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Surrey Short and Sweet

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Post by Shotrock Tue 26 May 2015, 1:55 pm

I spent 5 days in leafy, suburban London last week. I had high expectations for this golf trip, and they were pretty much exceeded point-for-point:

The courses - Walton Heath (Old) - The ONLY day we had a bit of rain and only for two holes. I've played here before, so I did take a bit of guilty pleasure in watching some of my fellow yanks attempt to get out of the inevitable heather hazard. Not an overly impressive course at first glance, but there's a lot of movement in the fairways and greens. Extremely well placed bunkers. (Best practice green by a long shot.)

Swinley Forest - If you ever get the chance to play here, I suggest you drop what you are doing and go. The best set of par 3's I've ever played. Amazing use of the land and a joy to play.

St. George's Hill - Majestic in view and wonderful to play. Like Swinley, nothing at all contrived about any of the holes, and the clubhouse view and post round drinks were intoxicating (literally). Lots of wealthy Russians picking up the properties. Crazy beautiful homes.

New Zealand - Relatively flat, short and a course I would never tire of playing. Narrow fairways require accuracy over distance.

We stayed in Ripley and had dinner one evening at Michelin starred "Drakes". Pricey but memorable. Also, if you are in need of amazing coffee, head over to Pinnocks a few doors down.

Locals could not have been nicer to us. Took a hike one morning before golf and came upon some "Narrowboaters" negotiating a lock. Started in April and will finish up in October. Not sure my wife and I would be able to spend that much close time together.

A+ trip!


Last edited by Shotrock on Tue 26 May 2015, 2:43 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Post by MustPuttBetter Tue 26 May 2015, 2:06 pm

Glad you enjoyed the trip SR, mostly because Ripley and surrounding areas is where I grew up. Played football as a kid for years at a small village down the road called Ockham

Drakes certainly is excellent, and the Talbot a bit down the road serves the biggest portions of food I've ever eaten
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Post by pedro Tue 26 May 2015, 7:16 pm

Cheers SR. Did you watch any of the action at Wentworth?

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Post by kwinigolfer Tue 26 May 2015, 7:40 pm

Isn't Ripley Claptonville?
Nice part of the world.

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Post by MustPuttBetter Tue 26 May 2015, 7:46 pm

It is Kwini. In fact there's a guitar shop a couple of doors down from the Drakes SR refers to that, until a few years ago at least, was owned by Clapton
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Post by Shotrock Tue 26 May 2015, 8:03 pm

Pedro - Did not get to the PGA event, opted to play instead!

MPB - Walked (ok, stumbled by) that guitar shop (long in the tooth) each day!

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Post by puligny Tue 26 May 2015, 10:16 pm

SR great trip, and you played some belters. As I'm sure you know there are many more! Great to hear you enjoyed it.
I have the good fortune of min 4 days (hopefully 5 if I can for the first time make the cut!) in the English Senior Men's Am Open next week, split between Worplesdon and West Hill. Super courses in Surrey, with lots of that heathery stuff!

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Post by McLaren Wed 27 May 2015, 11:02 am

Sounds like a great trip.

How would you compare the surrey sand belt courses to some of your favorite inland US courses, like Merion or Pine Valley?
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Post by Shotrock Wed 27 May 2015, 12:50 pm

Good question Mac. As you know, Merion and Pine Valley are, perhaps, "top 10" courses in the world and none of the courses I played in the UK have achieved that sort of ranking prowess. But, a few observations:

Fewer trees as hazards with the Heathland courses. Can't remember a shot where a tree came into play, but I assure you it will frequently determine your line of flight off the tee at both Merion and Pine Valley.

More accommodating ground play. Whereas there are a lot of forced carry approach shots at Pine Valley and Merion, there were far fewer (mostly on the par 3s) with the courses I played last week.

Generally slower green speeds. That is NOT a bad thing, as the speeds were consistent, but Merion and Pine Valley (bent grass) are usually a lot quicker.

Firmer turf. You will take butter dish divots at Merion and Pine Valley, but might break your wrist doing the same at many Heathland courses.

What's impressive about the Surrey sand belt is that there are so many (as piligny points out) outstanding courses is that immediate area.

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Post by McLaren Wed 27 May 2015, 1:52 pm

If this is possible to compare, do you prefer the recovery shots on offer around the greens from PV or your favorite heathland course in the UK?
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Post by raycastleunited Wed 27 May 2015, 2:08 pm

What a great trip SR. Lucky you! I've not played any of the courses you mentioned, but am a big fan of heathland golf, Sunningdale being a real favourite of mine.

It was also interesting to see your comparisons with your favourite US courses. In general, green speeds at this time of year are still slow in England. It depends on the weather we've had over spring but often you see inconsistent growth in May so greenkeepers need to keep them slightly slower. Wentworth last week was a pretty good demonstration of this. Come back in a couple of weeks and the greens will be much quicker - and will stay that way til October.

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Post by Shotrock Thu 28 May 2015, 12:09 am

Thanks Ray - I was certainly not complaining about the slower greens, but added speed will make them even more interesting IMO.

Mac - If pressed, I prefer the recovery shots around the heathland greats to PV. PV is simply unyielding (not unfair however) in their difficulty from so many waste areas that surround the greens.

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Post by super_realist Thu 28 May 2015, 6:54 am

Heathland is my absolute favourite type of golf, from the turf, greens, what you can do with the holes, vegetation to make it interesting, the sound of shots echoing round the course, the challenge of keeping the ball in play and the premium on being on the right side of the fairway, the shelter it provides from inclement weather and the way it looks.

You can't beat it at 7am on a dewy summer morning when you have the course to yourself.

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