Our Secret Golfer was intrigued to gauge the experience at the Kent and Surrey Golf Club near Edenbridge, which straddles the border between south-east Surrey and north-west reaches of Kent
Introduction to Kent and Surrey GC
The Secret Golfer is interested in reporting on all golf courses, no matter how small, young or remote. There are many courses in the UK that are privately owned and run on a tight budget, attracting a broad range of golfers, and Kent and Surrey Golf Club is one of them. Good golf does not have to come at a premium to the golfer, and welcoming and professional customer service does not add to overheads. Unfortunately though, good customer service was in short supply when I arrived in Edenbridge.
The 18-hole, par-71 parkland course at Kent & Surrey GC was originally known as Edenbridge Golf Club, and the course was designed by David Williams and built in 1975, across 250 acres of unspoilt, rolling Kent and Surrey countryside. It has now undergone a name change, rebranding and course renovations are afoot, although the incomplete development work was apparent before I had even parked, as the car park was a mess – more building site than car park.
Despite the club’s new marketing, the clubhouse is tired and in real need of refurbishment. My tee time had been booked online but the member of staff behind the bar, who was also checking in golfers, had no record of the booking. Apparently “online bookings do not link to the system”, which is possibly the very last thing a visiting golfer needs to hear in arrival at a new course. Luckily, there was availability on the tee so I did not have to make an about turn.
The club served a tasty bacon sandwich, which was at least something, but then coffee from the machine was more like diesel.
Chris Lightfoot’s pro shop is conveniently located just off the car park, and adjacent to the driving range. It is a small shop, with one end taken up by an office area for club administration. No member of shop staff was on hand when I visited, although the club administrator was on duty and offered a warm and friendly welcome. Stock was limited but neatly presented, with hardware from Lynx and Ping covering a range of price points, as did a selection of FootJoy footwear and apparel from Ping Collection and Ashworth. The retail offering was fine as far as it went, although the shop gives the impression that retailing is not a priority for the club.
As we had to rush to the tee to “slot in”, there was only time for a quick putt on the well-proportioned putting green. Size is not everything though, and the green was in poor condition and with bald patches. Given more time, a bucket of balls on the range would have been ideal. The club has a spacious range with around 10 covered bays. Like the clubhouse, the range and mats have seen better days, but albeit without any frills, it fulfills its basic function.
The first tee at Kent & Surrey offers a view down the short par-four hole, just 300 yards from the white tees. Unfortunately in keeping with the practice green, the tee box was in poor condition; it was uneven and boasted only a little grass – long, patchy and straggly – so this did not bode well. It gives me no pleasure to report that the quality of tee boxes did not improve as the round went on, and although it transpires the club is planning to replace many of them, the lack of maintenance was a disappointment.
Kent & Surrey is not a long course, totaling 6,314 yards from the championship tees, although there are a few interesting holes. The picturesque course does features water on a number holes to liven up the challenge, although the fairways are generally so wide that the water rarely comes into play. Like the tees, the fairways were not in good condition, and a drive that split the fairway could offer a poor lie that would be better suited to the first cut of rough.
The course condition continued to underwhelm on the greens too, where the putting surfaces were uncut, complete with occasional long tufts and bald patches.
The bunkering was of a similar standard – the unraked sand was compacted, and so while there was little chance of finding a fried egg in them, gauging the strength of required sand blasts was a bit of a gamble.
Perhaps most memorable on the course were the huge areas of rubble and soil, which I assume are temporarily positioned for upcoming course changes. These mounds made the course unattractive in places, which is a shame as some of the holes were quite picturesque.
When the highlight of a visit to a golf club is the decent bacon sandwich, you know something is wrong. This was a disappointing visit to Kent & Surrey, and the condition of the clubhouse, facilities and golf course do not merit the weekend green fee of £29. It must be hard to attract members with an annual membership of £825 too.
Clearly this golf course is due some major re-development, and certainly, with some investment and hard work this could be an excellent venue. The natural landscape and basic layout are sound, but beyond that a lot needs to change.
The Secret Golfer would certainly welcome the opportunity to re-visit Kent & Surrey GC once renovations are complete. The only way is up.