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.
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.