Contributing Editor Rob Smith reviews the excellent International Course at the London Club - perfect for matchplay and full of risk and reward

London Club – International Course Review

There are two excellent courses at The London Club, and while the Heritage Course is the preserve of members and their guests, the International Course is every bit as exciting and welcomes all comers. It is also in the Golf Monthly Next 100 Courses on the UK & Ireland.

Dating back to the mid-90s, both were designed by the Jack Nicklaus company with the International credited to the Golden Bear’s associate, Ron Kirby. It is a classic matchplay course with plenty of options from start to finish, beginning with a par-5 that is played down into the valley to a green protected by water.

The first green is flanked by a large lake

The first green is flanked by a large lake

On the other side of the valley, two and three are par 4s protected by deep bunkers, with the latter stroke index one and calling for both a solid drive and even more solid approach.

It pays not to be short at the par-4 third

It pays not to be short at the par-4 third

The next four holes constantly change direction and offer a chance for some points, before you arrive at the beautiful but deadly short eighth. Played from an elevated tee over water, as on so many holes on the International, it pays not to be short or right. The halfway hut that sits between this hole and the fourteenth green is well worth a visit.

The beautiful short eighth is played back across a lake

The beautiful short eighth is played back across a lake

An extremely tough two-shotter takes you back up towards the clubhouse, and the back nine begins with a slightly less demanding par 4 and par 5 before you reach two very exciting holes, each of which would probably be the signature hole on most courses. The twelfth is a bunkerless par 3 played from on high, but what is lacks in sand, it more than makes up for with water.

The dramatic par 3 at twelve is played from an elevated tee

The dramatic par 3 at twelve is played from an elevated tee

Thirteen is a classic par 5 with a split fairway and the choice of going left, or more safely right of the trees. Either way, there is more water waiting to swallow up anything short.

The thirteenth green with the par-3 fourteenth beyond it on the side of the hill

The thirteenth green with the par-3 fourteenth beyond it on the side of the hill

The round concludes with testing par 3s at fourteen and seventeen which sandwich a pair of more forgiving par 4s, and a fine, long closing hole that offers a final chance to get one back on the card.

In October 2014, specifically due to its more dramatic nature, the course hosted the Volvo World Match Play Championship in which Mikko Ilonen defeated Henrik Stenson in the final. With so much risk and reward on offer, it was an ideal choice for the historic matchplay event. Those in attendance and watching on TV will have noticed a luxury speedboat in the lake between the first and eighth holes, and this is how it got there…

The Volvo Penta/Princess speedboat was delivered by truck from its home on the South Coast

The Volvo Penta/Princess speedboat was delivered by truck from its home on the South Coast

… and for anyone interested in how the star golfers managed to beat the traffic…

The helicopter shuttle arrives on the 18th of the Heritage Course

The helicopter shuttle arrives on the 18th of the Heritage Course

It is kept in absolutely first-class order, and the relaxed atmosphere in the spacious, modern clubhouse combined with the club’s impressive modern history and easy motorway access make this an excellent venue for a game at any time of the year.

The International Course is great fun, and in my view every bit the equal of its sibling.