Located an hour’s drive southeast of London city centre, the original 12-hole course at Banstead Downs was inaugurated in 1890, with J.H. Taylor brought in some time later to add another six holes.
Authors John F. Moreton and Iain Cumming in the book James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses relate to Braid’s visit in 1932:
“Braid was given, sometimes, very specific tasks to perform. In September 1932, he was invited to consider the problems of the public footpaths and the holes that crossed them.
Banstead has twelve holes on the west and six holes on the east of the Brighton Road, A217. It was the latter holes, 7 to 12, that Braid dealt with, creating a plan with alterations to holes 7 to 10.”
Today, the course has been stretched to 6,581 yards, playing to a par of 71.
Highlight holes include the 419-yard 4th, with a right sloping fairway leading uphill to a sand-protected green, and the 455-yard 15th, which doglegs left to an away-sloping green.
We played Banstead Downs on a wet October day, but despite the conditions the honest nature of the course shone through and we had a good time. The word ‘Downs’ in its title would indicate a golf course of elevation changes but in fact it is remarkably flat and set on chalk downland. It is hard how to exactly describe nature of the course, it is not true parkland, heathland or woodland......probably a mixture of all three.
Course maintenance to the tees, greens and approaches was of a high standard, but strangely was varied when it came to the bunkers. This was not a problem however due to the Covid ‘lift and place within 6 inches’ regulation.
Originally set out around 1890, James Braid left his mark on the course in the early 1900s. The fairways are wide and set among mature trees, and the challenges for each hole are clearly set out. There is also a welcome feeling of space, which considering the fact that it is in the middle of the Surrey commuter belt is no mean feat. All the holes are good, but none stood out, although I particularly liked the long par 4s at 4 7 and 15 and the delightful downhill par 3 at 17.
The negative to the course without which I would rate this course as a solid 4 balls, is the busy dual carriageway which has to be crossed on 2 occasions in order to plays holes 7 to 12. A tranquil place to play golf, Banstead Downs is not, but when the course was first built the motor car had only just been created. In between times, the golf course has been sympathetically modernised without losing its charm, and is an enjoyable place to play the game.
Banstead Downs Golf Course is more than 125 years old, and occupies a superb elevated position based on chalk. I have been a member for most of the past 8 years. The course is an excellent test (especially off the Whites, which have been set back into the trees on several holes), and features an interesting amount of undulation. Almost all holes are fully tree lined, providing complete isolation from the rest of the course in most locations (despite much recent tree clearing). In a harsh winter you will struggle to find a course in the whole of Surrey that matches its dryness and playability. In the summer it runs hard, in a links style. Highlights include a number of rippled fairways, that give a definite resemblance to many links courses. One cautionary note: the A217 has to be crossed twice, which is not as much of a problem as it may appear, but requires some care when doing so. The clubhouse conservatory is modern and bright and the membership are friendly.