St George’s Hill was such a simple idea, like all the best ones are: find a piece of prime golfing real estate, engage the services of the greatest architect to take maximum advantage of it and then leave enough space around the perimeter for the great and the good to build expansive properties overlooking the course. WG Tarrant, a local builder, was the man with the foresight and Harry Colt the architect in question. It was the first golf course to be built lined by property and it is possible to argue, over a century later, that it has not been bettered since in the execution.
It helped, of course, that St George’s Hill is near Weybridge, in leafy west London – as desirable a spot then as it is now. The site itself is also spectacular – a rolling heather-clad landscape interspersed with towering Scots Pines.
Colt created three nines – the Red, Blue and Green. Traditionally, it is the Red and Blue that have together made up the principal 18 holes, though the slightly shorter Green is cut from very much the same cloth.
The combination of Red and Blue creates a layout that measures a shade over 6,500 yards and plays to a par of 70. This is Golden Age design at its finest, and one of the most fascinating features is holes unencumbered by the notion of par, which had yet to be invented.
The 4th on the Red is just 270 yards, and it’s downhill at that. Yet the 6th is 468 yards. Similarly the 10th (the 1st on the Blue) is 434 yards with a blind drive and plays into the prevailing wind, while the next hole is barely 100 yards. So you should expect a course that is straightforward one moment and incredibly challenging the next.
As with so many of Colt’s courses, it is the par 3s that live longest in the memory. The crowning jewel is the 8th, with its stunning vista from the tee towards the distant, domed green on the other side of the shallow ravine.
To play St George’s Hill is to enjoy a history lesson in the company of perhaps the greatest course designer the game has ever known.