The course at Scotland Hills came about when a sufficient acreage of land was leased from the War Office, allowing Harry Colt to set out eighteen holes which were built by the architect’s construction company of choice, Franks Harris Brothers.
The layout was officially opened in July 1927 with a match between club members and the Buffs Golfing Society and at the first AGM the following year the membership was informed that the final costs of building the course and the clubhouse amounted to £7,500.00.
Interestingly, Douglas Grant, the first Club Captain at Canterbury, was an American who had collaborated with Jack Neville on the design of the course at Pebble Beach towards the end of the First World War, but he played no part in fashioning the fairways of his new English club.
The club suffered a major setback in 1938 when its mainly wooden clubhouse was burned to the ground overnight and everything inside was lost to the flames. Thankfully, nobody was injured and temporary accommodation was soon put in place until a new building was erected.
Over time, the original heathland traits of the layout have been replaced with more parkland aspects as trees bounding the fairways have matured. This now presents a woodland golf setting on a rolling landscape where Natural England has designated substantial areas of the course as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Today, the course extends to a modest 6,272 yards from the back markers, playing to a par of 71, and a round here starts and finishes with a par five, both of which offer a reasonable birdie chance, despite the fact that they dogleg slightly uphill from tee to green.
Highlight holes include the recently extended par three 5th (where tree clearance has helped improve playability), the 452-yard 10th (the longest par four on the card), the signature 12th where the fairway falls from the tee then rises to the green, and the long par three 17th, played to a distinctive raised green.
Canterbury is a pleasant walk and round of golf although not exactly strategic, besides risking tree trouble with driver or playing safely with irons – or playing irons into trouble if you’re like me. It’s not the narrowest of courses but it requires a solid punch-out game.
The highlights are indeed the par 3s, all besides the 8th would fit well into some famous courses in Surrey – give or take some heather. There are shadows of Canterbury’s old heathland left, with bracken visible plus the tiniest amount of gorse. It has a good mixture of ups, downs and hanging lies. There are some interesting green-sites and some bland ones.
So whilst being a decent layout, it feels like there’s some missed potential or its hey-day was before the heather faded. Buying a chainsaw and nurturing some wispy fescue would elevate its more mediocre holes. As things stand I’d put Canterbury slightly behind North Foreland, Blackheath and Hever in Kent’s rankings.
Fun little course with some very good par 3s. Course is not that long and you get punished alot for a good drive , so playing tactfully is the way to score well. Enjoyed the par 5's but the opening hole is one of the strangest I've started with.
On the whole its an above average course but don't think i would return.
I've played at Canterbury a few times now, a couple of times during their popular Open Week and also as a casual visitor. It's a traditional club, but doesn't feel stuffy and we have always felt the atmosphere was welcoming.
Probably one to avoid in winter and wetter weather though. Also, take some insect repellent. The mosquitos seemed to be everywhere, especially on the 7, 8 and 9. Some attractive holes and some tough challenges. The par 3's are all different; the 11th is a stunning short hole and if you managed to find the green with your tee shot on the 17th you'll feel pleased. I've messed up the 10th every time I've played it and for me the 12th and 15th are two more great golf holes.
Length isn’t everything. This is a golf course that the modern day golfer, including the best players in the world, could not just blaze away at and find some rough and hack on to the green. If you miss the fairway at Canterbury in most spots, you are losing your ball. Irons, positioning and strategy are the only way to negotiate this tricky little course. Conditioning could maybe a be a touch better but don’t know what kind of budget they operate with.