If you've never visited The Addington Golf Club and Mr Spock beamed you onto the first tee, you would never believe you were a mere ten miles from the centre of London. The Addington is an extraordinary heathland golfing paradise. It's a course which has remained virtually unchanged since J.F. Abercromby, the man behind Worplesdon, designed it back in 1914. Many believe the Addington is Abercromby's finest creation.
In the early days, The Addington boasted two golf courses, the Old and the New - 36 of the finest golf holes in England, as good, if not better than Sunningdale. Unfortunately, the New course no longer exists; a housing estate now stands in its place.
The current course is an idiosyncratic affair, with rickety trestle bridges spanning glorious heathland dells. Mature pine and birch trees provide a wonderful feeling of intimacy. It really is a delightful place to be, especially in the winter, because the sandy course drains perfectly and remains bone dry underfoot.
The course measures slightly more than 6,300 yards and opens up with a challenging par three. The 5th hole is a long par four with a slight dogleg to the left. An accurate tee shot is required to the right to the left-sloping fairway. A hanging lie is often the order of the day for the second shot, which is uphill to a well-guarded green. Take plenty of club for the approach shot, which is usually longer than it looks.
Bernard Darwin was a lover of The Addington, especially the new course, which as we have already said, sadly no longer exists. The course we play today remains witness to Abercromby's skill. Or as Darwin said in his book, Golf Between Two Wars: "He had admirable material, the country of sand and heather and birch trees, and with what an artistic eye he used it!"
In 2019, the club appointed Clayton, DeVries & Pont to conduct a long-term course plan with a view to returning the design to its Abercromby origins using historical photography.
The course gets off to a bit of a slow start. I didn’t have a problem with the uphill, par three 1st, played to a two-tiered green with a big back to front tilt – if anything, it was refreshing to begin with something other than the usual humdrum par four or par five hole. That said, there’s a very similar, slightly longer par three played only two holes later at the 3rd so I imagine competitions can quickly become backed up right at the start of the round if golfers struggle for whatever reason to get away from these holes.
The first of The Addington’s trademark bridges is encountered to the right of the 6th green and, although it’s a largely superfluous structure at this hole because you can comfortably walk around the little gully that it spans, this wooden structure (and all the others) add greatly to the ambience of a wonderful course that’s absolutely bursting with character – and later in the round, you’ll be glad they’ve been built to take you across some of the deeper ravines.
For me, the round really got under way at the short, downhill par three 7th, protected by bunkers eating into the hillside on the right and a large fall off area to the left of the green. Immediately following this hole, the par four 8th is somewhat controversial – blind off the tee with a hogsback fairway to negotiate before the fairway veers left to the green – and it precedes my favourite hole on the course, the 375-yard 9th.
This hole requires TWO wooden bridges to get from tee to green: the first takes you across a deep gully to reach your tee shot then, after playing your approach shot at a 45 degree angle left to an upturned saucer-shaped green, the second bridge crosses another bracken-filled ravine to the putting surface – for me, it’s one of the most distinctive par fours I’ve ever played!
The back nine is just unrelenting in the quality of holes that appear in front of you as the fairways are routed across acres of totally turbulent terrain. In particular, the rather eccentric par five 12th, (played blind off the tee then uphill to a plateau green) and the long, demanding downhill par three 13th are as tough a two-hole combination as you will find anywhere.
The par five 16th doglegs left then downhill, with the fairway narrowing to just a few yards in front of the green before dropping off to the right of the putting surface. I’m sure many will think this an unfair design feature but the single digit player in our group (playing the course for the first time) narrowly missed his putt from close to the pin for an eagle so it can’t be that unfair for the better golfers among us.
Remarkably, there’s still time to squeeze in the SIXTH par three of the round at the 17th and again, it requires a little wooden bridge to get from tee box to green, across yet another bracken-infested gorge. The half dozen par threes here, varying in length between 140 and 230 yards, will live long in the memory at The Addington, but then so will so many of the other unique holes on this tremendous one-off layout.
The Addington is a golf course that divides opinion. Some say it is one of England's finest courses. Others regard it amongst the World's best!
Wherever you place it there's no denying that this is a very fine golf course and in many ways a little different to the norm with a few quirks thrown in along the way.
The rule book is flung out of the window at the first hole when the course opens with a par three. It's a great little hole played up a hill with a tricky green and menacing bunker to the right. That said, I'm not particularly a fan of par three's to start the round and couldn't help thinking this would have been an even better hole had it come mid-way through the round.
The second hole is a par five which is then promptly followed by another one-shotter, the second of six short holes throughout the round and one of the reasons the course clocks in at under 6,300 yards.
The fourth, fifth and sixth are all solid par fours before another delightful short hole followed by a further run of three strong yet differing par fours. The short 11th is nothing more than flick with a wedge but the green is well protected by sand.
The closing holes at The Addington are great fun to play.
I liked The Addington very much and the highs were certainly just that but I personally thought there were too many lulls during the round to consider this as a contender for serious world stardom.
Regardless, it is still one of England's shining lights and a fine example of a wonderful heathland golf course. It has a certain uniqueness to it and that alone should be warmly welcomed.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
In my quest to play the Top 100 before I am under the grass (15 to go), The Addington, a heathland course within easy reach of London (and with great views to the city skyline), uniquely features par 3’s to commence both nines. After five rather bland holes, you might well feel that this track has no place on any list but then you reach the par-4 6th hole… and from there, you are in for a real treat. Some absolutely brilliant holes nestling into heathland dells, with the 13th long par-3 and absolute cracker. If the club can find some improvements early in the round, The Addington could sail up the rankings.