In 1907 18 holes at Burhill Golf Club were ready for play. This was a huge achievement as Willie Park and his team had designed and built the course in just five months. The club gained enormous publicity as regular visitors included royalty from around the world and a collection of Dukes, Earls and Lords from these shores. Amongst the gentry was Rupert Guinness (2nd Earl of Iveagh) and today the Guinness family are still proud owners of the Burhill estate.
The magnificent Georgian mansion was originally built in 1726 as a private residence and today it’s home to the clubhouse, restaurants and conference rooms. It’s also a very popular wedding reception venue.
The Burhill estate is full of history and in 1940 The Ministry of Aircraft Production took charge of the clubhouse. This is where Barnes Wallis set to work and created his legendary 'Bouncing Bomb'. Today, in and around the clubhouse, there are many references to Wallis and his historic wartime contribution.
Today’s Old course at Burhill can be described as parkland with a sprinkling of heathland for good measure. There is a great variety of mature trees and a heather regeneration programme is now underway. After an average start to the course, the Surrey theme kicks in from the 4th tee and then there’s a string of good honest holes that have a rather familiar feel to them… certainly familiar to those who’ve played other Surrey courses. One of our favourites is the 7th, a nice right to left par four that measures a little less than 400 yards. The lowered green needs careful reading because it possesses some very subtle breaks indeed.
The original bunkering at Burhill is brilliantly strategic and even with the modern game they still seem to be in the right place to capture any wayward shots. The management team are currently assessing the bunkering with plans to enhance the existing traps and add a few subtle new ones. Burhill will not get any easier!
Burhill’s greens are quite beautiful; most are fairly small but in pristine condition with the tricky slopes and undulations a big feature. Take heed of local advice: “they all slope towards the River Mole!”
Special mention goes to Ryder Cup star Paul Casey who joined Burhill in 1992. During his time at the club he became the 1995 Surrey Junior champion and in 1997 the Colts champion. Paul has been added to the honorary life membership list.
Burhill seems to have slipped out of the limelight in recent years and has been overshadowed by many other great courses in Surrey. We tend to agree that Burhill is set just behind some of the Surrey heathland stars, but it’s not that far behind and, with a little TLC, the gap should start to close.
The Old course at Burhill is certainly worth a visit and it makes a pleasant change from the obvious courses in this locale.
Both courses are Burhill are somewhat overshadowed by their numerous high profile Surrey neighbours, particularly St George's Hill which is only a couple of miles away. Having said that I really enjoyed playing the immaculately presented and challenging Old course which I personally preferred to the New. The combination of high quality sloping greens and excellent bunkering make for a good test even though it's not particularly long. Most of the bunkers look fantastic and frame the greens beautifully as well as creating a strategic challenge on the fairways. The par 3's are also good and I loved the two short par 4's which both offer good birdie opportunities. On the pretty dogleg 4th you must position your tee shot well to open up the green, before avoiding the greenside bunkers on your approach and the driveable 12th has an unusual sunken green to negotiate. Beginning at the 15th, the tough finishing stretch is particularly memorable and includes three par 4's measuring well over 400 yards. The new halfway house was having its finishing touches applied during my visit so I didn't get the chance to try it out this time around but it did look very pleasant. The course gets a 4-ball rating from me but falls somewhere between 4 and 5 in reality. Brian W