Andrew Cruickshank's course guide including his strategy for playing the course.
Par 3 S.I. 5
The card-breaking first. Not the usual par four starter but a long slightly uphill par three with a cavernous hollow hidden to the right of the green. This is no-man’s land so too far right must be avoided. The smart play is to the front of the green which avoids going long and right, and avoids the left side bunker. For the shorter hitters, able to take a little off their drivers or hybrids, this provides a more controlled route in.
Par 4 S.I. 13
The deceptive par four second is only 342 yards but requires accurate placement off the tee to find the central or right-side channel of the fairway. Too far left and the approach is blocked by a large oak tree, too far right and you might be bunkered. A three wood down the middle or a drawing drive, allowing the fairway to bank the ball right is ideal, leaving little more than a short approach. Don’t be short or greedy with the front of the green. Go for the left side or middle to avoid your approach bouncing off the plateaued surface and leaving the deftest chip to get up and down.
Par 4 S.I. 3
With the tee providing views of a fairway disappearing down a steep slope 180 yards in front and the green perched atop a ramp of fairway, surrounded by trees, 400 yards away, this is a dream drivers' hole. Best aim slightly right of centre to allow the ball to bounce back to the middle. Find the generous fairway and you have the elevated green in front and a high iron in but don’t miss left where the ramp to the green gives way to uneven lies, bumps and hollows.
Par 4 S.I. 7
Even more of a driver’s hole from the elevated tee that stares down the fairway as it banks round to the corner, flanked by a small copse on the left, and bracken to the right. It is generously wide but a tee shot wide of the mark could result in a reload. A good drive leaves a mid iron to the green for low or middle handicap golfer. The approach can be run in along the ground but better to fly the ball to the middle of the green, over the front fold, to beyond the bunkers.
Par 3 S.I. 9
The not so short fifth. Another of Knole Park’s longish par threes of which there are six. An elevated tee, looking down a valley, to an elevated green. Off the back tee, a well struck iron or hybrid, even a wood, is required to fly the ball up to the right side of the green and avoid the ignominy of a mishit failing to go far enough and rolling back 100 yards down the slope. Also to be avoided is going left into mole hills and trees. The green is a saucer at the back so over-flying the target leaves a delicate bump and run or pitch which, if over-hit, could run over the green and 100 yards down the slope. Treat with respect.
Par 4 S.I. 1
The hardest hole in the stroke index but not with a good drive from the elevated tee that avoids the solitary bunker just left of middle on the U-shaped fairway. Find this area and half the job is done. For the shorter hitter playing safe and short of this bunker is advised but this does leave a big second shot to hit the green. Fairway to green is equally tricky as the approach is often blind and short of the green are three bunkers to the right and one to the left. Take an extra club or two and go to the back. Macho won’t translate into mucho if you are short or off line. Get your four and march on.
Par 5 S.I. 17
Opportunity knocks. The first of four par fives have arrived and as summer arrives so does up to 50 yards of run. Centre or left with a gentle draw provides the chance of reaching the green in two, and threading the approach through the front bunkers or even better landing the ball beyond them. Higher handicappers should take the three shot route, three good hits will make the green easily. Don’t be overly bold or a slippery down-hiller awaits on the putting surface and you may be staring at a six or seven.
Par 3 S.I. 15
The elevated eighth, the third par three, is a couple of clubs less than the yardage. Avoid the left side where water, reeds and bracken loom and go for the heart or back to avoid the well positioned defences at the front. Make the middle of the green and a birdie might beckon.
Par 5 S.I. 11
The gently uphill par five 9th is almost unhittable in two and surprisingly hard to find the fairway because of the left to right slope and two bunkers to the right. Play short of the bunkers or go up the left, but not too far left. Then gauge the distance to the fairway bunker 100 yards short of the green and go short or over. The jigsaw isn’t complete yet as this tiered green loves three putts. If the flag is at the front, don’t go long, if the flag is at the back take a club or two more to avoid an 80 foot putt.
Par 3 S.I. 16
Is it really 171 yards and not a football pitch length? This hole looks innocuously short and easy but it's not. Take heed of the yardage and the front bunkers, and go for the middle. This green looks flat but it actually slopes downhill and is quicker than it looks. Many a ball has hit the green and rolled off the back. Play a lofty shot to avoid the run. Once on the green allow more borrow from the side of the flag. Try to get off with a three and march on.
Par 4 S.I. 4
There is nowhere to hide on the 11th to make par. It’s four good shots in a row starting with a straight or left to right drive as tight to the trees as you dare. For the super long pitching the ball 280 yards, you might fly the trees. Otherwise you need about 240 yards off the tee up the left channel. This opens up the dogleg right which may leave you an 180-200 yard approach, over bunkers right and left or a super accurate shot between them. The green has hollows and slopes so walk the full length of your putt to check all the breaks and strike it with conviction.
Par 3 S.I. 6
Another long par three with everything to watch out for quite evident in front. Best carry the ball 200 yards or club up and pitch a hybrid or wood up the left side with pace to let the natural banking move the ball right. On the plus side, the green is large. On the negative side you can end up with a long tricky first putt. If the flag is back left, aim just left of the green and let the apron run the ball to that part of the green. There is a huge traversing fold that runs through the green from front to back. Get the appropriate side of this to avoid a really nasty putt.
Par 4 S.I. 14
The unassuming 342-yard par four 13th and an opportunity to find an easy fairway below you and hit a high approach up to the green. The green slopes uphill at the front and downhill at the back, so pay attention to the colour of the flag. Red denotes front, white is middle and blue is back. Club accordingly and don’t be shy because anything offline left or right will miss that side. The false front will stop short shots bouncing on so club up and fly this approach.
Par 4 S.I. 2
Doglegs don’t get better. It’s downhill, curving right, and the left fairway channel is optimal for distance, flatness and approach to the green but make sure you miss the solitary bunker. Go right and you’re in the humps with little to shoot at apart from the slope 20 yards back from the green. In wet winters it is two hefty blows, in a dry summer it might be a mid to high iron in. There are so many ways to play the approach that it comes down to imagination. For the logician, take the variables out and fly the ball to the centre right of the green, which avoids most of the folds and leaves an easier first putt. The green is a bit of a hog’s back in places so study the terrain.
Par 5 S.I. 10
The penultimate par five and one of the best views from the white tee or staring back from the green. Elevated at the start and finish, playing through a long valley in between, flanked by trees, it is hard to contain the excitement with the driver and avoid going for too much power. Find the centre and you can get close or reach the green, making the hole much easier. Go too far right or left and you may as well lay up and do the hard work with your third shot. Play to the green up the right side where the bank pushes the ball to the green. Avoid the left where you’ll miss the green and need to chip up and on.
Par 3 S.I. 8
The last of the long par threes and maybe the toughest. It's long and probably has one of the smallest greens on the course. There is always a good chance of a three if you go left edge of the green or even miss the green on the left and putt on. Go right and it is normally curtains to a par as the ground slips away, leaving a blind chip, or a tough bunker shot that requires distance and height.
Par 5 S.I. 18
The easiest par five unless you are a slicer. A draw down the centre or right, avoiding the clutch of pine trees left, and three bunkers right, will let the ball run and run, and leave you within distance of the green. For the higher handicapper play it as a par 5 and with a shorter third shot close to the pin you could bag a birdie. The fairway is a gentle hog’s back so you need to be accurate to avoid rolling off on either side, or slipping into the bunkers. There is a pit 150 yards back from the green, and a crack in the fairway that traverses nearby. Avoid these by playing over or laying up. A good drive will set up a birdie, a bad drive and it is anyone’s guess what you might rack up.
Par 4 S.I. 10
A blind tee shot with only a marker post to help and a slightly deceptive marker post at that. In winter, go slightly left of this as the fairway will move the ball 10 yards right. In summer, a longer hitter might go over the top or slightly right with a draw, leaving only a pitch to the green, as after 200 yards it's all downhill. If you generate a lot of backspin, fly to the flag. In dry bouncy conditions, lob the ball short and let it run on, but get over the edge of the pond.