West Berkshire is a relative youngster in the scheme of things. The club was founded in 1975 and Robin Stagg a relatively unknown architect designed the course and laid it out on the Berkshire Downs.
The course is of parkland cum downland style and it’s long too, stretching out some 7,000 yards from the championship tees. Although it’s built on clay, the USGA construction of greens and tees ensure that the course is playable all year round. It’s also groomed to a high standard and receives many accolades from members and visitors alike. With four tee positions to choose from, the course has been designed and constructed to a level of excellence that will test and reward golfers whatever their standard.
Already, West Berkshire is proving to be a favourite and is widely acclaimed as one of the best up-and-coming new courses in England. The course starts stiffly and the par five 5th is one of the longest holes in the region, measuring a whopping 627 yards. In fact, all the par fives are true three shotters and the average par five yardage from the back tees is 568 yards and the yardage only drops down to around 513 yards off the friendly yellows.
The course is now benefiting from tree planting some 20 years ago, which is starting to define the holes by adding maturity. West Berkshire is an easy and pleasant walk and the clubhouse offers a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, which is very popular with visiting societies.
We played West Berkshire on the hottest day of the year so far and it was in excellent condition. Construction of the course started in 1974 on former farmland with a clay base, so it could perhaps get very wet in the winter or in heavy rain conditions. But in high summer, in the middle of a dry spell, the fairways ran well, the bunkers were tidy and not too numerous and the greens a pleasure to putt on. The welcome at this thriving Members’ Club was pleasant, they clearly take a pride in their golf course and surrounds.
The course is more downland than parkland, and the plentiful trees are now well established. They form the main line of defence, along with the golf course’s above average length, even if the fairways are of generous width.
It is the variety of the holes which impresses most, with the par five 5th a favourite. It measures a small matter of 580 yards from the yellow tee boxes, and after a tight drive with water on the left opens up into a glorious downhill romp. Two other long holes also inspire, the dogleg at 16 to a beautiful green and a grand final hole of 400 yards down a slope to a generous green protected by a pond on the right. Splendour indeed as it finishes in front of the club house.
All 4 par3s are good, even if of much the same length. They are well protected by bunkers and are designed to make the most of the natural contours around the greens. Some of the par4s are perhaps a bit bland, but this should not detract from an interesting and challenging layout.
We much enjoyed the playing experience at West Berkshire, and my playing partner will long recall his day here, for he played a memorable round of golf.