The Sands is a charming village located around two miles to the east of Farnham in the Surrey Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). In 1896, in this quiet rural English idyll, Farnham Golf Club was founded, and a 9-hole course was laid out on former farmland for the seventeen founding members.
Eight years later, in 1904, the reigning Open Champion Jack White (the then resident professional at Royal St George’s) extended the course to 18 holes, and the following year an exhibition match between White, James Braid, Harry Vardon and Vardon’s brother Tom pronounced the official opening.
Both World Wars took their toll on the club when sections of the course were turned over to food production. In fact, it was eight years after the Second World War before the course re-opened and a match between Peter Alliss and Bobby Locke marked the moment.
Affectionately known as “The Sands”, Farnham Golf Club has consistently flown under the radar, despite being regularly frequented by Gary Player. Measuring a respectable 6,613 yards from the medal tees, Farnham is a heathland cum parkland hybrid, which possibly accounts for its relative anonymity outside the local area. If the entire course occupied heathland it would be bracketed alongside many of Surrey’s household names.
The course starts and ends on the flatter, parkland ground, and the holes in between, on the opposite side of Binton Lane, are routed across the heathland where the ground movement is more stirring. The first of the heathland holes arrives at the 5th and although this is a relatively short par four on the card, the hole is a slight dogleg right uphill to a raised green. The mid-length, one-shot 6th is our pick of the quartet of par threes where finding the small green is tricky, but then reading the putt trickier still.
The last of the heathery holes arrives at #12 and it’s perhaps the best and probably the most scenic. The elevated tee affords panoramic views towards the Hog’s Back, where out of bound threatens ominously to the right on this delightful par four.
Farnham may not have the architectural provenance enjoyed by many of its higher ranked Surrey contemporaries, but it’s undeniably one of the better golf courses in England's strongest golfing county and it should be included on any aficionado’s must-play list.
There is a lot to like about Farnham. It has a very relaxed feeling from the moment you arrive, despite being in an area where traditional members clubs have a reputation for being a bit snooty, and also some great facilities.
The course itself is a fun mix of parkland on the first 4/5 and last 6 holes, and heathland in the middle. The heathland holes are the real strength playing over some really quite rolling terrain. Despite this I felt like most of the parkland holes really held their own against them, the first and last being some real standout par 5s and the 17th being a really strong par 4 to test your nerves on the run in.
On the heathland holes I thought the real picture hole is the 6th, however all are strong, the 9th being my favourite, with a blind tee shot and fairway that will kick your ball left, leaving an uphill potentially blind shot to a green sloped right to left with death of you miss left or long and get a strong kick.
My only real complaint would be the bunkering style. The club has decided to install eco bunkers in a links pot bunker style, with revetted stacked turf faces. While they do look intimidating, I feel like they don't fit very well with the landscape and some more artistically styled bunkers as you see at the likes of hankley, sunningdale and co would really have fit the land better, while still being just as punishing.
All in all very worth a visit though, you can get a real taste of true heathland golf without having to quite spend the big bucks you would for the other clubs in the area.
Decided to squeeze a round in at Farnham on a sunny Sunday afternoon on the hunt to find a club to become a member. The course opens up with a couple of pleasant opening holes, but as mentioned by the previous review, it really does improve once you hit the 5/6th. The 6th - 9th is where that typical surrey heather comes into play and is definitely the courses focal point.
Although not the most challenging, I really enjoyed the 8th, a short par four that is setup more for a steady tee shot, not a slog for distance, prioritising placement as to not land it in heather either side.
Granted the holes afterwards are weaker, however I wouldn't say they weren't enjoyable. The SI par 5 11th was a good challenge, and the finishing hole was pleasant way to finish the round. I would say a couple of holes were weak, namely the par 3 3rd and 17th but nothing that would drag the quality of the course down.
During my round I suddenly developed the slices with my woods which resulted in many lost balls. Normally I would be pretty peeved but the experience of playing the course and its lovely surroundings really put me at ease.
I paid £95 to play on a Sunday afternoon in July. Is that a price worth paying? The fact I was questioned by the shop assistant asking if I knew the price in a slightly concerned manner probably answers that question. It didn't help knowing the guy before who had a member signing him in paid £35 but hey ho, "It definitely helps to know a member" I was told! Not ideal for an outsider like myself.
Overall an enjoyable golf course and worth playing if you get the chance.
Farnham is a fine course, but if Blackmoor is reachable for you. check out our membership Open day here, try the club and course for free. Sunday 21st of July. sign up here. https://www.blackmoorgolf.co.uk/ best wishes. All welcome.
Should have tapped me up Oliver T... I would have signed you in... Or play in the winter.. One of the best winter courses you will ever play inland. Better still join! Great bunch of lads! :)
Of the many UK courses that I have played in 2017, Farnham was one of the highlights, probably as expectations were exceeded by some way. We often mention Surrey as being the strongest golf county in England and that is a true as ever – but the 2017 county rankings have Farnham at #30 – surely a little low?
The first two holes set the scene early, a good par-5 opener but an obvious birdie chance to be honest but the course gets one back at the 474 yard par-4 2nd – I would say that this course comes alive at the 5th ; a 374 yard hole with a great looking approach to a raised green. Once the 5th is complete, take time to look all around – the par-3 6th, the 8th green and the 7th and 9th holes are not far away. The reason to take all of this in, is that it is beautiful – Sunningdale is always the benchmark for heathland quality, well I will say it here that the look and feel of these holes are at a Sunningdale level – all of the way to the 11th tee in fact is just perfect.
Although the run of holes to end of the course are a little different – the strength is still there with top-end conditioning, presentation and attention to detail. The 13th, a par-3 at 168 yards is the only hole on the course that could do with a little re-think as the bunkering is not great and in places the slope of the green is too severe. The par-3 15th however is near perfect; 208 yards across a valley with ground bringing anything left of the green back towards the putting surface. The 18th gives a chance to finish on a high; a 500 yard hole that many players despite being a little uphill and turning right will get close to in 2 shots.
Great club atmosphere at the club at Farnham too; friendly members and attentive staff give a warm welcome.
Very happy to have played here and in direct comparison with many on the second tier Surrey courses, Farnham stands proud.
I fully agree with these sentiments about Farnham. I did not know a lot about the course, but having been shown around by Alisdair Hay (what a great guy to have as your 'front man'), I was very pleasantly surprised. To put it simply, I was itching to get my clubs out. A pity they weren't with me! Your comments about the bunkering on the 13th hole are also very insightful. Alasdair has identified this hole as a priority for bunker renovation, and I'll be very pleased to hear what you think once the new EcoBunker system has been installed there in the next few months.