Established in 1895, 9-hole Reigate Heath Golf Club was described by Peter Alliss as “a little gem” when he featured the course for his 80s BBC TV show ‘Around with Alliss'. Full of charm and bursting with character, the course is set within a 120-acre Site of Special Scientific Interest, where heather and gorse-lined fairways are laid out on a natural heathland landscape around a beautiful old clubhouse and windmill.
The course is configured with nine holes and eighteen separate tees which are positioned so that they change the appearance of every hole to a greater or lesser extent. Sometimes the tee placements are shorter or longer on the back nine, other times they’re located on the other side of the fairway, offering a different angle of play.
There’s only one par five on the card (at the 484-yard 4th) because it’s played as a long par four at the 13th hole on the back nine, where it also attains the stroke index 1 rating. The fairway narrows considerably as it approaches the point where it doglegs sharply left towards the green so a par score on either hole will be well earned.
Reigate Heath is a delightful place to play golf and we were given a wonderful welcome from all the members and Club staff that we met. Sitting outside on a wooden trestle table by the clubhouse with its own windmill after our round on a balmy summer’s evening gazing over the green Surrey countryside below was probably one of our most thrilling viewing experiences in English golf.
And that’s before I write about the golf course. Pure heathland with lots of trees and considerable elevation changes, the terrain is classic. We enjoyed raised tees and awesome-looking carries as the holes wound around this Site of Special Scientific Interest.
This precludes essential maintenance of the pathways some of which were in a poor state of repair, and also adequate signage between the holes. However the tees, greens and bunkers were all in good order even if the fairways were a bit variable with preferred lies the norm even in summer. The heather was in rude hood health and presented a fearsome challenge to golf shots that were offline.
The course is great fun to play, and all the holes are good. Membership of many golf courses is significantly up post Covid, and it seems that nine hole courses, although comparatively rare, are increasingly popular with younger golfers who don’t perhaps have the time to play the full eighteen. Reigate Heath is booming with a healthy waiting list for membership, and the opportunity to play this ‘slightly rustic’ gem should not be missed by anyone who loves playing the game.
A perfect way to finish off the morning I spent at Walton Heath, Reigate Heath is a 9 hole course set on a brilliantly sandy site. You can tell the quality of the land as you drive in towards the windmill, and see the heather and natural bunkering on the 9th hole.
Different to Sweetens Cove in USA where the large greens mean that they can have 2 different flags for each hole, Reigate Heath has a more traditional option to try and provide 18 ‘holes’. There are two sets of tee boxes for each hole, and although I only played off one set, you could see the difference in tees would mean that a second 9 would make the holes play at pretty different angles.
The second hole is fun test. A par 4 with a large batch of heather as a cross hazard, on the day I was there, 2 7 irons was the play. This is followed by an uphill par 3 with an interesting green where you don’t want to leave yourself a downhill putt. All of the greens ran quick and have interest- my favourite being the 8th.
Elevation throughout makes you think and puts doubt in your mind as to whether you have the right club, and there is also some quirk in the course. The 7th tee shot hits over the 6th green, which is something different, but makes sure all the property is utilized!
The club is extremely welcoming, and if doing a heathland trip, I would strongly recommend spending the hour and a half to have a lovely walk round this sandiest of inland sites.
Reigate Heath’s set in a surprisingly hilly piece of land as the drive in is flat. It certainly has a ‘wow’ factor plus the clubhouse and windmill suitably crown the landscape. What follows is a fun, quite dramatic golf course which in warmer weather would allow all sorts of options and angles. In November the greens were still playing fast, and there were certain bunkers and pins where being on the wrong side was an automatic bogey.
The routing is in a rough circle around the clubhouse, sadly I only played 9 but the second set of tees seem to add a different dimension. For example, the 10th tee is set high above the 1st and makes it a driveable par 4. Being so high up it’d certainly be tempting to have a go.
The 4th is a majestic dogleg par 5, the 9th is as pretty a par 3 as you’ll see, but I was a little underwhelmed by the 7th and 8th holes. They look and play fairly similarly and both have raised greens. That doesn’t tarnish though what is an enjoyable, pretty, well kept course that would be even better in bouncy summer conditions.
If you listen to the rhetoric coming out of golf organisations recently about the diminishing numbers taking up golf due to the length of time it takes to play, short courses should become increasingly popular. But if they’re going to attract serious numbers back to the game, then they need to be quality courses. Reigate Heath is an example of this, and is by all accounts one of the best nine-holers in the country.
On the drive to the clubhouse and car park, it’s clear that the surrounding heathland terrain is perfectly suited for a first-rate course, and the course is indeed a good one. The layout itself has some very positive features of architectural interest; there’s a variety of bunker styles as well as some interesting green complexes, with the green-site at the first setting the tone. The main two highlights that have stayed in my memory are the bending, uphill 5th that plays tight between trees to an elevated green, and the superb 7th with its revetted face bunkers reminding me of nearby Walton Heath. The course also offers separate tee boxes for the back nine which provide some welcome variation should you choose to play eighteen, creating different angles and yardages from what you’ll have played across the front nine.
If I was to offer a slight negative, due to the short yardage, I did feel that other than the one-shot holes the better than average ball striker wouldn’t find the course to be a full test of all of the clubs in the bag. I’ve also downgraded my rating of the course by a half-ball simply because it’s easier to create nine good holes than eighteen, but this place is still well worth the visit. Even if you just play nine, there are few better places to sit, admire the views and enjoy a post-round drink than the clubhouse with its famous windmill alongside. Both are located on a wonderful elevated spot where you get to gaze down upon the opening few holes of the course.
I joined Reigate Heath in Feb 2018 and have been so impressed with the course even in the dark, cold and wet winter days the course still played really well. When the sudden summer snuck up on us this year the course started to play amazingly well. The greens are some of the truest iv played EVER and the surrounding heather and stunning views make this place so special. I would recommend a visit to anyone!!
Reigate Heath is right up my alley and I’d happily be a member here if I lived locally. I have an affinity with 9-hole courses (I’m a member of a 9-holer in Devon). In this busy modern world it’s much easier to find a couple of spare hours than it is to earmark half a day for golf.
In my opinion Reigate Heath is probably the best 9-hole course in England. The first five holes are from the top drawer – the long par three 6th is not quite as stellar, but I’d love to own the delightful lodge house behind the green. #7 and #8 are two solid short par fours and the 9th is perhaps the prettiest one shotter I’ve played in a long time, where the windmill and clubhouse provide the loveliest backdrop.
Mildenhall (a course I know well and appreciate) would not be so highly regarded by the cognoscenti if not for its engaging green complexes. Reigate Heath does not have the same St Andrews-esque greensite subtlety as its Suffolk cousin, but it does share a simple, unfussy and less-is-more essence.
Reigate Heath boasts genuinely stirring topography – there’s ground movement here creating real golfing excitement – and the surrounding bucolic landscape is drop dead gorgeous. The heath is a designated site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to its wildlife and acid grassland. And how many courses can boast Bronze Age burial mounds? It’s where many non-golfers walk with their kids and dogs and I’d happily join them without my golf clubs in tow.
Probably the most enjoyable two hours I’ve ever spent on a golf course and the putt dropping on #9 to halve the match was entirely equitable.
I don’t think I’ve ever been handed two cards in the pro shop before playing a course: one to mark my score and one explaining “course etiquette and health & safety”. Because the property is widely traversed by the general public – mainly locals out walking their dog – players have to be aware of several popular routes that are used by these non-golfers to cross the fairways, hence the additional card for reference.
The clubhouse and adjacent windmill sit at the most elevated point in the middle of the property (they’re set at an elevation quite a bit higher than the surrounding landscape), overlooking the nine fairways that are laid out on the heathland terrain below. There’s a very comfortable, lived-in feel to the clubhouse and this ties in very well with the course’s slightly less than perfectly manicured appearance.
I loved the way the tee boxes have been arranged to allow the same nine holes to be played twice from a variety of different yardages, vantage points and angles, with offset tee positions resulting in many of the more interesting tee shot visual images. Being critical, the only disjointed aspect to the routing was the long walk down from the green on the par four 5th/14th to the tee on the par three 6th/15th.
Best holes for me were the downhill par four 2nd (where a ridge of gorse cuts diagonally across the fairway a hundred yards short of the green), the uphill par three 3rd (with a long carry across heather to a green that falls off sharply on the left), the tough par four 5th (played to a tricky two-tiered green), and the fabulous little par four 7th, which is heavily sand-protected around the putting surface.
It’s around forty quid for an 18-hole round here, representing fantastic value at a charming little track where the SSS is one more than the par of 67 from the back tees. Just don’t get me started on comparisons with other 9-hole layouts (such as that famous 9-hole course in Suffolk which is much loved down the years by a golfing intelligentsia that obviously understands its intricacies and subtleties better than me) because Reigate Heath is superior to most of the others that I've played so far.
As a member for over 20 years I feel your pain at the link between the 5th and 6th holes. There was originally a shorter route from just short of the green giving a direct route to the next tee. However the local council who maintain the heath found that the path passed over an ancient tomb and asked the club to re-route the path to the next tee.
Glad you liked the course and the changes delivered by the 2 sets of tees on each whole.
Next time you are in the area I'd love to host a game.
They say that nice things come in small packages and that is exactly what Reigate Heath is and does.
It’s a dramatically stunning nine-hole golf course located just outside the M25 on excellent golfing terrain which I can only describe as a heathery heaven. Perhaps it is apt that the grade II listed post mill situated adjacent to the clubhouse has been restored and is now used as a chapel!
Despite its par of just 67 and yardage of 5,664 there is a real sense of grandeur about the course, especially during the opening holes, on what is a wonderfully scenic part of the property. The clubhouse is located at the highest point with the course plunging immediately downhill before wending its way round and back up in a clockwise direction.
The routing is akin to another charming nine-hole course, Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire, and whilst the quality is much higher at Reigate both have similarly engaging personalities as they lead us gently round the estate.
There are a number of standout holes at Reigate Heath. The first/10th is a fabulous starter as it bends around a bank of heather before you play up to a proud green worked into the hillside. The third/12th is a par three that has a magnificent green complex with the left-side blurring beautifully into the approach and at the same time tantalisingly falling away. Meanwhile, the fourth/13th has a majestic drive with the hole mysteriously sweeping away from sight in the distance.
Often touted as the best nine-hole course in the UK I’m afraid I must give that accolade to Royal Worlington & Newmarket in Suffolk, which has a far greater complexity, but Reigate Heath is none-the-less exceptionally good, infinitely beautiful and just a lovely place to spend time on a golf course.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Having drifted away from golf for various reasons I am now back full of energy and loving the game. Why? Simple. Joining Reigate Heath G CAn amazing experience and having played golf for over 40 years RHGC gives you the ultimate golfing experience of combining the modern with the original. It's a pretty , challenging course with plenty to offer. Each hole has amazing character and will give you a thrill every time you venture out onto the heath. The clubhouse is second to none in terms of character and is beautifully appointed. Add in the great and friendly team that run the club and you have a recipe for total golfing heaven. Don't miss the chance to play Reigate Heath Golf Club when you are next looking for a game in Surrey.