How to get your golf fix in the capital
Living in central London can pose a certain existential crisis to any golf lover.
How can one control stress levels without an outlet to smash a white ball while surrounded by trees? How can one have a valid excuse to drink an entire hipflask in the middle of the day and still claim to playing sport?
Fear not, you don't have to head to the Scottish highlands to find great golf courses (although, we would also highly recommend that). After much research and endless lugging of golf clubs on crammed buses, we've found the best places to golf in London.
Note to reader: You will have to be prepared to take your clubs onto busy Tube carriages so get used to taking a reduced set in a pencil bag.
Zones 1 and 2 are veritable deserts for golf courses. However, fear not there are still options.
Greenwich Peninsula Golf Range (Five-minute walk from North Greenwich tube station, Jubilee line)
Complete with a wine bar toting craft beer, decent plonk and charcuterie, this is a great place for smashing out work stress with your 3-wood. Each bay has a decent sized sofa allowing for small group meet-ups.
There is also an American Golf branch at the range that offer free custom club fitting by appointment.
For central London golf lessons - the best value for money is arguably the Monument branch of American Golf. The PGA pros there use a virtual screen to help curb those shanks and duff hits. They also run free putting analysis to help you rid you of technical niggles.
When the weather is too cold for a range bay - grab some friends and head to UrbanGolf in Soho. With its virtual simulators, beers and decent sliders - it's a classy start to a great night out in Soho.
There is a great number of crazy golf options from the potentially overpriced Swingers in the city and Oxford Street to the popular Junkyard golf on Brick Lane. While all good fun, these will never offer the fix needed by true golfers.
So to golf clubs outside zone 2 - my criteria being sensibly-priced courses perfectly suited to summer twilight rounds after work and weekend fourballs. As these are all reachable using your oyster card, I feel no guilt in suggesting taking full advantage of the spikes bars at the below courses.
While these courses are most definitely affordable - they all offer an interesting challenge to players along with solid tee time availability.
The area is ripe with leafy Victorian 'Metroland' suburbs - the plus for golfers is a plethora of turn-of-century courses, complete with character, great clubhouses and well-kept greens.
Stanmore Golf Club (nearest tube Canons Park, Jubilee line)
Both nines have their gems but the front is where the quirkiness is most obvious. There are no flat holes, so expect a bit of a trek.
Designed by the architect behind Augusta National and Royal Melbourne, Dr Alistair Mackenzie, this course betrays his unique inventiveness.
The club pros are welcoming and the practice green is consistent for pace and feel for rest of the course.
The original clubhouse is good for a pint (local brewer does a special ale just for them) whether in the spike bar or on the terrace.
For food, walk back to Canons Park and go to Melissa's restaurant (next door to the station) for a solid chicken shish kebab.
Hendon Golf Club (nearest tube Mill Hill East, Northern line)
This is a Harry Colt track (man behind Sunnigdale New, Wentworth and St George's Hill) and is defined by flat wide fairways. The large subtle greens are a delight in summer but this course quickly shows off any deficiencies with fairway woods and long irons .
Pros are polite and a late afternoon round here in spring/summer/autumn offers genuine respite from city life . As a lover of links and heathland courses, you are not cramped by tight tree-lines.
Finchley GC (nearest tube Finchley Central, Northern line)
The clubhouse looks like a Victorian mock-castle - but let us concentrate on the back nine (designed by James Braid) which is undeniably fun and testing.
The view of the surrounding area are cracking enough to help you ignore some shanked drives.
South of the river, there are too many courses to even mention - a lifetime of discovery awaits only 30 minuted from Southbank.
For those living in south west London - forget Grennwich Peninsula and head to World of Golf in New Malden (nearest station - Raynes Park).
Bays are fitted with Toptracer technology allowing golfers to test their distances, play games against friends (a la topgolf) and work on consistency.
Side note - Toptracer is being rolled out at driving ranges across Greater London so keep your eyes out, it will make grinding through 100 balls a lot more fun and instructive.
Here are two South London courses to get you started:
London Scottish Club (nearest tube - Putney Bridge tube station then bus to entrance)
This historic course is based on Wimbledon common and was set up by Scottish officers billeted in London during the 1850s.
Relatively unchanged over its long history - you get to play a type of golf that has largely disappeared .
A quirky rule is the requirement of all golfers wear a red collared polo shirt (they provide you with one) to make common visitors aware of your presence. The 19th century wood-panelled clubhouse is a genuine delight to drink in.
No easy course ...enjoy the test on a relic of English parkland as many similar courses disappeared decades ago. Colin Montgomerie was club captain here recently - take that as you will.
Addington Palace Golf Club (Gravel Hill tram stop - reached from East Croydon station)
Designed by JH Taylor - This is easily one of the finest courses in greater London.
Impeccable green conditions all year round with more than echoes of Sunningdale and Wentworth . Front and back nines have true gems with the front having a slight edge.
Unlike its immediate neighbour 'The Addington', Addington Palace is the hidden gem of an area chock-a-block with decent golf courses.
You now have no excuse to avoid picking up your clubs before April - get grinding.