Taken together, the New and Old courses at Sunningdale Golf Club represent the finest 36 holes of golf in the whole of the British Isles. The same architect who made modifications to Sunningdale’s Old course, Harry Colt, designed the New course, which opened for play in 1923 to meet the ever-increasing demand for golf.
This is a superb driving course for it is more open than the Old; the trees do not encroach quite so much. Having said this, the New demands long carries from its elevated tees over heathery terrain to narrow fairways. The club has been following a programme of regeneration that has involved the felling of a number of trees, thereby allowing the heather to return. In addition, this has cleared the way for long lost views to reappear across to Chobham Common in the south.
Many people will come to Sunningdale hell-bent on playing the Old course, but if it’s a real athletic challenge you are after, you will get severely tested on the rugged 6,700-yard par 70 New, a tougher, more rounded test of golf than the Old. For many years, Jack Nicklaus held the course record with a 67, which was a testament to the technical test of the New course. However, in June 2009, in Open Championship Final Qualifying, England’s Graeme Storm smashed the course record with an amazing eight-under 62 thereby securing his place in the 2009 Open at Turnberry.
There are many excellent and memorable holes on the New, perhaps not as many as there are on the Old but certainly the 5th is worthy of mention, a charming par three. The views across the treetops to the common beyond are superb.
Sunningdale is located on Surrey and Berkshire’s famous, magical sand-belt, home to so many other fine golf courses. There is no better natural inland golfing terrain anywhere in the world and Sunningdale is blessed with two of the world’s very best heathland courses.
Having played Sunningdale Old course a few years ago, I was prepared to be disappointed by its lesser sibling. Was I ever wrong! With its plethora of doglegs, the New challenges the golfer to hit the best risk/reward shot from the tee on almost every hole. All the greens but the 12th are imaginatively contoured and there are options for the approach shot on all but three greens. When coupled with the New, the two make the finest pair of courses at any club I’ve ever played, a group that includes Winged Foot, St. Andrews, Bandon Dunes and Royal Melbourne.
The New was the first course of our day at Sunningdale which was an exceptional experience in every way. We had an early start after checking in our handicap certificates at the frinedly pro shot and enjoying a very nice bacon roll and cup of tea.
We teed off into a rising Sun and with dew on the fairway it was tough to see where the ball went, but an atmospheric start even if the hole is somewhat pedestrian with the aforementioned leyandii partially shielding the practice ground. Once through the first the course really took off, and after some very nice heather and woodland holes I finally had the answer to a question I've often asked myself as I go down the M3 past Fleet Services "I wonder what's in there, that looks nice". Heaven lurks just the other side of the gorse - I was unprepared for the sheer scale and land movement of the New after only seeing the Old on TV. The heathland is huge, with stunning views, and room for another wondrous golf course or more. As one would expect, the course was in superb condition, very good greens and fantastic fun golf even if the heather got a bit of a battering. Like many Links courses, the 1st and 18th are the weakest holes and feel like a means of getting you out into the landscape. That aside, a tremendous course and a very contrasting companion that you definitely should play if you are also playing the Old; it's not too hard walking to do the 36, particularly if you play in nice weather - we were walking on air.
Whoever wrote Sunningdale is the greatest 36 hole facility in the British Isles is understating it’s greatness. Having traveled the (golf) World, and played more than 80 of your top 100, I don’t believe there is any better anywhere - ok, maybe Royal Melbourne is it’s equal. A great layout, perfect conditioning, almost no weak holes, the New is very different from the Old. Tougher, perhaps less charming, but challenging in its own way. Unfortunately, we only had time for the New this visit, but we shall return.
The New Course is a magnificent layout. Although apparently modified some from the original Harry Colt design. this is a thrilling track to play with strategic options galore with almost every shot. The course has a great collection of 5 par 3's, and an amazing variety of par 4's.
The course starts with a tough 461 yard par 4 that plays slightly uphill and from there on the course presents the player with one great challenge after another. Each hole has it's own identity and challenge, and the end result is a fun and memorable trek through a beautiful setting. This is a strong but not overpowering golf course that is best approached by maneuvering the ball along the proper lines. I enjoyed the Old tremendously, but I think the New is every bit the equal of the Old. By all means play both courses if you have the opportunity to play Sunningdale. Read my story: Diamonds of the heather - golfing London's heathland
It was the perfect end for my 10 rounds trip to England this past 10 days. After a rainy but amazing round in the morning with my friend Schalk Brits at the Old Course and a proper lunch, I took my clubs and carried them again for an afternoon round on the New before taking a plane back to Argentina.
I played the first 3 holes with 4 old members who gave me the basics of the course which I continued on my own and completed it in less than 3 hours losing only one ball (and having found a couple of them). There was some more rain, but not as continued and hard as during the morning round.
The Members had told me the "short holes" are the trademark of the New and they are completely right: every par 3 has its own character, greatness in design and challenge. And you'd better hit the green, if not the up and down will be a hard quest to conquer.
It would be more of the same stuff to describe every hole, so let's try and explain why I loved the course: despite being on the same piece of land as Old it feels a completely different course, longer and maybe tougher where driver MUST work and putting has to be at its finest. Here it is not wisdom off the tee but straightness that you need and some length.
The opener is one of the toughest par 4s I've played in England, a driver and hybrid from the white tees to start? Not a bad bogey! Par 5 6th hole is a perfect risk-reward hole, where the green will make you think twice before taking extra risk. Par 4 9th has the nicest tee shot on the course, blind to a valley before a tough approach to a left to right breaking green. Par 5 13th is long for the standard of the course, with a middle cross bunker behaving similarly to those on the 14th at Royal St George's. And the final hole is a short but great par 5, where again being too greedy might be a penalty.
End of the tour, fantastic golf and a nice food at the Club to finish some of the best 10 hours I have spent at a Golf Club. The clubhouse is special, very special, where at the entrance there is a welcome letter with the surnames of all visitors of the day. And the pro shop is very tempting, you will buy something for sure.
If you are here, don't stay only with the Old and go play the New, either the same day or another one. It is fairly put in its World Top 100 position, it really deserves it!
Not too much i can say about this course that hasn't already been said.
Excellent golf course, one of the very best i have ever played. The par 3s are exceptional and the routing of the golf course is sublime.
In my opinion this is clearly the 2nd of the 2 sunningdale courses as the Old Course is in another league.
in 2011 (the rankings i am working to, to complete the top 100), the New course was ranked below Woodhall Spa & Ganton for inland courses. Personally i think that is about right.
In short, the New is much the tighter course as well as being the longer. You must fully commit to each and every shot otherwise you will likely find the vibrant heather or deep greenside bunkering.
The trio of holes from the fourth are of the very highest order. The first is a par four and requires a good drive before a demanding approach to a green that slides off to the right. The fifth is a wonderfully sculptured par three across a valley of heather to a wickedly sloping green and the sixth must rank as one of the best holes I've ever played. It's a snaking par five where everything can be seen from the tee as it urges you to bite off a little bit too much. The long and two-tiered green is well protected and is a superb ending to a fabulous golf hole.
The 11th is a classic heroic hole with a narrow, mounted green and the 12th is a fine hole too. The 13th is a simple but effective par five and the par three that follows is exceptional and requires the player to shape a draw into the green. Holes 15 and 16 are both very strong par fours that dog-leg to the right, the former being the best. And whilst the final two holes on the New course don't match the Old for difficulty the final shot of the day into the last hole is one that will be remembered for a long time.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
I think the closing hole on the New is the weakest of the 18, a tame short par five with hideous anti-social Leylandii conifers shielding the practice ground down the left... it's not Sunningdale's finest hole IMO.
An interesting review. Very glad that the New is getting the recognition it deserves. This is more of a reply to the first response to Ed's review regarding the last two holes. For any competitive golf (but especially for matchplay) having a par 3 and par 5 to finish is fantastic since it offers such great attacking opportunities and the chance to really gamble. 17 is an excellent short hole with a challenging green complex and position z if the tee shot goes long. I have long wondered whether perception of it not matching the quality of the other short holes has something to do with the framing of it with shade from trees down the left and behind giving it a lack of definition. 18 does lack heather to drive over which is a result of it simply not growing naturally in this part of the course (and effects the drive over area for 1 and 18 on the Old and 1 on the New too). I accept it is a fairly straight hole but if you play it off the back tees it is 494 yards and a tight drive with trees intruding down the left and right with the ideal line a low draw aimed at the clump of trees on the right to catch the slope and get the extra 15 yards run. If you get it in decent shape on the fairway you have all sorts of options and challenges : a large slope on the fairway from left to right, bunkers short of the green that can catch the mistruct second going for the green in 2, no shot if you go for the right half of the green and miss as well as taking on tree tops if you draw the ball, and a green that is very Donald Ross (and v unusual for S'dale) in being saucer like - and the hardest to read in terms of speed and break on the course. The point about the Leylandi and the practice ground puzzles me. There is a practice two tiered putting green behind and to the left of the the 18th green but the practice ground is behind the 1st tee of the New. The area immediately to the left of the last third of the the fairway is the 18th fairway of the Old. I don't know whether Leylandi are Silver birch but there probably are some down there on the left but they are part of a very small copse that separates (along with rough) the fairway with the 18th of the Old. I am not a fan of silver birch and neither is the club - many have been taken down in the last 5 years as part of a woodland clearance scheme.
Returning to Sunningdale to play the New course after having previously sampled the Old, like many people, I found myself comparing the two, and wondering which was the better. I tried to judge on gut, and also by ‘playing matchplay’ between the two courses, and whilst initially I edged towards the New, within a day I wasn’t so sure, and now I just simply cannot pick a winner. And the more I thought about it, the more I thought I was engaging in a pretty whimsical exercise, and why on earth was I comparing them anyway? They are both examples of heathland golf at its finest, and the members are privileged to have the opportunity to play them both.
If you’re contemplating splashing out on a visit here, my advice would be to play all 36 holes, but I would start with the New, because it is clearly the tougher test of the two. Fairways are narrower, and with thick heather sometimes only a few paces away from the short grass. It is definitely a penal golf course in places, and if you are not getting any accuracy off the tee, you are in for a long morning.
Favourite hole? Probably the par 5 6th. Off an elevated tee, a vast open swathe of heathland is exposed, plunging down before banking sharply right before climbing back up to a green with a 4-5ft step to climb about 10 yards from the front. Aggressive and conservative options are clearly available even to the first time visitor – a well struck drive into a narrowing tongue of fairway will leave 200-220 yards, with the best play often to pitch just short and let the ball climb its way up that massive tier – sweet satisfaction to anyone who pulls it off. Fast running heathland, beauty, challenge, strategy, drama – everything golf has to offer, all rolled into one. I could play that same hole all day long.
I think if there is a downside, it is the slightly anticlimactic last two holes. Whilst 17 is not exactly an affront to architecture, it is still a little ordinary compared with what has come before it. The home hole itself is great from about 100 yards in, but the rest of it simply marches in an arrow-straight line off the tee , with trees choking the vista. No doubt this is due to safety concerns - 1 and 18 from both the Old and the New have to fit into a space only wide enough for three and three quarter fairways - something had to give and it's the 18th on the New that pays the price.
Still, one of the best I've ever played ....