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.
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.