Surrounded by suburbia, a mile to the east of Croydon, the course at Shirley Park Golf Club is a 1914 Tom Simpson and Herbert Fowler production that remains almost true to the architects’ blueprint from more than a century ago.
The following passage is an extract from the club history: Shirley Park Golf Club - The first one hundred years:
In addition to the 18-hole golf course there was a 9-hole course in the grounds of Shirley Park Hotel, where Trinity School playing fields are today.
The original layout of the course was similar to that of today, except for three holes on the land behind the fifth green up to Oaks Road. A tee for one of these holes, then the fourth, can be seen as you leave the present third hole from the rear of the green down towards the new machinery barn.
The course was officially opened on Saturday 18th July 1914 by the then Lord Mayor of London, Sir Thomas Vansittart Bowater.
A match then followed which featured two former Open Champions: five-time winner J H Taylor and Sandy Herd. J H Taylor went round the course in 73 (39,34) and Sandy Herd went round in 77 (38,39). Remember these scores were achieved with hickory clubs.
Shirley Park failed to live up to expectations and provided a very ordinary golfing experience. The fairways have suffered badly in the hot English summer of 2022 as have many, but the whole layout looked ragged, unloved and worn out. The one exception was the greens which were excellent. Significant tree clearance particularly around the middle part of the course would help but there are too many average holes here to sustain much interest.
After an uninspiring start the course briefly comes to life between holes 4 and 8 but thereafter the holes are mainly undistinguished. I always prefer to concentrate on positives and the first three short holes are good even if the last one at 17 is a ‘fill-in’ shocker. Similarly two of the three par fives at 4 and 18 are a good test but the 9th goes sharply downhill in more ways than one after an exciting drive into a heavily wooded dip. I struggle to remember the par fours, we only played a few hours ago, and that probably tells its own story.
The course formed in 1914 has a long history and has obviously been a mainstay on the South London golf scene, but it hard to escape the feeling that it has seen happier days. I hope I am wrong for I can see it’s potential as a challenging parkland course in the middle of a heavily built-up area. I am surprised that it is still in the Top Surrey courses listing on this site, for in my view there are currently a number of better courses than Shirley Park in the county which don’t even get a mention.
Shirley Park is nestled in the neighbourhood suburbia of Croydon and occupies a parkland property of rolling hills and woodland.
The clubhouse sits on a main road and you quickly cross into a green haven away from the busy housing area. The putting green sits against the terrace and is your first taste of the excellent greens on the property. The first hole feels like a segway into the main routing and holes 2, 3 and 4 are pretty average golf holes lacking much architectural interest. Things get much more quirky and exciting as you turn the fairway corner on six and you get a first glimpse of the ravine holes that are soon to follow. The green site at 6 is a peaceful place that feels a long way from the clubhouse where you started your round.
You then step onto the seventh tee box, perched high on one side of a ravine you look 150 yards across to a green occupying the other side, there's a dramatic fall off the left and gorse bushes frame this hole wonderfully. I missed left and can confirm anything overdrawn on this hole is death. Eight then takes you back to flatter land with an inviting tee shot over the yellow gorse bushes far below. Quirky is probably the way to describe the ninth and it reminded me a lot of the neighbouring Addington Palace with it's dramatic elevation changes and tight rolling fairway, GIR here is an achievement.
The routing then takes you back out to the rolling hills of the property. The course is far weaker this side in my opinion however the 13th is of note, a delightful short par three framed by the high ravine you traversed earlier at the turn.
The homeward run is relatively uneventful, the 17th of particular note as a weak hole that merely serves as a filler between 16 green and 18 tee. The 18th is a nice finishing hole, a reachable par 5 framed by the clubhouse to the left with distant views out to the London skyline, a delightful vista at sunset.
Overall, Shirley Park is a nice track and I'd say it's worth a visit for the great four hole run at 6 - 9. The greens were running true and at a nice speed, tee boxes generally pretty good but the fairways were patchy and hard in places. Some bunkers could also do with a refresh although visible work was taking place on some existing sand traps. If I was looking for a good value round in the area I'd probably opt for Croham Hurst however a round at Shirley is a challenging yet peaceful stroll around another great Surrey property.
I could of hit balls on seven all day long, and for that reason alone it's worth a visit if you're in the area!
I played Shirley last year. It's a nice course, with many memorable holes, and can be found in good nick regularly. It isn't the best local course near me, that honour goes to the Addington, but it is lovely anyway. The greens here are lovely, rolling well and having subtle slopes on every one. I have a few personal favourites here, I will go onto these.
The actual setting is pretty nice here. The views over Croydon and London from the more open holes are lovely, but the best setting comes on the holes around the turn (more on them later). I think the setting is a fairly important part of this course, it does make it more interesting than some other local courses. As a result, this 6180 yard par 71 is a course well worthy of its top 50 Surrey ranking and could be even higher.
The first six holes are very solid, the 3rd is a lovely par three up the hill, but there isn't anything too special. The par three seventh (see picture) is one of the best holes on the course. It plays long over a deep ravine, to a beautifully framed green by towering trees. The front nine concludes with two more beautiful holes, the 9th in particular is very quirky playing straight downhill then straight back uphill. It is the quirky monster of Shirley, just like the 12th at the Addington close by.
The back nine is very solid, with two similar but beautiful par fours with elevated tees at 10 and 14. Also, the 13th is a classic par three of 150 yards over a host of bunkers downhill. It sits off in a beautiful valley. This is my favourite hole on the course and is perhaps the most tranquil hole on this gem. The 18th is a great risk and reward par five of 472 yards, down the hill to the clubhouse. A great end to a nice course.
There's a lot to like at Shirley. A couple of bland holes, notably the 11th and 17th, let it down just a little, but it's a great experience and very good value. Go there when you can, it's so nice to enjoy a good round for under 50 pounds at a lovely course.