Adam Lawrence reports on a visit to the Clandon Club project near Guildford in England
With new golf development at a historic low in most of the world, it’s a great pleasure to be invited to a construction site to see a course in gestation.
Just outside Guildford, southwest of London in the UK, veteran developer Guy Buckley is building a course, one of very few new projects in the country at the moment. The Clandon Club, when it opens next year, will be a shot in the arm for the British industry.
Buckley, who was behind the development of the Clubhaus group of courses, as well as many other projects including the Portmarnock Links outside Dublin, and Provence Country Club in France, has secured a 125 year lease on 160 acres of chalk down from landowner Michael, sixth earl of Onslow. Winning planning permission entailed an extended battle, but maybe this was a blessing in disguise: Guildford Council came up with the idea of building a park and ride facility for the town on part of the property, which means the course will have several hundred potential customers parking on its doorstep every day. Nine holes were built, by contractors Kestrel and Woollard, last year, and the second nine is currently under construction.
Buckley plans to operate Clandon as a pay and play, with an eighteen hole green fee in the vicinity of £25. For this relatively affluent locality, this will be a bargain, especially given the drama to be found in the second nine of the golf course.
The routing – which must have been quite challenging, given the need to incorporate the park and ride in an already compact property – was done by Andy Hagger, late of European Golf Design. Buckley, though, says he likes to build courses in the field, so he has worked with agronomist Peter Jones on the detailed design.
On the first nine, which will open in spring 2010, standout holes are the long downhill par five sixth, and the dramatic par four eighth, both of which cross a former hedge line and make use of the trees found there in their strategy. But the real excitement at Clandon will come on the back side, currently under construction, and planned for opening either late next summer or spring 2011. The par five thirteenth, which plays steeply downhill from the tee before swinging right and rising up to a wonderful greensite, is perhaps the best hole on the entire course. The fifteenth, though, will challenge it: a terrifying tee shot over an old chalk quarry will put fear into everyone who stands on the tee.
For more on Clandon see issue 18 of GCA, to be published in October.