Effingham Golf Club Course Review
Par 71, 6,597 yards
GM Verdict – Lovely, recently renovated and improved Harry Colt layout on the North Downs with some excellent views from the higher ground.
Favourite Hole – The 17th is a beautifully bunkered par 5 straight down the hill that may just be in range in firmer conditions.
The county of Surrey is blessed with many exceptional courses and while Effingham Golf Club near Leatherhead is not as widely known as some of the best golf courses in Surrey, it probably deserves to be after some excellent renovation and improvement works in recent years. It’s set on the North Downs, and although there aren’t quite as many golf courses on this chalk ridge as on the South Downs, there is still a healthy number as it makes its way from the White Cliffs of Dover across to Farnham in Surrey.
Towards the western end, Effingham is a fine example of downland golf with its wonderful and far-reaching views, though it takes a while to realise you really are up on the Downs as you make your way first along and then away from the main A246 road. The opening trio of a par 5 and two short par 4s will ease you in gently some days before you hit the excellent downhill par-3 4th – reminiscent of the 12th at Goodwood with its ring of bunkers – and then the stern test that is the fearsomely long par-4 5th. You only really discover just how high up you are when you reach the upper holes and gaze across towards the London skyline.
In recent years, the club has taken major strides, enlisting the help of ever-busy course architect, Tom Mackenzie of Mackenzie & Ebert, to upgrade the layout, with extensive bunkering work throughout and new greens on the 5th and 18th, the latter finally moving closer to its natural home of the elegant Georgian clubhouse
Harry Colt laid out the course in two loops of nine in the 1920s, and Mackenzie has studied the early images carefully in his 21st-century modelling, with a major focus on the bunkering from both a strategic and aesthetic perspective. The bunker styling has been returned to its Colt roots, with the transformation about as dramatic as you can get on essentially the same canvas. Every hole now catches the eye and whets the appetite as you pass or turn to face it.
These chalk and cheese improvements have triggered much competition for signature hole status, with any of the four very pretty and varied par 3s among the contenders. But for pure visual allure, the best is saved till late on as you make your descent via the 15th and 17th, both of which look an absolute picture from their elevated tees, framed beautifully by the new-style bunkering. Better still, even though 17 is a long par 5, when the ground is firm a good drive could still see you home in two for a much longed-for late birdie.
Refusing to rest on its laurels after the course upgrades, Effingham's next phase of improvements looks set to include a new short-game area and two sizable new putting greens, with a long-game area potentially to follow a little further down the line.
Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...
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