This Willie Park layout in Surrey which opened in 1907 is set in attractive surroundings and has an enjoyable variety to its holes but some fiendish greens
The Old Course at Burhill Golf Club on the outskirts of Walton on Thames in Surrey has an enjoyable variety to its holes.
‘Old’ in this case is 1907, when the course was laid out by Willie Park. The New Course here opened in 2001.
The clubhouse makes the Old Course seems a comparative stripling. It is a Georgian mansion, of 1726. From some angles the clubhouse looks mighty fine; from others its architectural grandeur has been sadly diminished by ugly modern sprawl alongside it.
Burhill Old Course does not give an idea of what is to come in its opening holes. The first three run parallel along a flat field. But they do allow at least allow for a gentle introduction and a chance to get in the swing of it for the sterner challenges to come.
The course steps up a gear with the short par-4 4th. This is a charming hockey-stick right-turning dogleg to a slightly raised green.
The 6th is the only par 3 on the front nine and the only time that the Surrey heathland feel is evoked on any of the holes. It is over heather to a green protected by six bunkers. But the real defence is the green itself.
This green is deep and slopes from back to front. When we played the pin was back left. One of our fourball was just off the green back left and chipped on – and rolled and rolled down the green to the front edge. We other three sympathetically laughed at him.
The next to play onto the green, just beyond pin high from front right, also saw his ball trundle all the way down to the front edge. No laughing this time.
The two putts from up the hill went up the hill – and then right back down it. Three of us were now playing our third shot from further away than our second. The fourth, and last of us to play his second shot, wasn’t only because his ball was interrupted on its determined retreat from the hole by an unrepaired pitch mark.
The greens are tricky here. The putting surfaces are sloped and the pin positions when we played were hard to access. But good scores can be made round here. The competition among our dozen-strong party was won by 37pts, the runner-up got 35.
On the subject of banditry, not that we were of course: between the 14th and 15th fairways is ‘Dick Turpin’s Cottage‘. Once an alehouse, it was said to have been used as a hideout by the highwayman.
If the course is tough on the putt it is generous to the misplaced drive. I was playing with a keen cricketer who off the tee struck several sixes over wide long on and wide long off and always found his ball.
The 7th is a quirky hole, underlying the course’s variety. It is crescent-shaped to a sunken green tucked away at the end. This is a short par 4, and the back nine’s short par 4, the 12th, is also played to a sunken green. The 12th is driveable to the reasonably long hitter on a good day as if you get it a certain way down the fairway then gravity will provide the last few dozen yards.
The 9th, with a ridge, bunkers and gorse on the inside of it right-turning dogleg is one which particularly remains in the memory. So, too, the 11th, played from a raised tee to a bunker-dotted, twisting fairway.
Separating these two holes is the only long par-3 on the course, 209 yards from the backs and uphill; 187 yards off the yellows.
The nines are unbalanced in that the first nine is of 3,418 yards and the second 3,061. The way the stroke indexes fall – with all bar one of SI 1 to 5 coming in the first 10 holes – means that you may have to build your score early on in a Stableford competition.