Golf Course Review of Knole Park Golf Club
Knole Park Golf Course
Reviewed by Ed Battye -
Quick Summary: A sandy treasure hidden away in Kent Countryside
Our 5 Star Rating: 4.3
Stumbling across Knole Park on a balmy May afternoon was like finding a little golfing treasure trove. There’s lots of golfing goodness to be found at this most English of golf courses.
I’m not sure where this course has been all my life but I’m so glad it is now a small part of it. Discovering hidden gems is rare in the modern age where I doubt there is a venue that hasn’t been showcased on its own website, in one of the golfing magazines or on social media etc...
For those outside the region I’m urging you to firstly look up where Knole “Park” is and then immediately go and book a tee-time there as quickly as you can.
I place the word park in quotation marks above because that title is doing it a disservice in the 21st Century. Nowadays any course that isn’t a links or heathland, maybe you could add in moorland, seems to get tarnished with the term parkland. However, there’s a big difference between a golf course built on agricultural or meadowland to what you will find here. Knole Park derives its name from the more stately sense; a ‘deer park’ played in the grounds of the striking Knole House. You are more likely to see shades of brown than green here and the specimen trees are rarely in play and if so used strategically rather than with a penal, fairway-lining nature. Fortunately for golf The Great Storm of 1987 felled over 70% of the trees across the park.
The tightness of the turf and the keenness of the ground all around the estate are more reminiscent of links conditions than anything with the P-word in its title. It’s essentially a fast-running, sandy and bracken blessed piece of land that uses its natural assets to splendid use. The lack of long grass around the greens not only highlights some splendid green sites but gives options on how to play recovery shots.
There is a feeling of spaciousness at Knole Park, designed by J.F. Abercromby, with a pleasing width to the course where losing a ball is hard due to the roominess and rough management which enables a brisk pace of play. Hundreds of deer roam the course, there are a number of public paths which add to the charm and basically it’s just a lovely place to be.
Onto the course itself and six holes in you will be blown away with it. I promise you this. If you’re not you may as well head back to the clubhouse on the assumption that golf is not the game for you.
Green sites at the second, third and fifth are incredible as you fire to benched greens, drive from elevated tees and play through and across natural valleys in this opening third of the course. I even liked the 192-yard rising par-three opener which asks you to slide the ball in from the left around a trio of bunkers.
However, the best hole of this opening gambit is saved until last. The sixth, oh my word, is simply wonderful in its wide open space as we now leave the woodland. A central bunker gives you four options from the tee; lay-up, carry it, play to the right or play to the left. The best of these choices is to play up the left side but this requires the longest shot but with the reward of a visible approach. Anything else is likely to be blind and if you go too far an old bomb hole adds to your problems. It reminded me of the third hole at Halifax (Ogden), another unheralded gem, which has similar playing characteristics.
The middle third of the round sees the course have a wee bit of a wobble. In truth that’s probably unfair so let’s say it simply affords you a breather. The excellent playing conditions remain throughout though and the 12th is an absolutely cracking par-three played to a hanging green with an unusual wiggly ridge creating a large step in it with an almost back-left basin.
The run for home is more reminiscent of the opening holes but not quite as enthralling although the 14th is as good as anything seen earlier on. The skyline green at the 13th along with the feeling of being on top of the world when playing the 17th are also fond memories I will carefully store away.
In any positive review it would be remiss not to mention a few things I didn’t like. But there’s not many. There are a few wishy-washy, dare I say needless bunkers, most notably on the right side of both the second and 17th holes plus a few others dotted around. The short tenth is also a bit of a nothing hole but from speaking to the Head Greenkeeper I understand some bunker remodelling will take place here shortly. I also wasn’t particularly fond of the closing hole but essentially, almost in a links-like manner, the first and last get you out to, and back from, the best of the golfing terrain.
The course plays to a maximum yardage of 6,459 (par 70) although in the hope of attracting Regional Qualifying for The Open a handful of new tees are currently being added to stretch it an extra couple of hundred paces. Acreage, 1,000 all told, is certainly not a problem they have on this far-reaching property.
If nothing else Knole Park must be one of the most invigorating of walks; the scenery, the wildlife and just being out in the Kent countryside air makes one feel healthier. Playing here is a true joy and gives me hope of finding other golf courses just waiting to be discovered by the wider golfing population.
Club Website: www.knoleparkgolfclub.co.uk
Tournaments: Open golf competitions at Knole Park Golf Club.
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