Sir Sydney Skinner, chairman of John Barker & Co. Ltd, the department store retailers, is the person credited with putting Sudbury Golf Club on the map. Originally formed as Acton Golf Club in 1896, the club was forced to move from its former location shortly after World War I due to a housing development that was planned for the property.
Sir Sydney acquired the freehold of Horsenden Farm at a cost of £18,000 then a further £6,250 was paid to Major E.C. Murray, the land owner, for the surrender of the lease. The reputable design firm of Colt, Alison and Mackenzie was hired to lay out an 18-hole course, with Sir Sydney hitting the ceremonial first drive on 2nd April 1920.
Today, the course extends to 6,307 yards from the back markers, playing to a par of 70, where several holes run adjacent to the Grand Union Canal. Over time, the holes have been re-sequenced (the old 1st is now the 6th, for instance) which in large part explains why a round here now concludes with a par three hole. Not much else has changed down the years but the infrastructure is constantly kept under review, as evidenced by a major upgrade of the irrigation system in 2017.
Guy Stacey, formerly General Manager at Sudbury, kindly commented as follows:
“The 11th hole is generally regarded as the most difficult hole on the course, a sweeping 420-yard right dogleg that rises up the hill towards the clubhouse. A perfectly placed bunker on the left of the fairway places an emphasis on the tee shot and then you are left with a medium to long iron shot, depending on the wind direction, to a well-protected green that slopes from back to front. A par on this stroke index 2 hole is always a good score.
The 2nd hole is considered to be the signature hole at Sudbury. It measures 421 yards and the tee shot is played downhill to a generous fairway. The second shot is a little more difficult as it plays to a green that sits atop a raised mound which is protected by an original moat dating back to medieval times – the green complex cannot be changed or altered as it’s looked after by the National Trust as an area of local interest.”
The medieval moat at the 2nd hole is a mere whippersnapper compared to the large sarsen stone that's set upon a plinth on the clubhouse terrace. This stone was reputedly used as a boundary marker during the survey of 74-76 AD by the Roman civil engineer, Julius Frontinus.
Locally well renowned but I think its beyond its best, ive played it several times and apart from some decent views across London its fairly average.
A second visit to Sudbury for me, last one around eight years ago. Since my first game, the course has a much better look now – the obvious change has been to swap the nines around which for a few reasons has been the right thing to do. The previous start gave three holes that can be described as a little up and down and probably too tough a start to a round, three par-4’s of similar length around 410-425 yards – not as inspiring start as there is now. The new configuration, gives a chance to get off to a flyer; a 459-yard par-5 to a right to left sloping fairway to kick-off; the 2nd - a 420-yard downhill hole plays a lot shorter than its yardage and then a 315-yard short par-4 at the third. All in all – possibilities to score well. The 4th hole is very strong and for me the front-nine choice for best hole; 400 yards long and running alongside the Grand Union Canal with a slight move to the left; the green with a couple of bunkers protecting and close to the course boundary requires an exact approach. The style of the 7th hole would be welcome on any course – here is the classic downhill par-3 and a mid to short iron for most; really great fun to play and with a strong green-site too.
The front nine ends with a tough par-4 – 430 yards, blind drive and a fairway cambering to the right. Now, who am I to challenge the work of Harry Colt? But the hole was designed with no bunkers and there are still none – for me it is crying out for some sand hazards, maybe just one in the fairway and one at the green. This is just an observation and in saying this, I have to respect the club by not changing the great man’s philosophy for the 9th (previously the 18th).
As mentioned at the top the first three holes on the now back nine are a real test. First observation on the second half is that the par-3 13th (179 yards) is good but if the tee could be raised to create a signature target hole, then a good hole becomes a very good hole. The 14th hole is similar to the 4th although around 100 yards longer and a par-5 – same dog-legging style to the left and the canal as the left side protection. The final few holes keep interest levels going with dog-leg par-4’s at the 15th and 16th (one of each direction) and then the final hole is a 148 yard uphill par-3 – not everyone’s favourite finish but this is a decent short hole and most importantly now ends in front of the clubhouse and allows the golfers who have ended their rounds to enjoy the games coming in and have the odd wager I am sure.
Overall feeling is that the course and club at Sudbury has improved a fair bit in the eight years between my visits and I look forward to another game soon.