Members of Coombe Hill Golf Club are blessed to play on one of only a handful of courses designed by J.F. “Aber” Abercromby. It’s said that the master architect spent a great many hours, not only walking the land, but also floating over the site in a hot air balloon, honing his design. In 1911, three years after completing Worplesdon and three years before Addington, Abercromby’s course at Coombe Hill opened for play with the Right Honourable Winston Churchill among the early club members.
“This is another astoundingly quiet and lovely place to find so near London.” Wrote Bernard Darwin in the Golf Courses of Great Britain. “Birch-trees, rhododendrons and heather and fairways that find their way among them, first uphill and then downhill – such is a stranger’s general impression.”
There surely must be something in the Kingston Upon Thames water. Remarkably, Coombe Hill has been associated with famous professionals for most of its history and four of them won the Open Championship: Sandy Herd, Arthur Havers, Dick Burton and Henry Cotton. “People who have never seen Coombe Hill will probably think of it as the place where Sandy Herd was always doing holes in one,” wrote Darwin, “till they grew positively tired of reading the newspapers. Indeed, the scores that Herd did there and the number of times he holed his tee-shot were uncanny.”
The quartet of par threes (two on each half) is a particular highlight, with only the final one-shot hole, the heavily bunkered 147-yard 17th, measuring less than 150 yards. The 6th is the opening par three, where club choice is paramount depending on where the pin is cut on the two-tiered green.
The 9th, affectionately known as “little gem”, measures 185 yards from the tips and it’s one of the best and most attractive one-shot holes in Surrey. A pretty valley separates the tee from the plateau green, which is not only ringed by four bunkers, but also slopes wickedly from left to right. Marking a three on the card here is no easy feat, even for the accomplished player.
The 188-yard 12th is a favourite of many and another delightful one-shotter where you should take a bow if you find sanctuary on the smallest green at Coombe Hill, which has a severe fall away on the left hand side. Coombe Hill is routed in two returning nine-hole loops and measures 6,401 yards from the back tees with par set at 71.
Back-to-back par fives appear at holes 4 and 5, so build your score going out as there is only a solitary par five coming home. The undulating terrain and exciting elevation changes make for thrilling golf, but if you find yourself on the wrong side of pin, especially above the hole, you will do very well to avoid three putting on Coombe Hill’s notoriously tricky greens.
Early in the new millennium, Ken Moodie was called in to oversee a bunker restoration project which eventually resulted in the installation of fifteen new bunkers and the remodelling of fifty-two others. A number of grass hollows and mounds were also created, along with two green extensions and the drainage of three others.
As soon as you turn onto the discreet private road onto the Coombe Hill Estate you know that this is a very special place, and a privilege to get the opportunity to play it. Greeted at the door to the locker rooms by 2 butlers was a first for me a quaint and unique experience. Coombe Hill is one of only a few courses designed by JF Abercromby, who spent many hours walking the land, and overseeing it from a hot air balloon before starting construction. Early members of the course included Winston Churchill and have had the great Henry Cotton as a professional. Teeing off on the 1st with the Shard and Central London skyline in view was unexpected given the surrounding woodland.
Onto the course and what a treat, the pictures do not do justice to the views, not the longest course at 6300 but the undulating tree lined fairways that frame every hole, only enabling a view of the hole you are playing provides jaw dropping moments for golf enthusiasts when walking to a new tee. Hole after hole this place is tremendous, with in my view not a weak hole on the entire course. Now onto the condition of the course, in a word amazing! I have never ever played greens better or as fast and true as here with cups cut sharper than a chefs knife, the fringes and approaches were good enough to be putting surfaces. Bunkers strategically placed and penal if hit off the tee again prepared sharply and perfect. Coombe Hill could be described as a hidden gem but I think more of a well kept secret by those lucky enough to get to play here. In my opinion definately goes into my top 10 courses, if you get the chance play this course jump at the chance.
This is a lovely course that is worth a visit. Not quite heathland like some of its neighbours but this is a course played across some exciting, undulating and beautiful land that is surprisingly close to the centre of London.
Some of the best holes include the long par 4 3rd which doglegs to the left and requires an uphill approach to a tricky elevated green. 7 is a great short par 4 that needs a well-placed tee shot to allow you to attack the green on your second.
8 is a brutal hole. Tight drive with a small pond on the left before a long uphill approach to an incredibly difficult green. Go long on this one and good luck trying to hold the green with your chip!
There are a good mix of holes coming in but I felt that 18 was one of the weaker holes with a completely blind approach that requires more luck than judgement.
The par 3s are often touted as being the strongest holes here and it’s hard to dispute that. 6 is a lovely downhill par 3 with a green surrounded by bunkers. 9 is a long par 3 across a valley - absolutely beautiful and 12 is an uphill par 3 requiring a mid iron to an extremely narrow green with a steep drop off if you go left (from experience, it’s not fun down there).
However, as has been alluded to, the real strength of the course is the greens. These are some of the fastest, most contoured and difficult greens you will find in the UK and playing in the height of Summer (as I always have done here) they are incredibly difficult. I have putted off of a green more than once here!
Overall though, a lovely course with stellar greens. Worth giving this gem a visit.
I am a member at Coombe Hill, which has always been a very private and exclusive Club, but has in recent years become more accessible. An absolutely beautiful course, designed by JF Abercromby, who used a hot air balloon to help him decide how to lay out the course. It has some of the fastest, undulating greens you are likely to find. If you have the chance to play you will not be disappointed.
A 6 ball rating from a member ! No credible ranking list has Coombe Hill in the Top 100 in GB&I so it probably isn't a "6" (or 5.5 or 5 or 4.5).
Coombe Hill is actually a very good golf course. It’s at least the equal of The Addington, Walton Heath New and West Hill, all of which are in the GBI Top 100. I’d also contest that design wise it’s better than Remedy Oak and the Dukes and Marquess at Woburn It’s a serious GBI contender in my opinion and I’m not a member at Coombe Hill. Suggest you play it David and judge for yourself. I'd personally give it 5 balls... it's genuinely very good.
Niall, I'm not saying its not a decent course, I'm saying that using the new ranking system on the website, it is very unlikely that CH is a 6 ball course when it is not even in the top 15 in Surrey. You have given it 5 balls which kind of validates my point. I have played all the courses you specifically mentioned and none are 6 ball courses.
The moment that you arrive you sense you’re in for a very enjoyable day. The entry into the club house via the sumptuous locker rooms give you an indication of what is in store.
It was a real joy to play Coombe Hill, the course was in an immaculate condition, particularly the greens. The stunning scenery with the occasional view of the capitol together with the wonderful presentation of the golf course all helped to make it a memorable day.
Although the course measures 6401 yards, shortish by modern standards, accuracy is essential and the greens are devilishly tricky with their contours and speed. To hit the green in regulation is just not good enough, you have to place the ball in the correct position to have a chance of a single putt. The first time of playing is difficult and that is what makes you want to return.
After the days play sitting on the delightful terrace reflecting on what has gone on before, being catered for by the very friendly and efficient club house staff, you will agree it was well worth the visit. I look forward to having the chance of playing this lovely course once again soon.
Former Ryder Cup Player
British PGA Master Professional
Lovely review Peter and I assume this is the 1977 lytham st.Annes Peter Dawson in which case it is lovely to see an ex professional join us in reviewing courses. I look forward to seeing more.
Also thoroughly enjoyed Coombs.
I have had the pleasure and privilege to play many of the very best courses in the United Kingdom and several around the world too. I really must echo the high praise and excellent compliments that Coombe Hill justifiably attracts. From the moment you arrive at the club to when your visit ends, you cannot be made to feel more welcome. The golf course is fantastic - great greens, the setting and layout are a real treat - I especially enjoyed the par 3 challenges, but the remaining holes are a joy to play too. This was my first visit to Coombe Hill, a delight I look forward to repeating.
One of the advantages of being the co-author of a golf book is that I sometimes get invited to play one of the the top courses, last week it was Coombe Hill. Where do I start to describe this experience? There is so much to praise. At times on the course I felt like I was at Augusta with the slick perfect greens surrounded by rhododendrons. The views of the London skyline in the distance including the Shard and the BT Tower. The super halfway hut overlooking the 9th with its own chef. Then afterwards on the patio overlooking the 18th green, spending time enjoying the splendid, efficient service of the friendly staff. Oh and then there is the locker room. Oh my stars! In summary this place is a must, a little piece of golfing heaven on earth.
“We live in a cynical world. A cynical world. And we work in a business of tough competitors“...
Oh shut it Maguire, maybe I’ll just go play Coombe Hill anyway
Course Layout: First, this has some of the most beautiful and challenging par 4s. Although the 9th hole could be characterized as Coombe Hill’s signature hole, the other par 3s are just as lovely. A handful of folks will not fully appreciate the course given its handful of relatively short par 4s. What makes these shorter par 4s is that it often take a very well placed tee shot to take advantage as the undulation of the greens and firmness make precise shots very important.
Course Location: Proximity to London adds to the rating here. At only 6-7 miles from Central London, Coombe Hill serves as an oasis.
Condition: Some of the nicest, quickest, and fastest greens around. The course is always well maintained.
Difficulty: Although short, missed shots will be severely punished. Firm and fast greens make high GIR a must as scrambling is likely to result in a score above par.
Historical Importance: Eisenhower lived on this course during WW2 while planning D-Day. There is a large crater in front of the 10th tee from a Luftwaffe bomb intended for General Eisenhower.
I spent a perfect Spring day at Coombe Hill in April 2018 (coincidentally, the warmest April day in London in 70 years) - and can honestly say it was one of the most pleasant experiences of my golfing life. This course may lack the one-through-eighteen "teeth" to be considered a true championship test, but if offers a wonderful variety of old-school holes and design values, not to mention perfect conditioning. Similar to classic Abercromby layouts at The Addington and Knole Park, there is a lot of uphill and downhill shot variety at Coombe Hill, as well as at least one blind tee shot. Not every modern golfer seems to favor this type of quirkiness, but these features are a welcome and integral part of the Coombe Hill experience. Do yourself a favor and play a round at this classic course!
There is no doubt that, as soon as you enter the clubhouse at Coombe Hill GC, you get a sense the quality and attention to detail that’s ahead of you. The clever use of space throughout the venue is noticeable in every department, from clubhouse, to practice areas, to the course itself.
There have been significant improvements since I came here 4 years previous, mainly cosmetically, as the new groundsman has a vast and efficient team, who ensure the highest greenkeeping standards are maintained rigorously.
Although the course is restricted by its boundaries, the challenge isn’t compromised, with the most fearsome defence of the course being the undulating, electrifying greens. Despite many holes looking like a drive and a flick on the scorecard, especially by modern standards, the course has an ample amount of trees and thick rough, so keeping the ball on the fairway is more beneficial than a length advantage, to score here - particularly as you’ll need to control your approach shots into the slick surfaces. The lie of the land and design of the holes offer a variety of challenges, as you are faced with numerous elevation changes, which require good judgement and shot selection to land and hold the ball on the greens.
Standout shots include the tee shot on the par three 12th and the drive on the par-5 15th, which invites a soft fade from an elevated tee. The only obvious weak point of this layout is the blind approach to 18, so remember to take a look at the green and the pin before you head out!
For me, this is a really interesting and enjoyable golf course. A round here gives plenty of opportunities to choose different shot types from tee to green and regularly challenges your short game.
A wonderful course , beautifully manicured a great challenge, the green are fast, the Rhododendrons were magnificent. This is best course I have played for many a year. The locker rooms the bar and lounge were of a very high standard and the patio and gardens splendid
Coombe Hill is a thrilling JF Abercromby design that compares well with many, if not most, of the famed nearby Surrey and Berkshire courses that occupy the various top 100 golf course lists. In fact to the untrained eye you would be forgiven for thinking you are playing one of the great heathlands at this flamboyant woodland venue.
The routing of the course is particularly appealing as you make your way through hundreds of English Oak trees, vibrant rhododendrons (at least at this time of year), small patches of heather and various other natural species that adorn this beautiful piece of land. Indeed, apart from the hum of the A3 whilst playing a few holes towards the low end of the estate it is a sea of tranquillity. Considering it is locked in by residential housing (multi-million pound pads to be more precise) you are more likely to be disturbed by a squirrel clambering up a tree or a bird tweeting on your backswing than by anything else.
After a lovely introduction, with a couple of descending yet tricky two-shotters, you play your way up, round and down this golfing playground and teasingly see glimpses of future holes. It’s a fine place to golf.
The brilliant putting surfaces are the main defence of this 6,401 yard, par 71 course. There are a number of tantalising green sites too; the third, eighth, 11th and 14th are four that I will pick out as my favourites. But it is the internal contours of the large greens that really impressed me with the many slopes and borrows to consider when putting. At times you must be conscious of where you place the flagstick after removing it from the hole… just in case!
There are so many good holes at Coombe Hill and the eighth is one of those that simply screams of excellence… The set of short holes is simply wonderful too and just goes to show how this can be accomplished without too much length. The longest is just 188 yards from the stones, two others are within half a dozen paces of that and the shortest a tad under 150, but three of the four play to different points on the compass so there is plenty of variety in actual playing length if there is any sort of a breeze.
In truth, there is very little to be negative about at Coombe Hill.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.