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Between Bagshot and Ascot
By prior arrangement
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.
One of the most pleasant golfing experiences I’ve had in the last 12 months has been found half an hour’s driving time (on a good day!) from Heathrow airport. Passing through on the way home from business, I’ve stopped off for an evening in order to play next day at Sunningdale, (March 2007) and The Berkshire, a couple of days ago. I thought last year’s experience on the Old and the New at Sunningdale would be hard to match and so, sadly, it proved just along the road on Berkshire’s Red and the Blue courses – but not by very much, believe me!
The Berkshire was a fantastic 36-hole day ticket (34 actually, as holes 1 and 2 of the Blue were not in play due to drainage work) that surpassed all my expectations.
The configuration of 6/6/6 for the holes on the Red might seem on paper to be a little contrived but the routing does follow the natural lie of the land and seems the most appropriate for the terrain.
The par three’s are all very impressive – averaging 185 yards in length – so no flick with a wedge here off the tee and the 10th, like “Calamity” at Royal Portrush is a real do-or-die hole that will test your bravery off the tee.
The par fives offer a breather, as I think they normally should do on a course – what amateur enjoys a long slog around a layout that is littered with long par 4 and 5’s?
The much-heralded, right doglegged 6th was a very pleasant hole indeed as was the short par four 11th, which is a fantastic driving hole. The only weak hole on the whole course I felt was at the par three 18th, but by then I’d just lost my match play game 2&1 so it mattered not a jot – I probably played the home hole through tears anyway at the thought of having to pay out the fiver wager on the match!
The delightful elevation changes, the heather-bearded bunkers, the isolation of many tree-lined holes and the variety of shot on offer at most of these; this all combines to offer a really entertaining round of golf on a course that just oozes natural beauty and charm.