Royal Blackheath - Kent - England

Royal Blackheath Golf Club,
Court Road,
Eltham,
London,
SE9 5AF,
England


  • +44 (0) 20 8850 1795

Royal Blackheath Golf Club curiously appeared in a UK magazine's World Top 100 list in 2005. The publication made it clear that their ranking was not based purely on the merits of the course, it was much more about the experience: “England’s oldest club has a stunning clubhouse and a fascinating museum containing hundreds of years’ worth of golfing memorabilia which is worth the visit alone.” We could leave it at that, but we think we’d be doing you and Royal Blackheath an injustice.

It is thought that the Scots formed the Society of Blackheath Golfers in 1608 after James I reunited the thrones. While there is no reason to doubt this, it’s difficult to substantiate as records were destroyed in a late 18th century fire. The earliest remaining facts point to a silver club that was presented to the Honourable Company of Golfers at Blackheath in 1766.

“Now I come to the course of the Royal Blackheath Golf Club, the premier golf club of the world,” wrote Bernard Darwin in his 1925 book The Golf Courses of Great Britain, “and I come to it with a heavy heart because this historic club plays no longer on its historic heath. Hordes of vandal boys playing football have kicked the sacred turf to pieces and made golf impossible. The holes are now no longer cut and the club has moved to Eltham. The Eltham course is in a pretty, park-like spot with admirable greens and a fine old club-house, but it is of course not the heath.”

Blackheath was originally a 7-hole course with competitions usually consisting of three rounds, over 21 holes. As traffic built up on the main A2 road into London, it became impractical and dangerous to drive tee shots across the road, so the club upped sticks and moved to a leafy suburb.

In the book James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses, authors John F. Moreton and Iain Cumming write: “The appreciation for his talents earned him a commission from the oldest golf club in England, the Royal Blackheath Golf Club, which in 1923 decided to amalgamate with the Eltham Club. Braid had played in a tercentenary tournament on the original course in 1908, and had taken 97 shots over twenty-one holes, one more than J.H. Taylor and the same as Harry Vardon.

A minute of the green committee meeting held on 13th November 1926 refers to the inspection of a plan submitted by Braid and the necessity for him to make a further inspection. Basically, the plan called for modification of the “hummocks” throughout the course and alterations to bunkers, enlarging some, reducing others. This work was entrusted to John R. Stutt.”

In more recent times, a five-year renovation plan developed by architect Ken Moodie and implemented by MJ Abbott and John Nicholson Associates was completed in the autumn of 2019. The work involved building or remodelling seventy-seven bunkers, constructing two new greens, extending another five putting surfaces, creating several new tees and managing the tree inventory with a program of tree thinning/felling.

Highlights included extending the 1st hole to a par five with a new green added; incorporating diagonal drive bunkers on the 2nd; creating a new ditch on the 6th to replace a line of leylandii conifers; reshaping the par three 8th to allow more pin positions; and adding a new green on the par three 16th to make the hole more aesthetically pleasing.

Moodie commented: “To create definition in the fairways, fine fescue rough was cultivated via a cut and collect policy to lower the nutrient levels and give the course an older and more rustic character in keeping with the origins of the club on the heath.”

Undoubtedly the 17th century Eltham Lodge is a worthy and fitting clubhouse for Royal Blackheath Golf Club, providing a decorous ambiance for such a historic club, and the course is enjoying a 21st century renaissance. But if you don't want to play, visitors are welcome to visit the museum, which is probably the finest club museum to be found anywhere in the world.

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Description: Undoubtedly the 17th century Eltham Lodge is a worthy and fitting clubhouse for Royal Blackheath Golf Club, providing a decorous ambiance for such a historic club, and the course is enjoying a 21st century renaissance. Rating: 4.3 out of 10 Reviews: 13
TaylorMade
Carl Statham
I played a match at Eltham golf club where Royal Blackheath ended up playing some 90 years ago. The club house is really wonderful, a paldian mansion, and to go with it is some truly great hospitality from the members. In fact several of the members say that the club is more a drinking club than a golf club and that definitely proved to be true. They have a pretty full and well connected fixture list to prove they are a popular club to visit and for their history they are really worth a visit. All this is needed because this is one very poor golf course, they should start by sacking their green keeper, as it is a poor golf course kept very poorly. Fairways were uncut, newly renovated bunkers had grass growing through the sand, the greens were a complete mess, no bare patches had been re-turfed or seeded etc etc. As a test of golf it is a really poor design, up and down bland parkland golf crammed into a small area. I think the 17th is the only hole that provides an interesting test of golf. Beyond that there is a mess of random tree planting, some times in the middle of fairways!, none of which is indigenous. Even with such a limited canvas to work on there seems to have been no co-ordinated effort to make the best of what they do have. They need to get a course designer in and think long term. As you have to mark this on the golf course it gets a very poor mark, however my name will be first on the list for next years match because of that wonderful hospitality.
April 17, 2007
1 / 10
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Douglas Pipe
November 04, 2009
Having just read this persons comments regarding the course I think either he/she needs a new pair of glasses or they were actually not with us at all.We have an excellent greenkeeper who has done much to improve the course over the past few years and if the person I am commenting on would like to come up to the Club and meet me for a game sometime..then just call me.In the meantime, I wish this person great golfing and a more happy memory should they ever care to visit this wonderful club again.
Hugh
Ah Royal Blackheath a lovely course but make sure you take your sand iron, there are bunkers all over the place. Greens were a bit slow when I played here in Feb but it’s a step back in time and nostalgic too. It’s not really a Top 100 course, more of an upmarket but honest London parkland track.
March 14, 2006
4 / 10
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Carl Statham
The club is about it's history and it's members. When you drive into Royal Blackheath (it was actually Eltham Golf Club) you are presented with a marvellous crumbling old pile of a club house. The club retains the traditions of the game and is run like an old gentlemens club, which is actually good to see in a club of such history. However the course does not match the history or the club house. It is a very ordinary park land course of which there are a holf dozen better examples within a 20 minute drive (try Sundridge East). However if you love your golf history go there for a round of golf and spend a lazy afternoon experiencing the musuem, playing snooker and sipping G&T's all of course in the obligatory jacket and tie.
January 15, 2006
4 / 10
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