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.
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