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.
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.
I played last month and have played Hankley several times over the years and thoroughly enjoyed it each time. What it lacks in changing topography across the whole course it makes up with stunning surroundings and and abundance of heather and peace & tranquility.
There were quite a few changes since last time I played a couple of years ago. Mostly good, the tree clearance on 7 looks fantastic and balanced the view from the tee. Although I would never play off the back tees I do love the placement of some of them for a really test of driving distance and accuracy.
The one, and main thing that has had me give it a lower score is the presentation of the course. It seemed tired, pretty scruffy and seemed to lack the attention to detail I remebered. The greens were ok, a bit bumpy and lacked pace. The bunkers I found myself in (a fair few, I like the beach so it seems!) were inconsistent and scruffy, even for a Heathland course finish.
The other thing I'm not a fan of is the stripped fairways. Heathland courses, like links look there best without stripes all over the place. It takes away from the natural ambient feel a course like Hankley has.
I'll certainly come back as it's a beautiful place to lose a few balls but I hope the presentation is better, a place like Hankley deserves presentation to match what Mother Nature has provided with it.
Have played this course on numerous occasions, most recently being last week in less than perfect conditions with grizzly rain for most of the morning.
Still the course delights in any weather, if you are not excited by playing this course then you need to check your pulse as you are possibly dead!
There is so much space here they could fit another 2 18 hole courses in and still not be short of space.
Smooth greens, classy tight cut fairways and sandy subsoil with turf you can hit a driver off if you are capable means you cannot complain about much around here.
Difficult to highlight or bemoan any of the holes over another but if I had to, I would say the second hole (a par 3) is a little bit of an "average" hole and I would have to highlight the par 3 7th hole as one of the best anywhere and the par 4 10th is another great hole.
So many of the holes are a joy to play (too many to list) and the views from just about anywhere on the course make it worth playing on their own.
If you have not played it... take the trip and try to go when the heather is in bloom from late July onwards until early September!
Played Hankley a couple of months ago as a visitor. Good facilities, good food, nice layout - albeit a bit flat but there was a feeling of endless space. We saw some very interesting holes though that required some solid shot making in order to play to handicap. Having played most of the best courses in Surrey, I am a little perplexed at how Hankley can be rated higher than Hindhead who's greens are only be bettered by Sunningdale whilst Queenwood is certainly prettier. I'd most certainly suggest playing here though.
I reckon it has been at least 14 years since I last played Hankley Common and I was keen to go back last month to establish whether or not my original thinking was correct. My feeling was that Hankley was not as good as many others seemed to think and yet I couldn’t put my finger on why… until now.
First off, this was a special visit to Hankley Common and the club was extremely gracious on this lovely warm autumn day. I was privileged to play with Brian Ward and this game heralded a significant bucket-list achievement for our Midlands and North of England Correspondent. We’ll have more to say about that separately, but suffice to mention that this round at Hankley brought up a double-century, which I think is a first.
I don’t understand why Bobby Locke described the course as having a “close resemblance to a seaside links”. Perhaps the trees in those days were young or even non-existent. I don’t think Hankley has any links-like characteristics but I also think it’s unlike any other heathland course in the Surrey/Berks/Hants area.
The topography is actually relatively flat and I couldn’t help but drool over the glorious expanse of heathland that disappeared into the distance around the hill to the east of the magnificent (not flat) one-shot 7th which in my view is Hankley’s best hole, crossing a heathery valley to a raised, two-tiered green.
The home hole is wonderful too, especially for the second shot that’s a bit of a knee-knocker. I also enjoyed the boomerang-shaped short par four 15th, with its tricky-to-read green. To be honest I didn’t consider any hole poor, I just felt too many were a tad underwhelming.
My notion is that a couple too many fairways run long and straight with relatively few and rather weak looking bunkers, which fail to break the monotony. The greensites, while good enough, are not from the top-drawer and a number of the putting surfaces are flat – I actually found myself reading too much break into putts that simply went dead straight. These things combine to make the course rather less strategic than numerous other heathland courses that are better bunkered and topographically more exciting. Some of these are currently ranked behind Hankley, for example: Liphook, Wentworth East, Woking, Worplesdon and West Hill.
I love the abundance of heather and, oddly, the bridle paths that flank many holes – I didn’t remember these sandy tracks from my previous visits. On this glorious autumn day these bridle ways were being enjoyed as canter tracks and let’s be honest, these pathways form rather formidable sandy hazards for wayward golfers as the horses neglect to rake them.
The most enjoyable element of Hankley Common for me is the majesty of the setting, which is quiet and genteel in the classical English mould. If I lived locally I’d apply for membership (not that they’d want me now) and I’d then hassle the committee to engage an architect (with an emphasis on light tough) to draw up a bunkering masterplan, which would elevate this sleeping beauty to an entirely different level. In fact, I’d take them to Stoneham and show them what good, modern-build (but classically designed) bunkering looks like.
I’m being magnanimous in awarding Hankley a 5-ball rating. Probably 4.5 is about right. 4 would be too harsh for my karma. Keith Baxter
There are some fair comments in this review, although I think the reviewer allows his dislike of the bunkering to bias him against the overall flow and subtle characteristics of the course layout as a whole. He makes a very valid point when drawing attention to what Stoneham has achieved and in fact Hankley could be vastly improved it it were to bring its tees, greens and general conditioning up to the standards of Ferndown, Berkshire, Holinwell amongst others. It's a fantastic track and the setting is hard to beat, it has the potential to be one of the elite heathland courses in the British Isles.
Why is it a silly review? I know that Hankley has removed a lot of the trees to return it to its original state, as has Moortown. But that doesn't mean its for the better in everyones opinion.
The golf course just didnt wow me thats all, but i still gave it a very good review.
The idea of having water features intrude on an excellent heathland course is bizarre - they wouldn't fit at all and would ruin the experience. See the 16th at Camberley Heath for a similar example of a hole that just doesn't complement the rest of the experience. As for the original review, whilst the course is open, it's certainly not wide enough that you can spray it wherever you want. The trees on the 6th, 8th, 10th and 14th have certainly all seen a visit from me to retrieve an errant drive, so they're definitely in play!