Review Tandridge Golf Club
The south of England is littered with some wonderful Harry Colt-designed golf courses, and Tandridge Golf Club in Oxted certainly falls into that category. If you’re after the quintessential English golfing experience, the area just to the south of London – within touching distance of the M25 – throws up an array of options, from the likes of Sunningdale, Worplesdon, St George’s Hill and West Hill to Tandridge a little further to the south east. While I’ve been fortunate to play golf all around the UK, and indeed abroad, it’s this area of England where I feel most at home.
I’d never played Tandridge before, but I’d heard many positive comments from a range of golfers – crucially, both members and non-members – before my round. A considerable number of people believe it’s a golf course worthy of inclusion in any top 100 UK and Ireland ranking, and after playing the course, I can certainly see where they are coming from, especially given the renovations that have taken place over the last 18 months or so.
Tandridge is a lovely, typical Colt design with some excellent bunkering and a number of tremendous holes. It’s a layout that flows beautifully and peacefully through idyllic Surrey countryside, with views more impressive as terrain becomes increasingly undulating through the middle of the back nine. That’s not to say the front nine is drab or monotonous – quite the opposite – it’s just the variation, in terms of both terrain and design, makes the back side one of the better sets of holes I’ve played.
I’m led to believe the first hole has recently been converted from a par 4 to a par 5, which I think is a very wise decision. The first is now a relatively mild par 5 and affords you a good birdie opportunity, especially given it plays downhill, but the second is a real brute of a hole. It plays close to 450 yards from the back tees, with an 18th at Augusta-esque channel to thread your ball through. It’s both a physical and a psychological challenge, exacerbated by the fact you can’t see the fairway from the tee. If you pick a line and swing with conviction, you’ll still face a long iron to a small, undulating green that becomes clear as the hole sweeps downhill and round to the right at the 300-yard mark.
In my mind, the fourth and fifth holes are among the best on the course. The first is a testing uphill par 3, with a green that’s angled from front right to back left. As such, the carry is much longer the further left you go, which makes accessing any pin position on the left of the green a thoroughly difficult task. Given the topography, it’s very difficult to judge distance, and a rough-strewn bank short left, a deep trap front centre and trouble long ensure up and downs are hard to come by for those failing to hit the putting surface.
The tee shot on the fifth hole is arguably the most difficult on the course – a product of a narrow fairway and some clever bunkering. A trap on the left of the fairway some 250 yards from the tee is supplemented by another some 10 yards further up on the right of the hole. It’s just a great design, because of the decisions it forces you to make. Lay up short and you’ll have a blind second to a green that’s tricky to hold with a long iron; take on the traps and you’ll be unable to reach the putting surface should you fail to thread the eye of the needle.
The end of the front nine boasts some good variation – including a driveable par 4, a mid-length par 3 and a reachable par 5 – but, in my view, the earlier holes stick more prominently in the mind.
I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the back nine at Tandridge, which is just extremely pleasant when the sun is shining. I think a golf club has to tick a number of boxes in order to be considered worthy of high acclaim: strong design, variation, playability and good setting/scenery – all things that Tandridge can tick off.
The back nine gets off to a very challenging start with the 430-yard par-4 10th. Three bunkers dissect the right side of the fairway around the 300-yard mark, and whilst the majority don’t have sufficient power for sand to be a factor, it really doesn’t look like there’s any fairway to aim at from the tee. To make matters more difficult, a patch of trees on the left of the hole will completely block out any pulled tee shots.
It’s a tough start, but the next two par 4s are relatively placid. You’ll need to pick up some points on 11 and 12, though, as 13 and 14 are holes where pars are extremely hard to come by. The 13th is the best par 3 on the course, but you’ll need a long iron or fairway wood to reach the green. It plays slightly downhill, but a cluster or bunkers short left and a selection of deep bunkers to the right will thwart those who miss the green. You really need to run the ball in to have a chance to holding the putting surface but it’s a very narrow gap, especially given the length of the hole. It’s a great par 3.
The 14th is the most scenic hole on the course. The yellow and white tees are carved into the hill, a good 50 yards – if not more – above the level of a fairway. The views from the whites are exceptional, both of the rolling Surrey countryside and the vast, sweeping fairway below you. It’s a great chance to tee your driver up high and unleash a booming drive, because you want to be as far down the fairway as possible, where it’s flatter. The green is considerably above the level of the fairway, and slants from front left to back right, so coming in with a long iron is simply no fun.
The closing four holes continue to feature characteristics that make the course so alluring – excellent bunkering, strong variation and good visuals. If you add to that good conditioning, accessibility and off-course amenities, the result is a very good golf course. Overall, I’d give Tandridge a rating of 7/10.
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