London Golf Club, International Course, Kent, England
As I enter the gates of the London Golf Club estate, my excitement levels start to rise, mainly because it is not the first time I have played here, having teed it up several times, it is always in great condition and the facilities are what every club golfer dreams of.
After a wonderful bacon sandwich, coffee and warm up on the aforementioned practice area I am standing on the first tee – you will notice from the video that there is no video footage of my first two tee shots and that is because it is raining. Yes, the wind has picked up and the rain is coming down but nothing is going to stop me playing today
The opening hole is a downhill par 5 and depending on what teeing option you choose to play from – there are four – the hole measures from 568–453-yards, a good tee shot leaves me with 220-yards, now the brave could go for the green in two but with water protecting the green that runs at a diagonal, I am going to the lay-up. I always enjoy par 5 starts as it gives you a chance to get your round off to a solid start with a possible birdie chance.
The courses at the London Golf Club are all about strategy. The fairways are fairly wide and the first cut of rough isn’t that punishing, but go wider and you will be in the wild grasses that give the course it’s wonderful light brown fescue look that frames the emerald carpets of the fairway. Bunkers are placed in the perfect areas to catch the errant tee shot and have been placed so every teeing option has to face the challenge of avoiding them.
The first of the par 3s on the front nine arrives at the 4th and from the tee it doesn’t look too intimidating, but again the green is wide and narrow with three bunkers protecting the right-hand side. The challenge to this hole doesn’t stop with the tee shot with the green having several different complexes, with a ridge sitting back and centre giving the option of some very tough pin positions.
As you would imagine with any Jack Nicklaus designed course water comes into play on several holes – particular the par 3s on the 8th and 12th which are both played over water from elevated tees. Some courses have one signature hole, but the International course can boost several signature holes and while I am loath to name individual holes as I really don’t think there is a weak hole on the course – I can certainly name a lot of tough ones though – I think the risk and reward par 5, 13th is an excellent hole with water again protecting the front of the green if you choose to go that route.
While I love a course that opens with a par 5, one that ends with one has to be a golfer’s dream. By the time you reach this tee you know you’ve played a fantastic golf course, even if it’s got the better of you. This downhill 542-yard hole may just be the redemption you need. Walking off with a birdie here could just be the icing on the cake, but no matter how well you did or didn’t play, I know you will have loved every minute.
Top Water at the par 3, 12th hole. Above: Clubhouse, 8th and 14th holes