This review is not considering conditioning. The fairway grass is pretty sparse right now. Any UK posters know why? It seems grass would grow well in the local climate. There were lots of buggies on the course. I know that doesn't help.
Over the past ten days I played nine highly rated English courses. The one that keeps popping back in my head is The Addington. Keep in mind it is not rated near any of the other courses. I only played this course because of Tom Doak's recommendation in his book. The Addington was designed by J.F. Abercromby - a Golden Age architect who only did about 5-6 courses. The Addington was his masterpiece, much like Pinehurst No. 2 for Donald Ross. Abercromby also designed a second 18 (The New Course) which sadly no longer exists. It was said to be flatter but just as high quality as the original. Can you imagine 36 quality holes at The Addington? It may have been another Sunningdale.
When you arrive at the course you will receive a warm greeting. It is pretty low key. You don't feel it's overly formal like some English clubs. To find the first hole you have to make your way around to the side of the clubhouse. It would be nicer if the patio were facing the 1st tee and 18th green. That's another story. The first five holes are good, but they are the appetizer for the main course. No. 1 is a pretty basic but strong par 3. No. 2 is a thinking man's par 5. You can have a realistic birdie chance but if you flirt with the trees forget it. The fairway slopes right to left and you can easily find yourself there. No. 3 plays 210 yards uphill from the back tees into the prevailing wind. Your 3 wood may not be enough on a cold day. A par is an excellent score. No. 4 & 5 are strong par fours that require your very best to make par. The greens on the opening five holes all slope down the hill. If you wrong side yourself use caution as putts are very fast. I should also mention that the greens were in excellent shape when I played - fast and true.
No. 6 is where the uniqueness of the course shows itself. Short right of the green is the deep P.G. Wodehouse bunker. It must be over ten feet deep. The hole itself is okay but the bunker is outstanding. I was able to drive the green from the yellow tees during wet conditions. Some say it would play better as a drivable par 4. I disagree as there would be many lost balls. No. 7 is an excellent short par 3 over heather. There are some unique trench like grass bunkers to the right of the green. No. 8 is a polarizing hole. Some say it is great while others say it is overdone. Personally I love the hole. Hitting your first and second shots gives one a pleasurable excitement. It is a true challenge to find the fairway from the tee. Once there most likely you have a long shot into a stiff breeze. Make a par and you will be smiling as you walk off the green. No. 9 is a unique par 4 as you have to cross two ravines to play the hole. I should note the bridges. There are I believe nine bridge crossings over ravines all together. I can't think of another course with so many. Skipping to No. 11. It is a testing short par 3 into the prevailing wind. I can almost assure you that work was done with the bunkering as everything around the green is in top shape.
No. 12 is the most polarizing hole on the course. It's a par 5 where you can only safely drive about 220 from the tee. From there the hole cascades down a big hill with heather and humps all the way down. The options are go for the green or lay up to a sliver of fairway. One can see how it's such a polarizing hole. On my second round I tried driver off the tee. I hit a strong and accurate drive right where I wanted and the ball was never found. You need to play it yourself to make a judgement. No. 13 is one of the most challenging par 3 holes anywhere. It's about 230 over a chasm with a left to right wind. A par there is an excellent score. It does feel claustrophobic on the hole. Vegetation should be chopped all around, especially at the front of the tee. It would greatly improve the hole No. 15 is a strong par 4 up the hill. You will need your best to par the hole. No. 16 is another polarizing par 5. It is a downhill roller coaster. What fun it is to see your ball bounding down the fairway. From there you have a realistic chance to go for the green. A lay up is not easy as the fairway is tiny where one would normally play short. 16 would be greatly improved with tree clearing. Compared to original photographs the hole is now much too claustrophobic. Heather instead of trees would also restore open feel, beauty, sunlight and wind. I should note that some tree clearing and heather restoration is underway, so the club must be of the same mindset. No. 17 plays back over the 16th green. Caution below! It is an excellent par 3 of nearly 200 yards over a large ravine. From there your challenge is not over as 18 is a strong 435 yard uphill par 4. The green is hard to hit and a par is a good score.
So why am I rating The Addington highly considering the conditioning is pretty bad? It's because after playing 7 of the top 10 in England the course I most enjoyed and look forward to playing again is The Addington. It's a roller coaster ride all the way around. As his masterpiece Abercromby gave this course great bones. Everything is still there. The routing is spectacular. I would gladly join this club if I were living in London. I can only imagine how good this course would be with an unlimited budget and Doak as the consulting architect. As it stands now it's very good with only conditioning being the weak point. I had a blast playing 36 at The Addington and look forward to playing it again in the future.
5 balls - September, 2019
Date: September 29, 2019