For the London golf course visitor, the counties immediately surrounding the capital are a rich resource of golfing opportunity. By golf course standards Southern Valley Golf Club is a relatively recent arrival, constructed in 1998 on the site of the former the Gravesend airport, this par 69, 6211 yard well landscaped course that boasts a stunning view of the river Thames and Estuary.
Despite the relative youthfulness of the course this is a piece of land with some significant national historical relevance. It was the site of a World War Two airfield so it’s humbling to think that from where the golf course is today, spitfires and hurricanes once took off to repeal the Luftwaffe and played an important role in the defense of Britain during those dark times. Thankfully now the only bombing to be found is of the far more peaceful variety.
Southern Valley Golf Club while not easily classed as a London golf course, is a short drive from the A1. The twisting country road leads eventually to what has to be the most disorganised car park on any golf course I’ve visited yet. On the day of play I stepped out of my car I was greeted by some unseasonably warm and benevolent weather, barely a breath of wind at all. the sun shone in the sky; it was almost shorts weather. I wouldn’t imagine for a moment that playing conditions would be normally be so accommodating so unless you’re as lucky as I was with the weather as you should expect a stiff breeze to affect play.
Southern Valley Golf Club doesn’t have a driving range however the Gravesend golf centre is walking distance the course; while there are no immediate practice facilities at Southern Valley the range is so close it that it’s practically on site. There is a putting green next to the first tee but no warm up nets on site so if you feel like a hitting a few warm up shots you’ll have to head next door first.
I think calling this course an inland links course is a bit misleading, Southern Valley Golf Club has much in common with the heathland courses commonly found in Kent. The course layout and general feel is similar to somewhere like Pedham Golf course centre rather than the Princes course in Deal.
Southern Valley is a very well maintained course, the overall quality of the fairways and greens was excellent on the day of play though personally I would have preferred the greens to be a bit quicker they were still quite zippy with plenty of break.
The openness of the course made it a bit tricky to read in places, if I were playing the course alone for the first time I would have found it a bit difficult to pick out where to aim my shot, fortunately my playing partner on the day had a bit of course knowledge. This was particularly useful on the 3rd tee immediately adjacent to the 16th fairway and at first appears like the widest fairway on the planet.
There is much to please the eye at Southern Valley Golf Club, in particular the views overlooking the Thames Estuary which are quite spectacular. With the setting sun forming a backdrop, the landscape looked wonderful. For the nature lover the appearance of the course of the course is slightly compromised by the presence of the huge electricity pylons that cross a couple of the fairways though overall though these do not infringe onto the course to any great significance.
In terms of play most of the tees were pretty straightforward in so much that keeping it straight and long off the tee was the order of the day; there wasn’t much need to shape the ball on most holes and the hazard lays in the rough and bunkers which are vet well laid out, positioned precisely where you don’t want them to be.
I liked Southern Valley Golf Club, there’s much to it to make a worth while visit, but from a pure golfing point of view, and as a 21 handicapper I felt the course lacked challenge. the course set up from hole to hole is just a bit too similar, the par 3’s in particular were a bit repetitious, being of similar lengths with a couple of bunkers around them. There’s no real risk/reward hole at Southern Valley and the low handicap player might find this course a bit straightforward. However, considering the proximity of the Gravesend Golf Centre and Thames View nine hole course next door, Southern Valley is a superb place to develop your game. While the on course facilities are a bit basic you can pretty much get most things you’ll need from the club shop and bar.
Southern Valley feels like a local course for local people. This is a course that is ideal for the improving golfer but anyone with a sub 20 handicap might find it lacks any significant challenge. Should you find yourself in the area, a round on this well managed public course with excellent customer service make it worth a knock.
Southern Valley Golf Course, Thong Lane, Gravesend, Kent, DA12 4LT