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  • Neil White

Camberley Heath

“Oh, look at that poor bloke… he’s never going to find his ball,” mused Mrs W, as we looked down Camberley Heath’s dramatic 18th before our round.

A few hours later and we were searching through the same giant mound of heather after her rare wayward drive. Thankfully, there were no evening onlookers to witness her despair.

Camberley Heath goes under the radar because it is surrounded by loudly acclaimed Surrey neighbours.

But I am delighted to report that we enjoyed a wonderful day thanks to the gorgeous course and truly excellent company.

We arranged a last-minute round and from the first cheery greeting from the bar team, we knew we had made a great choice.

The lunchtime pork and chorizo ragu, digested in its beautifully appointed clubhouse, was scrumptious and the view onto the course on a gloriously sunny day was dazzling.

Our host told us of the huge investment in Camberley Heath by its former Japanese owners who had spent many millions on this grand building as well as the course.

Its exterior has more of a continental or even American feel than others in this neck of the woods as do its atrium and pro shop.

He said that the clubhouse is busy at all times of day (it certainly was at lunchtime on a Monday) and we could understand why.

After we were sated, we adjourned to a course which is abundant with attractive but deadly heather and such a high variety of holes that the golfer needs to have all elements of their game in top shape.

Our host did and his compadre was even better, so Mrs W and I were in their shade despite being in steady form (outside of my inability to putt from five feet).

The first hole at Camberley Heath presents one of the most intimidating opening tee shots I can recall, sliding around a right-hand bend, past tall trees and through bunkers on either side of the fairway.

Its green is protected by a sand trap on the front left and anyone who overhits will be in shrubbery behind the hole. I nailed my approach to eight feet but missed my birdie putt.

I made up for that on the sublime par-three second with its plateaued green above deep bunkers. My tee shot landed four feet from the flag and I walked off with a two.

Easy game, golf, isn’t it? At one-under gross par, playing off a course handicap of 15, I was dreaming of my best-ever round. Inevitably, it did not work out that way.

The drive from the par-five third tee is over swathes of heather and even when that mission is accomplished there is a huge mound of Calluna preventing sight of the green with the follow-up.

Going for safety down the right is a decent option but that still leaves a tricky approach into a narrow green defended by bunkers.

Camberley Heath is not all about big hitting – indeed, its short par-fours are arguably its most thrilling aspect

These include the fourth, at just 296 yards from the purple tees (the management committee recently changed from conventional white, yellow and red).

It requires natty placement to avoid bunkers and bushes and a precise approach into a green, framed by trees.

The fifth is an unforgettable curving par-four of nearly 500 yards, apparently initially cut from a par-five to satisfy organisers of a prestigious tournament who elected not to go ahead at Camberley Heath anyway.

The members decided not to revert because they enjoyed the challenge. It is certainly that with a drive around a tree-lined from an elevated tee before a couple of typical Harry Colt-style bunkers at an angle to the fairway.

It is immediately followed by another short par-four which appears to be very easy until the approach to a perched green over bunkers. Distance appreciation and club selection need to be better than mine.

Our host proclaimed the eighth as his favourite – a downhill par-three of 220 yards. I could only conclude that he must have masochistic tendencies as my ball found the bunker in front of the target.

We were then befuddled to find that it had disappeared. Had a bird snatched it or had Dr Who’s Tardis swooped?

I made one final flick at the heather above the trap and the ball rolled down into it. I hadn’t made contact but it clearly moved. Any thoughts on the rules? We didn’t, so I just played on.

We thought the first nine were very good but I can attest that the second is better, beginning at the devilish 10th.

This requires another launch over a purple haze to a fairway that is mainly out of view. The second shot is blind over a second tranche of heather down into a dip before a steep ascent into the green. It is an astonishingly tough par-four.

Fortunately, at the top of the hill, there is refreshment in a super newly refurbished halfway hut where I consumed one of the juicier sausage rolls on the top 100 adventure.

The sustenance was put to good use on the 210-yard par-three 11th which needs a heck of a belt off the tee against the breeze to carry bunkers and arrive on its huge green.

The 13th is a belting par five with heather and trees down the left and a fairway which leans heavily towards the right. The second shot is blind over a heather ridge before another raised green.

Colt’s mark is all over the gorgeous par-three 14th in front of the clubhouse and practice green.

I counted seven bunkers around the target and could only watch in admiration as our playing partners threatened the flag from the tee.

The 15th – a 270-yard par four over a hill of heather was my opportunity to snaffle birdie after a sand wedge over a sand trap but my ten-footer slipped narrowly by.

It is followed by the only water at Camberley Heath and another big chance which I blew because I tried to strangle my drive to avoid the lily pond and its huge carp.

This run of holes at the end of the round is simply delightful and includes the fiendish, long 17th, curving around a grassy crater.

The denouement is the remarkable 18th and its hill of heather before an ascent to a sloping green in front of the clubhouse veranda.

It is a closing hole worthy of any top course and our host’s putt in from the rear of the green for a birdie completed a belting day.

Camberley Heath was in top nick with tricky but fair greens, lush fairways and an exciting variety of holes.

It made for a memorable game with lovely folk and no wonder Colt fans think so highly of it.

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