Situated to the north of the small town of Banstead in Surrey, the course at Cuddington Golf Club is set out on 166 acres of fast-running and free-draining downland. It lies less than an hour’s drive from the centre of London but the hustle and bustle of the capital appear a million miles away once you’ve driven through the gates to the clubhouse.
The famous golf architect Harry Colt designed the course in 1929, with John Morrison, one of Colt’s associates, overseeing the construction of the layout by Messrs. Frank Harris Bros. from Guildford. Back then, the combined length of the holes stretched to 6,000 yards, playing to a bogey of 78, compared to the modern day par of 71.
Over the years, the many thousands of saplings planted back in the 1930s have grown into mature trees, defining the tree-lined fairways that now characterise the course. Major developments in recent years include the creation of a new practice area in 1967 and the upgrading of all eighteen greens to USGA specification in 1999.
Unusually, a round at Cuddington starts with a couple of par five holes, both of which dogleg right from tee to green. Golfers face the first of five short holes on the card at the tightly-bunkered 4th, where a dense line of trees flank the left side of the hole, before a pair of long, punishing par fours follows soon after at the 6th and 7th.
The back nine is no less challenging, even though it plays slightly shorter with par three holes at the 11th, 13th and 16th. Again, there are demanding back-to-back par fours to be faced at the right doglegged 14th, rated stroke index 2, and the left doglegged 15th, where a handful of fairway and greenside bunkers conspire to protect par.
The round ends in fine style with the 420-yard 18th climbing steadily towards the clubhouse. The tee shot has to find its way past a couple of new fairway bunkers then the approach must avoid the recently reshaped bunker to the front left hand side of the home green. Anybody walking off here with a net “4” on their card will be absolutely delighted.
Cuddington is a downland golf course and as such not a typical Surrey layout. Recent tree clearance has created a glorious open vista and feeling of space with excellent views of London and some of its well known sites from the attractive olden-style clubhouse which is sited on higher ground. The last three holes of the front nine are played on the other side of a busy suburban road and require a bit of walking between tees, but otherwise the Golf Club is self-contained. We played in the middle of a particularly hot and dry summer, and the wide-open fairways set on chalk are reassuring with the ball running a long way.
This typical Harry Colt course now approaching its Centenary, having started life in 1929, is not however a pushover. Sure enough playing from the white tee blocks at 6600 yards in the conditions is pleasant rather than overly arduous, but the bunkers (highlighted by 3 trademark cross bunkers at the Stroke Index one hole, the 460 yard 7th) are large and very strategic. The greens are excellent and roll at a comfortable pace, and the fairways and teeing areas are in good order.
I like golf courses that start with a longer hole, it gets play moving and hopefully allows a big booming drive from the first tee to get one’s golfing juices flowing. And Cuddington starts with two par fives and then a 440 yard par four, all with sufficient challenge and the perfect introduction to the course’s character. There are two excellent short holes on the front nine, the first at 4 is a stern uphill test well protected by bunkering at the front, and the 8th is a more straightforward proposition to another good green. And in my view, the aforementioned 7th hole is probably the best hole on the course, a genuine two-shotter to a long green.
I preferred the longer front nine, but two more excellent par threes on the back nine at the uphill 12th of just 140 yards and the 200 yard 16th kept things interesting as does the par five 17th which is surely reachable in two by big hitters. The final hole comes nicely back to the clubhouse with an uphill challenge that seems more than its 420 yards.
As is a well known, Surrey is indeed blessed with many magnificent golf courses, the county punches well above its weight in this regard. So a placing of 25th in the County List is no mean feat for Cuddington, although in my view this golf course deserves a top 20 rating. It is a great location in which to play the game, and the visiting golfer will enjoy the downland splendour and spacious feel that in turn provides a happy golfing experience.
Decent parkland course in good condition. Good venue for a society event but there are few memorable holes. Wide fairways, good greens, pleasant but not inspiring.
Cuddington may only rank 25th in the county but this just goes to show the impressive strength in depth of Surrey golf where the top 20 courses all feature in the English Top 100. While the course doesn't quite reach those heights, Harry Colt succeeded in designing a particularly interesting layout draped over a challenging and gently undulating area of downland.
The course opens up with two good par fives providing an opportunity to get off to a fast start. Skilfully placed fairway bunkers demand accuracy right from the off and this is a theme that continues throughout the round. After crossing the road, holes 3-5 are found on a separate triangular piece of land. A good drive on the downhill 3rd leaves an approach shot that must avoid a gathering bunker to the right of the green. This is swiftly followed by the first of five par-3's, which plays to a well guarded slightly raised green. Both are good holes. Following the relatively straightforward 5th we cross over the road again to face two of the strongest holes on the course. Both the 6th and 7th stretch out to around the 450-yard mark, the challenge heightened by a line of diagonal cross bunkers on the 7th which are a particularly attractive design feature.
While there is no shortage of good golf on the front nine the four road crossings do break up the flow of the round somewhat and I slightly preferred the routing of the back nine which has none of these issues. The quirky downhill 10th with a deceptive sloping green wasn't a favourite but the short 11th, playing to a raised and well protected green is a fine hole. I really enjoyed holes 14 - 16. A tough dogleg right is followed by a picturesque and much shorter dogleg left at 15 which offers some respite before another excellent par three playing 200 yards to a green guarded by three bunkers and an interesting grassy swale.
The uphill 18th provides a strong finish to the round at 420 yards. Again bunkers must be avoided but a par here will provide a very satisfying conclusion to any round.
In recent times many hundreds of trees have been removed to recreate some of the original characteristics that Harry Colt would have recognized back in 1929. The work has been well received and the next phase of improvements could well be directed at the bunkers which would certainly benefit from a sympathetic Colt style restoration.
I really enjoyed my day at Cuddington and would expect to see continued improvement in the coming years.
A classic downland course, plotted on rolling terrain in the heart of Surrey.
The chalk based soil provides excellent drainage and gives members good playing conditions all year round.
Like many UK courses, Cuddington has recently completed a substantial tree clearance project to remove 2000+ trees which, although quite divisive amongst the members, I think works well. As you’d expect, the areas that have been cleared are still recovering, but when the tiger rough grows up to flank the fairways in summer, it will look wonderful.
The greens are USGA spec and although good, are not quite what they were two years ago, but I suspect most courses have been impacted by the exceptionally dry summer and equally wet winter last year.
There are some very good holes including the par 4 6th, 440 yards uphill into the prevailing wind. It statistically plays the second toughest on the course despite being SI 13.
The 7th is a great signature hole at 459 yards (SI1) and with 4 Colt cross bunkers to contend with from the tee.
In my view the course would benefit from reshaping and improving some of the existing bunkers, and also adding some to improve both the visual aesthetic and challenge (a la Effingham).
Cuddington is a nice course, with a great club house and friendly, welcoming members. If you’re in the area it’s definitely worth a round.