Five of some of the finest heathland courses in southern England have joined forces to market themselves as the Southern Counties Heathland Golf Tour.
West Sussex, the number one course in the county, Hampshire’s top heathland layouts of Liphook and Blackmoor, and Hindhead and Hankley Common in Surrey (6th green pictured above), will together present a formidable golf tour in the heart of the English countryside.
It is the aim of these traditional, yet forward-thinking, clubs that this new offering will act as a catalyst to open up the allure of heathland
golf in the area to UK golfers whilst at the same time showcasing a stunning grouping of heathland courses set in England to the international golf market.
These established tracks all bear the heathland trademarks of sweeping swathes of vibrant heather and gorse and fairways lined with pine trees and the occasional magnificent oak which all combine to form some of the most picturesque courses in the world.
Meanwhile the fast-draining sandy soils and typically-undulating landscapes of heathland layouts make the terrain ideal for fast, challenging golf.
“With the launch of the Southern Counties Heathland Golf Tour, we have put together a trail of some of the most authentic, yet natural heathland courses of England which until now have been a fairly well-guarded secret as far as the rest of the world was concerned,” comments Andy Stubbs of West Sussex Golf Club.
“For any golfers wishing to discover the sheer pleasure of playing classic, well-designed heathland layouts, our collection of courses would be an ideal place to start.”
To launch the initiative, the Southern Counties Heathland Golf Tour has joined Golf Tourism England to give itself some immediate profile to the international golf travel market.
Indeed Andrew Cooke, founder of Golf Tourism England, has been instrumental in encouraging the group to link up and to promote themselves as a premier heathland tour to national and international golfers alike.
“By joining together as the Southern Counties Heathland Golf Tour, these clubs form an extremely attractive cluster of high quality golf courses in southern England, an area already well known for heathland masterpieces such as Sunningdale, Wentworth and Walton Heath. Though quieter in profile to date, these courses are all well established and highly regarded and are regularly included in the various UK golf course rankings, with the likes of West Sussex and Hankley Common often appearing in the top 20,” comments Cooke.
“These clubs are together leading the way in marketing themselves as a credible golf tourism offering to a wider audience and helping to reinforce the country as one of the foremost golfing destinations in the world,” concludes Cooke.
Easy access from M25 and A3
The five clubs in the Southern Counties Heathland Golf Tour can all be found within an hour of each other and are easily accessed via the M25 and A3 roadways and are just over an hour and a half from London’s international airports of Heathrow and Gatwick.
The Old Thorns Manor Hotel Golf & Country Estate near Liphook is centrally located to act as a base for golfers taking on the new tour. Set in 400 acres of rolling Hampshire countryside, the Hotel offers a range of rooms and apartments, a spa, various bars and restaurants ideal for the requirements of golfers.
In blazing the trail, the Southern Counties Heathland Golf Tour hope to follow in the footsteps of other great heathland trails such as the Melbourne Sand Belt, home to one of the world’s most heralded courses, Royal Melbourne in Australia and the Sand Hills of Pinehurst in America.
The five golf clubs
West Sussex GC
West Sussex was founded by Commander George Hillyard, who thought the sandy farmland at Wiggonholt near Pulborough, would make for an idyllic, natural course.
Designed by renowned golf course architects, Campbell and Hutchinson, the layout was opened in 1930 and remains pretty much the same as it was at the time of construction.
Liphook’s inland heathland course was designed in 1922 by Arthur Croome and completed by his partner Tom Simpson after Croome’s early death. Measuring 6,295 yards from the Championship tees, the par 70 layout rewards golfers applying course strategy rather than big hitting. Its tight fairways linked with an abundance of heather, gorse and trees require accuracy off the tee. However its greatest defence is its greens, true and fast with subtle breaks and borrows, that make it a wonderful test of golf.
Established in 1913 and designed by the famous golf course architect, Harry Colt, Blackmoor has matured into one of Hampshire’s more revered tracks. This par 69, 6,164 yard is a traditional heathland gem with fairways bordered by oak, pine and birch trees. The course features par 3s that all possess the Harry Colt stamp of elevated greens that are well protected by bunkers and numerous subtle doglegs that demand accurate driving. Testament to the quality of the course, Blackmoor played host to regional qualifying events for The Open Championship between 1998 and 2013.
Founded in 1904 by the writer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and a small group of fellow golfing enthusiasts, Hindhead nestles in one of the most glorious natural settings in the southern counties. The Devil’s Punchbowl is a large hollow of dry sandy heath to the east of Hindhead and holes two to nine are laid out through this same heather strewn Ice Age valleys, making the front nine the more dramatic. The back nine is a fine golfing challenge laid out on the overlooking heathland plateau. Regularly ranked amongst the best of England’s heathland courses, the J.H. Taylor designed par 70 layout measures 6,390 yards.
Hankley Common GC
Hankley Common first opened for play in 1897 over just nine holes, then in 1922 the famed course designer, James Braid, advised on the addition of a further nine holes. It has been receiving plaudits ever since: Bobby Locke described it as “the closest resemblance to a seaside links” and the famous course architect, Charles Lawrie, once described the course as “one of the best inland layouts in Britain”. The 7th hole is regarded as one of the finest par 3s in the country and the magnificent 18th a superb, but challenging finishing hole. The course and surrounding area are classified as a ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ which includes a number of indigenous trees such as rowan, oak and silver birch, together with the Scots pine.