Many, many moons ago I started to blog my reviews of golf courses in South East London. At the time I held no lofty ambition to visit as many courses as I have done so far, I’d only just taken up the game. Barnehurst Golf Centre was one of the first golf courses I wrote about. In those early golfing days I had only visited a couple of courses, Barnehurst will always stick in my mind as the first course I ever played that had a bit of character.
A 9 Hole, Par 35, 2724 Yard golf course on the outskirts of London, Barnehurst Golf Centre has undergone extensive redevelopment over the past year or so. The construction of a new driving range has coincided with a minor rearrangement of the original course design famously laid out in 1904 by the golf course architect James Braid. London golf course visitors will be familiar with the work of Braid who was responsible for so many golf course designs in and around South London.
The new first hole pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the course, a short 181 yards (173 off the yellow) should be easily reachable but demands a very accurate shot. There are many hidden pins, narrow fairways, deep bunkers and tiny gaps to thread the ball through, holes which demand total commitment to the shot. For a 9 hole it’s a wonderfully technical little course.
The long grass, exposed setting, the undulating approaches over looking the Thames Estuary give the course a Links feeling to Barnehurst Golf Centre. It’s worth remembering that when Braid first laid out the course, Barnehurst was very much in Kent, over the past 100 years London has grown and engulfed the farmland and rolling hills that once surrounded the present course but Braid’s Scottish links influence can still be felt.
For the player that likes to get the longer club out of the bag the 2nd is a healthy 496 yards (459 off the yellow) and gives you a chance to really get behind the ball. The 8th will also provide the big hitters with some entertainment. As you’d expect with any 9 hole course it favors good iron play, it’s an excellent place to practice an accurate approach shot. Given the undulations and rolling hillocks being a bit handy with your wedges is also an advantage. There is some relief in the 6th, which has to be one of the most birdieable par 4 holes in the world, a relatively easy green to hit in regulation.
With a couple of exceptions the greens are pretty good, really well looked after by club and players. They have enough turn in them to keep them interesting, reasonable speed and often protected by some viciously deep pitted bunkers. Where the greens are a bit ropy is where they tend to be over shadowed by tall trees, the lack of light perhaps affecting the growth of the grass at certain times of the year.
Over the past couple of years I’ve been working 15 minutes away from Barnehurst Golf Course and so played it fairly regularly, particularly as a quick 9 on the way home from work. On every occasion I’ve always found the level of customer service to be excellent. The bar and catering area is well laid out which includes a terrace overlooking the 9th/18th green to provide a nice grandstand finish to your round as other patrons watch you sink your final putt for a birdie.
The remodeling of the course over the years has allowed for the construction of a small and unusually narrow driving range, although this has led to one of the courses more recent idiosyncrasies.
The fences surrounding the driving range are quite low that it’s not uncommon for you to find enough range balls laying around the 8th and 9th fairways so you can head back onto the range for a bit of a post round warm down.
More dangerously, I’ve occasionally been on the course and narrowly avoided a ball sliced off the driving range. While the construction of the driving range is a welcome addition to the facility I do feel its a rather ugly intrusion on what was once a rather lovely little 9 hole course and more thought should perhaps have been given to the height of the fences, particularly on the right hand side.
Barnehurst Golf Centre is a 9 hole course with tons of character. Golfers can get a bit snooty about 9 holers and it’s true that many are the poor younger brother of the golfing World. If you are looking for a well designed and friendly course in South East London/North West Kent with good facilities, a couple of challenging holes and decent greens you could do a a lot worse than a day out at Barnehurst Golf Centre. Yes it’s “only” a 9 hole course but there’s enough in this course to make the second trip around something to look forward to.
Mayplace Rd, Barnehurst, Kent DA7 6JU