The third in the series of reviews of local courses
Historic Mitcham Golf Club is a 5,571 yard parkland course, but with parts that are reminiscent of the seaside links as well as tough common land to cover, it is a place that will present a variety of challenges.
It's a slightly different course from the one 'laid out' by legendary Tom Morris when it straddled the Croydon Road and I think golf back in 1891 would have been more tranquil than a round in the 21st century.
But while it's hard to forget that this course is right by several busy 'A' roads, as well as the train and tram lines, its location does have its advantages. I actually arrived by tram, which takes just 11 minutes from Wimbledon, and is way quicker than driving.
There's definitely a relaxed atmosphere about this place and it's fair to say that anyone playing the twilight golf fee of just £14 is likely to encounter some relatively inexperienced golfers and a few delays.
The opening few holes rather belie the threat that is to come, but they are right by the clubhouse bar and main patio and I can't help but feel a bit more pressure in that kind of situation.
But holes one and two are just straight up-and-down - at 374 yards for men for hole one and 387 yards for the second hole, they are a good way of warming up for rest of the course.
The third hole is a par-3, and also under the watchful eye of those in the clubhouse. With threatening bunkers around the 176-yard hole, I was pleased to land safe, but short of the green, and finish with four.
Each hole has its own name, and the 4th is called The Dip. This feature is on the right-hand side of the fairway, and I naturally found my way into it. When I got out, and onto the green, the rush-hour traffic was queueing up almost right alongside. Thankfully I only needed two putts in front of the watching drivers.
After that, the course gets a little confusing for first time players, mostly because you have to watch for shots played across your fairway. As I looked for the 5th hole, Lavender Way, I was given some unprompted help by a fellow golfer as she was on her way to the ladies' 17th tee.
At this stage I felt I was getting increasingly used to the course, with its springy fairway grass, course 'moguls' & grass hollows.
There's no sign of the clubhouse, but you're reminded of your location by the sight of the huge IKEA towers in the distance.
To reach the 6th hole (pictured right), Ponds, you have to cross the tramline tracks to a circuit of four holes that are all the other side of the tram tracks. This section of the course is definitely quieter than the rest, although I'm sure I could hear a radio, and sometimes sirens, in the background wherever I was.
The 7th is a tricky hole because of a copse of trees in front of the green, which stopped me having a good sight of the hole for my second shot. By the time I'd reached the tee of the 9th, Railway, I'd zipped round the course in about 90 minutes, but from then onwards there was a queue on each tee.
The 10th is a 507-yard par-5 for men and 492 yards for ladies. It's quite a wide fairway, but treacherous if you do go astray. By the time you reach the green, you're back close to the busy traffic.
At one of the tees at this section of the course I was so close to the traffic that a passing motorist wound his window down and shouted: "Just whack it!". Thankfully I did just that.
The 14th hole, St Helier, is stroke index one, so I was pleased to finish that one in six shots, and when I came to Crossways, the 15th, I could see why it got its name. The ladies tee was nearly 80 yards ahead of the men and as I waited my turn I had to be careful where I stood.
The two men who tee'd off ahead of me asked me to join them as they walked past while I prepared on the ladies' tee. They did two great shots to the green, finished their hole, and then said they didn't have the patience to complete the course - I hope it wasn't my golf!
By now I was getting back to the area near the 5th green where it felt like there could be balls flying from anywhere. The 16th is a 156-yard (147 yards for ladies) par 3 and, after waiting on the tee, it took me two shots to get to the green.
I enjoyed the 17th hole, with the bumpy fairway evident as I shot towards a green which was trickily positioned on a plateau - quite close to the 18th tee. You had to be precise to land your ball on the green.
The final hole, The Warren, is a challenging par 3 where you have to tee off from a raised tee and across trees to reach the green 167 yards away, or 163 yards for women. The two men ahead of me asked me to join them for the final hole after they'd played their shots.
It was just as well, as my ball didn't reach the green and one of my new companions found it in a grassy hollow. This was my best hole of the day as I did a decent chip onto the green and sunk the putt to finish my round with a par.
After the first couple of holes I'd found the greens to be in reasonable condition all round the course, and the last was no exception.
So a few moments later, and I was one of those golfers sitting on the patio watching people on the 1st and 3rd tees.
The bar prices were very reasonable, so it would be tempting to stay until sunset - at £2.40 for a prawn cocktail sandwich, £5.95 for ham, egg and chips, 80p for a mug of tea, £1 for coffee and £3.25 for a pint of Fosters.
This is certainly a popular course on nice days, and at £14 for 18 midweek holes after 2pm I can understand why. Twilight golf costs £19 on Saturdays and Sunday after 3pm and otherwise the midweek cost is £19 and it's £27 at the weekend, or £29 on bank holidays.
There is a very comprehensive website at www.mitchamgolfclub.co.uk, which includes an online booking system as well as details of the club's long history.
May 18, 2010