The Old course at Sunningdale is one of the British Isles’ most aesthetically pleasing inland courses. Arguably, it was the first truly great golf course to be built on the magical Surry/Berkshire sand-belt. The land was (and still is) leased from the freeholder, St John’s College, Cambridge. It is a Willie Park Junior masterpiece and opened for play in 1901, becoming known as the Old after the opening of the New Course in 1923.
Lined with pine, birch and oak trees, it is a magnificent place to play golf. The emblem of the club is the oak tree, no doubt modelled on the huge specimen tree standing majestically beside the 18th green. It’s incredible to believe that originally the golf course was laid out on barren, open land. Harry Colt was a big influence at Sunningdale; he was Secretary and Captain in the club’s early years and redesigned the Old course, giving it a more intimate and enclosed feel.
In 1926, during qualification for the British Open, amateur Bobby Jones played the Old Course perfectly, scoring 66, made up of all threes and fours (taking 33 putts). This type of scoring was unheard of in those days. Bernard Darwin brilliantly summed up Jones’ round as “incredible and in decent”. “Few joys in this world are unalloyed”, wrote Darwin in Golf Between Two Wars, “and though Bobby was naturally and humanly pleased with that 66 he was a trifle worried because he had 'reached the peak' rather too soon before going to St. Anne's.” Jones went on to Royal Lytham & St Annes and won the 1926 Open by two strokes, beating fellow American Al Watrous.
If you have already played the Old course, you will surely remember the elevated 10th tee, a fabulous driving hole and one of our all-time favourite holes. By the time you have putted out on the 10th, you will be ready for refreshments at the excellent halfway hut that sits welcomingly behind the green. What sheer delight! The 5th, a lovely par four, is beautifully described in The 500 World’s Greatest Golf Holes: “From an elevated tee, the fifth is clearly defined. The fairway is bordered by heather, golden grass and dark green forest. There are two fairway bunkers in the right half of the fairway; a small pond and four sentinel bunkers protect the green. Success calls for two pure shots…” The 15th is also featured in the same book; it’s a superb par three, measuring 226 yards.
Many people regard Sunningdale as the perfect golfing venue. The Old and New courses taken together are probably the finest pair of golf courses anywhere. On a sunny autumn day, walking on that perfect heathland turf, surely there is nowhere better to play golf with a few friends. “If we have not been too frequently ‘up to our necks’ in untrodden heather—nay, even if we have—we ought to have enjoyed ourselves immensely,” as Darwin said in his 1910 book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles.
Whilst Sunningdale Old is very very good, and I would not say, probably that it is overrated, I do think that it does have the inevitable bandwagon effect whereby it is lauded as flawless perfection whereas I do not think it is that. I think its best par 4s are of exceptional quality. For me 7,10,11,12,16. There are a good gathering of very good holes not far behind. However, whilst fine I do not think for instance that the par 3s are as good as say the par 3s on The Berkshire Red. I also think that the land the course starts and finishes on which effects 1.17, and 18 is not the same as the land on the rest of the course and this puts is at a disadvantage in my mind to The Berkshire Red which is a more consistent journey. In general I do not find the land as peaceful, special and pretty as the Berkshire or Swinley. Nor am I a massive fan of the clubhouse or its views. I also think that there are too many short par 4s, 2 or which are unexceptional. I think the high points being its best par 4s are exceptional and I think that is what cements the courses reputation. There are average holes like the 1st, 3rd and 18, and I do not think that the round is as consistently strong as The Berkshire or Swinley... its high points however are higher... but who I am I kidding... our heathland courses are our crown jewel and Sunningdale Old is probably rightfully the top of the pile.
I've been fortunate to play a fair amount of the top courses in the U.K but to finally play Sunningdale was just a genuine thrill with the expectations being met and exceeded. Known as the Augusta of England, my first sighting on arriving at the car park was of the idyllic club house, full of old worldly charm and set amongst the ' Augusta' oak tree just for good measure. I cant single out any 1 hole for particular praise as they were all superb. Dog legs left and right, Par 3's on plateaux's surrounded by precisely formed bunkers that almost looked inviting and Par5s that had that essential mix of risk and reward mentality written all over them.
Full of character and sheer natural beauty each and every one. What this course has that separates it from so many others is the feeling you are in your own wilderness of a bygone era without a hint of a corporate feel that so many good courses sadly have. Ths is old traditional golf at its very best and the icing on the cake is the sausage barguests at the half way house.......sublime.
Absolute Class. I don't know anyone who's played it that doesn't love it.
Just magnificent. From the first to the last... and the best half way hut in Britain!
An ABSOLUTELY SUPERB golfing experience. From when you pull into the hallowed grounds to the first tee on the old course by the starters shack, you feel the history of the place.
The greens are absolutely immaculate and the design of the course sublime. My favorite holes have to be the Par-4 5th, played from an elevated tee looking down to a pond and bunkers to punish stray drives. The Par-4 7th is a beaut with a blind drive required leaving you a fabulous approach shot protected by bunkers front and right. The Par-4 10th is one of my favourites in the world! What a sight as you look down the hole from the very elevated tee-box. The Par-3 13th is a pretty hole with a fantastic backdrop of the neighbouring houses. The Par-4 17th and Par-4 18th are fantastic finishing holes with the clubhouse up the hill in the distance. As you finsih out your final putt on the 18th under the iconic oak tree, think about all the famous names who have finished off before you in this fantastic setting.
Overall, the course is relatively short - BUT, dont be fooled as the heather and bunkers will really punish any misplaced golf shots and the undulating greens will still ensure you need to be on top form to not walk away with a bunch of 3-putts.
Played in beautiful May sunshine, what a great, fun golf course. We had whipped around the New ahead of schedule, so were able to have a quick very pleasant lunch on the terrace and then get away earlier than scheduled, assisted by the friendly pro shop. The Old is very much in the classic style, with much sportier golf than the New, some heroic elevated tee shots, tough par 3's and and blind shots. We agreed that the course was unique in our experience in that the stunning neighbouring houses actually enhanced the experience - lifestyles of the rich and famous ! There really wasn't a weak hole on the course, other than potentially 1 and 18 as with the New, but having putted out we enjoyed a nice light tea on the terrace, followed by a couple of beers watching the shadows lengthen over the stunning view. Certainly not cheap, but unlike some others they are very welcoming to those who have dug deep to be there, including a welcome sign listing all visiting golfers. Probably my favourite day of golf to date.
I was lucky enough to be invited to Sunningdale by a friend’s father and it really is the most magnificent club. From the signature 10th to the changing rooms in the palatial clubhouse, the place just oozes class and quality. Sitting in the members lounge taking in all the history and the aura of the place (with Sam Torrance and John King on the table next door) it was very easy to forget I was there to play golf!
On the old this time, we perhaps didnt get to see the course in all its glory given we were playing in mid winter, but the quality of the holes - in terms of all routing, condition, layout and aesthetics - was obvious throughout, with 2, 5, 7, 8, 10 and 12 all absolutely belting examples of heathland golf. The old is apparently very different to the new - shorter, more strategic and more closed, as well as quirkier - which wasnt completely to my taste, but it impossible for any serious golfer not to be bowled over by it.
Now just waiting for the invite to come back and play the new in summer !
I was lucky enough to be invited to play Sunningdale Old today by a friends father, and obviously I didn't miss this opportunity to play this great gem.
We tee'd it up at 0900 after a great breakfast in a stunning clubhouse, full of nostalgia & pictures/scorecards from some of the greats of the game.
We were lucky enough to play from the White tee's, which brings in most of the hazards into play & what an amazing course The Old is, emmaculate condition for mid-october, great fairways & greens, with the great trees of Surrey/Berkshire framing each hole.
Every hole felt like a story waiting to be told, recalling flashbacks of Shell's Wonderfull World of Golf, The Seve Trophy & previous Open Final Qualifying events.
What a great classic links, worthy of it position in the Top 30 in the world, England in Autumn, Sunshine, no wind & a classic golf course, could there be any better place on this earth? LM
Sunningdale Old ranks atop almost every list of great courses in Great Britan and Ireland and it is easy to see why. Willie Park Jr. designed a timeless gem that has stood the test of time over the past 115 years and should continue to do so for many years to come.
The course is an interesting mix of holes. There are 4 stellar par 3's, varying from the relatively short uphill 4th of 157 yards and the long, tight 222 yard 15th. The score must be made over the two short part 5's, 1 and 14, and the short, drivable par 4's at 3, 9 and 11. The remaining par 4's are all challenges of the highest order, perhaps none better than the magnificent 467 yard 10th. The 10th plays downhill off the tee and requires the player to thread two bunkers to the right and one to the left. The uphill second shot is challenged by a sloping back to front green. This is probably the best hole of all 36 on the property. The course finishes strongly with three consecutive outstanding par 4's, all over 410 yards long.
The course was in excellent condition and the greens offer genuine but subtle difficulties. The fairway bunkers that I hit into only offered the opportunity for a wedge down the fairway, and the heather is a perfect rough, basically allowing you the opportunity to wedge out down the fairway but rarely anything more. A day at Sunningdale is a treat to treasure. This is great golf in a beautiful setting on courses oozing with history. This was one of the great golfing days in my life to play the Old and New together. Read my story: Diamonds of the heather - golfing London's heathland
It was a long awaited visit and for sure I got even more of what I was expecting. After and extense Tour which included The Open, playing in the Liverpool area, then driving to Sandwich to play all 3 and then back to London for a final 36 holes day before my departure to Buenos Aires. Not only the golf course was awaited, as I was going to play along with Schalk Brits current Saracens Rugby Player and former Springbok Legend.
Arrived early after a 5am wake up at Prince's Lodge and met Schalk, who was really excited to finally tick one more of his pending bucket list. We met in Argentina during his match for the Rugby Championship 2014 and our round together was a pending issue which we finally could do in this rainy morning. It was not only the chance to play with him but also have 4hs to listen and learn what the day by day of a high performance athlete is. So couldn't ask for more.
Rain bothered, yes, but what can you expect in the UK in Summer? Just don't complain and go play the course. We had a terrific time and a great match won by Schalk 3/2 (he is a 5 handicapper and can hit it a long way!), but that is just a detail of how much we enjoyed the Old Course at Sunningdale.
My first thumbs up goes for the three short par 4s (3rd, 9th and 11th) all measuring around 300yds but where you have to be extremely accurate if going for it, if not just lay up and go for the small bird. If wanting the big bird you might end up with a bogey or worse. I got +1 in the addition of all 3 which was very disappointing, but the price of hitting drive in all three!
More thumbs up go for the par 3s, specially both at the front 9 with not much of lenght but both uphill and accuracy needed.
Then the tough par 4s 2nd, 10th and 17th were after a good drive the problem is still to be solved, the approach shot is even tougher where 2nd downhill green makes it tough to hold the ball, then 10th uphill shot breaking left to right makes it extremely difficult to aim the shot and finally 17th where a missed drive got me in a mess but was lucky to get off the trees with a very nice cut stinger from 180yds..
And finally 18th facing the big tree is the perfect end to a great course, not long but good and challenging enough to still host top amateur and professional events.
I have already made the review of New, but have to say that this 36 holes Private Club has to be the best in England for sure and maybe in the UK or even Europe. Top Class Club House, extremely helpful staff, charming Locker Room and Members always making sure you are welcome at every corner of the Club.
Some final details of the Course: greens despite rain rolling true and fact, heather being a nightmare to get out (don't be greedy, hit a wedge!) and the mix of forest plus some blind shots make it a true jewel of the game.
If never been here, it is time to do it. Combine it with Walton Heath, St George's Hill and the 3 at Sandwich to make it one of the best experiences golf can give you!