local area.

Pre-Round Thoughts

Walton Heath

Naturally, you don't head to a venue such as Walton Heath without knowing some of its history, so the trepidation is already steep upon arrival.

Once checking in at reception you can get lost in the world of the traditional locker room which is flourished with old photos of players such as Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus from the 1981 Ryder Cup.

The pro shop is suitably stocked with crested apparel along with other keepsakes for you to ponder, but also all the golfing necessities.

The large putting green is a must visit to get acclimatised to the speedy surfaces and there is also a sizeable chipping green and a couple of indoor nets that are also available to use to get that pre-round feel.

There is also an adequate bar menu on offer, whether it be for pre or post round - or maybe even both!

THE OLD COURSE

Walton Heath

Not sure you'll find a tougher start. At 235 yards - comfortably the longest of the par 3s across both courses - the 1st on the Old Course plays every bit of its yardage with deep punishing bunkers ready to grab anything short left or right. A 4 here really will feel like a good result.

As you cross the road, the next six or seven holes run down the left-hand side of the plot of land where 35 of the 36 holes rest. The theme is not to miss left but each hole offers up some variety.

The lengthy 2nd drops away from the tee and back up to the green, and while the tee shot might be slightly forgiving, the second shot is semi-blind, so club choice is critical. 

Some respite from the length does come at the 3rd, where at 289 yards, longer hitters may decide to have a pop at the well-guarded par 4 green in one, but well-placed bunkers are ready to pounce.

The 5th has a cracking approach shot into an extremely undulating green that sits below the fairway and your first taste of a par 5 doesn't come until the 8th.

At a shade less than 500 yards you'll be mistaken for thinking it’s an easy ride. With a stroke index of 3 the tight fairway and ideally placed fairway bunkers will need to be navigated all the way up to the green which is protected by bunkers either side and a steep bank on the front. With run-off areas at the back of the green there really is no place to miss. On paper it may not seem tough - but we don't play golf on paper!

The 11th is a cracker of a par 3 - made famous by Eddie Pepperell making a hole in one during the British Masters, and whilst the 12th is a little bit shorter, position from the tee is critical in giving yourself a good chance at finding a narrow green.

The back 9 definitely thumps into life with three par 5s in the space of four holes - with all three ranging from 510 to 512 yards from the white tees.

The 13th is your dogleg, turning pretty much 90 degrees to the right. Naturally, the bunkers down the right-hand side of the fairway push you away from your end destination and another fairway bunker 120 yards away from the green also has to be negotiated.

The 14th is your dead straight, tight, narrow offering. Six bunkers between tee and green making those first and second shots even more demanding.

Finally, 16 is the tempter. A good tee shot will leave you a great sight of the green - but anything short on your second shot will roll away and more than likely end up in the largest greenside bunker with a face twice the size of your average man.

After the long par 3 17th, your attention is drawn to the finisher. A quick thought to all those who have graced these fairways before you.

Finding the fairway is crucial as the bunker that runs the entire width of the fairway around 60 yards short of the green needs to be covered but is also a sight to behold. A great and fitting finish to a stunning golf course.

THE NEW COURSE

Walton Heath

The start to the New Course is almost a polar opposite from that of the Old. Whilst the two courses both start with two holes at a combined par of 7, the length is 686 Yards on the Old Course compared to 424 yards on the New.

Starting with a gentle par 4 at just 286 yards, a driver may not be needed with a generous fairway to go for. The hole turns from right to left leaving you a nice shot into a fair-sized green to get you underway.

A 138-yard par 3 is next up and whilst the surrounding four bunkers look menacing, a nice shot to the centre of the green should be number one priority before the challenge really sets in.

You get your first sighting of a fairway bunker protruding on the 3rd, the first time your thought process from the tee really comes into question.

This happens again on the 5th, where the tee sits at an angle to the fairway that moves from left to right. Picking a line is so critical but again, two small looming fairway bunkers hardly in sight are ready and waiting for anyone that thinks they can outsmart this hole.

The 7th is a great par 4, blind but fairly forgiving from the tee but a superb green complex awaits. Whilst a fairly big target, the lumps and bumps that cover the putting surface makes you feel a three putt may be a good result!

Mirroring the Old Course, you have to wait until the 8th for your first crack at a par 5. The danger here comes on the second shot, whether you're having a go in two or not, the plethora of bunkers are ideally placed, so playing short of them is probably the smartest play.

The 11th hole is in possession of the deepest fairway bunker you're ever likely to see, just 10/15 yards short of the green - also, due to its nature, it's blind over your approach shot.

The par 5 13th is a tad under 500 yards and whilst it is attackable there is a narrow entrance to the green for those having a go.

The tee on the 14th maybe doesn't send you in the best direction, The bunker looks a good line but there is plenty of room to the left where you'll catch the slope and chase a bit closer to the green that sits below the fairway.

The 16th is another strong par 5 - with a split in the fairway coming into play at some point depending on the length you possess. If you hit a good tee shot here it’s worth having a go in two as, for once, the green isn't surrounded by bunkers.

The finishing hole runs adjacent to that of the Old Course and has a similar feel to it. From the tee, the fairway drops away and back up to the fairway, and the bunker running through the middle of the fairway just short of the green might not be as menacing but would still provide problems for anything that doesn't get clear.

Post-Round Thoughts

Walton Heath

Both courses are of superior standard. The condition of all 36 holes is flawless and given the location and land it's excellent all year round and can take as much water as you could throw at it.

The challenge at Walton Heath comes in three parts.

Firstly, whilst I found the fairways to be wider than expected, you only have three or four feet of first cut before you hit the heather and gorse, and this is the main defence.

If you end up in the heather, and I'm sure at some point you will, you really have to take your medicine and just get the ball back in play. Any attempt to try and advance the ball too far will land you in a whole world of trouble as I found out on a number of holes.

It makes the course what it is, so very easy on the eye but seriously don't be fooled.

Secondly, the bunkers. Every hole has well placed bunkers, avoiding them is both a tough challenge, but also a fun challenge. It’s how golf has been played for centuries and in my opinion, I think you'll actually be disappointed if you didn't visit a few so you can really test yourself.

The greenside bunkers tend to be deep, whilst the fairway bunkers are so well thought out in design and placement that they lure you into thinking you still have half a chance.

Thirdly, the greens.

To look at and play into, they seem fairly big. Probably bigger than you'd expect and bigger than courses you may be used to playing. So, what's the challenge? Undulations like you couldn't imagine.

This mixed with the pace means you have a three-pronged test. Yes, you might find yourself hitting more greens than you would expect BUT two putting is never a forgone conclusion.

Who will enjoy a visit? In short, everyone.

Low handicappers will really love the test and plotting their way around and if they have a sharp short game may even post a half decent score.

High handicappers may lose a few balls and three putt a few times, but you know what, that won’t take away from your enjoyment. Yes, it’s a tough couple of courses, but you'll hit a few shots during the day to hang onto and just enjoy the experience.

Verdict

Walton Heath is a high-class venue. It offers an experience that isn't going to be matched by many. Yes, it comes at a price but what top experiences don't? It really is bucket list stuff, and I can see why it is Highly Recommended on Golfshake.

If you like top-end golf courses and experiences then make sure you give yourself the chance to experience everything Walton Heath has to offer.

Overall Rating - 10

Course (Conditions) - 10

Course (Hole Variety/Layout) - 10

Course (Green Condition) - 10

Course (Challenge/Difficulty) - 9

Club Facilities & 19th/Clubhouse - 10

Practice Facilities - 9

Friendliness/Hospitality - 10

Pace of Play - 10

Value for Money - 9


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