The Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club has seen golf played in Old Deer Park for well over 100 years having been founded in 1892. Despite the club losing many historic artefacts in the clubhouse fire of 2001, the history remains with many pictures of famous faces and foremost tournaments gracing the walls of the new building. It is no surprise that with its grand location so close to central London and neighbouring the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, it is still a very popular course. Bernard Darwin wrote in 1910 that there were ‘probably more rounds played at Mid-Surrey throughout the year than any other golf club in the three kingdoms’, and whilst this is perhaps not the case today there is still a thriving membership at the club.
Along with 36 holes, Royal Mid-Surrey features an impressive array of practice facilities. There’s a large putting green in the gardens outside the clubhouse, a practice range of 180 yards or so as well as several short game areas. The clubhouse itself features several bars, a large restaurant and a snooker room whilst also hosting some of the best changing facilities anywhere to be found.
The Outer Course (now known as the JH Taylor layout) is the main course at the club. Measuring 6,402 yards, on first appearance it is not a long course but there are only two par fives keeping the par down to just 69. Seven of the par fours are over 400 yards and two of the par threes over 200. Add to that an array of large deep bunker and J.H. Taylor’s famous humps and hollows – which play like the dunes of a links course – and you start to see why the standard scratch score is set at 71. Indeed this is a course where both accuracy and length are at a premium. No sooner is this evident than the 1st hole, an opening par three of 225 yards to a small green flanked by bunkers. The test continues as the next six holes wind there way through mature trees and the boundaries of Kew. Although things start to open a little from the 8th, clever cuts to the fairways and well positioned bunkers still reward a well placed tee shot and the consequence of not hitting your mark will often be at least a stroke. Things do not get easier after the turn either as the long par fours start to bite. The closing stretch encompasses a 458-yard par four, a 209-yard par three, a 423-yard par four and another 405-yard par four. This is certainly a course where a good score needs to be built early, and then hung onto with dear life over those final stages.
The club is investing greatly in the course at present too. It is clear that the distraction of the clubhouse fire perhaps took its toll on the course, however plans are now in place – and very much evident – to once again raise the course quality and general presentation. Let it be noted however that this is by no means bad at present; the bunkers are well raked with plenty of sand in them and the greens whilst undergoing heavy maintenance at the time of writing, still roll fairly true. There should be no reason why come summer another of Bernard Darwin’s writings should not again be apt, that the greens be ‘as near perfection as anything short of a billiard-table could possibly be’.
The club is criticised at times for being laid out on land which is too flat and for not possessing any stand out holes. This we feel is unfair for whilst the land is flat, there is a general undulation down to the River Thames and the numerous humps and hollows along with several raised greens mean there are certainly flatter courses out there. There are also a number of very good holes and the overall layout is as strong as you’re likely to find. Probably the strongest run is from the 2nd to the 8th where a grand variety of trees border each of the holes. Accuracy is at a premium here, no more so than at the 3rd, a right to left dogleg where just hitting the fairway is not good enough as you could still find your approach to the green blocked by trees. Likewise the course finishes very strongly. 17 and 18 are both challenging holes that sweep gently uphill to the clubhouse. The fairway narrows over this time and the bunkering increases; there is no doubt these will have provided many an exciting finish.
Perhaps the only criticism therefore that is fair to acknowledge, is the disturbance that the flight path to Heathrow causes. This is obviously no fault of the club nor indeed is it a situation likely to change, but the paths are rotated so you may be so fortunate to play on a quieter day and living in the area I can attest that you grow accustomed to it in time. In such case it must be noted that otherwise this is a very peaceful place to be with very minimal traffic noise that pollutes so many courses which are in any kind of proximity to a motorway these days.
So we can see that in the past one hundred years little has changed, Royal Mid-Surrey is still an excellent location to enjoy a round of golf, and, as the sport increases in popularity, it is the author’s belief that shall still be the case 100 years from now.Article by Christopher F. Hamblin
Taking an Uber to RMS directly from Heathrow ironically meant I was indirectly contributing to one of the criticisms thrown at this course. We didn’t get bothered by plane noise pollution at all though. Perhaps a suspicious drone had caused an air traffic standstill whilst recording golf course flyovers in the vicinity.
After a brief chat with the starter, we were away on the Par 3 first. I don’t like beginning a round in this way, so have recently decided to treat all such holes as short Par 4’s. So I went way out to the right and had to chip over the green side bunker to a tight pin. I ran through into the other bunker. Note to self: greens quicker than expected. Despite this I was happy to walk away with my bogey 5.
In the conspicuous absence of any topographical thrills, it’s crucial that the greens and bunkers at RMS are well done. And they are. The former were very good - often distinct from the fairways, rolled very smoothly, and had just enough interest. The latter were also well executed - especially the use of cross-bunkering on second shots on some holes (I enjoy a decision of left or right, short or long, rather than simply don’t go right/left because there’s a bunker there - and this, along with the odd crossword. is possibly postponing any future dementia by a few months). Tidy looking sand pits they were too and in general the course conditioning/presentation was very good.
Not too much pressure off the tee, but the rough was fairly punishing so still worth staying out of it. Often one side of the fairway was better than another, and this often served to wipe the smug grin off my face for simply finding the fairways. The JH Taylor mounding was interesting to see first hand. First noticed on the second hole, it seemed as though the smooth fairway had a case of acne. Despite being completely artificial, it works okay though and does give some feature to the otherwise flat land. I made the mistake of mentioning this to my playing partner and he just stared back at me, making me feel like an unsuccessful plane spotter.
There’s enough variety of holes in this routing to stop the golf becoming boring - repeatable pockets of diversity like holes 3 thru 6 - but my attention was still waning a little later in the back 9. This could also have been the jet lag kicking in. The 18th brought me back though, quite literally, as it was a good finishing hole. But more focus on the tee shot with trees lining both sides, although not really in play, and with good bunkering and length. 2 good shots were required to reach the green (I took 3).
I played RMS in a back 2 back with London Scottish GC (which felt like a golf course designed by a fox hunt), and the contrast was favourable to RMS. Perhaps a better comparison would be with nearby Coombe Hill (once I’ve written a golf book and got an invite there, I’ll be able to judge for myself).
Just as with property prices in the area, this course could have an inflated golfing value because of its location (put it elsewhere and you may be less impressed). However, I imagine RMS just has to be one of the better options near central London, as well as a convenient stop en route to or from Heathrow. It’s a perfectly pleasant peacock pagoda & pheasant of a parkland promenade that I would happily play again.
Less than 10 miles from Buckingham Palace and close to Kew Gardens, Royal Mid-Surrey occupies an historic piece of Crown property. Part of the back nine is laid out over land where two Royal Palaces once stood. The course is predominantly flat, with a little undulation near the River Thames, but the quality of the design succeeds in maintaining interest levels throughout. Some may suggest that it's a little short at just over 6400 yards with a par of 69, but in reality, the routing is rather tight in places and with seven par -4's over 400 yards the Standard Scratch score of 72 says a lot about how it plays.
J H Taylor's clever original design, including numerous well positioned mounds, gives a distinctive character to the course, as well as adding to the challenge and creating more visual interest. The 2nd,3rd and 4th are all good examples of the mounding coming in to play from the tee. Although his style of work is not something I've come across anywhere else inland, I think it's fair to say that he did a excellent job. More recent renovation work by Martin Ebert has added to the quality of the bunkering and dramatically improved the green complexes. Many of the greens have been raised and extended to their original size with much more undulation and numerous run-offs added.
The shorter front half offers the best opportunity to make your score with many of the tougher par-4's appearing on the back nine. I enjoyed the holes around the turn, the 10th with its long narrow green and impressive bunkering followed by the partially hidden green at the short 11th being memorable. There are only two par-5's, the 14th, in particular, catching my eye with its small undulating green protected by bunkers and a narrow, sunken entrance, all helping to create a fun approach shot. This is the start of an excellent finishing stretch with three par-4's measuring over 400 yards plus a par-3 at well over 200 yards which will test all but the very best.
It's probably fair to say that playing beneath a busy Heathrow Airport flight path could be distracting for some but I wouldn't say that it bothered me too much on the day of my visit. After a quick bite to eat in the excellent new clubhouse I ventured out to play the shorter Pam Barton course. Whilst almost a thousand yards shorter and lacking some of the design features of the main course this is a very pleasant layout nonetheless and no doubt a valuable asset to such a busy and popular club. Brian W
Flat, fairly uninspiring golf course. Not particularly challenging off the tee. Big greens, nice club house, wouldn’t rush back to play.
Anything about the holes or course itself?
The JH Taylor golf course at Royal Mid Surrey makes the best use of its pancake flat property and with 18 new USGA specification green complexes now in play there is plenty of interest at this thriving venue located just 20 minutes from Central London.
Located in Richmond you will skirt Kew Gardens and the River Thames on your journey around this attractive parkland course.
Most of the front nine is quite tight with tree-lined fairways requiring accurate driving, most likely with a 3-wood, before the course opens up a little bit more on the back nine and where the excellent bunkering becomes more prominent and in focus.
The bunkering is indeed the highlight of the course. The fairway traps are well located whilst the greenside pits fit in sympathetically to the surrounds and help showcase the new green complexes, many of which are raised and feature gentle swales, hollows and run-offs around them.
The lack of elevation changes mean there are few really memorable holes but there is a pleasing consistency to the course. I was particularly impressed with the final two holes, both par fours, where the approach and greenside bunkering is excellent.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Now known as the J.H Taylor course, this is about as good as you are going to get for Zone 4 in London. The only thing that gives its proximity to centre of London is the flight path to Heathrow, this actually happens on alternate days or changes depending on the wind. I have been a member for over 10 years now and don’t even notice them but maybe that’s part of living in London.
The course itself is on very flat ground but J.H Taylor incorporated many sharp ‘moguls’ or mounds just off the fairways so if you miss, you are not only in quite deep rough but will have a very unnatural stance for your next shot. The first is a long par-3 of 220 yards from the back tees, which for me personally is the hardest opener shot to have; long iron to a small green with the members watching you. After recent course changes, there are now run offs and swales to the sides of green complexes and this is most prevalent on the second hole, not a long par-5 but it is made to feel long by having trees encroach on your second/third shots as you get closer to the green. In Summer when the ground is firm, this hole calls for a low running second shot through the narrow chute of trees and onto the back to front sloping green.
The third and fourth holes prove you don’t need length to make a hole difficult, the third is a mid length par-4 but with a dogleg right at the end towards the green. Couple that with a green angled away from the player and trees in play on the left, you really have to make sure your tee shot is far enough right to open the angles to the flag. This is especially true when the flag is back left and from the left side of the fairway you cant see the flag or bottom of the green. When the flag is in this position, trust the yardage and trust that there is green over the bunker between you and the flag. Bordering this hole to the right are more of the famous mounds that are prevalent throughout the course. These mounds act as a border between the third and fourth and the fourth is a similar hole in the sense that there are trees to the left that block out your approach to the green, however this is the side you want to approach from as the shot from the right is tight to the mounds and also made far tougher by a fairway bunker and then a deep greenside bunker on the right of the green. Again here you want to favour a certain side but if you go too far that side, your approach is blocked by trees.
After you have negotiated the huge sweeping front bunker and the raised green of the short par-3 5th, you have a par-4 where you have a lot more room to the right than meets the eye. Stray too far right and you are in Kew Gardens. Keep an eye out for wild green parrots as they fly around this part of the course.
Stoke index 1 comes at the 9th which is a par-4 of 440 yards but always into the wind. What makes this hole difficult is the setup of the green complex; its raised with mounding on all sides but you are not able to see whether the flag is front/back/left/right, the approach shot is very daunting because you aim at what you think is middle of green and it is actually on the far left edge as the green sits at a slant to the fairway. The tenth is another long par-4 with probably the toughest approach shot on the course, the green is very thin but long and is raised with a large false front. There are 6 bunkers guarding the green so make sure you have enough club to make it all the way to the middle of the green. Only the most astute golfer will be able to deliberately carry the ball all the way back to this 40 yard green.
You need to make your score on the front-9 because apart from the short par-4 13th, the back-9 are full of tough holes which seem relatively straightforward because it is all laid out in front of you but you will see yourself having a 12 footer for par thinking “I haven’t hit a bad shot!”. Fourteen is a long par-5 with a tight landing area and plenty of bunkers guarding the sloping green, make sure you have your lag putting perfected otherwise you can easily putt off this green.
The last par-3 comes at number sixteen and is just shy of 200 yards but the green is very small which is good because if you hit it, you will have a realistic chance at birdie. That is something that can be said about a majority of the greens, they are very small so once on them, you should always have a makeable putt once you have mastered the many internal slopes. After 10 years, I still have not managed to work out if all greens slope towards Kew Gardens or the King’s observatory in the middle of the club.
The final hole is a fitting finish to what has become a wonderful course, straightaway par-4 that plays direct in line with the Pagoda in Kew and has dead ground between fairway and the green. This is one of the largest greens on the course and starts a lot further away from the bunker than you realise, so make sure you know your yardage and where the flag is positioned on the green.
There are a lot of subtleties to this course, the greens are not massively undulating but you will rarely find a straight putt. The land is very flat but it doesn’t play like it thanks to raised greens and the mounds either side of fairways. This course is always in fantastic condition and the bunkers have been redone in recent years, the greens are getting more and more better with age as the Summer’s come and go and they are a joy to putt on.
I really have come to love this course and especially the club itself, after a few tough years when the greens were changed and then diseased, this club has come out of the gates and is celebrating 125 years this year. I urge all of you to spend a day there and play a round on the J.H Taylor course or the Pam Barton which is a shorter course but with devilish greens any time you are in London.