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England -surrey & Near London Pt V

It was pretty much a late decision to organize a game at The Addington, south of London near Croydon. The first five holes are rather bland but from then on you will have lots of fun playing some of the unusual holes here.

I am a devotee of P.G. Wodehouse - I have nearly finished writing my own version of a Wodehouse book with humorous anecdotes from a mythical old golf club on the south coast of England. The 6th is a dog- leg left par 4 to a green with a bunker set in a crater on the right hand side. It is about 10 -15 steps just to get down into the bunker. It is affectionately thought of as the Wodehouse bunker. Wodehouse played here regularly and had so much trouble with this bunker that he frequently gave his address as C/- the greenside bunker, 6th hole , The Addington.

There are some deep valleys here but the walking is made easier and more picturesque by the use of narrow walk bridges spanning the chasm below. The 9th is Index 1 and features a carry over such hazards for both the tee shot and the shot into the green. The 12th is a wild ride as it is difficult to control just where your drive will finish on the rugged downslope of the hill. I would love to see the very tight par 3,13th when all the rhododendrons are in flower. From the elevated 14th the London skyline is clearly visible. The 16th contains a lovely green setting and the par 3,17th can easily result in a lost ball with plenty of trouble short or left.

In summary, I enjoyed The Addington. A member summed it up pretty well when he told me that it was improving again 'after 20 years of neglect'. Oh, and you may just bump into Ronnie Corbett playing a few holes.

      (photo The Addington-par 3,17th from beside the 16th green)

We had just three more courses to play on the 2011 trip, but two of them were in the top tier. Swinley Forest is not far from Ascot and, as the crow flies, Sunningdale. They don't care about publicity here - the Secretary told me so quite bluntly. It is hard to access and it is expensive but it is a wonderful golfing experience.

As was the case for many of our days near London, it rained very heavily in the morning but more or less cleared up by the afternoon. It was still raining heavily when we hit off so after playing two holes we decided to wait as the only others that had braved the weather were a 2 ball right behind us. My photograph of the short par 4,3rd hole looks so pretty it is hard to believe it was taken whilst my wife held an umbrella over me. The weather only improved a little but at least the rain stopped half way round. Pity there was little sun because this course is a photographer's dream.

Every single hole is lovely but the par 3, 4th with massive heather and the long par 4,12th were standouts. Whilst the course is hilly it is not uncomfortably so. The trees are magnificent and although the heather is plentiful the carries were not too difficult.

One of the best views is from near the practice putting green where you look to the hilly 1st and 18th holes flanked by heather and tall Scots pines. This is Harry Colt at his best.

      (photo  Swinley Forest -1st and 18th holes just before more heavy rain)

I had played the Old Course at Walton Heath on two previous occasions -the last being the exact day of their 100 year anniversary. It is a great example of heathland made somewhat more difficult by Herbert Fowler's love of large cross-bunkers.

For this trip we arranged to play the New Course courtesy of  Ken McPherson who for many years was the highly regarded professional there and who kindly accompanied us on the round. To me the New seemed every bit s good as the Old and the two are often side by side. Beautiful greens, well maintained bunkers and good links type fairways.

The heather was looking great but equally it was very penal if you strayed off the fairways. The day we played there was a crosswind (it usually is windy at Walton) making ball control that little bit more difficult.

The par 4,18th reminded me somewhat of the finishing hole on the Old Course where you tee off over a hollow and play to a green guarded by a large cross-bunker. The course plays long at 7175 yards from the back tees and with 8 par 4's over 400 yards in length. Some of the heather carries from the ladies tees were very testing.

Play either of the courses any time you get the chance. The clubhouse is also lovely and overlooks the large practice putting green close by.

                   (photo Walton Heath New Course-the 468 yard par 4, 5th hole)

At Ken McPherson's suggestion we went to nearby Reigate Heath. This is a charming little heathland course of nine holes with alternate tees for a second nine. A family atmosphere is very apparent in a friendly environment. You can't miss the clubhouse with the large windmill right behind it. The tee shot on the1st is fascinating as you hit from high across a large bank of heather, bracken and gorse to a green way below. Knowing how much you can take on is the tricky part. Around the 7th you play alongside the road and then the finish features the lovely little par 3, 9th with heathery mounds and small bunkers before you. You will have fun playing at this little rural oasis in the heart of suburbia.

            (photo- Reigate Heath's 9th hole with the clubhouse and windmill behind)

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