The American architect Tom Doak told me Knole Park was on his list to play the next time he was in England. I was ashamed to admit that I had never been either and promised him I would put that right while researching for England’s Top 100 Courses 2018. Set amongst 1000 acres of outstanding, natural parkland, the Knole Park golf course meanders magically through Knole Park, near Sevenoaks in Kent, with stunning vistas providing a magnificient backdrop to your round.
The course is kept in superb condition all-year-round and attracts visitors from far afield, not only for the excellent golf that’s on offer, but also to visit the magnificent Knole House and the abundance of deer that live on the grounds. It’s on National Trust land adjacent to Knole Park itself – a 15th-century country house and deer park.
You will certainly encounter some deer on your way round the course and that only adds to the vibe.
JF Abercromby-designed courses are few and far between. He created The Addington, Worplesdon and Coombe Hill, as well as Knole Park. He was a bold architect, who made dramatic use of undulating golfing ground.
Knole Park Golf Club is entertaining and engaging from start to finish. Its six short holes ensure you are always kept on your toes. The unusual topography, plus the bouncy, quick-draining turf, ensure you need to think carefully abut your clubbing and shot selection.
The par of 70 is extremely exacting from the new back tees that were installed for the hosting of the Tillman Trophy last summer. They stretched Knole Park to 6,690 yards. When you think that includes a sextet of par 3s, it’s a serious test.
There is a barely a flat hole on the course yet such is Abercromby’s use of the terrain that playing uphill only once becomes irksome – on the climb up to the par-5 15th green.
I really enjoyed the 3rd. Standing on the green looking back down to the fairway below, I just knew I was in for a treat. It’s a medium-length par 4 and the drive is blind, over a crest and down into the bottom. You then play uphill to the attractively sited green. It’s bunkerless but protected by oak and beech trees.
If architecture interests you, just admire the way Abercromby uses the slopes and hills to make interesting holes rather than allowing them to detract from the overall standard of the course.