Sunningdale is the best of British heathland golf and it’s an absolute delight to spend a day here. A visit to Sunningdale is widely considered to be the best single club golfing day in Britain, perhaps even the world, and whilst it’s an expensive day, please do yourself the favour and treat yourself, you will not go away ruing any lack of value for money. The facilities available at Sunningdale are all-world level wonderful. A tremendous practice area, well stocked pro-shop and mouth-watering food on offer at one of the most majestic clubhouses in the game all combine to make this the grandest of days out, but the standard of golf here is just pure unadulterated joy from start to finish. Whilst the New course is excellent and rightly considered one of England’s finest in its own right, the Old has to be considered the club’s showpiece.
Each hole across the Old is crafted superbly through towering trees and sprawling heather whilst being set amongst perfectly undulating ground. A wonderful combination of varying green complexes are positioned at the end of fairways with jaw droppingly beautiful curves adorned with heather topped mounds and sculpted bunkers that fit effortlessly into their surroundings.
It would be easy to lavish praise upon each hole in a love letter to this golfing land that borders on perfection but in an effort to not bore readers who I already congratulate for making it this far, I’ll start with the magnificent view from the 4th green which gives a beautifully elevated vantage point straight down both the 5th and 6th holes. This view through two holes slotted through a treelined corridor summarises the essence of Sunny Old for me. 7 is another triumph. If you can get over the fact that the tee shot is completely blind, when you climb to the crest of the hill, the most audaciously rolling land is presented in front of you. A wide fairway is gentle recognition to the fact that you’ll be unsighted from the tee, and the green site is sublime, set naturally into the seat of the hill, it’s one of my favourite green sites in Surrey.
The 10th tee at the highest point of the course provides likely the most memorable outlook across the eighteen. This tee overlooks another sweeping fairway that’s pitched way below the tee, but I may prefer the short yet strategic 11th. Is there a better short par four in England than Sunningdale Old’s 11th? A wall of heather and a cavernous bunker set into the hill are intimidation enough from the tee where you’ll have to commit to your line over the marker post whilst guarding against leaking a drive to the right, for deep heather awaits as well as the likelihood of being blocked out by the row of pines that hide the upturned green. If 10 and 11 aren’t enough to have you in raptures, surely the 12th will win over the most ardent of cynics who hasn’t yet been won over by Sunningdale’s beauty and diversity? A softly curving hole where line and length from the tee are paramount before a string of diagonal bunkers and a tricky raised green attached to the side of the hill make this probably the toughest test on the back nine.
I must also mention the magnificent end to the round with the view along the 17th fairway earning comparisons with the earlier scene from the 5th tee where you are once again gifted a glorious vista through the next two beautiful golf holes. This time the view is the homeward stretch to another beautiful piece of rolling land that’s littered with bunkers like golfing landmines before a final green that’s set under the shadow of Sunningdale’s iconic grand old oak tree.
If I was to reach for a weakness to Sunningdale Old, there are only two par fives on the course and both are comfortably reachable in two. And as a whole, I wouldn’t consider Sunningdale’s Old course a genuine championship test (not necessarily a negative) and I was struck by the step-up in difficulty when playing the New which I found to be much more demanding of my game. Otherwise, Sunningdale Old is virtually flawless. Conditioning plays an unfairly weighty roll in the opinions of many an amateur golfer’s appraisals, but Sunningdale ticks this box as it is always in impeccable shape. Sunningdale Old represents my first 6-ball rating for a course that’s set away from the linksland, but it strongly competes with any other course I’ve played. This is one of golf’s most magical places and the only question you’ll be asking yourself when finishing a round here is whether there is still time for another eighteen? 36 holes at Sunningdale – what a treat.
Date: October 01, 2020