The village of Puttenham lies between Guildford and Farnham in the Vale of Holmesdale, just off the A31 road that runs along the spine of a hilly ridge named the Hog’s Back. The golf club is located on rolling terrain to the west of the village, within a lovely wooded area on Puttenham Heath.
It’s one of the oldest clubs in Surrey, founded in 1894 by a group of Army Officers, Charterhouse School Masters and local businessmen. Major Howard Fairtlough, the founding Captain, and professional Albert Howlett laid out the original 9-hole course which stretched to just over 2,400 yards.
This course remained in play until 1939, when another nine holes were added. This extended layout then served the club well for another fifty years, until Donald Steel was hired in the late 1980s to revise the course and fashion five new holes inside a newly-acquired 45-acre tract known locally as Monk Grove Copse.
Puttenham’s not a particularly long course at 6,220 yards from the back tees, with fairways laid out on a pleasantly undulating landscape. It can also be tight in places as trees have matured and spread out down the years. Bunkering is light so there are only around a dozen sand traps on either nine.
Notable holes on the front nine include the 497-yard right doglegged 7th, requiring a testing tee shot over heather and the 319-yard 9th, which swings down and right to a two-tiered green.
Highlight holes on the back nine include the 443-yard 10th, the first of the new holes where the fairway sweeps left and down to the green; the 356-yard 16th, veering right and up to the putting surface; and the 176-yard 18th, the final short hole on the card which plays slightly downhill to a large, sand-protected home green.
Puttenham is no doubt one of Surrey’s hidden gems. It’s a great fun track that offers up frequent elevation changes and constant variety in the length and direction of holes. The course is very old and there have been a number of changes over the years. What they have created seems to be make the best use of the land available and flows very naturally. The course is well routed, with the only noticeable walking distance from green to next tee coming between the 1st to 2nd and the 14th to 15th.
The greens are very small and the tee shots are tight, so it by no means an easy course. You’ll need to be very accurate in line and length to play to handicap here, as there is very little margin for error.
Standout holes for me… 6th is a uniquely designed hole with an incredible green complex - the type of hole you need to play twice. 8th was a really fun hole with an approach that will be short but needs to be precise. 11th was a very tough par 5, a 3-shotter requiring a cut off the tee. The 13th is memorable, with a lovely sweeping fairway giving a superb inviting view to the green.
Having seen some extensive tree clearing on many other courses in the past decade I can’t help thinking Puttenham would benefit from a big woodland thinning program. There’s an abundance of gorgeous pine trees hiding amongst the woodland, and the odd cluster of heather, as the turf is predominately heathland. I’m sure this would thrive if it wasn’t suffocated by silver birches and dense foliage that surrounds many of the tee boxes and landing areas.
Overall, I would certainly recommend Puttenham for a round and I can imagine it’s a lovely course to be a member of. They make the most of what they have with good conditioning and great use of the land available.
Puttenham has been around forever but in terms of any rankings, it has flown way under the radar. Not a course that is well known from too far away from the club but I say it is well worth a visit. This is an established course with obvious land and woodland maturity all around.
My first game was this year in July and it was a really enjoyable experience. In saying that, my first impressions from the 1st tee were not that great – the tee is at the rear of the clubhouse and a drive across a service road did not give me a warm feeling at the start of the round on the short par-4 opener. Another short par-4 (280 yards) comes at the 3rd and is downhill, so likely to have to wait for the green to clear. Do not let these early observations get in the way of a super course though.
It is from the 4th to the last hole that the course delivers in a big way with many great holes. The first par-3 comes at the 5th and is very strong; 211 yards long with a lone deep bunker protecting on the right-side of the green. The first par-5 is the 7th hole; pretty short at 497 yards but this is a great dog-legging hole where the tip is to favour the left side all of the way. I like to give marks to all holes on a course and that helps go someway to a final opinion and it is Puttenham’s 10th hole that gets my highest mark. This is SI-3 and a big par-4 at 443 yards – a tight drive out of a tree-lined chute to a right to left cambered fairway that will still leave a long slight left to right approach – a real standout hole and a design triumph.
In a time when course length is discussed far too often, Puttenham at under 6300 yards is a great advert for the game and how the course is suitable for the masses and not just the elite golfers looking just at length to impress.
The back nine continues well with so much variation – the 11th a par-5 with a blind second shot, the 14th a 302 yard par-4 with a fantastic green and the 350 yard 17th that need approaching over a gorse hedge. A tree lined par-3 at 176 yards ends the round and I really think that all that play here will enjoy the course. Glad to have found the course and look forward to seeing a ranking position next time in England’s strongest golfing county.