There is much to be said for a round of golf on an attractive and challenging course in under two hours as Rob Smith explains…
Arkley Golf Club Course Review
Nine-hole golf courses are too often overlooked by golfers who think they will be getting half a course for their green fee. This is a mistake for several reasons and there are many delightful designs such as the one at Arkley Golf Club that are well worth a visit. For those with limited time, a quick nine holes is an ideal solution. Better still, a full eighteen gives us a second chance at each.
Arkley was founded in 1909 and its compact course was designed by the great James Braid with subsequent modifications by Harry Vardon. I visited on a grey, damp autumnal day which is why my pictures don’t show off the course in its best light - in the summer, it is a delight.
The opening hole is a testing par 4, 434 yards from the back tees, with an approach to a green protected on either side by sand.
This is followed by a short hole - albeit over 200 yards the second time round - played slightly downhill.
Close to the green is a reminder of the tragic event in 1975 when a light aircraft piloted by former world champion racing driver Graham Hill crashed in thick fog. He and the five other occupants were all killed, and people still visit the spot to this day, either to pay their respects or by miscuing their tee shots!
Two left-to-right doglegs follow, the third being slightly longer and the fourth with bunkers waiting at the elbow.
I particularly enjoyed the next two holes, with the fifth offering tees that make it a par 5 or a par 4, and the sixth played down into a dip and requiring a lengthy approach back up the other side.
The seventh is quite unusual in that it plays as a short hole first time round, and then a risk-reward par 4 from 100 yards further back where the big hitters may want to go for the green.
The penultimate hole is either a long par 4 or a short par 5, but for the latter it presents a narrow drive where ideally you need to draw the ball.
So unusual is the par-3 closing hole that I was originally tempted to say nothing about it and suggest you see for yourself. However, to whet the appetite, it is played from a tee on top of a covered reservoir to a hidden green protected by a handful of bunkers. It’s certainly a one-off, and I encourage you to make up your own mind about it.
I enjoyed my morning at Arkley Golf Club with its characterful clubhouse and friendly members, and for those seeking an enjoyable nine holes or more on an attractive course with its own distinguishing features, I would certainly recommend a visit.
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Rob Smith has been playing golf for 45 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly since 2012. He specialises in course reviews and travel, and has played more than 1,200 courses in almost 50 countries. In 2022, he played all 21 courses in East Lothian in 13 days. Last year, his tally was 81, 32 of them for the first time. One of Rob's primary roles is helping to prepare the Top 100 and Next 100 Courses of the UK&I, of which he has played all but seven and a half... i.e. not the new 9 at Carne! Of those missing, some are already booked for 2024. He is a member of Tandridge in Surrey where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at email@example.com.
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