Walton Heath (Old)
One of the cluster of excellent heathland courses in Surrey, Walton Heath opened to high praise in 1903 and ever since has attracted plaudits from aficionados of the game, who also sing the praises of the New Course, which was extended to 18 holes in 1913.
If you are allergic to heather, either literally or metaphorically, do not visit because if your ball strays from the fairway you will almost certainly find some and playing from it is damned nigh impossible.
Walton Heath has been a venue for the Ryder Cup in 1981, the 2011 Senior Open Championship and several European Tour events.
Tree-lined, heavily bunkered and with firm, fast greens that always seem to be in superb condition, Walton Heath is an excellent examination of every facet of your game.
It is difficult to argue with Bernard Darwin, who wrote: ‘If there is something that golfers want and do not get at Walton Heath I do not know what it can be.’
The Club was founded in 1903 and the course was opened for play in May 1904. James Braid had already become the Club's professional and was to remain in that capacity until his death in 1950. The course was laid out by W. Herbert Fowler, a leading amateur golfer. It was his first golf course venture and he went on to become one of the leading golf course architects of his era, both in the U.K. and America.
It is a tribute to Fowler's genius that he created one of the finest examples of heathland golf, which so closely resembles the traditional seaside links courses, out of a jungle of heather, gorse and bracken. It is a further testament to his creativity that the Old Course with a championship length of 7,351 yards is currently ranked 81 in the top 100 courses in the world. The New Course was opened in 1907, and is comfortably ranked in the Top 100 courses in the British Isles - a superb test of golf that plays to a championship length of 7,165 yards.
This is a par 72 championship course that stretches to 7462 yards, SSS 75. Off the daily tees it plays to a more accommodating 6361 yards. There are many really strong holes on the Old Course. It begins with a long par 3 then moves over the road for the 2nd a 475 yard par 4 which sweeps down into a gentle valley where the fairway narrows. From here it is about 180 yards uphill to the right. The 5th is a cracking par 4 that can be played from 381 up to 485 yards. It demands a solid drive that must avoid the heather that frames the downhill fairway, and a second to an undulating green guarded by a pair of deep bunkers.
The 12th is shorter par 4 of 343 to 396 yards, with a sharp dogleg to the right and a shallow green. In the golden age of professional challenge matches Henry Cotton cut the corner to almost drive the green and set up a birdie.
Tom Weiskopf reckons the closing sequence is as good as any. It starts at the 13th with a strong 548 yard, par 5 curving to the right. The 14th is another par 5, a straight hole where the challenge is to avoid the fairway bunkers. Playing into the prevailing wind, the 15th punishes the slice severely and the green slopes left to right. The 16th is a classic, with a superb shot to the green. Bernard Darwin describes it thus: "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." This is a 535 yard par 5 that is played as a 475 yard par 4 for professional tournaments.
The par 3, 17th plays over a gentle valley to an island green with a large, curving front bunker. The finishing hole is a straight par 4 of 387 to 479 yards. The bunkers that cut into the fairway on the left and cross short of the green, are to be avoided to complete a memorable round
After a gentle start the New Course really starts to show its mettle. The heather comes into play and the holes progressively become more challenging with eight par fours measuring over 400 yards in length.
The 5th, Stroke Index 1, is one of the longer par 4s at 460 yards from the white tees but it plays downhill and often downwind. The drive should avoid the two bunkers at the apex of the dogleg right and the second is to a narrow green.
The back nine is longer with a par of 37 and a fine set of par 4s and par 5s. The finishing hole (shown at the top of the page) is often regarded as one of the finest at Walton Heath. Played at 429 yards it can be lengthened to 490 yards for Championship play. The drive is over a shallow valley of gorse and bracken flanked by pine trees. The fairway doglegs slightly to the left and the second shot is played over a cross bunker to a green with a distinctive mid-tier. It is a great finish to a rewarding round of golf.
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