The Spitfire layout at West Malling Golf Club is longer and more undulating than the Hurricane. Both 18-hole courses were designed by Max Faulkner in the 1970s and named in honour of the emblematic World War Two fighter planes that flew from the nearby airfield.
The condition of the playing surfaces on the day I played were lacking in quality. I do appreciate that it was a long dry summer and not everywhere has fairway irrigation. There were some bare areas on tee's but I cant say it bothered me as the ball can be propped up if required. By the second hole, we all agreed that preferred lies would be required on the fairways. They were extremely dry, they had large areas where there was no grass (just rock hard dirt) and I believed that they had also been top dressed in some areas which was way too heavy. There were mole hills in the rough, areas around collars were heavily warn. Overall the condition lacked quality and attention. I will say though that the greens were in good condition which i know for many is the most important thing.
With respect to the actual layout, I liked many of the holes, such as the 8th which is a lovely par five over a stream/pond which sits in front of the green. The 9th is nice par three - I enjoyed all the par 3's especially the 18th was a lovely hole to finish with water on the left and a bunker on the right. I have to say though that the 14th is one of the most ridiculous holes of golf that I have ever played and it is sadly the thing that I will mostly remember (for all the wrong reasons). The green is elevated by the most extreme height from the fairway - the ground before the green sits at such an extreme slope that it is clear that a greenkeeper or machinery has never graced its presence.
In summary, there were some nice holes but there was also some bad ones! All could be overcome (apart from 14) with really high quality surfaces which were sadly lacking attention. The round was £36 each which I personally would not pay again. I agree this the previous reviewer that I would play again but I am not sure I would be willing to part with £36 for the privilege but I would play if it were discounted.
West Malling has two short 18s when I think one long course would have been better. The 'Spitfire' is 5200 yards from the yellow tees and has far more bad holes than good, in my opinion.
7 and 16 are identical short par 3s, the 6th has railway sleepers behind the green to bounce back anything hit long. The 14th is a short par 4 with the second shot up a stupidly steep slope – I can hit a wedge up there but others can’t. The worst for me though was #17 where the fairway slopes steeply right to left and kicks everything behind a tree; you can’t try and go long-right of the tree as there are bunkers. I’m still not sure what the best play is – try and put it in a bunker from the tee?
There are also a lot of unnecessarily long walks between holes. There are some positives – the fifth is a fun par 4 over a pond, 18 is a nice finish with water, it was in decent condition, it has a large pro shop… I just felt underwhelmed, partly because it’s on this website! Therefore it falls into the ‘only play if discounted’ category for me.
A Max Faulkner golf course gets its first review this week of all weeks!