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.”
I have been wanting to play Walton Heath ever since I went to watch the British master there in 2018. We played both the old and the new course and set out on the old first. The condition is simply fantastic. The greens are as pure as you could hope for. Its a beautiful looking course that intertwines with the new giving far stretching viewings of lovely heath lane.
I was really looking forward to playing the two Walton Heath courses given how highly they are rated. Unfortunately both courses failed to deliver. The courses were decent but there was nothing special about them. No holes stood out and the setting of a broad common was not inspiring (especially given I had played Hollinwell and Hankley in the previous two days). Add to that a course that was in relatively poor condition and the sound of the M25 on numerous holes and it puzzles me why these courses are rated so highly. I had a preference for the New over the Old as the back 9 in particular felt stronger. My sense is that the courses are living on past glories and perhaps because I have no recollections of the Ryder Cup that was played here I don’t have the emotional attachment that others have.
Mike - I'm so pleased to have seen your review, I agree with every word. Thought it was just me! I played both courses on a society day last year (Sept 2020) and thought the Old was nothing special. Oddly the only hole I can really recall is the first as it is just so bad. The fairways we're in a poor state on holes 2 and 3. Back 9 on the New course was also my preferred.
Yes the club has history but the condition needed to be in better state to compete with the rest of Surrey.
Strange first visit, with Covid times, you aren’t allowed in the pro shop or anywhere really, and also a member mentioned in 20 years of being a member he had never seen the course this wet!
We played off the back tees so it played hundreds of yards longer than its 7400 yardage!
In winter, I’m guessing it’s just not the same as summer, incredibly slow and bumpy greens which they can’t really do much about, so I had about 8 million putts, and no real strategy required just driver everywhere and slow greens meaning missing any side of the green didn’t really matter.
Can not hold that against the course, really hope to play it in summer one day with the heather in bloom and firm fast surfaces, and trying to negotiate the ball around!
The staff that were there were lovely, and all members we spoke to were super super friendly and welcoming.
Honestly on a day like today, it’s a 4/4.5 star, but so would any other course in Surrey be at the moment. I’ve given it 5, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it got the full 6 in middle of summer/with everything open to experience!
First time playing Walton Heath and I had a great day. For the time of year I thought the condition was excellent. Good tees, firm fairways in most places and great true greens. Overriding impression is how much sky there is; a feeling of deceptive openess!
I think the 1st hole is weird and not representative of the course at all but 2-18 are great. Stand out holes for me were the 5th, great contoured green and I loved 10-14. Two great consecutive par 5s, 13th and 14th and the right angled, right handed dog leg of the 12th.
I will be back someday and it would be great to see the course when the heather is in flower and the fairways are fast and firm.
Set on a sandy site with lots of heather and deep bunkers, the Old course at Walton Heath reminded me of Ganton in being as close as possible to a links playing experience with not actually being on the coast. Herbert Fowler wasn’t messing around after his cricket career, when he spent two years on horseback scouting the site for some great holes.
It’s another example of a brilliant heathland club, with two courses and a great clubhouse. The putting green (with a full 18 hole routing!) is outstanding, and the pro shop is on a par with Tara Iti in my opinion for being the best stocked.
The opener is controversial, and although a quirky start, the par 3 doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the course for me, set on a different part of the property and having no real interest to it. Having said that, when you cross the road the course reveals itself with great views of both courses as the holes intertwine.
It’s obvious from this point onwards that you are playing a historic course with lots of subtle strategy. A favourite hole early on is the strong par 4 5th, with a heather lined centre bunker to be avoided at all costs.
The greens are great- reminiscent of Royal Ashdown Forest in often sloping away from the player to add a bit of extra challenge. I loved the run of holes 11-14, a slightly downhill well bunkered par 3, followed by a dog leg right par 4, and two back to back par 5s that are very different in character. The closing stretch is also great, with the bunkering on 16 being particularly impressive.
It’s a sign of the strength of the course that when James Braid become club professional here, he felt that there weren’t any changes required to Fowlers original layout.
Walton Heath is one of a few 36 hole clubs that has two good courses. The Old is consistently rated as the better of the two which I would go along with. The opening hole is a very long par three that requires little thought and in my option would be far better if it was 60 yards shorter.
Holes 2 and 3 are very good…the 2nd is a long dog leg left to right par 4 which you approach to a raised green. The 3rd a fun short drivable par 4 with a green that slopes from left to right. The 5th is another shortish par 4 with a green that has more tiers and undulations than any green on the course. Holes 9, 10 and 12 are cracking holes all doglegs tempting the player to cut the corner or skirt bunkers to leave a shorter approach but if you miss judge the line from the tee bunkers, rough and heather await.
The closing holes are steady rather than spectacular although the 16th is the standout a cracking par five that sweeps from right to left to a green protected by a huge bunker. The condition of the course was fine and played very links like although the fairways were borderline as to whether preferred lies should have been in operation. This made it difficult at times to pick your line from the tee and with minimal semi rough keeping the ball on the fairway was a challenge. The greens putted well and the bunkering is decent with consistent sand depth throughout. I read a previous review that put WH on a par with Sunningdale, The Berkshire and Deal/RSG which it is not but it is still a very good 36 hole day out if you get the opportunity.
My second visit to Walton Heath's old course peeled back layers which I may not have appreciated first time around. Perhaps that is because I was keener to enjoy it rather than be intimidated by the tight tee shots, deceptive greens and ball-eating heather. And the impression, I gained second time was that the old course gives players a chance - particularly after the opening seven holes. There are opportunities on the pars fives and shorter pars fours but don't allow complacency to creep in - its deep bunkers, infamous heather and knotty gorse can wreck many a card. This time we couldn't bathe in the glorious history of its clubhouse because ours was the first society to play post-Covid lockdown but the staff made us heartily welcome and we downed a splendid before-round bacon roll and after-match burger and chips while keeping our social distance on the patio. Altogether, another wonderful day on a great British heathland course. The only quibble would be that the fairways were not as lush on some holes as we might have expected.
I have played Walton Heath Old three times, most recently the past two summers. I had plans to play it again (as well as the New) this year but it seems that Covid-19 might not allow for an international traveler to visit the UK in 2020.
For me, Walton Heath has truly the only inland “links-like” courses in the UK. Ganton is somewhat close but does not have the feeling of openness that Walton Heath has. This makes it memorable. Its difficulty also makes it memorable. If you do not hit the fairway, due to the high grass and thick heather, there is a strong chance of losing one’s ball or not being able to execute a meaningful recovery stroke. Unless one keeps a positive “golf isn’t always fair” attitude, then one can quickly go to despair despite the loveliness of the golf course.
I wonder whether people would not hold it in higher regard if did not start with perhaps the worst starting hole in all of golf on a very good course.
It is not that the first hole on its own is bad or without challenge. It is a long par 3 at 235/195 yards to a green that seems to run away from you. But it suffers from two flaws. People inherently do not like to start a round of golf on a par 3. Worse, it is completely disconnected from the rest of the golf course. One can’t help but wonder why the club does not swap a par 3 from the New course onto the Old and let the New course start here even if it is an even longer walk to the “second” tee. Or perhaps they build a new hole. As I walked around the course, I noticed some land between the seventh green and the eighth tee. Back-to-back par 3’s are not ideal, but wouldn’t that be preferable? Or move the tee back on the current eighth to keep it as a par 5 and then build a new green. Then add a new par 3 using the current eighth green? I know it would be a difficult decision to change a golf hole by a very good designer, Herbert Fowler. After all, James Braid, a gifted player and designer himself, never changed the course in all of his years as the head professional. Yet, holes eight and nine were changed due to the construction of the M-25 and holes 5-7 were re-designed as well. Finally, the beginning hole is completely out of character to the rest of the course as it is in a rectangular field lined by trees on three sides that resembles a school’s playing field while holes 2-17 are played primarily out in the open.
What separates the Old course from the New is additional length, but also much better green complexes, more variety in the terrain, and more doglegs even if they are gentle. The course requires a player to make more decisions off the tee such as whether to be bold or play conservatively. Seemingly, every conservative decision off the tee leads to a much more perilous second shot. The bunkers are also more numerous and raised thereby always being a consideration in the player’s mind.
While I believe Walton Heath is very much in the discussion of which club has the best two golf courses in the British Isles, I do place it behind Sunningdale where both courses have more interesting and memorable holes due to better land. Sunningdale is also more beautiful due to a better mixture of plants.
But I do believe that if one is a very good player at Walton Heath, they are likely the better player to the same handicap at Sunningdale such is the challenge of the Old Course. Sunningdale likely requires a much better short game? I wonder if they have inter-club competitions?
I also did not like the third nor did I like the eighteenth. Three other criticisms I have are that the more of the bunkers go down the right side of the fairways. While I realize most players are right-handed as well as they fade/slice a ball, it does seem to be a bit too much and often does not frame a hole. The greens, while smooth, are relatively flat. The greens are easy to read and not undulated enough. Finally, there are no bunkers behind a green which is a bit odd given the many holes where running a ball onto the green is part of the strategy.
The front nine is difficult while the back nine, due to three par 5’s in four holes, is more fun to play.
The championship tees are 7331 yards par 72 with a sss of 76 while the Medal tees are 6786 yards sss 72. The Club tees are 6364 yards, sss 71. I have always played the medal tees on the Old.
2 – par 4 461/451. A difficult hole for those who have only average length off the tee because you will have a downhill or sidehill lie for the long approach shot. This dogleg right has trees on the right that will block a second shot that drifts too far right. Missing to the right will leave one in an area of ground that is very uneven with heather. The land slopes down to a valley that gets deeper towards the trees on the right and then rises to the green. My high score on the hole is a double. My low score on the hole is a double and I think that is because there is no real difficulty at the green, the difficulty is getting there. The green is easy to read.
3 – par 4 289. This should be an easy hole unless one hits a very wayward tee shot into the thick heather. There is a bunker on the left side nearly in the trees. There is an interesting raised mound snaking its way up towards the green from the right. The green has a sharp fall-off to the right with higher ground behind the fall-off, which follows the bunker front right. The green is relatively flat.
4 – par 4 519/441. The number one index with a centerline bunker. Four other bunkers, three of them on the right pinch into the fairway while one comes from the left. There are no bunkers at the green. All of the bunkers have raised mounds at their front. Heather is more pronounced on the right side of the dogleg right. There is also a raised mound nearer the green although it should not come into play. While it is a difficult hole due to the bunkering and length, it does offer a chance at recovery which I think adds to this being one of the better holes on the course.
5 – par 4 485/391. Heather and the trees on the left are the primary obstacle after the length. The green is off to the left yet it does not look like a dogleg. There is a bunker right and another centerline bunker nearer the green. The green is flanked by bunkers. The green is the best so far on the course with several ripples in it. I found this to be a difficult hole.
6 – par 4 440/427. Another hole where I have only scored a double. The trees and two bunkers on the left have always made me push my tee shot into the heather and trees on the right. There is another small grass bunker on the left before the single bunker on the front left. Trees are near the back and right of the green. For me this hole tricks my mind and makes it the hardest hole on the course.
7 – par 3 190/174. This par 3 has a grass bunker not really in play followed by a long bunker on the right side of the green. The green slopes to the left from that raised bunker. There is another raised mound at the back right. It is an okay hole.
8 – par 5 558/494. This hole plays to the farthest corner of the course and nearest the M-25. The primary obstacles are the thick trees down the left and three scattered bunkers down the right. Near the green are a few trees on the right and then flanking front bunkers. It is sort of a double dogleg out right and then back slightly left.
9 – par 4 400. This dogleg left has trees all down the left. It is on this hole that for me the heather starts to feel less intimidating. There is a bunker short of the green on the right and another eating into the green on the left creating a more difficult back pin location. The green slopes back to front but is not overly interesting. This is a breather hole.
10 – par 4 442/399. This plays as a dogleg right which shortens the hole a bit. This plays parallel to the M-25 with trees down the left and a single bunker. Another bunker is on the right about 50 yards short of the green, and another one front right. I like the hole although the green is fairly simple.
11 – par 3 222/189. This is a good hole as the green is surrounded by four bunkers with the green set right to left from the tee. The green slopes to the left much like a redan.
12 – par 4 396/371. This hole sharply doglegs to the right where bigger hitters can cut the corner over the trees. This green has a bunker left and two on the right.
13 – par 5 529/512. This sweeping dogleg to the right is my favorite hole on the golf course. It has two bunkers spaced apart on the right that are raised, then another down the right after the dogleg and flanking bunkers at the front of the slightly raised green. This green has a decent tilt to it.
14 – par 5 564/510. Pretty straight hole with only one bunker on the right but three scattered down the right side and one right front of the green. This is my third favorite hole on the golf course as the heather to either side playing slightly downhill provides a nice visual. The heather surrounding the faces of the bunkers is lovely to see, painful to be in. There is a tilt back to front and right to left to the green.
15 – par 4 416/408. Seems Mr. Fowler likes his bunkers on the right as there are three more scattered down the fairway. There is another centerline bunker about 40 yards short of the green and then one right of the green. I like the hole.
16 – par 5 535/510. Trees line the left side with a cross bunker coming in from the right bout 150 yards short of the green. The green sits off to the left with another front right bunker.
17 – par 3 206/181. The best par 3 on the golf course with two deep bunkers at the front and small fall-offs at the green which is steeply back to front.
18 – par 4 404. “Weirdly, there are fairway bunkers down the left and then a long bunker at the entire front of the raised green sloped back to front. There are also deep bunkers to either side of the green. It is a nice finishing hole.
The Old course at Walton Heath is very good, but it is not at its potential which could be achieved with moving the first hole, adding bunkers down the left side of the fairway even if that means removing some on the right side, and having much more interesting green complexes. The greens, while often tilted, do not have enough undulations in them and so they lack character. There should be three-four bunkers placed at the back of some greens as well.
I know the club has discussed moving the clubhouse and first hole, which I believe might have been recently voted down, but I feel there must be a plan that can be approved.
I do like playing here and hopefully can return again soon.
Whilst I find the New course more fun and an easier walk, the Old is undoubtably the better course. It is long, but plays firm and fast which helps.
It is well known that the first hole is the worst of the entire property. A 220ish yard par 3 on the other side of a main road to the rest of the golf course. It is rumoured the club are going to relocate their [wonderful] clubhouse and the first hole to the other side of the road when the other 35 holes are, which I think will be a welcomed improvement.
The course is full of really good and great holes. The stretch of 2-6 is a masterclass in design, and are all fantastic par 4s. The weakest holes are 7 and 8 in my opinion. 9, 10 and 11 is a lovely stretch where the design is simplistic but brilliant. 12 is a personal favourite, a short, quirky dogleg right with a very narrow green. 13 and 14 are back to back par 5s which I love, 14 maybe being my favourite hole at Walton Heath, a long downhill par 5 with great views of the whole course and the purple heather. The 16th makes it 3 par 5s in 4 holes, and combines strategy and beauty just like the rest of the holes do. 17 is a nice par 3, and 18 is an excellent finisher, with the famous cross-bunker short of the green.
The green sites are maybe the best around London, with interesting slopes that have to be avoided or used to your advantage. The par 4 5th is the best example. The condition of the course is also always top notch, which makes the experiences even better.
36 holes at Walton Heath is up there with 36 at Sunningdale, The Berkshire, and Deal and Sandwich. If you only have time for 18, then play the Old, but 36 is a real treat.
It’s eight months since I was here and such a time lag between playing and posting a review really tells its own story. Normally after playing a highly ranked course I’m bursting to get a few photos and some words online as quickly as possible but I didn’t feel the urge to do so this time.
I certainly enjoyed a very pleasant round on a lovely afternoon after meeting up with a couple of old friends who I see every year when they come over to GB&I from Canada but I left the club with no great affection for the undoubted charms of the Old course – and neither do I have the inclination to return to play the New.
It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what I felt was lacking here – right enough, I’ll be first to admit the high expectations that come with playing a world-ranked course often cloud your perceptions. Then again, Swinley Forest managed to deliver easily enough the following morning.
On the positive side, I liked the right doglegged 2nd hole, dipping down from the tee then up to the green, and the centre line bunker on the 4th certainly captured my attention, as did the funky contours on the 5th green which were totally unanticipated.
On the down side, I thought the mounding around the greens on both the 6th and 7th holes looked a little out of place, along with the entire green site on the 8th, which looked way too modern and out of keeping with the general style of the other putting surfaces.
The stronger back nine has some great holes – the par four 10th and par five 16th in particular – and the raised home green positioned behind an enormous bunker provides a memorable conclusion to the round but, overall, I found the Old course to be something of a disappointment.