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 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!