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 3 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.”