Sunningdale, Wentworth and Walton Heath are the only clubs in the whole of the British Isles other than the Berkshire Golf Club that can boast about having two heathland golf courses positioned in the British Top 100. It’s an amazing surprise that so few people know how charming the Berkshire experience really is.
The Blue course is the Red’s more conventional and slightly shorter sister. A more standard four par 3s, three par 5s and eleven par 4s make up the configuration for this delightful par 71 course. In Bernard Darwin’s book, Golf Between Two Wars, he wrote: “The other, the Blue, which some people prefer, a little less ‘big’, but by no means a secondary course. The country is essentially undulating and interesting and full of natural beauty…The Berkshire courses have more of charm perhaps and less of austere grandeur than Walton Heath.”
Herbert Fowler was the Berkshire’s architect and the Blue course opened for play in 1928. Fowler was actually very good at designing excellent twin golf courses. Not only did Fowler design both courses here at the Berkshire, but he also designed the superb intertwined courses at Walton Heath, the Old and the New.
Both the Berkshire courses have the same natural hazards, although the Blue plays over flatter ground than the Red. Cruelly, the Blue opens up with an exceptionally tough par 3, with the tee directly in front of the clubhouse window. The green sits on a distant plateau. Not the easiest hole on which to start a round of golf – play the Red course in the morning to prepare for it!
There are many other notable holes on the Blue course but it’s the closing sequence of five holes that makes this a tough but special course. All five are par 4s and three of them are more than 400 yards long. It could be argued that the Blue has a similar but less acute weakness than her brother the Red – the three par 5s on the Blue course are very short indeed, the longest measures only 477 yards.
However, short par fives aside, the Berkshire is the most delightful place to play 36 holes of golf, perhaps only surpassed by the pairing of Sunningdale’s Old and New courses.
The Berkshire for me is nothing short of golfing heaven. Perhaps especially now with the tree and undergrowth clearance the views on the blue have really been opened up so that there are stunning heathland backdrops everywhere you look. This stunning and natural look feels completely undisturbed and gives that otherworldly peaceful feeling to The Berkshire. In this respect I personally rank it as superior to Sunningdale. Sunningdale old for instance, the famous stretch from 4-7 has a bit of an English Garden feel to it, especially with houses on looking on 6,2,1 and 7, plus is intersected by roads and public footpaths. It doesn't have to my eye quite the same effect as The Berkshire. The Blue is short but easily tough enough, except to scratch long hitters, and a great test for short game with small well protected greens which take great pleasure in kicking balls off them! There are some great short holes such as 7 where unless you really place your first shot very well you will have a devil of a second shot... much tougher than the short yardage dogleg suggests on first viewing. It is stunning hole after stunning hole - difficult to pick highlights. The par 3 4th and 13th are amazing short holes. As a recent reviewer said the Par 5 11th whilst short does not feel it because going for green in 2 is risky but laying up can get you in to trouble too and leave you with an awkward yardage for your 3rd. I played it after an extremely wet month and a half and the greens were still hard fast and true and the course spongy. Golfing heaven is The Berkshire!
Very little difference between Red and Blue, (Red shades it as there is more variety through its unusual configuration of 6 of each of par 3s, 4s and 5s.). In terms of which is the best 36 hole offering in the area (excluding Wentorth), I would say that both courses at Walton Heath and comfortably the 2 Sunningdale courses are superior. In saying that however, it is a lovely course and worth a trip.
The Blue course is again a fantastic heathland golf course at the Berkshire but I can't say its quite as good as the Red. Despite that, its far from shabby and still deservedly finds its way in the top 100 courses in GB&I. This is truly a great 36 hole venue and I think members here should count themselves extremely lucky and be grateful to have 2 such cracking golf courses right in front of them. The blue just like the red is maintained very well, the greens were rolling well although were a bit slower and sandier than the red, but the bunkers and fairways were equally as good.
The 1st is a great but tough starting hole and a beautiful par 3 with heather all the way up to the green. The 4th is a much easier par 3 being much shorter and equally as beautiful with bunkers short and right and heather all short of the green. This hole made me very reminiscent of the great par 3s at West Sussex and the sharp design of the bunkers. To be honest other than the 1st and 4th holes, the front nine wasn't quite as exciting as the red course and although all the holes were still great, I wouldn't label them as outstanding.
The back nine of the blue gets a lot better and really picks up the pace as you start out with a beautiful short downhill par 3 with water on the right. The 11th then goes towards the red course and I felt that the holes were better when we were closer to the red course. The 11th was a great par 5, very much a risk and reward hole where you could go for it in 2 but risk hitting driver into the ditch or going into the bunkers surrounded by the green. The 12th is then a 350 yard par 4 with a lovely look to it and is parallel to the par 3 7th on the red course. The 13th is probably my favourite hole on the blue course as its a spectacular short par 3. Don't go left on this hole as it then becomes a very challenging up and down. The 14th and 15th are 2 par 4s that are both fairly difficult. On 14 the drive is difficult but important as right leaves you with no shot into the green. The 15th requires a good approach shot as its easy to miss the green and get into trouble that way. The 16th is probably the toughest hole on the course, a 450 yard par 4 with a fairway bunker on the left as well plenty of heather and a ditch further up. The last 2 holes are fairly straight forward on the blue but a nice way to finish.
Overall I would say the blue is slightly harder as there are less par 5s which makes it harder to score. I would also say its harder due to the fact that there seems to be more trouble and there are more fairway bunkers to go in on this course. Either way the blue course is still a joy to play and The Berkshire truly is a special place. A 36 hole day is nothing short of special at this place. The blue course is definitely a respectable 5 ball rating.
It’s been said before, and will no doubt be again, but the Berkshire experience is only in part about the golf courses. The other part is about the 18 hole putting green, a net with a slope to bring your ball back to your feet, a rather pleasant chipping green. And the food. 18 in the morning, a three course lunch, with wine or beer and then the worry of what the opening shot on the 1st on the Blue course will do. Mine sailed over the heather, over the gully and trickled onto the green. All was good in the world.
The courses are of course good. After an apparently difficult summer and autumn they are getting back to what they should be. It’s also worth noting that neither course is what I’d describe as heroic; I’m not sure they can be and keep a membership happy. Thus while getting a good score requires some big carries there’s generally an escape route for the shorter hitters. But do be straight, the heather, though not horribly woody is still a challenge. Go beyond the heather at your peril.
Apart from a few holes around the turn where the now dual carriageway A322 intrudes with noise, though not really visually, the Berkshire is a peaceful experience. You play many holes in glorious solitude. And as another bit of class the halfway house, sensibly provided at a point where the two courses meet, has proper toilets. While male golfers may wish to add to the areas acidity, I suspect female ones don’t.
So do go, but go for the day.
Like its sister course is in great condition . Plays very fair but beware of the heather again . Superb tree lined course well worth a visit although it's not particularly cheap.
A full day of golf (and lunch) at The Berkshire is one of life’s little luxuries and definitely worth saving up for.
I played both courses on the European Amateur Golf Tour so not only did I get to experience both courses in their best condition but also under competitive conditions.
I had previously played the Blue course many years ago so it was nice to be reacquainted with this excellent layout that enjoys some delightful holes, especially on the back nine, and makes a more than solid partner for the superior Red course.
The best holes on the front nine of the Blue are the opening par three, played over a heroic carry of heather, and the tricky short par four ninth where an approach from 100 yards is often preferable to one from much closer to the lofty green. The holes in between are all solid and require plenty of thought and positional play but lack the undulating ground that the rest of the course has and which brings it alive.
The run of holes from the 11th onwards are really what define the Blue in my eye. They are all energetic holes and there is more going on over this closing stretch than what has gone before it. The 11th is a lovely s-shaped par five whilst the next is one of few holes on the entire property that is played across a side slope and also has a fascinating two-tiered green; high at the front and low at the back.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Having taken my society there for the past 2 years playing at the Berkshire can only be described as a golfers paradise. The greens are pure, the heather is thick but forgiving, the fairways are cut to perfection and most importantly, you feel like you in a world of your own for the day. Playing as part of a society we are looked after as good as we could hope for and the 3 course carvary, keeps my mouth salivating for the 12 months in between rounds.
In my opinion this rates above all three Wentworth courses and Sunningdale, I can't wait to get back again this July.
The beauty of this site is all about opinions. This is an interesting view expressed and one that I am very curious to know how it was reached. The Berkshire is a fine club with two very good golf courses but I struggle to see that it rates above Wentworth or Sunningdale. I don't like the changes to the West but the East (hopefully one day renovated so everyone can enjoy the Colt gem it is) and the Edinburgh are excellent courses - one long, one shortish ; one old-school design, one new etc. Sunningdale - Old and New have all the qualities you ascribe to the Berkshire in spades (conditioning, beauty , playability) and no road intruding behind a green. Curious to know whether this reviewer has ever played Swinley Forest and how he/she would rate it against the Blue. Sunningdale being a Surrey club, Swinley Forest is no 1 in Berkshire in my view.
I respect the opinion offered here, but beg to differ. This is one of two fine courses on the property, but the challenge and variety here could not, for me, remotely match that at Sunningdale, let alone rate above it. To take two examples, can you really rate the appalling redesign of the 10th here above the 5th on the New at Sunningdale, as brilliant a short hole as exists in the UK? Is the 17th here, where perhaps a third of the fairway is in play, really a hole to remotely match the outstanding dogleg right 15th on the New, with the wickedly positioned pond for the slightest cut? Can't see it myself.
James, you point about the 10th is spot on. When it was built a couple of years ago, the club went to great lengths to boast about how it was a wonderful addition to the course but it has ruined the place. It has absolutely no respect for Fowler's architecture. The green is completely alien. The swales are straight out of a Pittsburgh municipal. The bunker is even worse than that. I played there a month ago whilst in the U.K. They have removed the tacky heather beds on the hills but that is a tweak of the look whilst the core architecture is horrific. I always thought the Blue to be a wonderful test of strategic golf. To add to this mistake, they have added in a back tee on 18 that defies belief. I don't know of any Fowler strategy that includes only being able to see half the fairway and they have forgotten that there is a big cross ditch at the point of landing (for mortals like me anyway). i asked a few questions when I was there and bumped into a member who knew a huge amount about Fowler and the history of the place. Turns out that they fired the architect that screwed up 10 but have brought in a guy called Lobb, who is a new build guy.
As the original reviewer, I appreciate all of the comments on the above, maybe i had been slightly Naive in my comments after returning last year. Whilst no doubt I cannot wait to return again this year, we had a small problem with the members last year, being put out behind a couple of 4-balls of members, we ended up having a 5 and a half hour round.
I stand by my comments about this in comparison to Wentworth, but would retract my Sunningdale comments. I was fortunate to play Swinley last September and completely fell in love as that sits on a different level to The Berkshire.
This is still without a doubt, one of the countries elite establishments for a day of golf in luxury, and anyone who get's the chance should take it in a heartbeat. Once the stuffiness of the older members disappears, this will be on my target list for membership.
A bit harsh, but I agree with all that. The problem on the 10th was thinned shots from the (late lamented) front-right bunker ending up on the A322 - a calamity and a big lawsuit were waiting to happen. But it's a very good golf course.
I was informed by the pro and the secretary there had been an extensive clearing program and many rhododendrons had been removed from the surrounds of the course to return the original spacious feel. This was noticeable as it made the course extremely playable and relatively forgiving off the tee. Having said that, from the outset the course rewards straight and accurate golf. It’s possibly one of the fairest of the heathland courses I have played, whereby an errant shot can be recovered, even from all the bunkers, which are well sanded and well placed, but if you allow one error to lead to another almost every hole has the potential to become a card wrecker.
Although the par 3 1st offers a large target area a poor shot is heavily penalised, with a serve drop off to the right, bunkers on the left and a 150 yard carry to avoid the heather. The first third of the course offers holes with variety in length, orientation and shot selection, resulting in an equal mix of par 3’s 4’s and 5’s through the first 6 holes. This run of holes offer ample birdies opportunities if played well, but any lack of concentration or precision will certainly cause a dropped shot at best. The front 9 finishes with 3 strong par 4’s, the final of these playing uphill 310 yards with a green so well-protected that there really is no easy place to play your approach from.
The back 9 begins with a very inviting downhill par 3 with a front to back sloping green. Anything past the pin here leaves a treacherous putt making a par a good score, but keeping short of the pin should present a chance of a birdie. You then make your way through another strong selection of varying holes, the highlight for me being a beautiful yet dangerous par 3 13th. With so little room on the left the tendency in our group of right handers was to fail to commit to the shot and find your way into the sneaky bunker short right. The final stretch home consists of 5 consecutive par 4’s starting with a blind shot on the 14th. The ideal tee shot is your 210 yard club, 10 yards left of the market post. If the pin is short right don’t go for it, even with a short iron, keep left of the pin as the run off from the front edge swallow’s up everything and spits it out at the bottom of a 5ft swale!
Of the remaining holes the stand out for me was the stroke index 2 16th. This could well be in my all-time favourite golf holes from an aesthetic and strategic perspective. At 452 yards there is a high demand on the right to left tee shot. If you can carry a 230 draw you can fly the first bunker and take advantage of the downslope to make the approach less the 150 yards. You’re then left with an uphill approach to a large green sloping left to right. It’s an absolute gem of a golf hole with trouble everywhere. Take your bogey and move on.. make a par and put a circle around it on your scorecard! The last two holes are comparatively bland given the delights that have come before. The 18th is a straight forward par 4 with a short iron approach, should be a par but stay right of the hole as the green slopes left to right. When you've made your way back to the club house you can sit on the extensive veranda with your chosen tipple and watch the later groups tee of the first with a knowing smile.. You know they are in for a treat. Simon Bale
I regret that the 10th hole has been altered since you wrote this. It's a complete mess. Sadly, they have started tinkering with several holes on both courses. The bunkers are nigh on unplayable and look like they are from a different designer and era. The original Fowler holes are wonderful but the altered holes are an eyesore. Great shame that they haven't employed Hawtree or Coore or such like to do it properly.