You might be surprised by the number of golf courses that lie within the boundary of London’s M25, not least for the fact that at today’s prices they must occupy countless millions of pounds’ worth of land. We should be grateful for these little oases, though, and especially those where the seclusion and peacefulness is so at odds with all the hustle and bustle that surrounds. One that truly stands out, and which stands comparison with courses anywhere in the country, is The Addington Golf Club near Croydon, just 10 miles south of the city centre.
I refuse to use the old cliché “hidden gem” but there’s no denying that The Addington is a jewel in London’s golfing crown and a course that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, given the quality of the course and its accessibility from the capital. The course is ranked comfortably inside the UK & Ireland’s Top 100 and is well-established, having been built in 1913, so I am at a loss to understand why its name isn’t better known in golfing circles. I can only conclude that being a Surrey heathland course does it no favours. Were it in any other county, it would no doubt enjoy the loftier reputation it richly deserves.
Behind the understated clubhouse, and just off the main road, the mature heathland golf course is a fine mixture of holes lined by tall pines and an abundance of heather. Perhaps what marks it apart from others is the topography which introduces great dips and dells to contend with, as well as the cambers and climbs that are the signature of the course. Designed originally by John F. Abercromby, who also laid out Worplesdon Golf Club, in more recent times the club has seen significant investment by the Altonwood Group (who boast five courses in Surrey and Kent – Godstone, Surrey National, Westerham, and Woldingham being the others). This investment has brought about a number of improvements, with several new tees being the latest addition, all designed to re-emphasise the championship status of the course.
The par three holes enjoy a fine reputation at The Addington, and rightly so as you’d do well to find a better set of photogenic backdrops and stern challenges. The picturesque 230 yard 13th hole (pictured above) will take just about every golfers’ Sunday best!
Even the man-made touches around the course add to attractiveness of the course, with raised wooden bridges traversing the carries and chasms that punctuate the layout. It’s these idiosyncrasies that give the club its distinctive character and live long in the memory.
Given its location near Croydon, it goes without saying that The Addington is accessible by road and rail (and even Gatwick Airport). The M25 is a just a short drive south, as is the M23, meaning the south east of the country as well as the city are easily reachable.
There’s a change in feel from around the sixth hole, as the heathland character of The Addington comes into full view. This is particularly noticeable at the short par three 7th, an attractive spot where banks of heather line the right hand side of the hole and obscure the low lying green from view. There’s trouble protecting the right half too, and despite being only 150 yards long, missing the narrow angled green is easy to do, and will leave a treacherous up and down regardless of where you’re playing from.
The par four 10th sees the start of a great run of holes, both in terms of variety and difficulty. A good carry is required to a fairly generous fairway on the 10th, before the second shot climbs gradually up towards a green protected by a couple of bunkers. The par three 11th that follows is an excellent short hole, measuring only 136 yards from the tips. Bunkers line the left hand side and front of a very narrow green, whilst punishing rough captures anything else that misses the putting surface. It’s vital to be accurate from the tee.
A par five under 500 yards excites any golfer, but the 12th hole is far from a “gimme”. The blind tee shot only requires a clip of just over 200 yards, as anything longer is in danger of reaching the heathery steps that mark the changes in elevation mid-way through the hole. What may look perfect from the tee can prove anything but once you reach the crest of the hill and see what lies ahead. If you do reach the heather and don’t enjoy the considerable fortune of spilling out on to the second tier of fairway (which will make your approach so much easier), your second shot is likely to be very awkward – a slash from the heather on a downhill lie. Lay-up short and you’ll enjoy a clean lie and a good look at the green which sits atop of the next crest, but for most the target will be out of reach. A clever, if awkward, par five.
Perhaps the signature hole on the course, the long par three 13th can be a bit of a brute. The best part of 230 yards from the back tees, the hole requires a long carry over a ravine, with the land cambering from right to left. Bunkers protect both sides of the green, but your primary thought should be on hitting something solidly enough to reach the putting surface, or thereabouts. Even with a well-struck tee shot, most players will be relying on a tidy short-game to make their par. A stunning and tough hole that completes a fine run.
A meandering and descending par five, the 16th is a cracking hole, where accurate placement of the tee shot on the right hand side of the fairway is a must. The hole feeds down to the left courtesy of the camber in the fairway, and the second shot must either take on the bottle neck short of the green (where a miss slightly right leaves you in a ravine), or lay up short to leave a gentle pitch. It’s another hole that typifies the best bits of The Addington, with sloping lies, dog-legged routing, and heathland surroundings all prominent features. And that’s before taking in the views of London’s iconic landmarks!
Those that have played The Addington talk about it very fondly, but I guess this is where many others are missing out. In our opinion, it is one of the best courses in London, Surrey, and indeed England, but, for whatever reason, it often gets overlooked in favour of the more celebrated Surrey courses. It really shouldn’t. A superb heathland design, with tremendous variety and the occasional quirky and charming feature that make your round all the more memorable.
The golf course is characterised by strong dog-legs, changes in elevation, sloping fairways, glorious views, and swathes of purple heather (in season), but most simply it’s just a very enjoyable place to play golf. Until the latter part of the round, you’d never know you were so close to the capital, but from the 14th and 16th, you can pick out a selection of famous landmarks in the skyline, including the Shard and Canary Wharf. For all the right reasons, you can feel a million miles away.
Membership must be particularly rewarding, especially given the reciprocal arrangements with other Altonwood courses, and by Surrey and London standards it’s affordable, too. With the owner’s commitment to continuous improvement, it surely won’t be long before The Addington enjoys an even stronger reputation, and one that it wholly deserves.