Sep 30th, 2019
You Little Beauty: Tandridge G.C.
More than just a good lunch
Words: David Adair
The 6:57 to East Grinstead trundles out of Clapham Junction. I’m on board with my Café Nero’s black americano in hand (other coffee brands were available) and a copy of City AM on the table in front of me. Today’s mission, to seek out a gem of a course that I have known about for years but never played. The course in question is Tandridge Golf Club and I have heard good reports about the course and, in particular, the famous lunch – more of that later!
Roughly half an hour later I am jumping off at Oxted station in Surrey and tapping the Uber icon on my mobile. Hmmm nearest car is a mere 6 miles away, we are in sleepy stockbroker territory here. Luckily the Station Cars cab office is to hand and five minutes later I am making the short hop to the club. According to Google I could have walked the 1.3 miles in twenty-seven minutes. I’ll bear that in mind next time, maybe.
The taxi sweeps through the gates of the club and up a long drive depositing me in front of a rather splendid looking clubhouse that has stood since 1928. The course opened in 1924 but lost its first thatched roofed clubhouse after only three years when fire destroyed it on Friday 13th May 1927!
Coffee in one hand (cup and saucer this time) and bacon roll in the other I am surveying the winners’ boards in the rather traditional main bar area and wondering what kind of competition the ‘Doubleday Divot’ might be?
Suitably fed and watered, I pull on my golf shoes and meander off to the practice area which sits perched on the side of a hill. Having pushed, sliced and knifed enough shots into the valley below I am suitably warmed up and it’s time for a few putts.
The balls are running swiftly across the beautifully mown surface of the putting green. As I will find out the green is representative of what I will find out on the course. Tandridge’s greens are quick and there are a good few slopes to find you out too.
Tandridge ranks in the Golf World top 100 courses in England and is more parkland than many of the other top courses you will find in Surrey. The course is not long at 6,509 yards off the back tees but as I was to find out the course threw up other challenges rather than length.
Curiously the 10th tee and 9th green sit directly in front of the clubhouse with the 1st tee and 18th green set off to the sides and away from view from the terrace. I didn’t ask the question but I assume the course is set up this way as the back nine is arguably the better of the two nines with a better finishing hole.
The Harry Colt designed course is a classic game of two halves. The front nine is set over pretty flat terrain, with the challenge coming from the need to plot your way between the tree lined and well bunkered fairways before you jump on to what is a rollercoaster of a back nine.
The course eases you in with a short par five 1st hole. Easily reachable in two for the bigger hitters the challenge comes on arrival at the green which slopes from left to right and is slick - very much a taste of things to come!
The second is a much tougher test, a long sweeping dog leg to the right where care must be taken not to get too aggressive with the drive. Even a good drive will still require a good mid iron shot to a tough sloping, two-tiered green.
The first of the par threes comes at the fourth where the green sits as an oasis among sea of bunkers. Strong bunkering is a theme at Tandridge and I can attest to the need to navigate ones way around the course as I found the beach on more than one occasion.
The front nine finishes in front of the clubhouse, the ninth being a par five that turns right handed and up the hill to a well-guarded green. As with the other long holes it is reachable but one has to thread the needle to a firm sloping green.
The back nine opens with one of the toughest par fours on the course where a good long drive is required to give you a shot up to the well guarded (told you there was a theme!). The course then kicks up to its highest point at the twelfth tee with some breath-taking views over the Downs.
Strap yourself in for the run of holes home. The thirteenth is one of those holes that were you offered a par (or even a bogey) on the tee you’d bite their hand off and sprint to the next tee. 223 yards from the back tee you fire across a valley to the green set on the side of the hill. Two tips, don’t look down and don’t go right as the land plummets some forty odd feet below the putting surface.
As tough as the thirteenth is, the signature hole fourteenth is breath-taking. Only twenty odd yards short of the 500 yard mark, the par four hole cascades downhill to a generous fairway before kicking back up a two tiered green nestling in the hillside with the statutory bunkered defences.
An interesting trio of holes follow with the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeen all offering different challenges despite their relative short yardages.
I can’t make up my mind if the 18th is a great hole or not. A good drive is required over a valley with the ground falling away on the right side of the hole. It is very much a risk versus reward tee-shot as the further left you aim the safer the shot but it makes for a longer shot as the hole swerves round to the right.
The green sits on the side of the hill, tilted slightly, with the statutory bunkers left and right. If the prevailing is that I played in, left to right and helping the approach shot is a tough one, once again to a firm sloping green. Stopping the ball seems almost impossible with the two of us left in the hole having to putt from the back of the green.
My match went to the last and I could feel my partners eyes boring into the back of my head as I stood over a three-foot par putt for the match. Fortunately, I found the bottom of the cup and it was all smiles, for some, as we strolled back to the clubhouse.
A quick shower and change of clothing later (no jacket required) and I was sitting down to partake of the famous Tandridge lunch. A choice of cold starter or soup, or both for us fat boys, was followed by the standard carvery. Three choices of meat and a host of excellent veg to choose from, along with a Yorkshire pudding on the side. was washed down by a glass of the club claret. It did not disappoint.
Although most struggled to complete the large plate of food they carried back to the table it was considered churlish not to take a look at the choice of puddings. Very much spoiled for choice, with a mouth watering array of hot and cold puds yours truly plumped for the club special the ‘Tandridge Pudding’
Served with a generous pouring of custard I have not one clue what was in that fine, rich pudding. The only way I can describe is like a cross between a sticky toffee pudding, a spotted dick and a Christmas pudding. It was curiously delicious!
A quick coffee in the lounge, a struggle to get to one’s feet, following all the ballast I had taken on board, and I was grabbing a lift to Oxted station. Less than an hour later and I was relaxing back in South West London asking what was for dinner.
Somewhat surprisingly Tandridge does not have a full membership. Once upon a time you would have had to join a long waiting list to join this fine club but no longer. The club has recognised the challenges facing a number of clubs in the UK and is not resting on its laurels.
Tandridge has reduced its academy membership fee by nearly 40 per cent, from £750 to £475, as it looks to encourage more people – particularly ladies and girls – into the sport. Academy membership entitles the individual to 10 individual range lessons of 40 minutes each, six one-hour group lessons, and unlimited free use of the driving range – with balls – for the duration of the membership, ensuring that, weather permitting, there should never be any deterrent to practise.
The Surrey club, which is handily positioned just off the M25 also offers some enticing deals for visitors. You can play golf by paying a green fee on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, or any day from 4.30pm, with prices from £40.
The standard single round green fee is £54 but in the winter months (January/February) the rate is only £30. The course is built on chalk and so apparently drains incredibly well which suggests it may play well in winter.
To enquire about memberships at Tandridge GC simply call assistant secretary Jane Edwards, on 01883 712274, or email email@example.com. The pro shop is open seven days a week and the team are on hand to answer any questions. Call them on 01883 713701.
So, another club ticked off the list and I can confirm that Tandridge is indeed a ‘Little Beauty’ with a welcoming staff and excellent food to boot. Enjoy!
And another thing...