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  • Neil White

St George's Hill

Updated: Feb 23, 2023


"Don't hook it or slice it, just drive straight ahead!:"


The quip of the security guard who allowed us into the magnificent St George's Hill estate turned out to be the wisest words on the day.


Nobody wants to slip off the fairway into the heather, trees or many sand traps at this gorgeous Surrey course.


Mrs W and I were thrilled to be invited to this fabled course which stands in the world top 100 list and yet maintains an intriguing mystique.


The drive towards the golf club is the most impressive of my travels so far with stellar properties lining the route to the clubhouse which has the look of an aristocrat's family home in the early 1900s.


However, once we arrived, we were surprised by the lack of air and graces.


The welcome of our generous host was matched by that in the pro's shop, from those serving us our morning toasties, the attendant in the changing rooms and, most importantly, the lass who served the delicious sausage roll in the halfway hut.


Our host insisted that we should feel completely relaxed at St. George's Hill - there are no set tee times, so we had a restful chat and bite to eat with him and our other compadre before taking to one of the dreamiest courses in the land.



At St George's Hill, speed of play is not the obsession it seems to be at some other south-east courses but to help ease golfers along, fourballs and two balls tend to start different nines.


So, while the convention is to begin an 18 with its Red nine, we began on the Blue which, I must admit, I found more testing. There is also a Green nine which is generally considered the lesser set-up but is apparently very good.


Playing in February, meant that the heather wasn't its summer purple and the greens were a bit fluffier than their usual speedy best but, even on a grey day, this is still a marvellous place to play golf.


The Blue's first hole sets the tone with a drive over the tangly stuff, a slanted fairway and fir trees lining the route. And then there are the typical deep, heather-lined Colt bunkers lying in wait for errant approaches.



For me, the par-threes at St George's Hill are its pièce de résistance and the tone is set on the Blue's second hole.


It is just 119 yards off the whites and dips before rising to a plateaued green. I can testify that correct club selection is essential because my ball slipped over the green and into a deep valley behind the target.


False green fronts are a hallmark of St. George's Hill as we found to our cost, especially during the first nine.


For example, the third and fourth which both seem like doable par-fours but denied us good scores because we failed to understand the cunning placement of the cup.


There isn't much water at St. George's Hill but it emerges on the Blue's fifth hole, a long par-three with heather and water in front and sand traps on either side.


This is one of the tighter top 100 courses I have played and a typical example of the demand for accuracy comes on the following hole where heather, trees and eight bunkers make the golfer feel constrained.


Bernard Darwin suggested that the prettiest courses are often the best and the Blue's seventh demonstrates this to the full with the typical Colt 45-degree line of bunkers guarding the green.


It took me some time to become attuned to the nuances of St George's Hill but the match and my form had hotted up in time for the Red nine.


This is a more varied half but if anything those devilish false fronts are even more pronounced.


But it almost yielded my first hole-in-one - probably the nearest I have been to an ace on my top 100 travels.


My iron shot into the downhill par-three, third, was fired low, arched between the sand traps and lolloped towards the flag at the back of the green.


"Go on, go on," said our compadre and claimed, thanks to younger eyesight than mine, that the ball brushed the cup.


It rested about 10ft from the hole but my putt curled around it as my attempt to secure a birdie failed.


I loved the risk-and-reward 272-yard par-four fourth hole which better players find a way to drive over a triangle of bunkers onto the green and it was a pleasure to watch our partner fire his ball onto the putting surface.



From then on, it truly becomes St. Gorgeous Hill with a run of supreme holes.


The fifth requires supreme accuracy off the tee to avoid the heather, and trees and to create the correct angle of approach over the sand traps.


And then the final three holes are as good as anywhere... beginning with a par five with thrilling bunkering and a green with sharp-run offs. I was delighted with a sand-save par.



The Red's eighth is a fiendish par-three which drops down before rising again to a green perched above cavernous bunkers, dotted with heather bushes.


Colt, who designed this and many other courses without today's earth-moving equipment, said that only God can design par 3s and his mission was to find them and join them with par 4s and 5s.


He must have had this stunning hole at the front of his mind.




The home hole on the Red is a classic with water on the left and that epic clubhouse in the distance on the right. The fairway bends from right to left and the tee shot and the approach need to be on the money to avoid trouble.


Our match went down to the very last putt and added to the feeling of satisfaction of the day as did the pints of scrumptious Sussex Bitter over tales of derring-do afterwards.



People often make the place and we had great company and a truly classy venue.


I would love to return in the summer to experience it in its purple glory and the greens at their quickest.


But, as we drove down its mansion-lined drive towards its exit. I thought if I only play St. George's Hill once, I can be happy.










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