Hankley Common Golf Club is situated on the North Downs, in a preservation area or to be precise, a ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’, home to oak, rowan and the woodlark.
In many ways, Hankley is reminiscent of Walton Heath, which is high praise indeed; the common at Tilford has the same ferocious heather and the same wide-open and windswept appearance as that of the heath at Walton on the Hill. If there was ever a place where seaside links golf meets inland heathery golf, it’s here at Hankley Common.
Golf at Hankley commenced in 1897 with a modest nine-hole course but it remained an innocuous layout until James Braid added a further nine holes in 1922. Many people believe that Hankley Common became a truly great course in 1936, after Harry Colt remodelled it.
There is an overwhelming feeling of spaciousness on this heathland course, so much so that it seems plausible that a second or third course could be intertwined between the existing 18 holes. To put everything into context, the course at Hankley Common occupies 164 acres, but the club actually owns more than 850 acres of perfect heathland. Don’t let this feeling of space lull you into a false sense of security – this is not the place to open your shoulders and let rip. Anything slightly off-line will be swallowed up by bunkers, or even worse, by the thick tangled heather.
Eight new back tees are now in play, adding more than 250 extra yards. Hankley Common now measures an impressive 6,702 yards from the tips. This is a really technically testing golf course. Regional Qualifying for the Open has been held at Hankley Common since 1984 and the club has hosted numerous other important amateur and professional events over the years.
The par threes, especially the 7th and the 11th are enjoyable and challenging, as are the opening and closing holes. Both are tough par fours, measuring well over 400 yards.
So, if you are looking for a memorable, testing and expansive golf course with true greens, look no further than Hankley Common.
Hankley Common is a heathland paradise played over a sprawling tract of land on the North Surrey Downs where the texture of the property is utterly divine. Pastel colours, sprinkled with tints of purple, give the course a wonderful character which perpetually changes on a seasonal basis.
It is also a drawer’s paradise. Only one hole (the 10th) asks you to hit a fade whilst the vast majority of the other long holes set up for a right-to-left ball flight. A running draw will particularly benefit you at the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 9th, 12th, 15th and 17th!
I personally hit this shape of shot and love playing here for that reason (!) but I can imagine somebody who naturally fades the ball may struggle. The lopsided nature of the shots you are asked to hit from the tee is the only real criticism I can throw at what is an otherwise exceptional and visually striking golf course.
It is a relatively easy walk with the only climb of any sorts coming when we play the triad of holes where the sixth and eighth (both par fives) act as two lengths of an isosceles triangle with the superlative short seventh joining the dots.
Indeed one of the beauties of the course is that it plays in little triangles, or mini-loops, throughout the round. The first to fourth bring us back to the clubhouse. 10, 11 & 12 are another triangle as are 13, 14 & 15. As a result there are lots of options to hop from one hole to another during the round if members so wish.
Hankley is not an overly strategic course and this could be another quibble you could throw at it. The questions it asks are fairly straight-forward and the course is eminently fair with flattish fairways and minimal fairway bunkering. You do find yourself hitting the same shot a number of times during the round. Although you could argue that the joyful experience of playing on this uncluttered layout outweighs any short falls in this department.
There’s something about golfing at Hankley that makes you feel completely at ease. There may be an element of style over substance but the sublime landscape allows you to enjoy your golf, gives you some chances but still delivers a true test of golf.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
This is an immense golf course and I am delighted to see it move up the rankings across most listings. I played 36 holes in a day, when my golf game was still new and did not need severely testing! So to say I am dying to go back there now that I am much better player is an understatement.
This is such a great golf course, at the level of golf I was at and playing 36 holes, it was a challenge. I remember the par 3 7th and 11th well but there were so many great holes, long carries and tough par 4’s.
A real class act.
What a fabulous golf course in a huge tract of land. Not many opportunities to play the ball onto an adjacent hole.
Great layout with some superb holes. A real pleasur to play.
We played early September after the hottest Summer on record, when most other courses in the Greater London area were parched with the oppressive heat. Not Hankley which looked pristine from the raised members bar in the clubhouse. First impressions were of hand cut approaches (4th green was under our nose from the bar) and hand cut tees. The attention to detail was evident early doors.
White tees (6474yds) were the order of the day and the first hole was indicative of the Hankley challenge. Keep it in the fairway, and away from the penal heather the course is more than playable.
Not overly long at 422yds, the first plays to a blind second shot which added a wee early round bit of variety. I racked my brain for another blind approach to a 1st hole and could only come up with Headingley GC - answers on a postcard please…
The short 2nd hole (145yds) is perfectly framed amongst the scotch pines and oak trees, slightly uphill asked for an extra half a club BUT do not go long!
The third and fourth holes ask for position off the tee and pars more than acceptable on both these par fours. The fifth hole has a wee spruce tree in the first cut up the right wing that was perfect for my five yard ‘pro draw’, and on leaving the tee had an early round feeling of each hole moving in different directions, which continued for pretty much the entire round.
The short seventh hole played 165yds on the day, with its false front and two tier green its worthy of its signature label. Take a moment on the green to grasp the heathland vista, truly breath-taking. The golf course is played over 160 acres but is surrounded by another 700 acres!
The back (purple) tee on the par 5 eighth hole offers more views across the heath and on reaching the fairway the feel of a links course came into mind with a firm rolling fairway. Birdie chance here, as is the short ninth before a run of tough holes after the turn. Tee shot on ten is quite an intimidating one where must be played up the left half of the dog-leg, I found the heather right then the bunker front right. The bunkers are Colt esk – hazards to be avoided at all cost!
Eleven is a flat, long, testing par 3. I took my par & ran to the dog-leg twelfth where the tee ball asks for a tickle of draw then a straight forward approach to one of the larger and flatter greens. ALL the greens were true and well presented on the day.
Another switch in direction to play the par 5 thirteen, and best to avoid the bunkers, gorse, bridal paths and heather to give yourself a reasonable chance for birdie - I made seven.
Fourteen tee the penny finally dropped for me, it is not about how far at Hankley, its ALL about position (!) made the fairway with 3W and got into the game. Especially enjoyed this approach to a slightly raised well protected green. The view from 15 tee looking back on the fourteen is worth taking in.
Sixteen was the last of the one shot holes before another dog-leg on seventeen – I found the heather (again!) with 1W – but somehow managed to make the green which was a first. Not a first GIR (honestly) but a first from the heather and I spent a LOT of time in it….
On 18th tee it dawned on us that we hadn’t so much as seen a house or heard any form of transport, nothing by way of noise pollution & they saved the best hole for last! Generous enough off the tee before a daunting approach over a deep grass gully. Proper two shot finishing hole to a course that had so much variety to it. Aesthetically it is impressive with colour contrasts aplenty, and on reflection Hankley more than merits its reputation as a Surrey institution of golf in many ways.
It has all the history with Ben Hogan using the links like heathland for practice before his sole Open Championship appearance & victory in 1953 (Carnoustie). Bobby Locke & Andy Newmarch raved about it and legendary ladies amateur championship Elizabeth Price was a long standing member here.
2019 it plays hosts to the English Amateur, shared with nearby Northants for qualifying with Match-play stages all to be played at Hankley.
It has the Colt design stamp after he remodelled this original Braid layout and what a classically routed course it is. If I haven’t said so already on playing Hankley think about positional play from each tee rather than length, as that heather is to be avoided at all costs. The showering facilities are equally of the highest standards as was the food, and with Hogs Back TEA on draught we weren’t left wanting for much….
M. J. Smyth
Silloth is one answer to your 1st hole question. Young P
I played Hankley Common on a warm, still - but threatening - Sunday in April 2018 as a single. The Pro Shop was nice enough to encourage me to tee off before an afternoon competition, which made the round much more enjoyable at an unrushed 3-1/2 hours. Although I played much of the back nine in steady drizzle, this fact did not really impair a terrific afternoon of golf. There is a lot of gorse in play at Hankley Common, including a number of forced carries off the tee. (I'm sure that playing the layout in April was easier than a round in, say, August, when the gorse is higher and more threatening to wayward shots.) This course has very interesting and varied holes and the conditioning was at a very high level, especially for April during what had been a cool, rainy Spring in Surrey. I was reminded somewhat of the excellent Woodhall Spa course, in that a 10-14 handicap has a chance to score reasonably, and without constant threat of lost balls. Having said that, there are many challenging tee shots and approaches at Hankley Common, which belongs on any visiting golfers "must play" list.
I have been lucky enough to play here twice now, once in October, and again in May, and I believe it to be a fantastic course, full of variety, of shape and length of holes, with elevation changes that enhance rather than hinder the hole. The overriding feeling is one of space though, an absolute treasure of a course, and a real must visit !
Before my visit earlier this month it had been over 5 years since I’d played golf at Hankley Common, unforgiveable considering that until recently I only lived a few minutes’ drive away. The week before playing here, I played Broadstone Golf Club in Dorset, a course that impressed me for the vastness to the land that it covers. Well Hankley Common is on another level again. The land stretches on as far as the eye can see, covering a plot of land that must comfortably be able to accommodate another 18 holes, maybe more. The land itself is actually in part owned by the Ministry of Defence, used by the Army for basic tactical training, so don’t be surprised if you see soldiers in camouflage in the distance.
On my previous visits, I had thought Hankley a little overrated, but having given it some time between visits, I now find it well deserving of its high ranking, particularly because it’s one of those few layouts where there is not a weak hole to the course. Unlike many courses, the high standard of golf holes starts immediately with a tight drive to the tree lined first, but it’s holes 6 and 7 that are the most eye catching. 6 is an uphill dogleg par five played around the trees to the left and is deceptively longer than it appears to the naked eye. The par three 7th that follows is played to a raised green, with bunkers fielding any shots that land short left or right. I’m going to go as far as to suggest that this may be the best par three in the heathland belt to the west of London. I’m yet to play some of the top ranked courses in this area, but I haven’t played any better one shotters to date. So good are the previous two holes, that I stood on the tee on the 8th which stands tall above the rest of the course, looking down to the pristinely kept fairway that lay in front and it’s at this point where I wondered what an earth I had missed when playing years earlier.
I’d be lying if I said that the rest of the course maintains these extremely high standards, but the level drops only a fraction. The remainder of the course is played over flatter ground but still manages to offer plenty of intrigue and variation. The sense of isolation as you play across the back 9 at Hankley is a rare treat in these parts. No roads are in view, nor are they within earshot. Another attraction to Hankley is that it’s a scoreable track, it isn’t a course that’s going to beat you up, well, that’s until the 18th, which at 432 yards in length and a deep gulley that you need to carry in front of the green (making a mockery of its stroke index of 9), is a wicked way to finish the round.
One of the biggest compliments I can give the course is that it fits beautifully within its natural surroundings. Nothing feels artificial and if they ever let the course go back to nature, I dare say that you wouldn’t be able to tell that there was a golf course that resided here within 5 years. I’ve had the pleasure of playing some highly ranked heathland tracks over this last year including Woodhall Spa, Walton Heath and Woking, but for my money, Hankley Common is the equal to them. I won’t be leaving it another 5 years until I come back again.
Hankley Common was the first course my wife and I played on our recent trip to England to play many of the famous heathland courses in the area. We flew over from the States, got our luggage and rental car then headed straight over to Hankley. After a nice lunch in the clubhouse we headed out on a warm but reasonably calm day. The course was playing hard and fast and proved to be quite a challenge. The first hole is a fairly tight par 4 with a demanding tee shot right out of the chute with the left side guarded by heather. The first four holes route back to the clubhouse with 4 being one of my favorite holes on the course. It is a short par 4 with two deep bunkers to the right of the fairway. However a deep bunker front left of the green and some significant slope to this green demand that the drive get as close to the bunkers as possible to allow an open shot into the green.
The course is reasonably level and easy to walk, but there is some elevation on the uphill par 5 6th, the brilliant par 3 7th played across a valley of heather with a green protected by significant slopes, then 8 runs back downhill. There area a number of fine par 4's on the back nine. I really enjoyed the 413 yard par 4 14th to an elevated green and the short dogleg par 4 15th which offered a variety of strategic options off the tee and for the approach. The course is spacious and open and probably plays closest to true heathland style than most of the other heathland courses. Like all the best heathland courses this is a course that demands to be played with precision and control rather than power.
My wife and I both enjoyed the course. I think a few well placed bunkers and some added slope to some of the flatter greens would take this course to the next level of excellence. This is a fine welcoming club with a course that is loads of fun to play. Read my story: Diamonds of the heather - golfing London's heathland
The drive out to Hankley is certainly worth it without question. I believe the club has 820 acres of land stretching out as far as the eye can see. Significant tree clearance has opened up mouth-watering views of the golf course and the sprawling waves of heather that traverse the land.
The course boasts a much larger scale that its rivals closer to the M25, and feels flat in places. With that said, the club is proactive with its vision to present a top-notch golf course and does recognise the need to improve the quality of a number of holes. The passion from the Club Secretary is evident as he described the plans they have with Martin Hawtree to roll up his sleeves and bring much more strategy to aspects of the course. To date, many new back tees have been added and the future is bright over the coming year.
Hankley Common is an incredibly peaceful, yet grandiose, experience which should be a consideration on every visitor’s itinerary while in London as an example of how diverse the golf is close to the capital.
If you have time for just one round of heathland golf, I suggest you choose Hankley.
I immediately think of two reasons:
1) Many heathland courses were built on open spaces which bear little resemblance to the tree-lined experience most offer today, a result of gradual encroachment by vegetation over 100 years. Today, when many have ambitious tree-removal and heather-regeneration programs to regain some of the visuals and firm-and-fast playing characteristics that originally made them stand out from parkland courses, Hankley offers the real deal: there are few trees, no expensive housing next to the fairways...and no motorway noise.
2) On our recent tour, we played both courses at Walton Heath, which were in magnificient condition as the U.S. Open qualifier had just been held there. The rhodies were in full bloom at St George’s Hill, West Hill and New Zealand GC and the skies were clear at Hindhead. Despite all this, we still held Hankley as our clear no 1 in that company. The best of all: we could play at our own pace...starting at noon on a Bank Holiday Monday!
Not a common experience at many other courses at this level.