Tandridge Golf Club was founded back in 1924 and the genius architect Harry Colt designed the course. Today’s layout is still clearly a Colt classic with wonderful steep faced bunkering, raised plateaux greens and visionary use of the natural terrain. However only one third of Colt’s original 300 bunkers remain in play. “Two new Kentish courses deserve a word.” Wrote Bernard Darwin in The Golf Courses of Great Britain. “One is Tandridge, which, I know, holds a high place in the affections of its creator, Mr. Colt. Here, besides pretty views, are good turf, sharp sand, a bold country that is not too tiring and some very good holes.”
The 21st century Tandridge measures 6,509 yards from the back tees and par is set at 71. It’s by no means a championship test, but it’s a sporting course for the low handicapper and eminently playable for the average player. The layout weaves through extensive mature woodland where some 45 species of trees add a visual treat and plenty of definition to the holes. Through the gaps in the trees and from the higher ground, spectacular views of the North Downs and the rolling Kent and Sussex countryside unfold. Tandridge genuinely is as pretty as a picture.
Going out, the topography is relatively flat but the golfing test is nevertheless significant with a par five and two challenging par fours to start. The drama really starts on the homeward nine which delightfully changes elevation as holes traverse the hills. “One of the best par threes in Surrey” is how the 223-yard 13th has been described. The green is surrounded by trees and ringed around with bunkers. There’s also an alarming fall off to the right hand side of the green which will kick the ball deep into the woods if you miss the green on this side.
Tandridge has quite rightly earned a reputation as a traditional but very friendly member’s club that specialises in society and corporate days but also welcomes individual visitors. Clubs such as Tandridge are few and far between and those with better cuisine are as rare as the dodo.
Architect Frank Pont kindly provided us with the following comments on the Tandridge restoration project:
“Tandridge was my first client in the UK, and as such will always hold a special place for me. They had put me on their shortlist of architects they considered for their course works because I had been mentioned to them by the author of Creating Classics, the book on Harry Colt. In the end I was fortunate to be selected from a list that included three well known UK-based architects, and shortly afterwards started work.
Any restoration project has two key components, the analysis and the process part. At Tandridge the analysis part was easy because we had an old aerial picture of the course when it had just opened (quite unique, few other courses have that luxury), plus various on the ground historical pictures of the bunkering, clearly showing the original size and style of the bunkers. We were also lucky that many bunkers had just been grassed over in the past, the equivalent of mothballing, so it was easy to bring them back. Tandridge is quite unique for a Colt course in that it had close to 250 bunkers, more than any other Colt course I have ever seen (even Muirfield has about 100 less). Not only that, but many of the bunkers were absolutely huge. The greatest challenge was to get the committee and the club’s membership to realise what a very special asset they were custodians of, and to convince them that for the real character of their Colt course to re-emerge it was crucial to bring back both a large number of bunkers, but also to restore the bunkers back to their original style and sizes. This was done in various stages, and in the end I presented 6 times to different groups of members, about 300 in total to get their buy in. The construction work itself was fairly straight forward, given that most of the site was quite sandy. This made it possible to do most of the work in late Autumn and early Winter, minimizing disruption for the golfers of the club.
I think the restoration as we did it was a very gutsy move by the club. Adam Lawrence of GCA Magazine called it the most ambitious restoration project underway in the UK when we started, and I think he nailed it with that statement. The good news is that we succeeded and the course now both is a lot more fun to play for the membership (due to the fact that we brought back both strategy and width to the course, giving the players choices), and also has become a lot more compelling visually due to the restored impressive bunkers. Further continued tree removal at strategic spots such as hole 18 and 15 right will only further enhance this.
The results have been very satisfying, both in terms of members reactions but also in the rankings. I am confident that in the coming years the course’s reputation will only grow with increased focus on fast and firm conditions and more short grass around the greens. If there is one thing that still needs work on the course it is executing the planned tree removals in certain spots and also bringing back more heather, two steps that could further lift the course yet another notch in quality.”
A great traditional course and very accessible from London. There is always a fairway to hit but greens are elevated, challenging and surrounded with bunkers. The course is well-treed, less hilly at first, but the back nine rolls and dips with the lovely countryside. The 14th is justifiably one of the most beautiful holes in golf but each time I play I find a new favourite. Recently, it's the 4th, a par 3 and never easy, and the 12th, one of the toughest drives on the course.
Two quite different 9's but I enjoy the variety. The conditions were very good and the food was excellent.
An understated gem in easy reach of London and also Gatwick and Heathrow. Very welcoming club with an outstanding layout with a superb mix of challenges. Lovely views over the Downs. Greens were very fast when I played and required some skill in reading. Rewards playing with a member if possible, if not get the course guide for tips on how to make the best score.
Food and service excellent. Nice terrace if the weather allows.
Having recently played Tandridge again I have to say that the recent repair works and improvements they have made to the fairways have done wonders to restore the course back to the high standards that it was a couple of years ago. There are many great holes at Tandridge. The second hole is a wonderful dogs leg right which opens up for a difficult second shot onto a challenging two tiered green. The 10th is another fantastic whole. A long par four with big sweeping bunkers and heather covering the middle of the fairway.
The standout two holes have to be the 200 yard par three 13th and the long par four 14th. The 13th must be one of the best long par threes I have played. It has great views to the right, which, if you go that way will ensure your scorecard is ruined due to the steep dropoff. The 14th plays down this slope and you have a long drive with fantastic view overlooking the clubhouse and the rolling hills of the North downs. The second shot plays uphill to a challenging green guarded by bunkers.
I think Tandridge is definitely worthy of a higher ranking than it currently has, of the several courses that I have played which are rated higher than Tandridge, I think it is a worthy contender, if not better, and should be inside the top 50 in England on this website at least.
All in all a great course to play, the green keeping team have done a magnificent job and I look forward to playing there again soon.
The course is played over hilly rolling terrain, with elevated tee boxes, raised undulating greens, lots of things for a golf junkie to get excited about.
More so over the back 9, where all of this goes up a few notches. The par 3 13th is a fine one and I was a big fan of the par 4 14th, with excellent views and a sweeping, inviting fairway some 100 feet or so below the tee, begging to be hit, before an uphill approach to an undulating well bunkered green.
The greens were excellent, but the fairways were shocking I’m afraid to say. They had leatherjacket apparently, which I gather is not uncommon at the moment, but they were suffering particularly badly from it. So much so that even with their 6 inch pick and place rule, a patch of decent grass was not always readily available. This patchiness on the fairways was evident on all but one fairway incidentally.
I assume the club are doing their best to rectify the problem. Sadly we were only informed of the issue when the starter gave it a brief mention during his rules sermon, less than 5 mins before tee off; nothing was mentioned on the phone and I could not see anything on their website pre visit.
I think it would be both courteous and considerate in future for the club to be forthcoming and inform prospective visitors of such a big issue before they commit to pay, travel and play there. Guests will obviously notice this during their round and I’m sure be very disgruntled (as we were) if not pre warned. A great shame as I imagine the course to be a very good one when they get this all sorted.
As a member, it was a great pity to hear of your concern about the state of the fairways. A combination of leatherjackets and drought earlier this year has had a huge effect and you are absolutely right - when we opened after lockdown those fairways were appalling. I'm not an official of the club, so I can't speak on its behalf. But as a member I'm really sorry you weren't contacted beforehand to be pre-warned. The good news is that we have recently appointed a new Head Greenkeeper and the initial results are spectacular. Fast, true greens, lush aprons and immaculate tee boxes. Three of the fairways have been brought back to life and the rest are being worked on systematically. The transformation is really quite remarkable. There's a plan in place to have them all restored by next year. Please do come back and give the club another chance. Drop me a line ([email protected]) and I'll do what I can to get you a complimentary green fee or -at the very least - you can play 18 holes as my guest.
Thank you Graham, very nice of you to reach out. I’ll drop you an email.
I have always enjoy my visits to Tandridge with its friendly staff, excellent lunch and the course which is has evolved over the past few years. The overall condition of the course was good with the greens in excellent shape but the fairways and greens surrounds were still recovering from the hot summer. There are a few standout holes such as 2 a long par 4 that requires a fade off the tee which will leave you a long iron to a two tier green set about 50 yards below the player. The 4th is an excellent par three that plays slightly up hill framed by bunkers. The green which slopes from back left to front right requires the golfer to pick the correct club otherwise they will be left with a difficult sloping putt. I also like hole 5 although with the introduction of the back tee it takes out some of the fairway bunkers and leaves the player with a long blind second shot. As you start the back 9 hole 10 is a cracker that suits a draw from the tee before a mid to long iron approach to the green which slopes from back to front. The 11th has had a lot of work carried out especially around the green. The removal of trees gives a real sense of space around the green but the introduction of semi rough which circles all but the entrance to the green ruins what could be some excellent run off areas. Hole 13 and 14 could grace any of the best heathland courses in Surrey. Hole 13 is a testing par 3 which if you miss right will ruin your card! The tee shot on 14 from the elevated tee needs to be long and straight if the player wants to react the that runs diagonally from left to right and slopes heavily from back to front. I also like the 18th another strong par 4 that dog legs from left to right which finishes in front of the clubhouse. The bunkering at Tandridge seems a little hap hazard with rough style bunkers in the middle of fairways (16) and clean edged bunkers in the rough (approach to 6). The removal of trees gives Tandridge a nice open feel but with no primary rough the holes lose a little definition. If you get the opportunity Tandridge is certainly worth a visit and i believe deserves its place in the English Top 100.
I played Tandridge on a January and went into it thinking it would be a good course in fairly decent condition but not one to rave about. However it exceeded my expectations massively as it was in way better condition than I would expect for a golf course in the winter. The greens were rolling really well, the fairways and tees were nice and the bunkers were filled with sand,which in my opinion is a very important part of a good golf course. The club itself was very nice with an old fashioned clubhouse which looked beautiful and the course was excellent. Holes like the 14th, 17th and 18th were all particularly good looking and the par 3 3rd hole was also a fantastic hole having many bunkers around the green with heather on the top of them. The golf course was great and it was definitely a trip that I really enjoyed and one I would love to do again!
Having played Tandridge every now and then over the years it's a great example of how a course can improve with the right thinking, not overly long, but with the addition of a few tees and bunkers, changing angles adds a much more strategic approach to play. it's a beautiful place to play and have lunch !
The standout holes for me are the 10th, 13th and obviously 14th, it possibly lacks a really good par 5, as both are a little 'gimmicky' which means it drops a little in my rankings, but makes up for it with a great variety of par 4's, in both length and shape.
Well worth a trip.
My thoughts replicate the majority view in that the 2 9s represent very different challenges and topography. The front 9 belies its age and has a very open feel to it which would suggest a modern layout that hasn't yet to fully matured. There are some decent holes (3, 4 and 9 (an excellent par 5) but no world beaters. The slight right to left dogleg par 4, 10th sets a robust tone for the back 9 and is best of the par 4s. The par 3, 13th is a world class par 3 that would not look out of place on any of the Surrey belt greats. The 14th is a par 4 of 475 yards played down a substantial elevation and is spectacular. There are large elevation changes on the final handful of holes (good variety of holes amongst the last half dozen including an excellent finishing hole). I agree with the rankings in that this is not a top 100 course but it remains worth a play. Lovely welcome at the club and excellent food and atmosphere in a traditional clubhouse
What you get at Tandridge is a very professional set up. A beautiful clubhouse greets you on arrival. The practice area is excellent, the greens run fast and true, the fairways are well manicured and the work they’ve done on the bunkers is exceptional. They obviously benefit from an excellent course superintendent at Tandridge.
The terrain across which the course is played however, particularly the front 9 is largely flat and uninspirational. It would be fair to say that they’ve made the most of the land they’ve been given at Tandridge with the standout hole on the outward 9 being the short 150 yard 4th to a raised green surrounded by quintet of bunkers.
Where the course really comes to life is the last handful of holes. After a strong par 3 (miss right at your peril), comes the money shot on the tee of the 14th, the club’s signature hole. Holding your score through these last few holes would take some doing as you’re taken on a windy rollercoaster ride across a vastly more interesting stretch of land. My personal favourite hole on the course comes at the 17th (pictured), which is very similar to the 14th but the fairway landing area is more generous, and the hole generally less penal but still offers the same approach into a raised platform green carved into the side of the hill.
You’ll walk away happy with your round at Tandridge, particularly at the twilight rates offered at the club, but it doesn’t stand up to the heathland courses across Surrey.
I tagged Tandridge onto a visit of some of the very top heathland golf courses in Surrey. And whilst this course couldn't quite match them on a consistent basis throughout the entire 18 holes it was more than worth the trip to go and play. In fact there were a couple of holes that will linger long in the memory!
Tandridge isn't actually a heathland course itself but has the same type of firm and springy turf that the Surrey Sand-belt courses are famed for. It's a beautiful layout carved through mature woodland and exposes itself over varied terrain. It instantly reminded me of a course in Cheshire called Prestbury. It therefore came as no surprise when I discovered that the same esteemed architect, Harry Colt, was the creator of both.
The first nine holes are played over the flatter part of the course but still provide some interesting holes. The first, a short par five, does little more than get you away but the second starts to set the tone with a fade required from the tee before the hole opens up and you play downhill to a lovely green setting with a double level. As mentioned previously the highlight of the third is the drive to avoid the excellent bunkering but the second shot also requires respect with a deep bunker to the right. The short fourth up the hill is protected by dramatic bunkering at both the front and back.
The course not only shifts through the gears on the back nine it is also played over the more interesting ground. Colt has really worked his magic to give the golfer a rollercoaster ride of holes on the second half.
The 10th is a strong hole and the tee-shot at the 11th is fantastic, both solid par fours although what looked like artificial mounding that separated the 10th and 18th didn't quite look right. If the drive at the 12th is more mundane then the second or third shot to this par five more than makes up for it with the green perched on the skyline.
What follows are two wonderful holes. I stood on the tee of the 13th and tried to remember a better par three I have ever played. I struggled. It is just perfect.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.