"For very many years this was the home club of Sam King," wrote Peter Alliss in The Good Golf Guide, "third in the 1939 Open Championship and a contender on many other occasions, notably in 1948, when he caught the maestro, Henry Cotton, during the final round but then faded.
The club was founded when the Wildernesse estate was about to be sold in 1923 and a country club set up. Some of the members of Wildernesse Golf Club objected to the plans and sought the agreement of Lord Sackville to build a clubhouse and the present course."
Architect J.F. Abercromby, much in demand after his earlier designs at The Addington, Coombe Hill and Worplesdon in Surrey, was contracted in 1924 to lay out the Knole Park course within an enormous 1,000-acre estate leased from Lord Sackville. According to the book James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses by John F. Moreton and Iain Cumming, Braid had visited the property the year before to survey the estate.
As the authors state, “the preliminary survey was Braid’s. Next was the layout and, in addition to Braid, Abercromby was invited to make a plan. Perhaps surprisingly, Abercromby’s was chosen, the committee as a whole favouring his, Lord Sackville favouring Braid’s. The fascinating element of the two plans is that Braid’s travels clockwise, Abercromby’s anti-clockwise, though both use much the same ground.”
Today, the eighteen fairways still occupy the same parkland setting where the course was originally set out, in the northern portion of the deer park. Knole House, one of the finest National Trust properties in England, is situated at the other end of the estate. The layout was lengthened a little in the 1960s, but apart from changes made at that time, the course is more or less the one that Abercromby designed.
A visit to Knole Park is a captivating experience, set out in the majestic and historic Knole Park estate the course it has elements of parkland, heathland and upland in the design which makes it fairly unique, for Kent at least. Unfortunately I played on probably the wettest and windiest (2 club!) mid-summer days you can imagine but it didn’t detract from what is a very enjoyable experience, the fairways and greens definitely drain well. It starts off with a mid-length uphill par 3 which asks a tough question from the beginning, don’t go right or you’ll be asking the deer to help find your ball. Then you head off and you won’t see the club house again until you walk down the 18th fairway, make sure you are well provisioned because there is no half way hut. The next couple of holes are parkland style, working their way through some fine undulating terrain, 3 and 4 being exceptional short par 4’s which encourage you to let rip with the driver, get it right and you have a short iron to find the green, get it wrong and if you can find your ball amongst the bracken you’ll be chipping out sideways.
You then emerge onto the heathland/upland portion of the course which is much more exposed, certainly felt that on the day I played, you really have to consider the wind when making a shot selection, high ball strikers like me more so. The course has 6 par 3’s which all felt pretty tough but fun, they’ll make or break your score, all were different with severe punishment on at least two sides of each hole, missing the green provides a thorough examination of the short game. The closing sequence of holes from 14 onwards are cracking with 2 of the par 5’s coming at 15 & 17 and an excellent final hole heading down the clubhouse.
The greens were very pure, rolled a lot quicker than they looked given how wet it was, I don’t believe the fairways are irrigated so in a dry spell they’ll give lots of run. I was however disappointed with the conditions of many of the fairways especially the heathland parts, patchy lumpy grass meant it was something of a lottery what lie you’d fine, a little frustrating to find the middle of the fairway and your ball ends up in bare lie with a clump of turf in front or behind. Despite that minor gripe Knole Park is well deserving of its high ranking, there are few courses which combine different styles of golf so well and in such an beautiful setting.
Kent is a county blessed with World Class links golf courses, but if you’re ever travelling down to these, stop off at the ‘Best inland course in Kent’, because you won’t be disappointed by this unique track.
Knole Park is a course unlike any I’ve played before. It manages to combine Parkland, Moorland and Heathland golf and use the natural rolling topography of the National Trust site it resides in to shape a course full of character and surprise. Added to that, Knole Park is home to hundreds of deer, who happily walk the fairways and watch you play.
The first 5 holes are parkland with vast elevation changes. The 3rd is a cracking Par 4 played into a valley and back up a hill to a raised green and the 4th is a lovely driving hole back over the valley of the 3rd.
From the 6th the land flattens and opens out where the Moorland holes begin, played around the grounds of the 15th century Knole House. The view from the downhill Par 3 8th is one of the best on the course affording you a view of 3 separate greens in the distance. In fact with the elevation and the open nature of the course, almost every hole has views across the holes to come.
Having said that, with that openness and plenty of valleys, when the wind is up, the course turns from a plotters course to an almost links-like experience.
Other great holes are the Par 3 12th, playing over 200 yards and fiercely protected by a set of bunkers guarding the raised green, the sweeping dogleg right 14th with a sunken green and the Par 5 17th with a WW2 crater awaiting stray drives.
The finishing hole is a cracker with a blind tee shot and a downhill approach into the final green.
Throughout the course the greensites are superb. The greens roll fast and true and the undulations on the greens and in the swells surrounding the greens are top class.
This is a course the offers a lot of fun and an awful lot of character. Just when you think you have come to expect one type of golf, it throws up another and it’s certainly a course that I would have ranked higher than it’s current position. It’s a real gem.
So as I say, when travelling down to the coast to play RSG or RCP, take a little stop at Knole Park for a warm up.
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Having just played the Kent Cob, I have given this a 5 as per the description...not because it is best in the region...Kent...it will never be best in the region with RSG, RSP etc ......but because it would be if it was in Befordshire or Cambridge etc. A great inland course that is worth playing.Yes flat rate GFee is steep (all GFees are these days) but well worth the £60 on CCard for 18 or only a few quid extra for 36. The scenery is excellent, the greens in superb condition and a great mix of short/long par 4s and 5s. The par 3s are tough and I personally think it is missing a 140-160 (off the back tees) par 3 as they are all over 170 and a couple play more than 200. Not a flat course but the use of the natural undulation really works well. Take all your links courses out of the equation and this is a real gem of a course that ranks really highly for me. Personally, I am amazed at some of the -ve comments this course has received in previous reviews....then again there is no pleasing some people....they would no doubt find something wrong with Augusta!
This course is well ranked in the Kent listings, but after paying a hefty green fee, it did not meet my expectations and match up to the quality as indicated by other reviews. It is located in the beautiful and vast Knole Park, the most natural and wonderful surrounds, and an area heavily populated by deer. The Park is their home.
We played on a very hot day, and the dry fairways were fast-running with tees and greens in superb condition. However the course started with big altitude changes in the first five holes, and I am not a fan of pins appearing on a pinnacle on the top of an incline. Things did not flow with some good and some bad absolutely typified by the 4th, a brilliant left-to-right dogleg followed by a par 3 up what seemed a small mountain slope that was out of range to all but the very best players.
From there the course opened out over very scenic, fairly flat terrain with stunning views of Knole House and across the Park, and some challenging holes notably the downhill par 3 8th, another par 3 at 12 and two par 5s at 15 and 17, the latter which seemed to stretch for ever across the landscape viewed from the tee. But then just when things seemed about to finish in style, the unpredictable nature of the course was summed up by a limp final hole with a totally blind tee shot.
This is a course of contrasts located on a glorious canvas, which I will remember for its magnificent setting and some variable golf challenges, some excellent, some poor and some plain quirky.
Knole Park has been heralded as Kent's finest inland course and this is a great description of the course. It is a very enjoyable moorland complete with many lovely holes and some deer (one of which nearly ate my Mars bar on the 3rd tee).
Knole Park is not amazingly presented and this is due to the deer. However, this does not detract from the overall experience.
1 - a par three of 192/186/186/181 that plays slightly uphill over a small cluster of bunkers. A fairly sedate opener in all honesty.
2 - a par four of 342/343/335/292 uphill to a green carved out of a small hillside. A decent hole but nothing too special.
3 - a beautiful par four of 403/393/380/340 with a large downhill drive. The hole climbs uphill after that to a very narrow green. Definitely one of the more picturesque holes on the course.
4 - a lovely par four of 421/418/410/406 from an elevated tee down to a curving fairway in a beautiful valley. A very picturesque hole but has a slightly awkward approach angle if you are a short hitter.
5 - an uphill par three of 194/180/161/122 that demands you take at least two extra clubs. Not an incredible hole to be honest.
6 - a very good par four of 409/399/372/375 to a fairway in a small valley before playing uphill to a raised green. A great hole that has a very open nature and is affected by the wind.
7 - a par five of 483/480/475/417 playing uphill along the boundaries of Knole house. Nothing too special, but a good birdie chance.
8 - a glorious par three of 184/175/163/161 playing downhill over multiple bunkers and water on the left. A beautiful hole that lies near the scene from the Penny Lane video.
9 - a tough par five of 534/503/472/354 uphill with trees on the left side of the fairway. Another fairly average par five.
10 - a good par three of 171/164/158/125 downhill with renovated bunkering at the front of the green. Me and my dad played the hole in one under gross combined which is quite an achievement since I play off 34 as a junior!
11 - a good par four of 438/427/408/408 which is slightly downhill from the tee. It bends very sharply to the right. The greensite is nice and this is a good hole.
12 - a long par three of 202/198/192/150 with panoramic views over the grounds and moors. It is actually a very nice par three with a sloping green.
13 - a short par four of 342/325/277/276 playing slightly uphill to a green in the shadow of a tall oak tree. A good birdie chance, but not much else to be honest.
14 - a fantastic par four of 499/447/429/435 downhill to a green with the bracken in the background. Apparently Peter Alliss loved the hole. I agree - it was my favourite hole on the course.
15 - a long par five of 546/485/471/461 playing from an elevated tee to a fairway deep in the valley before climbing back uphill. Either this or 17 is the best of the par fives.
16 - a tough uphill par three of 198/188/180/171 that has trouble all up the right. The simple solution is to just aim left of the green. The views from the green are among the best on the course.
17 - a good par five of 521/503/494/492 downhill towards the clubhouse. The green is a bit below the fairway and makes it easier to reach the green in two shots. A nice hole.
18 - a great finishing hole of 401/391/344/312 down the hill with O.O.B on the right. In front of the green is a small pond. A nice, but not taxing, finisher.
Knole Park deserves to be in the Top 100 in England. An excellent course with many great holes.
A wonderful course which makes full use of its surroundings both in an aesthetic and golfing challenge sense.
The first 5 holes are set in a mainly parkland setting which had me slightly underwhelmed. The Par 3 1st and Par 4 2nd are fairly average holes, a nice 3rd over the valley is followed by a fairly average dog leg 4th and uphill par 3 5th.
From the 6th hole onwards the course truly comes into its own when you are greeted to the view of the glorious moorland setting as you enter the 6th tee.
The 8th - 15th holes represent the strongest section of the course with 3 excellent and very pretty par 3’s (8, 10 & 12), a superb par 5 (9th) and a couple of highly imaginative dogleg par 4’s (12th & 14th). All within beautiful natural moorland surroundings and the course famous deer walking the fairways with you!
16 and 17 are a fairly average par 3 and par 5 as the course returns to its parkland area. The 18th however is a cracking finishing hole with OB running all the way down the right providing an intimidating tee shot from the back tees. The approach shot is a testing down hill short iron with a pond to contend with and a glorious vista of the clubhouse behind the green.
Overall a very enjoyable experience and well worth its status as the number 1 inland course in Kent.
Every once in a while, a course less heralded in the rankings provides a pleasant surprise where expectations are exceeded. My recent afternoon at the picture-perfect Knole Park happily provided one of these such experiences.
JF Abercomby laid out several excellent courses across England during his lifetime and Knowle Park is another cracker. It’s the hundreds of deer that roam the course and wider estate that Knole is probably famous for, but it’s a course layout that deserves greater credit amongst top course enthusiasts. Parkland by name but truly a hybrid of different course terrains, the ’87 storm cleared many of the trees that have opened up the landscape meaning that it’s less penned in than most parkland courses. Knole Park also has a strong blend of heathland, moorland and even downland characteristics woven through various segments of the course. Hilly in nature, but still plenty walkable, the constantly changing physical attributes of the course provide some lovely variety to the routing.
The benched green at 2 and trio of gorgeous valley holes from 3 to 5 mean that you don’t have to wait long for the delights to appear at Knole Park, but it’s when you climb out of the valley at 6 where you’ll discover the contrasting terrain which Knole Park is blessed with. Comparable to moorland in style and sharing its boundary with the walls of Knole House, holes 6 and 7 provide less of a visual feast from what’s been presented previously, due to it being played over anthill pockmarked grassland, but they’re holes that provide a stern challenge and I personally enjoyed the juxtaposition in panorama and the strategic thinking required on these holes.
8’s a delicious par three that offers a wonderful view back into the undulating terrain where you’re greeted with a lovely vista from the tee with three greens stacked one behind the other in tiers. The next few holes immediately after the turn are typical parkland and pleasant in nature, but aren’t graced with the same beautiful terrain that the rest of the course is afforded, so this was admittedly the section of the course that I was less taken by. Having said that, Knole Park then knocks one out of the park at 12. A rip-snorter of a long par three, this hole is played to a raised green over a depression in the ground where four bunkers are then embedded into the hill-face guarding the green from a mis-struck tee shot. But it’s the humped-back ridge through the middle of the green that provides the cherry on the top of this fine short hole. Simply delightful.
Following this, Knole Park then returns to the rolling ground, routed back through the dips and valleys that you visited in the earlier part of the round. I love how the flag is perched high upon a hilltop at 13 as if Sir Edmund Hillary planted it there, staring down on you as you climb your way up the inclined fairway. The big dipper of a par five on 15 returns you to the plateau where the round started whilst the WWII crater on the edge of the 17th fairway to gobble up that pushed tee shot offers another fun architectural highlight.
Knole Park is a true Kent gem, and given its status as the county's premier inland course, would be my recommendation for a warm-up round to those visitors hopping fresh off the plane before travelling to fight with the links on the Kent seaside coast.
As a final side-note, but none less noteworthy than what I’ve written before, Knole Park recently offered free rounds of golf to NHS workers as we came out of the Covid-19 lockdown. Philanthropic golf clubs are a rare breed and the team at Knole Park should be applauded for this generosity.
Knole Park is ranked as the best inland course in Kent which is an accolade they deserve. The routing makes great use of the topography which gives Knole Park an unusual variety of holes which will hold the players attention. The turf is really good to play from…ideal for golf and the drainage is excellent which makes the course playable all year round. The layout consists of 6 par 3 holes all different playing uphill, downhill and across ridges ranging from 165 yards to 200 yards. The 8 par 4 holes play in all directions and range from the drivable 13th to the 447 yard 14th. Knole Parks par 5 holes are where you need to make your score all are relatively short but finding the fairway is key to being able to reach the green in two. The green complexes are pretty good and have plenty of movement, they can get very fast in the summer so much so that it is not unusual to putt off them! As mentioned Knole Park holds the players attention throughout and my pick of the holes are the 4th a mid length par 4 teeing off from and elevated tee into the valley below before a mid iron approach to green with a tier about a third of the way up the green. Hole 8 is cool par three downhill with a pond on the left which is not really in play. The green is relatively small and has bunkers guarding the front portion and a run off left. The 11th is a fun sharp dogleg par 4 to a green set in amongst the trees. Hole 13 is a short drivable par 4 which challenges the player to carry the pond or layup to leave a wedge shot to the green. Kent is more widely known for its links courses but if you’re travelling through I would suggest stopping off at Knole Park for a game…you will not be disappointed!
I’ll be honest, Knole Park wasn’t a course that was high on my “must play” list. Truth be told, it wasn’t on the list at all! As a Scotsman who occasionally slips across the border to play in England, I didn’t exactly have this 18-hole layout in deepest, darkest Kent on my radar, 450 miles away from my cave in Caledonia – not until it was recommended to me by a fan of John Abercromby-designed courses. Because it’s a reasonable ½ hour drive from Gatwick airport and my evening flight home to Glasgow, I was able to squeeze in an afternoon round after playing elsewhere in the morning.
Parkland golf isn’t my preferred version of the game so playing a round in amongst herds of literally hundreds of deer in such a rustic setting has to be one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had on a golf course – talk about being at one with nature! Knole Park is full of character, with lots of movement in the landscape over which the fairways are routed. For sure, you’ll not get bored playing here on a regular basis as there’s plenty of quirky little features to keep you both engaged and entertained from start to finish.
I scored the back nine quite a bit higher than the front nine, largely due to the fact that I thought the 6th and 7th were weak holes, despite the former being rated as stroke index 1 on the card! I felt the run from #10 to #15 was by far the best sequence on the course, starting with a terrific downhill par three (played to a newly bunkered, front to back sloping green) and ending with a really tough beast of a par five which played uphill to the green. The closing hole, with a lovely pond to the front right of the home green, is a lovely way to end the round.
I imagine club officials and members will be pleased to see the course ranked in the English Top 100, having entered the national listings in 2018. Currently listed as the best inland course in the county, Knole Park sets the benchmark for all the others to match.
Knole Park is a beautiful public area and I’d long wanted to play there. As a visitor I’ve always gazed longingly over the golf club’s rustic, rather wild charms which look and sometimes feel like a parkland-heathland hybrid. There’s no heather but there is plenty of bracken.
It’s not cheap but I think it’s worth it. I’ve played most of Kent’s big courses now and I’d rate it between Prince’s and Littlestone – certainly the best non-links layout I’ve played in the area. It might also be the most scenic eighteen I’ve played anywhere. It looks so much cooler than your average parkland, a bit browned, dramatic, sort of ancient then of course you have the deer. On the first a large herd immediately left us pondering what the local rule is but apparently there isn’t one, it’s just play and pray you don’t hit one. Thankfully we didn’t have any near misses and they amble off when you approach an area they’re grazing in.
There are many similarities to JF Abercromby’s Addington, including an opening par 3. I think it’s a better course than The Addington though. After that benign start it soon gets hilly and tricky, the greens are deceptively fast and you really don’t want to be leaving your ball above pins. Many fairways also reward a drawn tee shot, this is usually apparent after playing though. Additionally, do not flirt with bracken – it may as well be water as you will lose your ball.
My favourite hole was the par 4 6th, there’s a split fairway, diagonal bunkering and a severe green. Par is an excellent score. The next couple of holes go deep into the public area, nice when I’ve strolled around daydreaming but annoying when you’re playing. People will be noisy and some will stand idling in the middle of fairways. That’s my main complaint about Knole Park but it’s not the club’s fault.
It does have a couple weaker holes too, in my opinion. 11 is a long dogleg par 4 where you can’t really cut the corner, especially as there’s a public path there. The 10th is a relatively boring par 3 but other holes more than make up for it. 5, 8 and 12 are fun, tough and pretty par 3s and I loved the short par 4 13th. It’s risk-reward and is up there with Knole Park’s most aesthetic holes.
On all my favourite courses I’ve not wanted the round to end. I felt that way at Knole Park. Condition-wise it’s not worth the money but it is unique, fun and especially tranquil once the public have gone home. Just you, the course and the deer on a pleasant summer’s evening is pretty special. Knole often gets overlooked, so much so I've read it's Tom Doak's #1 yet-to-play in the UK. If you're anywhere in the southeast then it's worth the day off work and travel.