Farleigh Golf Club Feature Review
Farleigh Golf Club is a new golfing development set in an area of rolling hills and expansive parkland on the outskirts of Croydon, conveniently accessible via public transport and just a stone's throw away from central London. Farleigh is the archetypal modern golfing resort, combining a range of services, amenities and off course facilities with a well designed and thoroughly enjoyable 27 holes of golf, open to members of the public at a refreshingly modest price.
As you drive through the gates of the venue and onto the grounds, the character of the course becomes immediately apparent. Long, dense rough lines the fairways of a well kept, undulating golf course that places an enormous premium on accuracy over length. Indeed, Farleigh - comprised of the Red, Yellow and Blue nines - is one of the shortest courses I have played, but stray from the straight and narrow too often and you could lose a considerable number of balls. The course is made for someone who plots their way around, the amateur equivalent of a Tim Clark or Jim Furyk, and many will chose to leave the driver in their bag for most of the holes. It is refreshing, though, to see a course without long, nondescript holes; a course that favours shorter, quirkier holes with strategically placed obstacles. If you keep the ball in play, you can score extremely well. If not, you could be in for a torrid afternoon.
Off the golf course, the facilities are exemplary. The sizeable, open-air driving range exposes you to the elements and allows you to get a real feel for what conditions are like out on the course. The professional shop, located within the main clubhouse, is fully stocked with a wide range of equipment, including golf clubs and shoes to hire from the friendly staff. Adjacent to the pro shop is Nineteen, a bar and restaurant where everyone should stop either prior to or after a round of golf. In the summer, sit outside on the patio and enjoy the sweeping views. In the winter, sit inside and enjoy the comfortable, modern surroundings. The food is excellent and well priced and there are ample television screens, a pool table and, if that wasn’t enough, Europe’s first widescreen HD full swing simulator.
The Yellow Nine
I started my 18 holes on the yellow nine, and the first hole immediately grabs your attention. Drives are hit from an elevated tee, with the green of the par 5 visible somewhere in the distance. The first part of the fairway is flat before turning steeply downhill around the 220 yard mark. You can’t see the second part of the fairway from the tee, but good drives will cascade over the ridge and bring the green into range in two shots. Approaches must dissect a small gap between two greenside bunkers to find the large putting surface, with two putts by no means guaranteed.
The second is a brilliantly designed risk/reward hole. It is only 290 yards, but the green and tee are separated by a massive valley. If you chose to lay up, you only need to hit a wedge or eight iron down the hill to the flat area of the fairway, making sure to avoid an intrusive fairway bunker. The tee, as with the rest of the course, is exposed to the elements, and if the wind is behind, the green is driveable. That being said, trouble lurks everywhere, and anything offline could be carried by the wind and end up in feet-deep rough. The prudent play is a lay-up but – to the credit of the designers - the hole tempts you into taking on a shot you know you probably shouldn’t be attempting.
The ninth is the best hole on the nine. Again, the tee is elevated, and drives are hit to a narrow fairway 100 yards below. There is much to think about on the tee, with a ditch running parallel to the fairway on the right, a bunker and a swale waiting to catch drives on the left of the fairway and a hazard cutting across the short grass with 100 yards left to the green. A great driving hole.
The red nine, in my view, is easier than the yellow nine, and when you look at the scorecard and see no hole longer than 450 yards, you feel you need to take advantage. That, in itself, creates pressure, but there isn’t much trouble over the relatively innocuous first two holes.
The fourth hole is a great little par 3 measuring no more than 115 yards. The green is divided in two by a steep ridge, making it imperative to find the right level. An enormous bunker guards the front right, and two small ponds will catch anything that misses the putting surface to the left of the green. From the tee, the green seems shallow and tricky to hold, exactly the way it should be on a hole of such length.
The sixth is my favourite hole of the nine. As you stand on the exposed tee with panoramic views of the surrounding hills, you know anything other than a perfect drive will land you in serious trouble. Some of the thickest rough on the course lies in wait just off both sides of the fairway. Two strategically placed bunkers - one on the left of the fairway and another 20 yards further up on the right – guard the fairway at the point where dogleg par 4 sweeps to the left. If you manage to dissect the bunkers, a mid-length second remains to well-protected green sloping heavily from back to front.
The seventh is another fantastic par 3, with another significantly downhill tee shot. It is only 150 yards, but when the wind swirls club selection is nigh on impossible. The green is raised and protected in front by a large bunker, and run-off areas surround the front of the green. If you misjudge your tee shot, you will be faced with a tough chip from below the level of the green or a possible plugged lie in the bunker. The green is also very shallow, and a steep bank through the green catches those who have overcompensated from the tee.
If I were to offer a slight critique of Farleigh, it would be that the rough is unnecessarily brutal in places. Another slight issue is that there are no maps on the scorecard or by each individual hole, so some shots are a lottery if you haven’t played there before. That being said, the course is in good condition, there are some brilliantly designed holes, the facilities and clubhouse are first class and the staff are friendly and welcoming.
I, for one, look forward to returning and taking on the blue nine. I would give Farleigh an overall rating of 7/10.
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