The Red course at The Berkshire is every bit as beautiful as many of its peers in the local area. This is a serene, picturesque course with lots of land movement, rolling through birch and pine woodland all making this a beautiful setting for golf. As most acknowledge when writing a review of the Red course, its USP is that it has the highly unusual feature of having the same number of par threes, fours and fives through its card which means the challenge on the tee never feels repetitive. Appearance wise, there are many similarities with its near neighbour Swinley Forest, or nearby St George’s Hill. Greens with banked shoulders and bunkers with heathery surrounds are a regular feature, and the feedback from some critics that the trees encroach too much on the playing characteristics of the course were visibly being addressed during my playing of the course where the clearance of trees and shrubbery was being carried out. This should open up some of the wonderful vistas from the higher ground and make the undulating land features that the course is blessed with more prominent.
There are enough inherent qualities to The Berkshire’s Red course to make it potentially worth consideration for a World Top 100 list. At present, I’d probably say what holds the course back in this respect is that the individual holes themselves maybe lack the memorability to achieve that status. It remains to be seen whether the tree clearance has the desired impact to elevate the course’s ranking, maybe some feature bunker-work and mounding would also help. However, what it perhaps lacks in individuality it gains in strategy. Herbert Fowler did a great job here with many of the holes having a more obvious side of the fairway that needs to be struck from the tee to get the easier angle of attack into the green. To reference the individual holes, the clear standout for me was the par three 10th that shares many similar characteristics to the 17th at Royal Portrush, the Calamity hole. The quality of this middle stretch of the course is reinforced by the excellent back-to-back short par fours at the 11th and 12th; the former with its raised green guarded with sand embedded into the climb to the green, and the latter, doglegging slightly across heather to a rising fairway with a green that stands proudly, semi blind above the golfers approaching it. The short par five 13th with its raised tee and mid-fairway dip, recently improved strong par three 16th and the wonderful five shotter over the stream at 17 round off why I felt that the back nine just edged the front in terms of quality, but frankly there is no weak spell across the whole course.
Before mine, there have only been seven reviews of the course since 2012. I was surprised to read so few reviews for a club as prominent as The Berkshire so I’m not sure whether this is a reflection of a relatively infrequent number of visitors’ rounds or the club being passed by due to the quality of the competition on its doorstep? The Berkshire is less private than Swinley, less expensive than Sunningdale and better than each of the three Ws. A tour of the heathland belt west of London needs to include a day at The Berkshire or you’re truly missing out on a real gem. This is one of England’s best heathland courses.
Date: October 25, 2019