Walton on the Hill,
- +44 (0) 1737 812380
2 miles N of M25 J8, 15 miles S of London
Contact in advance - weekends limited
Both courses at Walton Heath Golf Club (Old & New) were designed by Herbert Fowler who was related by marriage to the founder, Sir Henry Cosmo Bonsor. “It was a stroke of genius on the part of Mr Herbert Fowler to see with his prophetic eye a noble golf course on the expanse of Walton Heath”, wrote Bernard Darwin. “It was in August 1902, that Mr Fowler had begun his survey. In April 1904 James Braid moved to Walton from Romford and in May the course was opened with a due flourish of trumpets,” wrote Darwin in the Biography of James Braid. James Braid remained the Walton Heath club professional until 1950.
Surprisingly, Walton Heath Golf Club was not given the royal charter, despite the fact that the Duke of Windsor was club captain in 1935. During his year as captain, he became King Edward VIII. Walton Heath is the only club in history to have a reigning monarch as its captain. His term as captain probably lasted longer than his reign on the throne. King George VI was also an honorary member and Winston Churchill played his golf here as a member from 1910-1965.
This is where links golf meets inland golf. There is no salty whiff of sea air, but the course plays and feels like a seaside links. A profusion of heather stripes the edge of the fairways. In the summer, when the heather is in flower, it is an absolute delight to look at, but a real challenge to play out of. The greens are true and fast and the undulations make it tough to read the lines and the pace of putts.
This is a course that favours the lower handicap golfer. Some of the carries across the heather are quite lengthy and if you don’t hit the fairways, you can often wave goodbye to your ball. There are some really strong holes on the Old course – one of the best of the outward nine is the 5th, a cracking 391-yard par four that demands a solid drive that must avoid the thick, tangly heather shrouding the fairway. A mid-iron approach shot will find the green, amply guarded by bunkers left and right.
The last three holes are especially challenging, especially the 16th, a 510-yard par five, well described by Bernard Darwin in his book The Golf Courses of the British Isles. In 1910, it was the 17th hole and it was played as a par four. “We must begin by hitting a long, straight drive between bunkers on the right and some particularly rete ntive heather on the left, but that is, comparatively speaking, an easy matter. The second shot is the thing – a full shot right home on to a flat green that crowns the top of a sloping bank. To the right the face of the hill is excavated in a deep and terrible bunker, and a ball ever so slightly sliced will run into that bunker as sure as fate. To the left there is heather extending almost to the edge of the green, and, in avoiding the right-hand bunker, we may very likely die an even more painful death in the heather.”
Walton Heath has hosted many important competitions, not least the 1981 Ryder Cup. Unfortunately, Europe was thrashed 9 ½ - 18 ½ by America, thanks to the likes of Watson and Nicklaus. For serious golfers, this is a fantastic venue for a golf day. Lunch in the clubhouse is simply stunning, well worth donning the jacket and tie, but probably worth passing on the dessert if you want to swing properly in the afternoon!
Bernard Darwin sums up Walton Heath perfectly: “There is no more charming place on a fine sunshiny day, none where the air is fresher and more cheering, none where the sky seems bigger. It is a place where it is good for us, alike for our game and for ourselves, to play golf.”
The society I am part of plays here once a year and this was my first time in attendance. What a day. 36 holes including the amazing buffet lunch. We played the old course in the afternoon. Due to being so open on the heath itself, and the undulating ground, this has all the feelings of a links course other than the sea breeze, replaced instead by the faint buzz of the M25. Nonetheless this course is brilliant. Well kept. Greens run fast and true. The fairways are immaculate. For a true test, make sure you play off the white tees - we played from the green and I found it a little short (although I do hit it above average distance). The 1st is a disappointing start but it only gets better. The back 9 was my favourite of the whole 36. Well worth the trip if you get chance.
Walton Heath doesn’t get off to a great start. To get to the 1st hole, you cross a road from the clubhouse to reach this Par 3 (in itself rarely a good sign), and then cross another road to reach the 2nd hole.
Here you are met with the impressive expanse of heathland containing 35 golf holes. Not sure why they couldn’t just fit all 36 in this setting. Quirky features on a golf course are to be welcomed, but this just felt a bit rubbish.
At risk of straying a little too fair off the fairway, the 1st is not a bad hole, but is clearly isolated and has no connection with the other holes over the road. Worth noting that when something significant happens on the Heath, as it did this past weekend, the 1st gets left out. Maybe the road stops rabbits invading from the adjacent Heath. Not sure if they name their holes at Walton Heath, but they could consider calling the opener “Brexit”.
Okay, chipping back onto the fairway, there are no problems at customs when you do enter the heathland and things pick up immediately from the 2nd. It’s a very good hole and we wished it was the opener. You drive away on this dogleg right hoping to hit the slope, before hitting up to a green that you see in the distance. What follows is a lovely diverse collection of challenging & historic golf holes with a uniform look and feel. This is why we came.
The rugged bunkering was great (although felt set up to punish slicers) and the playing conditions were pretty firm. Wind was an influence. The fairly large greens were good to putt on. We caught it on a wet Spring day (would like to return in August when it’s having a purple patch) which made the fairways play a little wider than usual - no complaints from us though. It must be tough to keep your ball out of the heather in dry summer conditions and so you can understand why it’s used for US Open qualifying.
I liked the Par 4 5th and the Par 3 11th, and then the finish from 14 or 15 in was very good, playing to all directions of the compass. Loved the last 3 holes in particular. The routing in general is a good wander (excepting the 1st) and as you are also playing in and around the New course, it keeps you on your toes as there are times when you never quite know where you will head to next. I liked this discovery aspect - lots of nice looking holes around us - which one’s next up?
The course has a bit of a juxtaposed ambience: away from the clubhouse it felt like quality golf without embellishment, in a knowingly opulent yet rustic setting. Small grumbles would be a bit of unexpected traffic noise around holes 8-10, and the Par 3’s felt like they all played in a similar direction. Minor complaints though (especially as in a few years everyone will be driving electric cars). This is a better-than-most place to play your Golf. We only played 18, and I would suggest playing 36 if you have time.
There’s lots of club & tournament history on display in the clubhouse - my favourite was the photo of Richard Finch holding aloft the trophy for the 2002 English Amateur. All the staff were very welcoming, the facilities were fine, and when it came to the crunch (we’d heard a lot beforehand about the famous lunches at WH), the crisps in the clubhouse were the most satisfying I’ve yet to experience after a round
Walton Old hardly needs an introduction, this place is unique and it’s jam-packed full of history, and it’ll soon be adding to this history when the British Masters comes to town in October.
I’d previously only played on the New course and I’m happy to report that I found the Old more compelling. Whilst both courses cover the same largely flat piece of land, the structure of the holes on the Old offers more interest and is deserved in its reputation as the premier of the two layouts. The greens whilst still relatively flat, offer more undulation, and by and large the Old has better green sites and general shaping. And whilst the bunkering offers some of the best features across both courses, the Old mixes up its bunkering styles making excellent use of revetted faced bunkers that again elevate the course above its slightly younger sibling.
Many are critical of the course for starting with a par three and it’s far from my preference for an opener but once you cross the road, there’s no doubting that Walton Old gets off to a quality start. Two through six are toughies with strategic bunkering and heavy heather lined fairways thankfully blocking the opportunity for the pros to play the bomb and gouge golf they’re familiar with over on the PGA Tour. Admittedly, the level dips before the turn with some holes verging on the mundane, but the back nine offers a handful of excellent holes with the doglegs at 12 and 13 as well as both the 14th and 16th being highlights. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that 16 is the hole that remains most firmly within the memory, it sweeps and curves in a fashion that almost seems foreign to the rest of the course and comes complete with a monster of a sod-faced bunker guarding the right-hand side of the green. A real beauty. I also particularly enjoyed the built-up mounds that offered some variation in the landscape, albeit one or two of the new ones were a little untidy and artificial in their appearance and will take a little time to bed-in. I’m also still in awe of the open landscape and vast internal views across the property.
Overall, my advice to visitors to Walton Heath is to prepare yourself in advance for the type of environment and challenge you’re going to face, it won’t appeal to everyone. If your preference is treelined target golf with pristine playing conditions and neatly mown fairways then Wentworth is a few miles up the road. Walton Heath will appeal however to those who want to be challenged technically and mentally whilst playing across a classy course with flawless turf conditions and excellent sight lines.
Such a classic course that will try to break your spirit on the front 9 with a tremendous challenge of holes that play into the prevailing wind. The summer in the UK has been brutal and left the courses here hard, fast, and dry and Walton Heath is no exception. The positives are that there's a ton of run on the fairways and that the challenges off the fairway are less severe. While the front 9 is one of the more challenging stretches of golf anywhere, the back is less punishing but still has spots you need to avoid. As others have mentioned the road noise is noticeable and can detract from the experience if you let it but why would you? Lovely set of courses, great staff, and an overall wonderful day of golf on a world class course.
Just a treat! We played in a large event and the course was amazing despite the recent weather having left the fairways parched.
I can not recommend this course highly enough, remind me very much of Sunningdale and ranks, for me, above Wentworth West.
Play here, you won’t be disappointed!
Goodness me what a difficult course! I played on Saturday with a member in beautiful weather with a decent breeze up.
Why did I find it so difficult?
1. Hitting the fairway from the tee is very hard - decent drives needed to be only slightly off line to run off into the rough, and with little ‘semi-rough’ this was often deep-shit or heather!
2. The course is long, so even with the hard running ground, 2nd shots were usually mid-long irons
3. The greens were tremendous and very quick with very subtle borrows that I found quite hard to read
I came off the course having hit the ball quite well but scored about 28 points. I reckon anyone who plays here could move to most other clubs and play to a handicap about 3 lower!
Brilliant course, not for the faint-hearted!
It is a testament to the original designer of the Old Course at Walton Heath in that not a lot of the course has changed from its opening in 1903. The land on which the course sits is relatively flat with the occasional elevation change but there’s not a lot to catch you out.
This is a course that will test all facets of your game but it is readily apparent very early on in your round that you must be driving the ball extremely well to mount any serious challenge to play to your handicap. Simply put, this is an exacting test of golf from the tee. Many of the fairways are narrow and well defended by strategically placed bunkers, or most noticeably the treacherous heather. That said, the heather frames the holes beautifully and it really is picture postcard material as the round unfolds.
The turf here is simply a joy to play from with all the lies on the fairways crisp and tight. The consistency of the sand in the bunkers is excellent too. Just the right amount meaning you can control exactly how you want to play your bunker shots. Many of the bunkers are deep and particularly penal. Find any of the fairway bunkers and you’ll be laying-up – there’s no ‘glory’ shots possible out of many of them. The greenside bunkers are well placed allowing for some devilish pin positions to be set. You’ll need to be a strong bunker player to have confidence in getting the ball close from many of the greenside traps.
The greens are a joy to put on. They had been top-dressed prior to my round but this did not detract from the quality of the roll or their trueness. Many greens are large so you can find yourself putting from long distances. There are some devilish slopes and subtle slopes too which mean you must be 100% focussed and have a sure touch to get the ball close. All in all I found the greens in excellent condition.
Whilst the course is relatively flat there are some wonderful golf holes. Many before me have reviewed the holes in detail so I won’t do the same. I will say that the design of many holes featuring a ‘dog-leg’ is particularly well thought out in my opinion; the 9th, 12th and 13th holes are superb examples. If I was to be extremely ‘picky’ I’d mention that in my opinion the only weak point of the course is the 1st. I’m not a fan of par 3 openers, however, due to the toughness of the challenge it at least gives you a flavour of what is to come.
The Old Course at Walton Heath is a magical place to play golf. The green fee is quite steep but to play a course of this quality and with the history associated to this course I’d have to say it is very much worth it. Just remember to bring your ‘A’ game to score well.
Another long waited one for me. 12 years ago my fellow Pro Golfer Friend Tomas Argonz played the South of England Amateur there in both courses and told me the place was just superb and I have to say he was damn right!
It was one of those demanding experiences as I went directly from Heathrow after a 12hr flight from Buenos Aires to the course, a quick breakfast and directly to the course with not one single ball hit at the driving range! And to start the round with a 235yds par 3 and a tough 450yds par 4 it is not the easiest way to get your score on track! But I have to say it was an amazing experience, as I was cheduled to play on my own but a friendly member named Andy invited me to join him plus guests Mark and Tomy for a great friendly match which finished all square after 18 holes, we were close but the putts on 17th and 18th just didn't drop but it is just a detail, there is no regret after enjoying the golf course in a nice 24C sunny day!!!
As mentioned the course starts with a 235yds par 3 which used to be a par 4 and which could disappear if Club House is moved to the other side of the road as member Andy told me. I wouldn't say it is an easy hole, but maybe not the nicest start when the rest of the course shows beauty, design and challenge in great balanced ways.
Hole #2 is on of the toughest where tee shot is to be necesarily accurate before an uphill tough approach shot. Short par 4 3rd hole is a perfect risk vs reward one, if you go for it you might find a birdie but also some deep trouble in one of those bunkers!
I found 5th as one of the best where the tighter the angle to cut the dogleg, the easier the hole gets but a missed tee shot to the right go me into the heather for the first time and a double appeared! Then 6th has a tough green, which doesn't show how downhill is from back to front and you need to be careful when you putt (I was not and 3 putted after 2 great shots). Short par 5 8th is maybe the first real chance to get a shot back, but again tee shot must be on the fairway.
I found downhill par 3 11th to an enormous gree and great example of how a "short hole" can give you a great variety of distances and angles to change the hole every single round and make it not to play the same every round, loved it.
Dogleg 12th was the second time I got too greedy and caught, DONT GO FOR THE GREEN!!! It is too tough to get it there and a narrow miss will be a big number. When I play it again I will make sure to lay up, it is the best way to play the hole. Then the 2 consecutive par 5s get you the second chance to get shots back, but you have to hit the fairway. I missed 13th and from thr heather the only choice is lay up.
Stroke index 2 15th hole is maybe the toughest, where a good driver that rolled too much got me to an unplayable lie and had to battle for a bogey, it is maybe the toughest tee shot on the course.
16th is last par 5 and the best approach shot on the back 9, where a good tee shot is not enough for getting home in 2 as the big green will challenge your long game before you are put to putt for eagle. 17th close to another par 3 on the New Course is downhill but not that tough, just hit it high enough. And the finishing hole has a cross bunker before the green (which I caught) very well put to catch those who miss the fairway and are not clever enough to lay up short enough to avoid the sand. In a summary, a fantastic course on great rolling greens and penalizing heather which make it a great test for the most skilled golfers. Will I be back DEFINITELY and hopefully play the New as well.
The 19th hole at the terrace was the final great touch of a Golf Club which offers a kind of those unforgettable experiences which real golfers need to live. a deserved spot in the World Top 100 not only for the course, but to the Club as well!
Nothing is hidden at Walton Heath, there is no trickery or cunning. The course shows you all of its cards and simply asks you to do your best to match them. Inevitably the course won on the day but I didn’t go down without a fight, in a sporting kind of way the nature of the layout doesn’t allow you to, and came away with much respect for this great golfing sanctuary.
Unlike its equally illustrious neighbours to the West you won’t meander through beautiful playing corridors of pine and birch here nor will you find backdrops of vibrant rhododendrons on any of the holes. Walton Heath isn’t as intimate as Sunningdale, as charming as The Berkshire or as elegant as Swinley Forest. Yet it has a polished refinement that is alluring and captivating. What it may lack in perceived style it more than makes up for in substance.
The appearance is expansive, albeit not as much as it was in the early 1900’s when originally laid out, yet somehow the openness creates a certain mental claustrophobia as you play over swathes of heather to the perfectly firm and sandy fairways trying to avoid deep, heather-topped sand pits.
The intimidating bunkers proudly announce their presence on every tee and strategically ask to be avoided or challenged. Finding one will cost you a stroke, as will surely the heather, but advancement is always possible. Walton Heath will not kill you with doubles and triples; your likely fate will be death by bogey.
The two courses, both originally laid out by Herbert Fowler, intertwine gracefully and whilst the Old is clearly the superior of the two the New is the more playable.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
The Old Course at Walton Heath is a lovely heathland course. Like its more famous English course Royal Lytham, Walton Heath starts with a good par three and has a particularly good set of finishing holes. I found the par four fifth hole to be quite difficult, and its undulating green to be a real challenge. Like at Sunningdale, I love the topography and look of Walton Heath with the purple hues and trees along the perimeter of the course that don’t hem in the fairways. Walton Heath doesn’t have an over-abundance of greenside bunkers, but those that are present are well placed and tricky, of special note is the greenside bunker at the long par-four 10th hole. The club and members were very welcoming to me when I visited.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs