Many people say that there is nothing better than a day’s golf amongst the forest, heather and springy turf of the Berkshire Golf Club. Both the Red and the Blue courses are charming. The Red course is considered to be the more senior of the two, but frankly there is little to choose between them. Indeed it is likely that they will both merge into one unless you have been sufficiently fortunate to play them more than once.
Herbert Fowler, who had a gift for blending golf courses into their natural surroundings, laid out both courses in 1928. Fowler clearly did a great job because only minor changes have since been made to his original design. The land was once the hunting forest of the royals and dates back to the reign of Queen Anne. Each hole is played in seclusion, the mature sycamore, birch, chestnut and pine trees providing majestic tunnels for the rippled fairways.
The Red acquired its name from a military analogy with the Blue taking the opposite side. The Red course is highly unusual in design. The configuration of six par threes, six par fives and six par fours provide for much interest, variety and entertainment.
You need a straight and steady game to score well here otherwise you can very quickly become accustomed to chipping sideways out of the trees or hacking out of the heather. Needless to say, accuracy rather than length is all-important. The Red, measuring 6,369 yards from the white tees (5,733 from the reds) is the longer of the Berkshire’s two courses and it plays over slightly higher ground than the Blue.
The Berkshire is closely linked with amateur golf; its own Berkshire Trophy has produced some famous winners, including Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle. Numerous ladies amateur competitions have also been held at the Berkshire.
If there is a downside to the Red course, it would be the par fives – four of the six are short by today’s standards. However, the par fours and threes more than make up for the minor criticism – after all, the short par fives might offer a birdie or two, or even an eagle.
There are many strong holes on the Red course but the best is probably the 6th, a shortish par four measuring 360 yards from the white tees. This hole doglegs to the right and requires an accurate drive to the left hand side of the fairway in order to leave a short approach shot to a raised green.
The Red’s hallmark is most definitely the six par threes – they are all quality in their own right. Actually, we think The Berkshire is delightful and will provide a memorable day out for any serious golfer.
I personally think that this is one of the best concepts for a golf course. Six par fives, fours and threes. Makes it a course you can score on. But at the same time like all heathland courses, punish you for errant shots. A very well kept course and one of my favorites I've ever played on.
what an amazing course, pricy but worth every penny I can't fault it, enjoyed the evening so much and will be going back to play the blue as soon as possible. Course condition 11 out of 10, a real treat and definitely worth travelling to play especially if you can make a day of it.
36 holes at the Berkshire what is not to like. We started the morning on the red and standing on the first tee a downhill par 5 I thought “ok I better be straight today”.
First off the course condition is immaculate tee boxes are flat and tidy, a small but important thing. The fairways for early August with all the dry weather we have had were lush and the greens were fast, subtle and a joy to putt on.
The course layout there is not much more to add than others haven’t said. The par 3s are brilliant 10 being the best but 2 and 16 are right up there. The par 5s are all relatively short but there is so much defence on the course with bunkering and heather that you have to hit straight shots to have a chance. Trust me when I suggest that if you are in the middle of the fairway with 200 plus yards to go, unless you are hitting straight consider the layup. The chance of finding the green will be seen a distant thought if you miss, find the heather and lose a ball.
When we played and we found out after the round that heather was at its thickest when flowering, which it was and therefore at times we did feel penalised for just missing a fairway and losing a ball. So be prepared.
I played ok on the day finished well and on reflection both my playing partner and I agreed that if you turned up to The Berkshire on your game and played the Red you would thoroughly enjoy it.
As a 36 hole experience it is right up there. As a course in its own right, I could argue it into the world top 100. I thought about comparing it to other 36 hole layouts or other courses in the are but that may only help some decide to play somewhere else and I would say if you really are a golf fan put this place on the list and play it.
There can’t be too many parts of the world, where you can throw a blanket over world class golf courses, all situated within 10 minutes of each other. The Surrey/Berkshire border (where I am lucky enough to call home) is one of these hotspots and the Berkshire (Red) easily mixes it with its esteemed neighbours such as Swinley, Sunningdale and Wentworth.
Herbert Fowler has designed an incredible golf course, that blends itself into its natural surroundings seamlessly. Golf is played through a maze of trees and amongst heather so purple it looks as though it’s been painted. Fairways and greens manicured to perfection, but the surrounding nature left to mature, so you feel as though you are playing through the forest. The natural rolling terrain allows for holes with fantastic tee shot vistas or entertaining approach shots. The course design is imaginative, fun and tough!
Although off the tips the course measures a docile 6,369 yards, it is by no means easy and if you find the heather, take your medicine! Accuracy is the key here and it’s the truest test of golf. Find fairways and greens in regulation and you will score well.
It’s hard to find any faults with the course. You stand on each tee box and admire the canvas laid out in front of you. Possibly it was the time of year we played, but I am yet to play a more colourful course.
It was hard to pick out the ‘standout hole’ as they were all good, but for me the Par 3 10th goes straight into my Dream 18. Played over a heather ravine and uphill onto a green that seems to be running away from you. It’s an incredible one shotter. The Par 4 6th with a sweeping dog leg right and the Par 4 11th and 12th are super back to back short par 4s. The 11th in particular with a beautiful elevated tee box with the hole painted out in front of you.
My slight negative (and a continuous bugbear of mine at some Top 100 courses) was the tame finishing hole. An uphill Par 3 18th, which really shouldn’t be the crescendo for one England’s best golf courses.
That said, this really is one of the best courses I’ve played on these shores and it’s hard to see how this isn’t ranked a little higher. Maybe it’s the location and it’s esteemed neighbours, but for me this is a better course than Swinley and Wentworth and deserves to be in the discussion with Sunningdale Old & New. I can’t wait to come back.
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The Red's had lots of reviews lately so rather than writing one, I'll just say I agree with everything written here (although I've not played Swinley).
Red is decent but not quite as good as Swinley and a clear level below both courses at Sunningdale
Absolutely love this place. Beautiful piece of ground with some tremendous holes that stick in the memory and brilliant conditioning.
The terrain here is perfect for golf with crisp sandy soil and terrifying heather lining each fairway (it looks beautiful but is impossible to escape from).
I agree with some of the earlier reviews in that due to the amount of land here and the dense tree-lined fairways, it often feels like your fourball is the only one on the course and this isolation really adds to the special feel of this place.
There aren’t many weak holes but a few of my favourites were:
4th - a great uphill par 4 with trouble left and plenty of bunkers around the green to swallow any wayward approaches.
6th - tough dogleg right where the elevated tee always tempts me to try and bite off more of the corner than I should!
8th - a stunning dog leg right where the ground all slopes left followed by a tough uphill approach into the undulating green.
10th - all of the par 3s are great here but 10 is something special. A hole I could play over and over.
11th - stunning short par 4 from an elevated tee (a truly great driving hole).
17th - a great dogleg right par 5 with a semi blind drive and beautiful approach into a green surrounded by the forest.
I agree that the par 5s are all quite short but I don’t think having the odd birdie opportunity detracts from the quality of the course. Others may disagree though. 18 is perhaps a weak finishing hole, being the weakest and least memorable of the 6 par 3s but when the 17 previous holes are as good as this, you can’t really complain.
Yet to play the Blue course so cannot compare but a 36 hole day here is something I can’t wait to book.
The Red is the better layout of the two course at The Berkshire with its unique balance of holes six par 3, par 4 and par 5’s holes which makes it more score able than its counterpart The Blue.
The terrain The Red is set upon is more interesting than The Blue with more elevation changes and angles from the tees combined with superior green complexes gives it the edge. The par 5 holes are relatively short which gives the golfer a number of birdie chances but this is countered with some difficult par 3 and par 4 holes. Holes 7 and 10 which are brilliant par 3’s both tough requiring good club selection and accuracy to walk away with pars. The 14th is a brute of a par 4 followed by the 16th another long par 3….I hit driver the day we played here. There are a number of special holes on The Red course, the par 3 2nd is a cracking short par 3 which plays uphill to a green protected by bunkers. The 6th is a 90 degree left to right dogleg that challenges the player to cut the corner from the elevated tee before a short approach to the green. The 17th is magnificent par 5 which curves from left to right it will take two almighty blows to reach this two-tiered green with your second shot. I cannot think of many better inland courses than The Red course at The Berkshire, it is playable for golfers of all levels, every hole provides a unique challenge and has wonderful green complexes …what more could you ask for!
How the Red isn't in the world top 100 is beyond me.
One of my favourite course, up there with Sunningdale Old and Swinley Forest. The 6 par 3s, 6 4s and 6 5s design creates a fantastic layout plenty of birdie chances. The start and finish are brilliant, and more courses should follow this template. It starts par 5 3 5, and ends 5 3 5 3.
Quick run down of the best holes:
2 - fantastic uphill par 3. Only a short iron. If you miss the green you'll know about it
4 - often overlooked, a great long par 4 with amazing bunkering
6 - one of the best holes on the course. Doglegs right around the trees. Very simple design
8 - gorgeous dogleg right par 4, downhill tee shot then uphill the the green
10 - best hole on the course and my favourite par 3 in golf. 190 yards all carry over a huge heathery ravine
11 - beautiful short par 4 off an elevated tee
15 - short par 5, but if you miss the fairway you will make 6
16 - one of the best par 3s in England. 220+ yards to a big green which looks tiny due top the massive bunkers short of it
A great course for both strokeplay and matchplay, with English Pinehurst No.2 vibes.
A day spent playing both courses at The Berkshire is in my top ten list of private clubs with two courses. This excludes resorts such as Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes, Barnbougle Dunes, Trump Turnberry, Gleneagles, Streamsong, etc. While The Berkshire is not at the level of Sunningdale, Baltusrol, Winged Foot, or Walton Heath, it is in the conversation due to the joy one has with the walk and variety of golf holes placed in front of you from both courses. The beauty of the golf course is also at the same level of some inland courses in England due to the trees, flowering bushes, and heather.
I narrowly prefer the Blue course over the Red, which is contrary to what I read or hear. The reason is that the Red is quirkier with six pars of 3/4/5’s while the Blue is more standard. I also find the Blue course to have a few more “better” holes than the Red. Both courses have a weakness in most of their par 5’s lacking sufficient challenge. Both courses succumb to a few too many short par 4’s as well. Both the Red and Blue have very good par 3’s. One of the best debates I have had is which course is the superior as one can be easily convinced for one course but then suddenly remember something else about the other course that changes the winner of the debate.
Both courses are cutting back the trees which make the fairways seem wider although they are not. But the beauty of the course is more evident.
Herbert Fowler wonderfully routed the Red through terrain with ditches, swales, fall-offs, uphill shots, gullies, etc. to consider. The Red has the slightly better terrain than the Blue. The routing for the Red is lacking in length at less than 6500 yards despite a par of 72. One recommendation I would have is to change two of the shorter par 5’s into long par 4’s and change the overall par to 70. While one should try to record a total score rather than a comparative score to par, for some very good players their score to par is important. Making this change might determine how one plays those two holes. Would a player hit a different tee shot to a long par 4 rather than a short par 5? The likely candidates are the ninth, thirteenth and fifteenth. There is room to lengthen these holes although one would have to ensure it does not change the character of the holes perhaps too much into while requiring a large amount of tree removal.
If not lengthened, the par 5’s should have more defenses that make the better player consider the penalties for a poorly executed shot. I feel most of the par 5’s could use bunkers in the fairways and nearer the greens. The first has no bunkers and despite a strongly tilted green, needs more defense than a small stream crossing the fairway. Fifteen could be an excellent par 5 if the green surround looked more like the eleventh green.
The par 3’s are adequately bunkered, albeit some bunkers could be placed closer to the green. One wants to meet Mr. Fowler and ask, “did you make the par 5’s easier to balance the par 3’s as the more difficult holes?” It is interesting to me that Tom Simpson did not address the imbalance of the par 3’s versus the par 5’s.
The highlight of the Red course are the slopes and tiers of the greens. Much like the more famous nearby courses, the greens have good slopes, tiers, bunkers, and nearby fall-offs and humps. This is a difficult golf course to list my favorite holes because I liked the shape and complexity of nearly every green. Some of the holes are stronger than others from a visual perspective as well as length yet an excellent green transforms what seemingly is a weaker hole relative to ones just played all of a sudden to a very good hole.
I make various notations and notes on my scorecard to designate the quality and memorability of the hole I have just played. In the case of The Berkshire Red course, I had many notations for the greens.
My favorite holes are five, eight, ten, fourteen, and sixteen to eighteen. It is not that the other holes are not good or weak; they are fine golf holes.
On five, a slightly downhill par 3 of 178/166 there are two bunkers that are somewhat disguised. Despite this being one of the less sloped greens is a compelling tee shot.
The eighth is a slight dogleg right, par 4 of 428/412 with two fronting bunkers and a green sloped sharply back to front. I very much like the look of this hole from tee to green.
The par 3 tenth at 188/148 has a sharp fall-off on the right side and a bank on the left side. It is one of the prettier holes from the tee and one of the more punitive holes if one misses the green.
Fourteen is a longer par 4 at 434/428 with another green sloped to the left so the ideal approach shot should be center or right, yet on the right side of the green are two fronting bunkers. I do wish more of the holes, particularly the par 5’s had this type of shot-making to consider.
Sixteen is the longest par 3 on the course at 221/205 to a green that has two bunkers on either side but well short of another tilted green. This is another visually pleasing golf hole.
Seventeen is the longest hole on the Red course at 562 yards and plays longer as a dogleg right. The green has two tiers and fronting bunkers. If only the other par 5’s were equal to the challenges posed by this hole.
Eighteen is a par 3 of 175/163 and is uphill back at the clubhouse with another two-tiered green. It is not as beautiful as other holes, but it is a substantial challenge and likely decides the outcome of a match.
The club could make the player have more decisions to make with the addition of more fairway bunkers and moving some of the greenside bunkers closer to the green. Many of the green side bunkers are merely “eye candy” to distract one from the green but actually are not very close. It is clever, but likely makes the course a bit easier than the original architects intended.
I read other reviews that stated that one should play here before the three “W” courses (I am assuming Worplesdon, Woking and West Hill), but I would add to that Wentworth as well. For me, playing both of these courses the same day is a superior day to one round at those courses, or two rounds on the West and East at Wentworth, even if those courses might be superior. In sum, The Berkshire is never a grind: it is always fun. Mr. Fowler created yet again another wonderful golf course. He is often an under-appreciated golf course architect.
Absolute gem of a course and probably the most balanced members’ club around London with a great membership, two top courses and a great lunch. I visited a few weeks ago after being away for five years. The club has done some commendable work recovering the heathland feel of the course. Thousands of trees have been removed, heather restored and the fairways and greens were in impeccable shape. This is a world class golf course which never seems to get out of the shadow of some of its better known neighbours. In my opinion, after the recent work, the Red should indubitably be considered in the same category as Swinley, the Sunningdale courses and St. George’s Hill; yet the Red rarely features in world top 100 rankings. Perhaps the members are just content to keep this wonderful course to themselves and that would be completely understandable.
What is there not to like about the Red course at the Berkshire ?. A very good Herbert Fowler designed course, easy to book, reduced winter green fee, friendly, no air's and grace's, breakfast in the snack bar ready and waiting, quiet (no one in front and no one behind), understated and doesn't seem to have changed much since my list visit over 15 years ago. Very well presented and the hand cut greens were of excellent pace for November. Fairways reasonably generous but miss them at your peril because the heather is very penal; I imagine the abundance of heather when in bloom looks a picture.
No poor holes, although I thought the back nine (starting with a really nice run of holes from 10-12) was more interesting than the front. Standout holes for me were 4, 6, 8, 11, 12 and 14 (all the par 4's !) which were excellent and I can't help feeling a couple more would have been ideal. Par 3's were good, with the pick of the six for me being the 10th, 186 yards over a ravine. Best par 5 of the six was I think the 17th which would have been an excellent finishing hole, especially as I thought the 18th was possibly the weakest of the par 3's. Mix of holes on the Red course is often mentioned and for me (and this is only a personal opinion) I think possibly too many par 5's and par 3's; however that is the way the Red course is designed so I'm not complaining. Comparing with other courses I would say St.Georges Hill would just nudge it because of it's quality par 3's, very comparable with Beau Desert (another Herbert Fowler design and one of my favourite courses) and I would also say a touch behind Parkstone (slightly prefer the balance of Parkstone which only has five par 5's and five par 3's!).
Strength of The Berkshire's was that it was an absolute pleasure to play. .. an over-riding memory is of a couple of mixed groups of golfers rocking up onto the Blue course with their dogs (best behaved ever) and seeing them wandering around the other course at various times during our round .. quintessentially english !