F.G. Hawtree and J.H. Taylor originally designed the easy walking course at Sonning Golf Club and it opened its tees for play in 1914. Harry Colt is credited with later design input when he reworked the bunkers. In the new millennium, Martin Hawtree remodelled the par five 18th so that the home green now sits in front of the clubhouse.
Originally set out on heathland but now playing more as a parkland course, the 18-hole layout at Sonning extends to 6,329 yards from the back markers (rated as a par 70 with a standard scratch score rating of 71) but it normally plays longer than its overall yardage due to the lush playing conditions and several elevated greens.
More than half the par four holes on the scorecard measure in excess of four hundred yards so don’t expect an easy stroll in the park when teeing it up here. That said, the two short par four holes on the front nine, at the 273-yard 4th and 267-yard 7th, offer a more than reasonable chance of bagging a birdie.
We asked club professional Jonathan Dunn to highlight a couple of holes for us and this was his reply:
“Our par four 13th is the most difficult hole on the course and this is because if you do not hit a good long, straight tee shot you are unable to carry the cross bunker with your second shot. However, even if you hit a good tee shot you are still faced with a second shot of more than 200 yards into a tiny green which is protected by two bunkers and a ditch.
Hole 17 is our signature hole – described by Peter Alliss as 'one of the best short holes in the south of England' – and it’s a par three with an island green which is guarded by three deep bunkers. Club selection is also difficult as the first two thirds of the hole is lined with trees, making it almost impossible on the tee to feel where the wind is coming from."
Many leading figures in golf have been associated with Sonning, starting with the club’s first golf professional Abe Mitchell, who became Samuel Ryder’s personal golf instructor. The 1951 Open Champion Max Faulkner was an assistant professional at the club early in his career and Harold Hilton, two-time winner of the Open in 1892 and 1897, was the club’s first secretary.
Sonning GC is a very pleasant golf course. Meriting a stop off in you're in the area. Initially a heathland course, this is now a parkland course, with mature oak and birch lining many of the holes. There is the odd heathland glimpse especially on the back 9, with wispy grass acting as eyelashes to the many bunkers strategically places throughout the course.
The clubhouse is very impressive and the pro very friendly and welcoming. £27.50 each on a County Card was a bargain.
The course plays in 2 loops out from and back to the clubhouse - holes 1 to 11 and then 12 - 18.
It is played over relatively flat land, but the majority of greens are raised, with excellent bunkering, providing plenty of challenge.
Add to this the 7 par 4s over 400 yards and this no walk in the park. The longest par 4 at 471 yards long, is only 4 and 11 yards shorter than the 2 par 5s!
But throw into the mix two very short par 4s at 273 yards and 267 yards, both on the front 9 and you have a very interesting mix.
The par 3s are all strong, 2 on each 9, although the back 9 two come in the last 4 holes.
Played off the white tees at 6329 yards, but with little breeze, and reasonable bounce on the fairways, the course was scoreable.
The 1st and 2nd cut rough was very playable from, although anything wider of the mark would have found really deep and dense 'cabbage'!
I felt the best sections of the course were around the turn, holes 8 - 11 and 15 - 18.
The closing stretch features 2 strong par 3s,a long par 4 at 438 yards and a fine finishing par 5. Whilst not long, it plays a dog leg right and the green is heavily protected with bunkers, and run off slopes. On top of that the green also has many slopes and undulations. A fine finishing hole.
The bunkers were filled with quality sand (not the builders type) and a general feature was their high lips and wispy grass fringes.
The greens had had some maintenance on, but ran well, albeit not rapid, ( I'd expected them.to be from what was written on the club website.)
The routing was good, weaving one way then another, and with the trees lining the fairways, we spent an afternoon in total isolation. Millionaires golf indeed.
We'd been the BMW PGA Champiomship at Wentworth on the Saturday and this was a perfect way to spend Sunday afternoon before the journey home. Whilst there are the giants of Berkshire (Swinley Forest, the Red and Blue etc) above this, at least we could play this on a Sunday. A local had said he'd never heard of the golf club. Thank goodness for Top 100 as it continues to open my world to some of the less lauded courses around the country.
Despite Sonning being on my door step, I had yet to play the course. Until recently, when I signed up for 18 holes with a playing partner, taking advantage of the twilight £35 green fee.
We found the course to be in exceptional condition for the time of year (end of October), the fairways had drained very well and were lovely to strike a ball off. The rough was punishing in places and the OOB areas seemed to attract my ball on more than one occasion.
The greens, well they were superb. True and fast, what more can you ask for. The layout itself from the yellow tees was a challenge but not too tall an order. I was surprised that the 17th is considered the signature hole, for me the 18th was head and shoulders and better hole both from a playing perspective and in terms of how easy on the eye the holes are.
The clubhouse and staff were equally good and welcoming and the £125 a month (5 day) membership subs are most appealing, who knows I may well join in April. A solid 4 and I can't wait to go back in the summer.
I really enjoyed playing this course. Its a relatively straight forward course layout but in great condition and has great practice facilities and club house. We played off the yellows which offered enough of a challenge I would imagine playing the whites would be very challenging for mid handicap golfers. Really worth looking up if you live within an hours drive.
Sonning is a lovely, charming course with no weak holes. Every hole is different, and it has lots of quirk with short par 3s and 4s. Very nice course well worth a visit