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2 miles SW of Ascot
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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.
Following a historic review of The Berkshire courses in collaboration with Adam Lawrence of Oxford Golf Consulting, architect Tim Lobb’s design firm commenced a programme of bunker and landscape restoration on both the Red and Blue layouts in 2016 and this work is ongoing.
I played both courses at The Berkshire for the first time in June 2021 during The Berkshire Trophy, and my initial preference was for the Blue course. I felt that the Red was a little too quirky, relying on the high volume of par 5s (of which there are famously six) to draw players into another round. In contrast, I felt that the Blue had more serious challenge, often demanding one good shot to be immediately followed by another.
However, yesterday I had the opportunity to play the Red again casually by myself, and being away from a competitive environment placed a completely different complexion on the course. Having done a little more research on Herbert Fowler’s thesis for course design, I appreciated the symbiosis of the golf course with the natural undulations of the terrain. It almost felt as though the soil had been scaped (or perhaps even invented) to house a golf course… I’m not sure he could have done any better with the land at his disposal.
The tail end of winter 21/22 has been fairly wet in the South of England, but there was zero evidence of waterlogging and certainly not a trace of mud on my shoes by the end of the round. I found a wonderful firmness to the fairways when striking a mid-iron, but at the same time the divots melted away from the surface of the earth in a sandy oblong. Fairway mats were being utilised on the six par 3 holes, however this wasn’t too much of a hardship given that the majority played somewhere between a 4 and 8 iron, allowing you to sweep it away.
It would be untrue to say the greens were pure, but they were certainly rolling well and fast in comparison to anywhere else I had played in the lead up to this round. I was fortunate not to find any bunkers, but the surrounds and hazards were presented perfectly, and many are placed so that either the player’s view to the flag is obscured or it provides a deceptive perspective to the depth of the putting surfaces. The heather was not in full colour but it still offers enough indication that you are in the sacred lands of South-West London’s golfing sandbelt. And by the way, avoid it at all costs – it feeds on a diet of steel and urethane.
The most striking thing upon replaying the Red was the anticipation of the holes to come. The only holes I can recall where there is not a clear visual preview of the next are 12 and 17. Of particular note on a twilight round in March was the majestic panorama of the 11th hole from the 10th green. At a pretty meagre 334 yards from the yellow tees, it is easy for this hole to be bypassed in a mental recap of the course, however the memory of the early spring sunset bathing the fairway in bright orange will last a long time. Needless to say, this was sufficient distraction for me to miss my short birdie putt on 10, but I found myself in a state of apathy about that when I knew there was another tantalising prospect ahead at the next tee box. But this is typical of the course – even the short holes offer memorable moments, as well as requiring strategy and consideration… Maybe more so.
I do feel that the dénouement is flat, especially considering what has come before. The par 5 17th doesn’t offer enough temptation off the tee to cut the corner (as the 6th does, for example), which would significantly shorten your approach shot and grant another genuine look at eagle. And despite what many may say, I don’t feel that a par 3 is ever an adequate finish to a round of golf. On its own, it is another lovely example of a one-shotter, playing uphill to a perched green with a false front and tangly heather beyond… I just believe it would work that little better if it was the second shot on a challenging par 4 18th. The last two holes could easily be split into two strong par 4s to finish, but then we wouldn’t have six holes of each par, would we?
However, it would be remiss of me not to finish on a positive note, given that there are so many pros in comparison to my minor quibble. The par 3 holes are not only stunning but clever and challenging; none could be classed as ‘fillers’ just to move you along in your round. There is equilibrium between quality and beauty, as at no point is the course difficult for the sake of it, nor aesthetically pleasing in the absence of substance. You certainly know you are somewhere special when you are in and around the clubhouse, and there is a wonderfully uplifting sensation of walking on hallowed turf when striding down the fairways. I completed my round in 2 hours and 15 minutes, but at no point did I feel that the round had passed me by; the pacing of the course is excellent, which on reflection may owe to the variety in hole lengths and types - despite my earlier reservations about this.
I might go so far to say that The Berkshire is in with a shout of being the best 36-hole venue in England, with the Red course definitely being the ‘fun’ choice if you ever pay a visit. I know I will return with misty eyes.
This golf course is just fun. Plain and simple!
It is not a particularly difficult course, quite a few wide fairways, 5 of the 6 par 5’s are virtually par 4’s for the long hitter, but the brilliant set of par 3’s are up there with the best in the world, and the par 4’s are nice mix of lengths and you can hit driver just about everywhere, but sometimes strategy is needed too.
This is a members course, there are no “Championship” tees, and by god if I had money/lived locally I’d join here in a heartbeat because I would never get bored playing this course.
The beauty of the course is you can make multiple mistakes, but you never feel like you are out of it. You’re a good swing or two away from birdies and the odd eagle!
Add to that, it is absolutely beautiful visually, tall striking pines lined by heather, and for March the conditioning was very good too. Can’t wait to play the
Blue when I’m in town next.
I want to give this 5 but flying in to play is probably a step too far, but is it one of the best in the region, absolutely, and probably the most fun. An overnight stop and play both courses and you’ll be as happy as larry!
Personal favourite holes. 2 is a beautiful short uphill par 3, 4 is a strong par 4 that requires two very good shots to hit the green, miss the green left and double is your reward, 5 is a lovely downhill par 3, the front section of the green is blind from the tee. 6 is a great short par 4, cutting the corner is possible and you can just about drive the green, 7 is another fabulous par 3, with a huge green with multiple sections. 10 is a magnificent par 3 across a valley of heather, keep it left, and then try your best to 2 putt on this large green. 12 is a beautiful short uphill dogleg left par 4, 15 is my favourite of the short 5’s, with streams coming into play on both sides off the tee, one of the nicer tee shots on the course, 16 is a monster par 3, stay below the hole the green is severe, and 17 has an awesome second shot to an amphitheatre styled green.
Overall though, I thought 18 was a touch forgettable, and the fairway on the par 5 13th punishes good shots off the tee a bit more than it should, but this is very much me nitpicking!
Played November 2021. A fair and varied test. The fairways were wide enough to give players of all standards a decent chance to hit them, but the heather was tough enough to punish errant shots, whilst still giving a chance to find the ball and get it back into play.
The setting is wonderful, peaceful and grand, and the trees frame the holes beautifully.
The greens are testing and in great condition, as was the course as a whole.
The par 3 tenth was real highlight.
The staff and clubhouse were very welcoming to visitors.
All in all a quintessential heathland track, offering everything you could look for from such a course.
Would I rush back, absolutely!
Having played the Red course while cutting first tracks on a calm and clear September morning, I’d suggest that this is how golf should be. Those first few holes felt like coasting across a calm mirrored ocean in a sail boat; serene, tranquil and good for the soul. The fact this particular ocean resides just a few miles from London and the M25 motorway makes the aforementioned feeling of absolute serenity even more remarkable.
There is no doubt that a day at The Berkshire is one of the best 36 holes experiences in the U.K. The atmosphere is welcoming and unpretentious, the facilities are immaculate and the clubhouse (and lunch) are the stuff of legend. The veranda abuts the blue course’s 1st tee which is some spectacle to take in while enjoying a pre-game coffee, or that post game pick me up. Don’t just drive up and take to the course when you visit here. Make sure to plan a good couple of hours enjoying and exploring the clubhouse and it’s surroundings.
The Red course is ever so slightly higher ranked than it’s sibling but it is very hard to split the two on first contact. The notable design feature of the Red is its 3 x 6’s arrangement (6 x par 3’s/4’s/5’s) which I felt drove a feeling of constant stimulation and engagement with the task at hand. I’m pretty sure this was only the second layout I had played of this kind (Chardonnay GC in Napa Valley was the other), and I have to admit, I thoroughly enjoyed the constant scorecard related intrigue.
There is a feeling of grandeur as you walk the isolated avenues lined with effervescent heather and statuesque trees. The purple borders that line each of the fairways may look attractive, particularly from the tee boxes. However, spending too much time up close and personal will steadily inflate your score while reducing the weight of your golf bag. My overriding tip from the day would be to escape from the heather at the earliest opportunity, if you suffer the misfortune to visit it. I have played many courses with heather lined fairways but this stuff is real punishment. The sooner you work out that avoiding it at all costs is key, the sooner your sanity will be restored.
The course starts in attractive fashion with a glorious risk/reward par 5. I would offer my previous comments re the heather as a word of caution. Nothing says ‘card wrecker’ like an extended stay in the thick stuff on the very first hole. Combined with the threat of water off the tee, I would advocate a cautious approach at the 1st.
The attractive vistas and subtlety of design become the norm as you tack through this opening stretch. Fowler greens are notoriously treacherous from my experience and there are some green sites on the Red where both the size and contours require a navigator’s eye to traverse. Nowhere is this more evident than on the wonderful par 3 7th green, where a well struck iron shot to the heart of this green guarantees you nothing, until you have safely negotiated its undulating surface.
The signature holes for me were 10 and 11. 10 has to be the closest to an island par 3 you will see on a heathland course. There is dry land on all four sides of the green but it may as well be the Atlantic Ocean in terms of its usefulness to a golfer. The uphill tee shot requires a solid hit just to clear the cavernous heathery abyss. If your shot slides off line, there are slopes and bunkers abound to cause you discomfort. You would think things would get easier once you make the putting surface; I’m here to share that you will most likely end up disappointed on your first visit.
My last mention of hole design will be to describe the magnificent and utterly simple 11th. It’s not often that dead straight 350 yard par 4’s take the plaudits but maybe it’s stroke index of 4 eludes ti the fact that there is more to this hole than meets the eye. There is something enchanting about the apparent simplicity and uniformity of this gem of a hole. The classic design trait of more club off the tee allowing more control for the second shot, is one to seriously consider here. The green is raised above the fairway, small and slopes predominantly back to front. Having the right club in your hand to leave you below the hole will be key to your chance of success here.
It is not the longest or the most difficult course you will play, but it may be one of the most memorable. A round that will engage your mind and your golfing soul from start to finish.
It is a mystery to me why not more layouts with six par 3s and six par 5s are built at modern golf resorts as they provide so much fun!
The Berkshire's Red Course might lay claim to being the original. It certainly is the best such layout I have played and one of the best balanced layouts I have played, all categories.
It helps, of course, that it is set among heather and majestic fir trees and which ample space for each hole. Most of the deciduous trees I remember from my first visit in the 90s have now been cleared away and the course is visually better as a result. If you visit when the heather is in bloom, you are in for a real treat, as pictured.
The course also played longer as fairways were green already in early September and not fast-running the way I remember them. The caddiemaster who chuckled when he saw my old courseplanner from 20 years ago told us that many fairways had been relaid with sand and new drainage quite recently, which explained the state of affairs.
Berkshire Red is correctly ranked among the best UK heathland courses. In my opinion, there is probably not a single course among those ranked below that I have played that I would consider its equal.
An extra plus, at least in my book, is that you can play it in three hours without rushing as a two-ball instead of waiting around among fourballs. The flip side is that it might not be accessible on the day you were thinking of visiting if you are three or four, but then the Blue course could be available instead and it is (almost) just as good!
Highly recommended, do not miss!
I agree wholeheartedly in yearning for more 6-6-6 routings, and while I don't want to put words in my compatriot Ryan Book's mouth, I *know* he does as well.
The Berkshire is an amazing place for a day out, with 36 challenging holes sprawled across a lovely sandy property. Maybe not quite the cachet of Sunningdale (or the price tag), it's still a very classy place.
The Red and Blue courses are entwined through a lovely forest, although we saw evidence of the tree clearing programme underway. As they share the same springy turf, there is little between them, I'm sure many people have wandered on to the wrong course mid round without realising.
The reason I prefer the Red course, and rate it slightly higher, is that it features several opportunities to play a hero shot. With 6 par threes and 6 par fives, there are more opportunities for birdie than nearly every other course I can think of. This doesn't mean it's an easy course (far from it), you need to calculate risk v reward on every tee. I just found that on the Blue course the conservative option off the tee seemed best, whereas on the Red course the bold option seemed more appealing - and we all like dramatic golf. Of course it goes without saying I scored much better on the Blue, but the Red was more fun!
We arrived at the course early in the morning and were greeted warmly by the hospitality manager and invited inside for a complimentary coffee & bacon / sausage roll. After taking this, we set about looking around. The clubhouse and pro shop were a little underwhelming, but the course itself - wow.
We played the course in the summer after a couple of days of really heavy rain, but the course showed no signs of damage. There is an abundance of beautiful trees which provides great character, however the trunks are thin and well spread and generally aren't in play (due to wide fairways) meaning it's not a course where you feel you are constantly chipping sideways. Additionally, there is an abundance of heather which whilst adding character and colour to the course, was exceptionally punitive, especially compared to the fairways which were so pure.
The only qualms I had with the course is that with the exception of the 10th (a long par 3 over a heather canyon into a green with a false front and everything right falling back into the canyon), there were no standout holes. Lots of good holes, but nothing that you'd be shouting about in your local clubhouse. In addition, it felt that the greens could do with being a hare quicker, although that could have been due to the rain.
I very much enjoyed my experience, it's a beautiful course, perfectly maintained and very scorable. Worth a trip out, but was it worth the £195 green fee? I'll leave that up for debate.
Recently moved to within 10 minutes of The Berkshire, and had been wanting to play the Red so bad. It didn't let me down. An ok 1st hole paved way for a thrilling, challenging and beautiful final 17.
I loved that being on the fairway and green isn't enough. To score well, you had to plot your way round. The greens were in great order too.
Just a great day and I can't wait to return and give the Blue a bash.
I last played here 15 years ago, and found it stuffy. Times have changed and The Berkshire experience has moved with them. 36 holes today and the experience an absolute delight.
Firstly, the staff could not have been friendlier; chatty and funny restaurant manager, helpful starter who found us to ask if we wanted to move our afternoon tee forward an hour, great lunch (stunning view from the terrace), great halfway hut. All of this put us at great ease and left us free to enjoy every aspect of these 2 superb though different tracks.
Where The Blue feels more of a second shot course, with smaller greens, The Red asks more questions. Par 3s that I hit from 8-iron up to driver (on 16 - it plays loooong). Some devilish uphill/side hill chips. Double and triple level greens. 2 great strategic dogleg par 4s (6 and 12). Gorgeous par 3s and strategy on almost every hole. Greens that from a distance look simple and up close belie all manner of run offs, false fronts etc.
There is no artifice or pretentiousness here, either on or off the course. Just 2 thoroughly enjoyable tracks, many memorable holes and a feeling I’ve had the best that golf can offer me in this beautiful part of the world.
The second course I visited on the heathland leg of my trip, The Berkshire is one hell of a place to play golf. Out of every course I visited over the last 6 weeks, this place would be very high on the list for places most desirable to be a member of- with two strong 18 hole courses, and a vibe that was very welcoming. It was also great to see many dogs on the course!
The Red has 6 par 3s, 6 4s and 6 5s, which in turn leads to a fun golf course with plenty of those holes playing as half pars. The opener, a short par 5, sets out what the golfer should expect over the round. There was lots of width off the tee throughout which transpires to a course that is extremely playable.
In line with a lot of the top courses around this area, the layout is such that strategy is a key part of any round, for example the short par 4 6th asks a player how much of the dogleg they want to cut off with their tee shot.
Most readers will agree with me that a long par 3 can often not be their favourite type of hole. It is a testament to the class of this course that my two favourite holes were par 3s of over 180 yards. The 10th is similar to the 16th at Royal Porthrush, Calamity, and then the 16th plays every inch of its 205 yards, as its uphill. Both of these greens are shaped subtly, which is the case on pretty much all every green.
I hope to get back at some point soon and see the Blue course, as if it’s anything close to the Reds standard then it is an absolute must play, even in this regions esteemed company.