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.
Date: June 06, 2020