Scott Warren

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Harry Colt's CANTERBURY GC, Kent, England
« on: July 05, 2009, 10:28:20 pm »
Two-thirds of the way from London to the famous links courses of Kent sits the historic town of Canterbury. Golfers headed to experience Sandwich, Deal, Rye and Littlestone might stop there to see the 12th century Cathedral, but few bother with Canterbury’s Harry Colt-designed golf course.

I visited with Colt-spotter Tony Muldoon (who took these pics – my camera died on the 5th hole) last week and the set of par threes alone was worth the visit. Only my third Colt course, but I am becoming quite the fanboy! I enquired with Paul Turner before my visit and he reported that aside from the repositioned 4th green and 18th fairway, most of the course was faithful to what Colt designed.

The enormous greenside bunkers looked fantastic where many clubs have cut such hazards into two or three smaller traps, and I have not seen a course before with such extensive use of grass bunkers – the construction of some putting a skewer in the occasionally-heard claim that Golden Age GCA’s didn’t move much dirt. On such sloping land, some large-scale excavation was needed to build up the low side of several green sites.

The 4th, 7th, 9th and 14th holes have each seen a single tree added to tighten the approach, and while Tony probably put it quite succinctly by commenting “I don’t think this is the sort of thing our friend Harry would have built”, in all instances they protect the holes from the advancement of technology, forcing the tee shot to be placed well for an easier approach to the green rather than merely bombed as far as possible.

There are some average holes on dramatic land not suited to golf, but by and large there is plenty to thrill, and even those average holes have some great features, as I hope I can demonstrate below.

1st hole – par 5 – 472y
The opening tee shot is played through a chute and over a gorge to a blind fairway, but a very wide one. The temptation to attack the green with your second shot is reduced somewhat by the deep bunker, towards which the area short of the green feeds.

2nd hole – par 3 – 166y
Anything short runs 40m back down the hill, leaving a chip to a blind green atop the hill. It sets up beautifully from the tee, and is indicative of the charm and challenge to come on the other four one-shotters.

3rd hole – par 4 – 385y
A drive similar to the opening hole, but with two right-hand fairway bunkers keeping you honest. Right of the green sits the first of the grass bunkers, hidden from view as you play your second by a bunker 30yds short.

4th hole – par 4 – 376y
The one hole that has changed markedly from Colt’s creation. Originally a reachable par four, a safety risk to players on the 5th tee saw the hole converted into a mid-length dogleg-right, protected at the green by a tree that blocks anything hit from the right.

5th hole – par 3 – 155y
Rippling land short of the green affects your distance perception, and a devilish grass bunker awaits at the back right. The green slopes to the front, but slow green speeds reduce the impact of leaving yourself a downhill putt.

6th hole – par 4 – 385y
We arrive at the less than ideal golfing terrain to find a formula Colt also employs on the 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th: the tee shot is played over the lowest land to a side-hill with a strong camber. Through green placement or doglegging, each hole asks you to keep your tee shot as close to the high side of the fairway as possible. Here, the second shot can be run down the hill fronting the green, with the putting surface also tilting from front to back.

7th hole – par 5 – 540y
A fairway mound and bunker should not come into play for a well-struck tee shot or second shot, but play with the mind of the golfer pitching out to a safe lay-up zone, as dows the grove of trees visible on the right. The green is flat, but flanked by bunkers of both the sand and grass varieties.

8th hole – par 3 – 140y
Perhaps the first time you will have ever teed off over a topiary! A bit Mickey Mouse, perhaps, but the shrubs serve the same purpose as gorse might on a Scottish links. The green is open at the front, but flanked by bunkers, and feeds from the left.

9th hole – par 5 – 499y
An open tee shot to reachable territory, but a tree at the turn-point of the dogleg means an aggressive second will have to be cut along the sweeping line of the fairway, or hooked from over dead ground that will mean a lost ball. Without that tree is a brainless brawn-fest, with it, it’s a clever little hole, with a cheeky, sloping bunkerless green.

10th hole – par 4 – 453y
Adding to the challenge posed by the length is the creek that crosses the fairway at 275yds: a long drive, but with the steep downhill fairway, one you cannot rule out if you take driver. From there, the land slopes hard left, towards thick bush and a deep grass bunker. The green slopes so severely that little more than a third is pinnable.

11th hole – par 3 – 180y
The green sits in an aphitheatre about 5yds above the tee. The putting surface can be accessed by a bank over the short-right bunker, but short, left and long are all poor options possibly involving a penalty stroke. The green contours are not severe, but they are enough to keep you thinking once you have a putter in your hand.

12th hole- par 4 – 365y
A beautiful setting, and a great hole. The tee is again raised, giving a clear view of what is required. The safe play is an iron to the bottom of the hill, but a drive that flirts with the creek snaking up the left will mean just a short iron or wedge into a heavily-contoured green with a false front.

13th hole – par 4 – 380y
Back to the difficult land. A mid-length par four where a drive in the left side of the fairway gets the best angle into the green, but anything missing left will have a tall tree 40yds short of the green to contend with, forcing a safe approach to the right of the large green.

14th hole – par 4 – 321y
The most open hole on the course brings the chance to open your shoulders, but a drive of 250yds or so will bring Colt’s mounding into play. It hides the flat land in front of the green, playing havoc with depth perception when coupled with the steep hill the green is built atop. Many holes do feel as though the trees have encroached, and maybe this is how Canterbury GC felt 75 years ago: open and spacious.

15th hole – par 4 – 392y
The bold green – built-up with massive bunkers either side – is the feature of the hole, with a drive that huge the right earning the A-line in. A good example where the bunkers could have each been converted into two smaller hazards, but the grandeur would have been lost.

16th hole – par 4 – 378y
Continuing along the side-hill encountered on the previous hole, the strategy is the same. The green is angled to the right, and a deep grass bunker to the left is hard to see from the driving area.

17th hole – par 3 – 195y
A quarry short and left creates a dramatic view from the tee, looking up to the green some 10-15yds higher. A bunker short right is merely a better class of purgatory than the quarry. Like the par threes that have preceded it, it rewards only a well-struck and accurate shot, with very few kind landing areas off the putting surface.

18th hole – par 5 – 490y
Built by Colt as a straight-away par five, the 18th now doglegs right to steer drives away from the public driving range. A similar shape and length as the 9th, but here it is a cluster of bunkers that deters you from attacking the green with your second. The two-tier green is an original element.

« Last Edit: July 05, 2009, 10:31:38 pm by Scott Warren »

John Mayhugh

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Re: Harry Colt's CANTERBURY GC, Kent, England
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2009, 12:03:58 am »
Thanks for posting these pics.  I think one of the challenges with going to England for Buda in September is narrowing down the list of great places to play and making some choices.  Bob Jenkins & I have been trying to decide between The Addington, Walton Heath, & Woking for the day before I fly home (Sept 25th).  Now you're making me think a round at Canterbury & a trip to the cathedral might be a great way to end the trip.

Scott Warren

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Re: Harry Colt's CANTERBURY GC, Kent, England
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2009, 01:56:43 am »
The Cathedral is an amazing thing. It dates to the Battle of Hastings (1066), with changes and additions made since then. Some incredible stained glass and quaint chapels within the main structure.

The Addington is the only course I have played of the three you are considering. I would be sure to see it over Canterbury if golf were the only consideration, but Canterbury is a great town with some nice cobbled streets, so a day spent seeing the town, cathedral and golf course would be one well-spent for sure.

Here are some pics of Canterbury and its cathedral from my previous visits, in case you're interested:

Jason McNamara

Re: Harry Colt's CANTERBURY GC, Kent, England
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2009, 03:00:55 am »
Question for Scott / Tony / Paul:

I noticed the course is par 71.  Was the 10th originally a par 5, by any chance?  Given the need (or at least strong suggestion) to lay back, and then the way you describe the green, doesn't it have more the feel of a short par 5?

The 15th looks like a really good hole, but the rest of the 4s and 5s didn't register as much as other Colt photos I've seen.  Is that something that pics can't convey, or is Canterbury (while good) simply not as compelling as some others?

Suggested 4-word review for Scott:  Not Sure About Topiary.   :)

Jamie Barber

Re: Harry Colt's CANTERBURY GC, Kent, England
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2009, 03:30:29 am »
I was brought up in Canterbury and moved back to the area 5 years ago. Have only played the course a couple of times and enjoyed it both times, although my step brother is a member from Canterbury and held junior course record at one point. Not sure about 10th but I do know the 1st hole has flipped between a par 4 and 5 over the years (currently a five).

On Canterbury itself, as well as the Cathedral, there are also Roman pavings underground in the city centre and the now ruined St Augustine's Abbey from early Christian missionaries. The top end of the town was apparently a quaint maze of medieval streets (like Sandwich) until the blitz ... the first rebuild wasn't very nice but some of the newer stuff is better. It's a miracle the bombing didn't destroy the Cathedral (only sustained minor damage) and the stained glass windows were only saved I believe because someone had the foresight to remove and store them offsite.

If you like history and old buildings it's a good place to spend an afternoon. Check out for more info

PS another good review Scott - yours always make good reading
« Last Edit: July 06, 2009, 03:51:17 am by Jamie Barber »

Andrew Summerell

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Re: Harry Colt's CANTERBURY GC, Kent, England
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2009, 09:38:12 am »
Thanks Scott.

I'll post this here as well.

Colt has to be one of the best finders/designers of par 3's ever.

Scott Warren

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Re: Harry Colt's CANTERBURY GC, Kent, England
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2009, 01:08:46 pm »
Thanks guys.

Andrew, I am told Colt often found his par threes first, then found a way to link them with the fours and fives. Do you know how true this is, and where he might have done so? Tony was saying he thought Swinley was designed that way, and it certainly looked as though Canterbury was. Royal Zoute and Trevose also had some amazing par threes.

Jason, I don't know if 10 has ever played as a three-shotter. The steepness of the hill means the main challenge is getting as close to the creek without going in, rather than smashing driver and knowing you're no chance of reaching it. Tony, who hit his 13deg driver after announcing there was no way he would reach it, was about 15cm short of the edge of the hazard! For me it was driver/4i. It definitely plays shorter than its card length.
« Last Edit: July 06, 2009, 03:25:46 pm by Scott Warren »

James Boon

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Re: Harry Colt's CANTERBURY GC, Kent, England
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2009, 02:00:05 pm »

A great course review, picture tour and Tourist Information posting! You colonials in this country (along with Mr Arble) seem to be doing a better job of highlighting and reviewing some of the hidden treasures we have in this country. I'd better pull my finger out!

Canterbury looks a great course, and I'm sure if the county of Kent didn't have all the great links courses, this course would be better known? And Colt's par 3s seem as wonderful as ever, 2 and 11 especially.

Lastly, the topiary? I can understand the need to reduce the height of the bushes so you can see beyond them, but why make them look like that. Last time I played up at Lindrick, they had done a similar thing with their gorse bushes in front of a couple of tees and it looked just wrong. I think I've got a photo somewhere which I shall try and post as an addition to the dodgy bush trimming contest  ;)

Thanks again,

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Re: Harry Colt's CANTERBURY GC, Kent, England
« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2009, 10:08:42 pm »
Nice summation Scott and a lovely memento of a fine afternoons golfing. 

I find it hard to make comparative judgments based on one playing, but the Par 3’s really are a thrilling bunch.

The photos from a comparatively low angle show the grass as mostly green whereas I recall them as being well on the turn with lots brown and shades in-betweens.  The ball ran and the rough was beaten down and wispy, giving the course a lovely wide open look. .  The greens were receptive but none of us beat the course up.  The greens as a group had lots of subtle movement and I can’t recall any long putts dropping.

The pictures don’t fully  show the scale of the greens and the surrounding bunkers. I thought the average green sixe was generous, particularly so for an inland course.  The grass bunkers were also playing less effective than normal as the heat had turned the grass rather thin in there?  But the combination of the two features gave Canterbury a look of it’s own – always a good thing.

I really found the 14th extraordinary.  What might have been a boring uphill par 4 had the top of the hill turned into a fortress surrounded by moguls. As you stand over your second shot you are distracted by the great view with only the top of the flag showing. Sadly this lovely feature is made redundant by today’s technology. Our host said it was the easiest hole on the back 9, being driver wedge.  Imagine not having 56 degree wedges and having to bounce a ball accross that ground?

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Re: Harry Colt's CANTERBURY GC, Kent, England
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2009, 03:15:14 am »
Jamie Barber,

I have not been to Canterbury since 1981 or so and although I loved the ancient town, it did remind me of a parking lot. The traffic jams there were unbelievable.


Tom Culley

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Re: Harry Colt's CANTERBURY GC, Kent, England
« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2012, 09:54:35 pm »
A quick post to let people know that i am member at Canterbury, and so if anyone is interested in playing the course, DM me. I would love to play the course with a fellow GCA fan.
"Play the ball as it lies, play the course as you find it, and if you cannot do either, do what is fair. But to do what is fair, you need to know the Rules of Golf."


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Re: Harry Colt's CANTERBURY GC, Kent, England
« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2012, 10:42:44 pm »
Tom - thank you for the lovely offer, and for bringing this thread back up. Somehow I missed it the first time around. What an absolute gem Canterbury seems to be, all that golf should or needs to be; and thanks too for a typically fine profile by Scott.


Tom Culley

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Re: Harry Colt's CANTERBURY GC, Kent, England
« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2012, 10:48:10 pm »

For a tourist and golfer, i struggle to think of a better day out than a round at Canterbury followed by an afternoon exploring the city (besides a round at Sandwich then an afternoon in the city).
"Play the ball as it lies, play the course as you find it, and if you cannot do either, do what is fair. But to do what is fair, you need to know the Rules of Golf."


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Re: Harry Colt's CANTERBURY GC, Kent, England
« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2012, 11:04:37 pm »
Tom - I don't have the playing/travelling experience to compare/contrast courses, but for my tastes the simplicity and homely elegance of Canterbury, the under-stated way Colt draped the course over the lovely rolling topgraphy, well - I really mean it, for me, it is all that a reasonable man/golfer should ever need to be happy.  Thanks again - I would be very pleased to one day be able to take you up on your kind offer.


Scott Warren

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Re: Harry Colt's CANTERBURY GC, Kent, England
« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2012, 03:14:55 am »

Thanks for posting and bumping this thread up. Lovely to be reminded of such a wondetful day out on a really charming course.

I'd strongly encourage anyone in the area to take Tom up on his generous offer. Those familiar with Colt might find the course especially interesting, given how relatively untouched the course is.

Peter, many thanks as always. "Draped" is a word that very much sums up the feel of the architecture.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2012, 03:16:42 am by Scott Warren »

Eric Strulowitz

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Re: Harry Colt's CANTERBURY GC, Kent, England
« Reply #15 on: August 02, 2012, 05:27:04 am »

Thanks for providing these pictures.  My last trip to England was a 2 week golf orgy and it started with a 2 day stay in Canterbury, and the first round at this local course.  What a wonderful town, great dining, great pubs, and just a pleasure to walk around.

I am a huge fan of Colt.  Canterbury is a minimalist design, he made great use of the land.  Some incredible elevation changes, yet the course was very walkable and with the cool weather was quite enjoyable.  Wonderful par 3's. 


Tom Culley

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Re: Harry Colt's CANTERBURY GC, Kent, England
« Reply #16 on: August 02, 2012, 03:42:19 pm »

Thank you very much for bringing Canterbury to the attention of GCA members. You certainly managed to capture the charm of the course in your guide.
"Play the ball as it lies, play the course as you find it, and if you cannot do either, do what is fair. But to do what is fair, you need to know the Rules of Golf."