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5 miles W of Guildford
Weekdays and pm at weekends
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.
New "Purple" back tees are now in play, pushing Hankley's yardage to a lengthy and testing 6,909 yards from the tips. 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.
Played Hankley Common last week in the Mizuno Pairs event and after a wonderful moment on the first tee when the event starter, having asked one of our group what his name was (Rob B.), then announced him as Mike Sainsbury, then magnificently recovered the situation by advising “that reminds me, I need to go to Waitrose on the way home”, we began our round.
It has been remarked a number of times that Hankley does not “get going” until the 5th tee. I can appreciate that view but would suggest that this is more a comment on the quality of the holes from the 4th onwards, than anything lacking in terms of the opening holes. The 1st is a strong (420 yard) par 4 with bunkers left and right on the drive which adds demand. The par 3 2nd has recently been subject to a facelift (larger sculpted bunkers / waste area starting at 40 yards short of the green) which has significantly elevated the hole from an aesthetics perspective. The par 4, 3rd is moderate but boosted by a challenging green complex and the drivable par 4, 4th is quirky with a small elevated green (so no push over), which is disconcertingly close to the clubhouse.
So from the 5th tee, the course becomes immense starting with a mid-length par 4 which moved right to left. The par 5, 6th hole is a superb hole which gives you room off the tee but gradually moves uphill to a contoured green. There is then a walk uphill to the highest point of the course to the 7th tee. This hole is outstanding; a par 3 of 200 yards to a green just above the level of the tee over a beautiful valley of heather. The highlight in terms of “stop and take in the view” was the from the elevated 8th hole tee which starts a dead straight par 5 of nearly 600 yards which is just superb.
The next standout hole is the strong (450 yard) par 4, 10th which moves left to right with strategic considerations manifested in a copse of trees on the inside of the dog-leg. A word for the par 4, 15th . a poster child for “risk/reward” (Rob B lost his first drive then knocked his provisional onto the green). The 18th is a long par 4 with a blind drive then long iron / rescue over a large depression in front of the green.
Hankley benefits hugely from having land to spare so the vast majority of holes exhibit a wonderful sense of isolation and serenity. There is undoubtedly an architectural idiosyncrasy at Hankley which presents itself by an over representation of left to right orientated holes – 8, contrasted with 2 holes that have a fade bias.
Some housekeeping points – conditioning was immaculate, greens smooth and fast. My view is that Hankley is rated too low on the website and would personally place it in the mid 30s.
apologies - it is of course 8 right to left orientated holes ! (still disorientated from the Waitrose comment)
“Vinnie Jones!”, exclaimed my Hankley Common host as my promising approach to the first hole veered off to the right.
“Sorry?”, I replied, bemused.
“A nasty kick that you weren’t expecting,” he said with a smirk.
He had a celebrity for every shot – the Salman Rushie was an “impossible read” on the greens and an Arthur Scargill was “a good strike which got nowhere.”
This anecdote summed up the word I would best associate with Hankley Common – fun.
This is one of the most attractive courses in the south-east – with its bright yellow gorse alongside the clinging heather which was a couple of months from blooming when we played on a glorious May afternoon.
A colleague had warned me that keeping straight and selecting the right club would be essential for success and I was determined to gain revenge on a former England cricketer and pal who had defeated me and another compadre at Royal Wimbledon the previous week.
The omens weren’t good when I slipped into greenside sand on the first hole – a super par-four which has one of the course’s rare blind shots into a downhill target.
This was followed by a deep sigh on the picturesque par-three second which is over sand and heather. I took the pro’s advice by taking an extra club only to see the ball drop just over the back of the green and sidle up to a tree.
The start of my rejuvenation was an improvised chip which finished eight feet from the flag.
The third is a bending par-four with sand traps and heather lurking either side and a fiendishly placed bunker in front of the green.
This, I would venture is a typical Hankley hole – it punishes those who are offline and yields to those who stay straight. Meanwhile, it offers splendid views over the stunning 850 acres owned by the club.
This is a site of special scientific interest and, among the wildlife, we were advised that smooth snakes and adders are seen regularly on the heathland.
“You’ll be pleased with that,” said my amiable host after I had drawn a drive towards the path which crosses the sixth, the first of the course’s par-fives.
In my opinion, they give the best opportunity to score with greens comfortably findable in two by longer sloggers than me.
The same cannot be said of the par-threes – especially the 183-yard uphill seventh, the stroke index four.
I struck what I thought was a good straight ball with my driver only for it to become almost submerged in sand.
“Close your club almost shut and then smash it,” advised my host.
This was the opposite to my plan of an open face but, as he said: “Every day’s a school day” and the ball popped out on the side of the trap, allowing me to score an improbable four.
The long par-four, dogleg tenth is one of the many holes at Hankley which demand strategy rather than bravado.
The obvious big hitter’s choice might be to cut the corner and drive over trees and heather.
Our host said this would be a mistake and, thus we benefited from playing to the widest part of the fairway and opening up the green.
The 11th is another fiendish par-three - 200+ yards up over heather, inspiring even the musclemen in our group to reach for their big guns.
I was about ten yards short with mine but my seven-iron runner, used most often on links, turned out to be a handy shot at Hankley Common and, consequently, landed my approach gimme-length from the hole.
The 12th is a lovely hole with heather awaiting either side of a narrow fairway before a heavily undulating green.
The short dogleg par-four 15th is one of my favourites because it reflects the course’s sense of fun combined with sharp teeth.
Low handicappers rarely try to drive the green because if they get it wrong they could easily lose their ball in heather or gorse.
Instead, two clips and a putt provide the favoured route to birdie.
It was the beginning of a glorious run-in to come with another very trick uphill par-three on the 16th and super dog-leg par-four on the 17th.
The 18th is arguably best of the lot with its green perched above a small chasm and reminds me a little of the ninth at Delamere Forest.
The clubhouse which frames the hole is a beauty, mixing modern-day with traditional and was the perfect venue for tales of what was (from us) and what might have been (from our opponents).
It was a truly excellent day at Hankley Common and I was thrilled that our host should offer to ask us back again.
After all, Hankley, with its hallmarks of Braid and Colt had been, in my view, a Lisa Kudrow… very attractive, great fun and requiring skill to avoid put-downs.
A humorous anecdote to enter and somehow managing to end the review on the same note on the same note. Well-done...just my kind of review.
Hankley Common marks my 30th course played out of the top 100. I cannot find one more visually stunning than this so far. Hankley doesn't do a lot wrong. We played a few weeks before the upcoming home internationals and this place was in absolutely mint condition.
It's probably one of the more challanging of the top 100 I've played too. I hit the ball a long way, rarely straight and this isn't the golf course you can get away with spraying it, although army golf seems to be the order of play with the militry next door shooting and shouting.
I haven't seen a golf course with so much heather. What adds to it even more is that even beyond the borders of the golf course are hills covered in it, which gives me the kind of panoramic views that I was so fond of at Hollinwell.
Apart from the 7th, there isn't really too many holes where the layout of the hole really catches your eye. It's more the absolute spread of perfectly bloomed heather that did it for me. The heather really makes the course as special as it is because quite frankley, in this part of the world the condition of all the courses can be as good as the next so the real challange is to bring something unique to the table. And Hankley fits the mark here.
A classy place and well worth the visit
The striking thing about Hankley is the expanse of land that the course covers. The first 4 holes are played in a loop back to the clubhouse but then the course opens up wonderfully. The 7th and 11th are two fantastic, if somewhat what similar, par 3s measuring towards 200 yards over a valley of heather. Hitting a well-struck shot to the green (as I surprisingly did on both) is a marvellous feeling. There are numerous other strong holes including a long closing par 4 with a dip in front of the green.
My one criticism would be the 4th green which seems overly tricked up with a narrow entrance and run offs that have the potential to turn a good approach into a double bogey without doing too much wrong. It’s position right in front of the veranda does allow for some (possibly sadistic) entertainment for those enjoying post-round drinks watching players grappling with challenging bunker and chip shots. The price for this entertainment is that the occasional ball can scuttle into the veranda causing the drinkers to scatter!
My host informed me that the closing Scottish Highlands sequence for Skyfall was filmed across the hill from the far point of the course. This to me sums up the terrain and feeling of space at Hankley. A wonderful course that I hope to play many more times in the future.
This is an outstanding course that I have had the opportunity of playing many times, if you have not had the pleasure, then you have missed a gem. When the heather is in bloom the course is a thing of beauty, I don’t be fooled a fantastic test of your game.
I was walking around like a kid in a candy store, wow, what a place! The attention to detail is just next level, they must trim the grass around the bunkers with scissors, just unreal.
The course plays very well indeed, lots of holes offering great risk and reward opportunities. It feels like you are in the middle of nowhere, the course had a fair few people playing but you’d never have guessed it.
6-8 is truly special, the kind of test that you dont mind failing because the scenery is so good you just cannot be unhappy no matter how bad you’re playing.
Clubhouse and food were spectacular, couldn’t fault a thing and in my opinion should place a few notches higher on the Surrey top 10.
This was my first visit to Hankley Common which considering I have played pretty much every course in Surrey it seems a bit odd that I have waited this long to play such a prestigious course. The layout is excellent with a good mixture of holes although the majority of tee shots favour a right to left ball flight. I also liked the flow of the course with short and long par 3’s and par 4’s alongside the par 5 holes which you can reach with two good shots. I cannot think of any weak holes at Hankley but I am a sucker for short risk and reward par 4 so for me the 4th and 15th are my pick of holes alongside the par 3 8th which is an excellent par 3. One thing that stands out is the sense of space and that you hear little or no traffic noise. The fairways are pretty flat which is fine and I would like to see more bunkering which would add a little strategy from the tee. The greens are very good although reading them is an art due to their subtlety. All in all its a top course and I cannot wait to return.
Hankley Common is a special place. You play through vast areas of heather, with little trees, offering spectacular views across the course.
The hole course looks like the 6th hole at Sunningdale New. The best holes are 3 6 7 8 13 14 15 16. There isn't a weak hole on the whole course. As good if not better than the 3 Ws.
On top of all of this, the condition is always exceptional.
An extremely fantastic round at an unbelievable golf course. I would say that Hankley Common is a great course and up there with the a lot of the other heathland courses around but feels a lot different as its much more open. The condition in my opinion wasn’t quite up to standard, fairways were a bit worn out and the greens had just been sanded but i’ll give the benefit of the doubt as we played there just after the English Am so the course was in recovery mode.
The first 5 holes or so are in amongst a lot more trees but after that you get into pure heathland area with barely a tree in sight. The first starts off as a tight par 4 requiring an accurate drive to make sure you’re able to play your second one from the fairway. The 2nd hole is a short par 3 playing about 130 yards with a bunker short of the green. 7 and 8 are two back to back holes which are top quality. The 7th is one of the best looking par 3s you will play with a big dip full of heather between the tee and the green. It also plays extremely tough, measuring over 190 yards with several deep bunkers around the green! The 8th is an awesome par 5 with a beautiful tee shot.
The back nine is equally great with a nice mix of open heathland and tree lined holes. The 11th is another tough but great looking par 3 which measures about 185 yards. 13 through to 16 is also a great stretch of holes. 13 is a tough par 5 with bunkers up the left of the fairway on the drive and then either side when you get towards the green. 14 is a short par 4 which plays about 330 yards and has trees to your left. The 15th is an even shorter par 4 which dog legs hard left so requires a 200 yard shot up the fairway in order to give you a clear and straight forward second shot into the green. The 16th is a beautiful uphill par 3 with heather all the way up to the green. I would say 17 and 18 are average finishing holes but the middle stages of the course is where there are the strongest and best holes.
Overall, the experience was enjoyable and the course was exceptional. Would definitely like to play there again and it is a good 5 ball course for sure.
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.