Kington - Herefordshire - England

Kington Golf Club,
Bradnor Hill,
Kington,
Herefordshire,
HR5 3RE,
England


  • +44 (0)1544 230340

  • Nigel Venables

  • C.K. Hutchison

  • Keith Preece

At less than 6,000 yards, many will dismiss Kington as far too short and nothing but a bit of fun. Though fun Kington certainly is, the course should not be taken lightly. Hutchison's fondness for North Berwick, a links famous for its variety and quirkiness, taught him to value unusual concepts while embracing design ideals developed during the first decades of the 20th century. With Kington’s opening in 1926, Major C.K. Hutchison produced a remarkably crafty course which relies greatly on gaining the correct angles of approach, for the greens often fall heavily away from the front or a side making recovery from the wrong position terribly difficult despite appearances to the contrary. It should come as no surprise the Major could create such a gem. He was a well-known figure in the game as an amateur (he reached the final of the 1909 British Amateur) and as a serious student of architecture through his membership of Huntercombe, a ground breaking Willie Park Jr design. On a more practical level, James Braid relied heavily on Hutchison's knowledge during the design and construction of Gleneagles King’s and Queen’s Courses and for a brief period, starting in the late 20s, Hutchison was in partnership with Majors G.C. Campbell and S.V. Hotchkin. This "Trinity of Majors" is most famous for their creation of Pulborough, a course well known for its combination of beauty and fierce hazards.

Kington can be described as an inland-super-mare. The sea is miles from Herefordshire, yet the golf at Kington is remarkably similar to seaside golf due to keen turf and rambunctious terrain. Like Royal Ashdown Forest, Kington has no bunkers and the course is generally wide with practically no shaping of the fairways. In fact, Kington is the epitome of why wide is good. Let the golfer open the shoulders, but if he places the ball in the wrong spot he can be left with a devil of a recovery, often times from quite close to the hole.

Bradnor Hill is among the chief defenses with its slopes acting for and against play. The micro undulations (presumably caused by grazing sheep) can leave a player confounded on how to make solid contact with anything other than short irons, or indeed the putter. The course climbs the hill for much of the front nine and affords arresting views of the Brecon Beacons, Malverns and Black Mountains. The club claims that at 1,284 feet Kington is the highest course in England, but that isn't important other than to impart that wind is perhaps Kington's primary defense. The greens tend to be narrow and many are angled against fairways and/or over deep fall-aways. While there are plenty of unknowing breaks to be had, the greens could accurately be described as flat. Kington's turf has a springiness which encourages the player to be aggressive both on the fairways and greens. It must also be noted that the fairways are cut only once a year in mid-summer. Sheep graze the course freely, but even they won't eat some of the tough grasses on offer.

The first three holes make steady progress up the hill. All are good and require a deft touch rather than brute force. This abruptly changes on the 4th, still uphill, but a bully of a hole at 435 yards, usually into the prevailing breeze and ending in a sideways two tier green. The short 5th is a wonderful hole – as are all the 3 pars at Kington. It is here that the player should fully realize that he had better know how to flight his ball and control it once it lands or Kington will steal strokes with niggling regularity.

The course continues to wind its way around Bradnor Hill with blind drives, sloped fairways requiring shaped or very precise tee shots and skyline greens as particular features. Holes of particular merit in this stretch are the one-shotter 9th and the very drivable par 4, 10th. Throughout, the course there are awkward, sharpish mounds surrounding the greens which can be terribly frustrating unless one can find some of the available gateways or have great confidence with the wedge.

The 14th is a reachable par 5. More people than not tend to find the ferns when having a two shot bash at this green. Unusually for Kington, the green sports a false front which gives the impression of an uphill approach. In truth, the green runs away from the player. After two back and forth holes not without some merit, we reach the 18th, the author’s favourite finishing hole in golf. It isn't often that a significant percentage of handicap golfers can stand on the tee of a par 4 and aspire to achieve a two-putt birdie. However, on many days this is exactly the goal. Choose a club, take aim at the pro shop, fire away and let the fun unfold.

Without a doubt, Kington can yield a very low score to a good player on his day. However, regardless of scores earned, the course stands as testament to what good design is about; the opportunity to hit all manner of shots while providing fun for the short and long capper alike. For those willing to make the trek to this small corner of pastoral England, memories of Kington’s endearing qualities will stick with them uncommonly well.

Article by Sean Arble

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Reviews for Kington

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Description: Kington Golf Club is the highest 18-hole golf course in England and can be described as an inland-super-mare due to keen turf and rambunctious terrain. Rating: 4.8 out of 6 Reviews: 10

There’s something quite remarkable about Kington. It has what I call the “Double Q” factor; Quirk and Quality.

It has a similar eccentric personality to many other hilltop layouts as well as good turf, natural contours, kooky features and plenty of undulation. But where Kington really excels is that is has very few weak elements; no moments of absurdity that often blight related courses. The extrovert layout of the course simply adds to its appeal.

Laid out mostly on top of Bradnor Hill, above the medieval town of Kington in the beautiful county of Herefordshire, it nestles on the Welsh border and is the highest 18-hole golf course in England. As you would expect from such an elevated position the views are simply stunning.

With regards to the golf there’s a real consistent quality to the course and the unconventional nature doesn’t detract from this at all, in fact all the holes request good and clever golf from the player. I suspect that the savvy competitor will do well at Kington. In a similar vein to good links courses not only is approaching the greens from the correct location important but equally vital is not missing them on the wrong side.

You won’t find a bunker in sight but the many natural humps, bumps, grassy hollows and drop-offs around the greens ask for all kinds of creativity when you find yourself not only in the wrong spot… but in the correct one too! One thing’s for sure; you had better bring your imagination to Kington.

The various slopes and contours around the greens can be used as your friend if required and often dictate the type of shot you must play. The fairway approaches have plenty of shallow, rumpled undulations in them giving an almost lumpy feel and because of this you can expect many unpredictable bounces as well as uneven stances and lies. If the terrain doesn’t entirely promote the ground game it certainly doesn’t discourage it and is more than accepting of it.

Many of the putting surfaces aren’t visible when playing to them and because of the moderately hilly nature of the course you often have to just put your ball ‘up there’ and let wind and gravity do the rest. Watching the end result slowly unfold before you is great fun albeit maddening at times.

A lot of courses have moments of individuality and contain something a bit different to the norm but few can match the consistency of quality that Kington also produces and whilst it’s never going to be a world-beater it rarely puts a foot wrong. There is never a dull moment during an endless run of unique holes. The course is bags of fun, very funky, wholly fascinating and continually entertaining yet most importantly always challenging.

Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.

4 / 6
Kington
April 27, 2017


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A most enjoyable hilltop course with 360 degrees panoramic views. Played in August 2016 in fine weather; the greens were in very good condition, the welcome from the pro excellent, the course natural, quirky and fun. The hills and sheep presented few problems but the very tiny humps in the fairways made lies so very difficult and hitting greens consequently awkward. Also frustrating were lies around the mounds surrounding greens when there seemed quite a lot of luck involved. My favourite holes were the downhill 14th (par 5) and 15th (par 3), but to be fair all holes were interesting. In my opinion a good course (not as good as Llandrindod Wells), but the difficulty/luck of the lies just moves it into the average category. Enjoyed the course and will visit again

3 / 6
Kington
August 15, 2016


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I’ve been meaning to get to Kington for many years but for some reason failed to make the journey, which for most will be a trek. I was lucky enough to finally make it to Bradnor Hill last Monday and played the course on a gorgeous sunny day with Brian Ward, who also hadn’t seen Kington before. Tom Doak waxed lyrically about Kington in his new Confidential Guide to Golf Courses – I think Sean Arble must have insisted he make the trip as this is one of Sean’s favourite tracks (Sean wrote our introduction) and I now know why he loves it. “Here is a course which will not appeal at all to some observers, yet might well be a favorite for those who appreciate its charms” wrote Doak. Put me down largely in the latter category, but only because Kington has some of the best and most interesting greensites I have ever seen. Take away the greensites and Kington would fall into the bracket of best left for the orienteers, sheep and hill walkers.

Kington Golf Course - Photo by reviewer

Sure there are some dramatic drives from hilltop tees to fairways that cant this way and that, which provides excitement and thrills, but the site is rather too extreme to be ideal. However, there are quirks to be seen at Kington that I’ve never seen anywhere else and Mr Doak quite rightly said, “if you enjoy seeing something different, you’ll remember Kington long after you’ve forgotten some of the championship links.”

Never before have I seen so many tiny little moguls on some fairways. I have no idea what might have created these fascinating bumps. Could it be geology, sheep or man, who knows? These moguls, tightly mown by sheep and man, create some of the most awkward lies I have ever come across and I was intrigued by them from the word go.

My short game early in the round was more akin to a blacksmith than Phil Mickelson. I ended up on the wrong side of the greens for the first few holes and found my ball on incredibly tight and uneven lies, requiring delicate pitches over the unique raised ramparts that encircle the low side of the narrow greens. Needless to say I failed to master any of these shots and ended up three down after three holes.

Kington Golf Course - Photo by reviewer

It soon became apparent that many greensites adopted these raised ramparts or “berms” as Tom Doak describes them. It seems to me that once upon a time there were many bunkers that surrounded many greens and the spoil from digging these bunkers was used to create the ramparts. Whether or not sand was ever placed in these bunkers is unknown but they are effectively now grassy hollows, some with table top flat bottoms. I’ve never seen anything like it before and my feeling is that these are way harder from which to play than any conventional sand bunker.

Did I enjoy Kington (even though I lost 4&2…I never recovered my poor start)? You bet. Would I go back? Most definately. Would I place Kington in my own personal English Top 100? I’m not sure. I think if it were just down to the greensites, I’d have Kington in my Top 10. Regardless of ranking, Kington is an absolute must-play for any lover of quirky golf course architecture. Would I change anything? No is the definitive answer. It’s unique, incredibly enjoyable and set in a landscape that affords some of the most glorious inland views I’ve ever seen. I can’t quite award Kington a 5 but it’s better than a 4 (I must get round to changing the system to allow for half marks). Make the journey, play it and disagree with me.

4 / 6
Kington
May 18, 2016


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Sean Arble
November 19, 2016

It sounds as if you are only partially under Kington's spell. It took me 6-8 plays to finally admit to myself that Kington is much more than a quirky hilltop course. Quite simply, it isn't necessary to add any qualifiers....Kington is very, very good...perhaps great even. I promise you, the more you play Kington the more you will be rewarded with a greater understanding of its unique charms.

I have to declare an interest here - I was a member of this unique course as a young man (my parents moved to Kington when I was 18). At one point I was even, briefly, joint holder of the course record with one AWB Lyle.Sean Arble's article is excellent, and sums the course up very well. I returned to play there last weekend with my 22 year old son, and my review here is really on his behalf. He said that it was, without doubt, the most fun course he had ever played. And that really is Kington's essence. Because of Hutchison's brilliant design, and the way the greens are protected by natural slopes and superbly crafted mounds, almost every shot into the greens is a challenge, even when that appears to be a simple 60 yard pitch. If you miss the small greens, you almost invariably have a recovery shot which, while not impossible, is going to test your skill. And then you have the difficulty of reading the resulting putt on mountain greens.If you want further endorsement, no less a judge than Tom Doak has given the course a strong write up in his Confidential Golf Course Guide: "the highest grades I handed out to courses I hadn’t seen before (in GB&I) were 7’s, for Castle Stuart, Kington, and Trump International".We played on a gloriously clear, breezy spring afternoon - almost the perfect Kington conditions, and if you get them they make it one of the loveliest places to play golf in Britain. Add to that a very friendly club, and a welcoming pro in Sarah Walton, and it ought to be a course you try to play at least once. And when you do, you'll want to come back again.
5 / 6
Kington
May 13, 2015


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We play this every year and I think this is one of the best courses in the UK. The greens are like snooker tables and very true and the course is a joy on a fine summers day. It is not very friendly when the wind and rain blows and we have played through all 4 seasons in one day. A bit hilly so a buggy is a good idea. Very nice club house and a pint on the decking on a fine day is recommended.
5 / 6
Kington
June 08, 2010


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thomas
December 06, 2012
A pretty unique course situated right on top of a hill above the town with wonderful views on a sunny day and pretty much no views if there's low cloud or fog! Wonderful springy turf, lovely smooth, firm and fast greens many set at cunning angles and surrounded by often severe humps and hollows. The course doesn't play massively hilly, it's certainly not mountain goat golf, as it winds its way around and up the hill and then back down again. The sheep are left to roam as they wish and a tractor with a huge fan attached to the back blows their droppings away from key areas. If you enjoy natural golf, come here. If you like manicured, lush parkland courses, don't, unless you want an education in how golf used to be, and still is in some places. A much better test of golf than you'd at first think and I reckon great fun. The 12th, a 200 yd slightly downhill par-3 to a green surrounded by high mounds and deep depressions is a particularly fine hole. A very nice homely clubhouse and extremely friendly staff and members. If you're in the area I recommend you combine Kington with 18-holes at Ludlow, a fine sand-based course that is a good test of golf located within the towns racecourse with always excellent greens. One tip if you go to Kington, make sure you put the handbreak on tight when you park your car otherwise you might have an interesting time finding and recovering it!
Played this course just last weekend in the heatwave. I must say it's one of the most interesting courses one could stumble across. Every hole provides it's own unique challenge and surprise! Great turf to hit from, greens only Wentworth can maatch and views which are worth the greenfee alone. I must admit, a windy day here may not be so easy, but great course a must play.
6 / 6
Kington
May 29, 2010


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Kington is without doubt the finest hilltop course that I have played, but aren’t hilltops meant for sheep and fell walkers? Having said that I thoroughly enjoyed the round and thought the condition was good if a little au naturale on occasions and the design is very thoughtful. Definitely a gem and a course that you need to get to know to love. I played it on a calm sunny day and it was running hard and fast and therefore a little short but not that easy to score on. Enjoyed it but it is not in the premier league of British golf courses, more first division.
4 / 6
Kington
June 05, 2009


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Took my father-in-law to play here - the greens terrified him! So fast, but very true. Have played the course in snow and the condition was excellent the as well. Testing course in any conditions, but spectacular views of about 9 counties from the top. Very friendly club, incredible value-for-money. Controlled driving required on some of the back 9 par fours or you will never keep the ball on the fairway. But you can sit on the balcony after a tough but satisfying round and watch your fellow golfers struggle to hold their approach on the 18th green just as you were doing 15 minutes before.
6 / 6
Kington
December 19, 2008


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Glorious setting and a fantastic sequence of holes. Greens are superb - fast and true. What great value and a joy to play.
6 / 6
Kington
June 05, 2008


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John
December 07, 2008
A very natural course, with a special treat around every corner, I come back every year, for the last 15 years. The buggy is worthwhile.
We have played this course on several occasions - usually the Shropshire & Hereford Junior inter club championships are held here. Greens are always good, some spectacular holes especially the 14th running out along the ridge. I have never seen finer hilltop courses than here and Llanymynech.
5 / 6
Kington
March 22, 2005


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