Architect Ken Moodie was appointed to upgrade the West Surrey course in 2016 and he’s made an impressive start, completing the first phase of a 5-year programme with the renovation of bunkers on four of the holes. The club was keen to show off what had been done so far so I joined editor-in-chief Keith Baxter and a couple of committee members early one morning last week to have a look at the latest course improvements.
Bunkers on the opening and closing holes have been reconstructed but it’s the new sand hazards on the par three holes at the 2nd and 12th holes that really catch the eye. In particular, the greensite of the 161-yard 12th has been completely redesigned and the old half-moon bunker in front of the green has been replaced with ragged-edged hazards now positioned to allow a bail out area for the tee shot in front of the putting surface.
Two holes stood out for me (for completely different reasons) on the front nine: the par three 5th is a terrific short hole, played slightly uphill to a green that slants deceptively from left to right, and the short par four 8th, which rises steeply to a green that’s fronted by an enormous horseshoe-shaped bunker – this rather incongruous sand hazard reminded me of something Seth Raynor might have built on the east coast of America during the 1920s and hopefully it’s a feature that will be toned down if it’s remodelled.
On the back nine, the aforementioned newly revamped 12th and short par four 13th (with its split fairway and centre bunkers) were the best on the card but I can see why the 17th has been described as a “marmite hole” with its fairway falling from the tee then rising abruptly left as it narrows towards a green that’s set back on a ridge. The 18th then sets off for home from a wonderfully elevated tee position, with the par five plunging steeply downhill towards the lovely old clubhouse.
West Surrey suffers from its location in relation to ranking charts as its current position of #22 in a very strong golfing county would translate into a Top 10 placement in any of the adjoining counties. The course is well laid out within a large property that’s free of any residential interference, it’s maintained to a very high standard – the greens were easily the best that I played on during my 6-course visit to the area last week – and there’s an ambitious renovation programme firmly in place, which can only enhance the club’s already enviable reputation as one the leading lights in Surrey’s golfing landscape.
Date: July 18, 2017