With fairways carved from the dense forest at Drift Woods next to Effingham Common, the 18-hole layout at The Drift Golf Club is a mid-1970s collaboration from the iconic Henry Cotton and course architect Bob Sandow.
The golfing exploits of three-time Open champion Henry Cotton are well documented but Bob Sandow is less well known – even though, in many ways, his story is only a little less interesting than that of his illustrious co-designer.
Bob flew with the RAF in the Battle of Britain, was a professional in North America and became the director of golf to the Shah of Iran before returning to the UK to design dozens of courses in the English Midlands and Wales.
The course extends to 6,447 yards from the back tees, playing to an unusual par of 73 (37 out and 36 back), with fairways routed as two returning nines. Highlight holes include short par fours on the 4th and 6th, along with the shortest of the par threes at the 140-yard 16th.
The Drift is a tight little pay and play Woodland course in the heart of Surrey. It’s a relatively short course at 6,443 yards off the whites and almost all the holes are carved out through thick trees, making accuracy from the tee the key to scoring well.
The front nine is flat and largely uninspiring, save the Par 3 3rd, which is actually a very pretty hole, played 182 yards over a pond that is only used for visual effect and not a threat to a semi well struck shot. The 4th is an interesting hole, a dogleg left with well positioned bunkers. From the tee you are offered an array of strategies. Although short at 304 yards, only a perfectly shaped drive will see you threaten the green, so a lay up in the right part of the fairway is the much more sensible option.
The front nine is the longer and narrower of the two and with two 440 yard+ Par 4’s to deal with, holding your score until you walk off the 8th green will set you up for a good round, as the 9th is a gift of a hole in the shape of a 246 yard Par 4. Par is a must here.
For me the back nine is much more interesting and uses elevation to create more intrigue. 11th is a good Par 3, that requires an accurate tee shot. Missing the dancefloor here makes Par very difficult. The 12th is a fun short Par 4 with a blind tee shot downhill to a sunken green and 14 is another good hole, doglegging left, where you need to find the right part of the fairway to have an attacking shot. 18 is a decent closing Par 5, playing 538 yards downhill into a narrow green protected by a tree on the left. Two good shots should see you on or around the green, giving you a strong chance of a birdie finish, so it was a fun hole to settle our matchplay that went down the last.
Overall, The Drift is a summer practice course that does well to enter Surrey’s Top 50. But it’s a course for a fun knock around with your mates, just don’t spray it off the tee, or you will be in for a long round.
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The Drift is a nice enough course with two contrasting nines.
The front nine is played over flat land and is in dense woodland - the holes are extremely tight in places but there are some good holes.
1 is a long opening hole that doglegs slightly to the left.
3 - a lovely par 3 across a pond that doesn’t really come into play. The hole would certainly be made more interesting if the pond was closer to the green.
4 is a short par that doglegs to the left and needs to be played tactically with either a shaped tee shot or one that is laid well back leaving a fuller shot in. This is a good strategic Hole.
5, 7 and 8 are all good holes (if a little similar!) - long and extremely tight with trees blocking anything remotely offline and 6 is an interesting hole - a short drivable par 4 that is blind over the crest of a hill.
The back 9 is much more undulating and a bit more interesting in my opinion. 10 is a long uphill hole that feels as wide at the 1st at St Andrews in comparison to the holes on the front 9!
11 is a nice par 3 with the ground all sloping to the left (it’s not fun down there) and 12 is a quirky hole - blind shot down the hill - this is good fun.
13-15 are all short par 4s that are very tight with the trees on either side but I enjoyed the strategy required for them - particularly 14 and 15 which dogleg severely.
16 was a nice par 3 with a very tricky green that slopes back to front. Everyone in our group managed to put off the green so it is perhaps slightly too penal in the Summer when the greens are fast!
17 and 18 are strong finishing holes with 17 a long par 4 up the hill and 18, a pretty par 5 coming back down it.
Overall, a nice course to play if in the area.
The Drift is very much a woodland course, with in places reasonably tight fairways where running off sideways is the main hazard. It can be fast running in summer, but conversely can get wet underfoot in winter.
The Drift starts promisingly enough with a dog-leg par 4 over 400 yards (possibly the hardest hole on the course) and the third is a goodlooking par 3. A couple of short par 4's (4th is the pick) and reasonable but short par 5's follow, but the short 9th (246 yards) is I think a poor hole (too short for a par 4 off the whites and a par 3 off yellows). Generally the front nine is fairly flat, but the uphill 10th starts a more undulating back nine which as a result tends to be more interesting. The par 3 11th always feels tight as you need to pick a perfect line to avoid trees right and run-off left. I always like the look of the 14th (a sweeping dog-leg left par 4 where positionng off the tee is important) and this is followed by a shorter but tighter dog-leg right par 4. Holes 16 and 17 take you uphill and you finish with a downhill par 5 to the clubhouse, not a finishing stretch to get the pulses racing.
Overall a pleasant enough course to play in summer, but too many short par 4's and maybe lacking any stand-out holes .. suffers in comparison to the large number of quality courses in Surrey.