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.
I played the course when all the greens had just been hollow tined so I cannot say what the holes are really like to putt on – though if they are anything like the Old course which I played in the afternoon then they will be top notch.
In places, the New course is at least the equal of the Old next door. The holes just flow one after another with subtle greens constructed to repel all but the most precise approach shot.
The run of holes from the 3rd to the 7th were absolutely wonderful – with my favourite on the whole property, the dog legged 6th hole, a fantastic par five.
Many of the fairways have been opened out to return the course to what it was eighty years ago and the Hawtree design company are involved in major remodelling work at the 18th so Sunningdale cannot be accused of resting on its laurels.
Surprisingly, for such an old, established club, the clubhouse was one of the most informal, relaxed and welcoming that I have come across with staff as attentive as you could ever expect to find. It goes without saying – the ONLY way to do Sunningdale justice is to play all 36 holes then wrestle with your golfing alter ego to determine which is the better of the two.
It might be a close run fight between two coyurses that don’t have such a thing as a weak hole between them.